It comes but once a year, but tends to go one of two ways: either it’s a firecracker of an evening or, dare we suggest, a bit of a damp squib.
Deciding where to spend New Year’s Eve is far from straightforward if your horizons expand beyond the familiar. If you’re still stuck for inspiration but determined to escape from the norm, we have a few ideas on where to enjoy the countdown to 2017.
Australia’s glitziest city puts on an extravagant show by utilising its best asset – Sydney Harbour. In the run-up to the big fireworks display, vessels of all shapes and sizes decked out in dazzling white rope-light dance across the water to the sound of live music. The arrival of midnight triggers an eruption of pyrotechnics from no less than seven barges dotted along the harbour, not to mention the world’s most famous coat hanger, the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
For those not lucky enough to score an invite to a private waterside party, the best option is to join the million other people who flock to the harbour’s shores. Cockatoo Island, one of the many harbourside islands, offers the fabulous option of glamping, thereby solving the issue of a long walk or car ride home.
Stave off the hangover at one of Australia’s most iconic beaches, Bondi, where you can down a healthy brekkie at Speedos cafe or carb up at Icebergs Dining Room before jumping into the picture-perfect surf for a swim between the flags.
Located in the remote rural region of Basilicata, Matera is preparing for the limelight as European Capital of Culture in 2019. But why wait? See in the new year in this jaw-dropping Unesco World Heritage-listed city, which hosts a range of open-air festivals and celebrations. Explore the town’s labyrinth of narrow alleys, and look out for the Presepe Narrante Di Matera, a ‘live nativity scene’ spread over 5km featuring 150 costumed performers.
Once a byword for urban poverty, Matera’s ‘sassi’ (cave dwellings) have become minimalist restaurants, trendy hangouts and boutique hotels. Eat at Baccanti, where former local boy and legendary film director Francis Ford Coppola has dined, sip a few cocktails at cafe-bar Area 8 and head underground to sleep it off at the classy Sextantio Le Grotte Della Civita. Finally, clear you head the next day by walking over the brand new suspension bridge.
New Orleans, USA
New Orleans adds a unique flavour to everything it does, and New Year’s Eve is no exception. Head over to Jackson Square to ring in 2017. The annual party there includes live music and a great view of the midnight fleur-de-lis drop to usher in the new year. The St Louis Cathedral, one of the best examples of French architecture in the US, serves as a regal backdrop for an impressive fireworks display over the Mississippi River.
You may be surprised at how cold it can be in New Orleans at this time of year. Luckily, the venerable Café Du Monde is just across the street. Open 24/7, closing only for Christmas Day, this purveyor of beignets and chicory coffee always helps ease the effects of one too many Hurricane cocktails.
If Sydney is the golden child for New Year’s Eve in Australia, then Melbourne is the spunky sibling. Hole up at one of the city’s renowned rooftop bars for a balmy summer night’s tipple and front-row seats for the fireworks.
For inner-city spots, Rooftop Bar atop Curtin House (curtinhouse.com) and Loop Roof (looprooftopbar.com.au) are hallowed favourites for Melburnians, whilst boutique hotel QT Melbourne delights with a glam rooftop terrace (book ahead for those last two). Further afield, catch skyline views and eat tapas at Naked in the Sky in Fitzroy. The morning’s salvation awaits in the shape of a delicious Melbourne brunch and, of course, a great cup of coffee.
Las Palmas, Gran Canaria
Partying in Europe at this time of year usually involves several layers of thermal underwear, but temperatures in the Gran Canarian capital of Las Palmas are a balmy average of 19°C. And while elsewhere the island is dominated by big resorts, this is a proper Spanish city mostly frequented by locals – particularly on New Year’s Eve, when clubs and bars fill up with Canarios.
The old quarter of Vegueta is a fun place to roam – start with dinner at Restaurante El Herreño, which makes traditional Canarian dishes with produce fresh from the market opposite, then head out to explore the many bars dotted among its narrow alleyways.
After a few cañas (small beers), most people converge on the marvellous city beach Playa de las Canteras, where fireworks light up the sky to welcome in the new year. Remember to BYO grapes – it’s a Spanish tradition to eat 12 grapes, one for each stroke of midnight, or risk an entire year of bad luck.
Nassau, the Bahamas
Nearly every town in the Caribbean throws a New Year’s bash, but Nassau does so with a particular flair. Junkanoo is the Bahamas’ biggest, flashiest street carnival, and while it takes place multiple times a year, the largest celebrations happen on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. In the wee hours of the morning, elaborately costumed dancers take to the streets with their troupes, parading through downtown Nassau to ring in the new year with horns, drums, whistles and floats.
Once the festivities subside, nap on the pearly sands of one of the popular New Providence beaches (Cable, Delaporte or Junkanoo Beaches to name a few). And when you start to feel hungry, head over to Arawak Cay for the weekend fish fry or snag some conch salad from the market at Potter’s Cay.
Although the Chinese do not celebrate New Year as warmly as the Spring Festival (otherwise known as Chinese New Year, which falls on 28 January this year), it’s a good time to visit southeast China, where the countryside is still green and vibrant.
Visit the idyllic city of Hangzhou for a peaceful way to see in 2017. Follow the footpath alongside West Lake in the morning to see the mist covering the water, then climb the hill to visit Yongfu Temple. Spend the afternoon sipping tea at the teahouse there, surrounded by a grove of tea trees. Finish off your day with a slap-up meal in the luxurious Shangri-La Hotel, which stands on the shoreline of the lake.
This article was first published on www.lonelyplanet.com