Ring in the New Year in style

New Year’s Eve isn’t just another day on the calendar if you love to celebrate. Countries across around the world have their own special traditions and events to mark this transition of time — and for a memorable night it’s fun try something new.

Naturally, there’s no shortage of places to add to your New Year’s wish list. Here are some ideas to inspire your thinking.

Lead the way in Sydney

While many of us are still at work, Aussies will be among the first to usher in the New Year. Down under, summer is in full swing and Sydney is a top place to go for festivities. In addition to popular events like the celebrations at Sydney Harbour, summer events are on the calendar. If you really want to get in on the action, take a Sydney Harbour Escapes New Year’s Eve Cruise. Not only will you enjoy dinner, dancing and an on-the-water view of the city’s famous fireworks, you’ll also be part of the prestigious Harbour Of Light Parade where boats light up for the occasion. (Visit www.sydney.com for details.)

If you really want to be on the leading edge of the new year, try New Zealand and neighbouring nations — they’re the closest to the International Date Line. However, island hop a little further east and you’ll be among the last in the world to see in the new year!

Step back in time in Vieux- Québec

Who says New Year’s Eve is just about looking to the future? Enjoy a romantic evening in a historic setting like Québec City instead. The Christmas rush may be over, but the snowy, festival atmosphere is still a draw for visitors — not to mention the attractions and shopping.

After exploring for the day, get set for a night of wining and dining at one of the local hotels. For instance, the Auberge Saint-Antoine in the heart of the Old Port district offers a New Year’s Eve package including a horse-drawn carriage ride for two, cocktail party with live jazz music followed by a five course dinner — complete with wine pairings — at its Panache restaurant. At 11:30, mosey over to the Café Artefact for champagne and sweets to start the countdown, followed by dancing and fireworks. In the morning, enjoy a holiday brunch after sleeping in.

For more information, check out the Québec City Tourism website.

Fall in love with New Year’s in Niagara

Major cities like Toronto and Vancouver are known for their New Year’s events, but it’s Niagara Falls that makes many top 10 lists. What’s the draw? In addition to the Winter Festival of Lights and the beauty of the Horseshoe Falls, the city boasts the largest free New Year’s bash in Canada. The night is punctuated by two fireworks shows — at midnight and at a family-friendly 9:00 pm — and a huge concert in Queen Victoria Park.

If you’re looking for something a little more intimate, watch for New Year’s Eve events at the area’s renowned wineries. (Visit the Niagara Falls Tourism website for ideas and getaway packages.)

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Visit a NY icon: Times Square

You’ve seen it on TV, now see it in person: one million people, one ton of confetti and one ball that signals the start of the New Year. With the nightlife and all-night parties, it’s not surprising that New York City is a top destination for revelers.

But what is there to do beyond Times Square? If clubs and crowds aren’t your style, take in a show or indulge in a New Year’s party at one of the city’s swanky hotels. Or go for a walk instead — you’ll get quite the view on the annual Brooklyn Bridge Walk into the New Year — including fireworks from the city’s many celebrations. Head to Central Park for the Emerald Nuts Midnight Run. You don’t have to make the 4-mile trek: go for the fireworks, laser show and costumed dance party.

For more information and events, see About.com and NYCGo.com.

Try your luck in Las Vegas

Need an excuse to cross this hotspot off your bucket list? Just in case the spas, shows, hotels, casinos and shopping weren’t enough to get your attention, special events and fireworks sweeten the deal. This year, legendary performers the Black Eyed Peas and Gary Allen will be among the many performers set to ring in 2013. If you prefer to go “old school”, check out the Old School New Year’s Eve Party at the Hilton.

Got the family in tow? It isn’t too late to enjoy Ethel M’s Chocolate Factory & Cactus Garden on its final day.

Besides, if you love Christmas lights, what better complement to the season than the glitter and glamour of the strip? For more information, see VisitLasVegas.com.

Celebrate with the family in the Bahamas

What could be better than waking to sunny skies and warm weather on the first day of 2011? The party the night before. Many resorts across the Caribbean get decked out for the occasion — and cater to multi-generational travel.

For instance, the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas offers events for a younger crowd. There’s a Pre-Teen New Year’s Eve Party held at Club Rush for guests ages 9 to 13, and teens 13 to 17 can get glammed up for the New Year’s Gala held at the newly opened CRUSH. When the celebrations are over, there are plenty of ways to spend quality time together — like the water parks and dolphin or sea lion interactions.

New Year’s festivities happen throughout the week. For more information, visit www.atlantis.com.

Indulge in some classic romance, Paris style

For a romantic start to the year, you can’t go wrong with Paris. Wish your loved one a Bonne Année at the Champs-Élysées during the fireworks show at the festive street party. Or, return the next day and take in the annual Ice Magic exhibition featuring ice sculpture artistry including re-creations of some of the world’s most memorable sites. For a low-key evening, book a table at a cozy romantic restaurant or take a romantic stroll of the City of Lights. The city also has a variety of live entertainment and events happening too.

You don’t have to worry about getting around — transportation is free for the night. When you’re rested up, take advantage of the many museums and sites including the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay.

For more information, visit Parisinfo.com.

Celebrate some old traditions in Edinburgh

Tired of the same old New Year’s traditions? Go back in time — Edinburgh, Scotland celebrates the country’s rich cultural heritage at Hogmanay. For hundreds of years it was New Year’s, not Christmas, that was the main event. However, the warm hospitality and celebrations survive to the present. Modeled after Pagan traditions, celebrations include a torch-lit procession, bonfires and Gaelic music. Of course, there’s some modern flare too — including street parties, concerts and fireworks over Edinburgh Castle.

Another bonus: instead of one night to celebrate, you get four full days. Events run from December 30 to January 2, a bank holiday in Scotland. For more information, visit the Edinburgh Hogmanay and Edinburgh Tourism websites.

Ring in the New Year in Tokyo

Yes, we mean “ring in” literally. One of the oldest and most popular traditions in this city is to stay up to listen for the pealing of the bells at temples as midnight approaches. Bells are rung 108 times — thought to “forswear the 108 human desires” — and many temples allow visitors to take a turn. Sunrise is thought to have special powers on this day, so many gather on the mountains or beaches to pray for health and well being in the year ahead.

If you love to shop, you won’t want to miss the period between Christmas and New Year’s where end of year fairs and markets are a mainstay of the season. Also, watch for parties and gatherings that will help you “forget” the past year.

For more information, see the Japan National Tourism Organization website.

Harness the energy of Barcelona

Can you eat 12 grapes as the clock strikes twelve? In Barcelona, people flock to Plaza de Catalunya Square to give it a try. Succeed and you’re in for a year of wealth and prosperity.

But that’s just the beginning… After midnight is when the vibrant, colourful parties really kick off with toasts of cava and congratulations all round. Expect an energetic atmosphere well into the morning with street gatherings, car horns blaring and parties at pubs and restaurants. Before you turn in for a rest, follow tradition and snack on hot chocolate and churros (flour fritters).

If you’re in town a little early, beware: December 28, the Day of the Santos Inocente, is a time for playing pranks! For more information, visit Spain.info.

So what are you doing New Year’s Eve? Whether you stay close to home or travel far and wide, make it a memorable one.

Additional sources and inspiration: Bootsnall.com, the TopTravelLists.com, Sydney Morning Herald.

Photo credit: Countdown Entertainment, LLC.

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