Best Last-Minute New Year's Celebrations

Dec 2, 2019

Unless you're a decade-denying heathen, this new year’s a big one—deserving of something a bit more than Ryan Seacrest and couch champagne. But on the off chance you haven’t made plans yet (we’re looking at you, everyone we know), there’s still time. So whether you’re feeling spendy for the occasion, or you could just use a good, old-fashioned street party, read on. Using our 2020 vision (sorry, had to), we’ve rounded up the best last-minute, still-bookable New Year's Eve experiences around the world. No disrespect, Ryan.

The Newest New Year

How to welcome 2020 before virtually anyone else on the planet? In gorgeous and international-date-line-adjacent New Zealand, where you still have your pick of great celebrations. In Auckland, party at the hip Hi-So bar atop the So Hotel, or hit the streets downtown for the big Britomat Block Party. Either way, don't miss Auckland's Sky Tower fireworks, which literally spew from the top of the city's tallest structure at midnight. If you're still up in the wee hours, be one of the first on Earth to witness the sun rise onto 2020, especially if you're in the coastal town of Gisborne. And if you can't wait a year to do NYE all over again, catch a morning flight to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands, where it'll still be afternoon on New Year's Eve when you touch down on the other side of the date line.

Ball by the Ball

If you’ve been meaning to cross the Times Square ball drop off your bucket list, but the crowds (and, let’s be honest, the attendant weeing woes) have all seemed too much, the turn of the decade seems the right moment to go big: The New Year's Eve soiree at the Knickerbocker Hotel's St. Cloud Rooftop will place you a mere 150 feet away from the iconic crystal sphere—not to mention 17 stories above the teeming throngs. The Knickerbocker's Gold New Year's Eve Rooftop Party Package (starting at $6,254) includes a two-night stay at the hotel, and grants entry for two to the NYE party, with buffet dinner by chef Charlie Palmer and free-flowing premium booze all night. For a bit more ($8,867 and up), the Platinum Package will snag you reserved outdoor seating (plus heaters and blankets) right beneath the beloved NYE Ball.

Go Whole Hogmanay

It'll come as no surprise that the fiercely independent Scots have their own way of doing New Year's: Hogmanay (the local term—with mysterious but possibly French origins—for the last day of the year). The celebration actually kicks off in Edinburgh on Dec. 30 with an ethereal procession, wherein traditional bagpipers lead some 8,000 torch-bearers down the city's famed Royal Mile and the surrounding streets. (Want to be in the procession? You need a ticket, and they’re still for sale.) The next night—New Year's Eve—sees a massive street party take over the city center—this year with midnight fireworks soundtracked by Mark Ronson, who's also doing an extended set onsite that evening (separate admission ticket required). If traditional jigs and kilts are more your thing, opt for Ceilidh under the Castle beneath the stunning and iconic Edinburgh Castle. On New Year's Day, at South Queensferry just west of the city, a motley (and hardy) crew of the scantily clad, the fully costumed, and the still-NYE-drunk join forces for Loony Dook, a plunge into the frigid waters of the Firth of Forth, all to raise money for charity.

Masquerade in Marrakech

When Morocco's King Mohammed VI designed Marrakech's palatial Royal Mansour hotel—because who knows palaces better than a king?—the meticulously detailed spread became the city's most prized destination for travelers. This New Year's Eve, to celebrate the December opening of the property’s new Sesamo  (a restaurant by none other than the youngest chef in history to be awarded three Michelin stars: Massimiliano Alajmo), the Royal Mansour will celebrate in splendid Italian style. Ease your way into the year's last evening with a soothing treatment at the hotel's stunning spa, then as dancers perform to Italian music in the hotel's iconic Patio Bleu, enjoy a sumptuous ten-course dinner ($830 per person), followed by a grand and commedia dell'arte-infused Masquerade Party.

Go Gaga in Vegas

New Year's madness in Vegas might seem like so much gilding of the bacchanalian lily, but there's no denying that Vegas consistently offers some of the world's best New Year's Eve entertainment. And good news: Tickets are still available for many of this year's top NYE shows, including Lady Gaga's acclaimed pared-down Jazz & Piano concert (from $250) at MGM's Park Theater, The Chainsmokers (from $50) at XS Nightclub (where Drake also performs on December 30, from $100), and Christina Aguilera (from $40) at Planet Hollywood's Zappos Theater. The Strip actually closes to traffic on New Year's Eve, creating one giant (and yes, raucous) street party—but you can also go high roller and catch the spectacular Vegas NYE fireworks from above, with a helicopter ride over the city ($599).

Revelry in Rio

Want a fabulous party in Rio without the complete craziness of Carnival? You need Réveillon, Brazil's New Year's Eve celebration, and the country's second biggest party night of the year. Despite its French name, the Brazilian brand of Réveillon is rooted in an African celebration of the sea goddess Iemanjá, and has evolved to include huge parties—most notably on Rio de Janeiro's famed Copacabana Beach, where some two million people (mostly clad in Iemanjá-favored white) gather every year for top bands, extravagant performances and midnight fireworks. As in New York, your best bet is to opt for a private party, and for this there's no better choice than the beachside Belmond Copacabana Palace, arguably the city’s finest hotel. Tickets ($830 per person) include a lavish dinner, open bar, access to the beach terrace, and—because why stop there?—entry to an after-midnight pool party.

EDM on NYE

Quebec City has long been hailed as a slice of European heaven fallen to North American earth—and the snow-covered days leading up to New Year's are some of the city's most magical, complete with music, traditional performances and winter rides along the main drag. But this year marks a bold new rebranding of Quebec City's NYE festivities, with the unveiling of the four-day Toboggan Festival, an outdoor music extravaganza to be headlined by EDM heavyweights Zedd and DVBBS, and hip-hop star ScHoolboy Q. You'll need a pass ($60 general admission, $150 VIP) for the fest's first three nights, but the New Year's Eve shows will be completely free, with one stage dedicated to modern music, and another to traditional bands. As usual at midnight, a 360-degree fireworks explosion will light up the sky and usher in the nouvel An québécois.

 

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