Sydney Harbour firework extravaganza (caveman)
List Words : Christine Fleitz | 12 December

8 places to bring in the New Year

Forget watching others bring in the New Year on your telly, get out and join the festivities. From street festivals in Scotland to beach parties in Rio...

New Year's Eve is just around the corner, and time is running out to decide how you'll bring in 2012. Fight the urge to wrap up in a blanket, with a warm mug of cocoa, and watch others celebrate the biggest night of the year on the telly from the comfort of your sofa. Instead, pack your bags and head somewhere unfamiliar to celebrate the New Year. As the clock nears midnight, these seven cities will be thriving with festivities... Where will you be?

1. Hogmanay street festival, Scotland

New Year's Eve celebrations kick off early in Edinburgh, with a dramatic torch-lit procession on the 30 December. Thousands of people wind through the streets wielding flaming wax torches creating what is known as “the river of fire”, culminating in the burning of a galley and firework display.

On the 31 December a series of events run throughout the city, but the Edinburgh Hogmanay Street Party is where you'll want to be when the countdown begins. Bring in the New Year with 80,000 friends against the backdrop of Edinburgh Castle, and dance the night away with incredible live music and entertainment. Hogmanay is a legendary event, and often cited as the world's best New Year's Eve party. Just make sure you wrap up warm!

Extra info: The torch-lit procession is entirely free (though a wax torch will cost you a fiver), and entry to Edinburgh's Hogmanay Street Party starts from £15, and is not recommended for under 16s.

2. Party on Copacabana beach, Rio

Looking for a New Year's Eve party with a bit of heat? Head over to Brazil and bring in 2012 with sand, surf and cocktails at the Copacabana beach party in Rio. Second only to Carnival, New Year's Eve is one of the most important celebrations in Brazil, and attracts millions of people from all around the world. Party-goers flock to the beach where the atmosphere is alive with music and dance. An extravagant firework display kicks off at midnight with the turning of the new year.

If you want to join the party, you'll have to adhere to a few simple rules. First off, you must wear white, but can spice up your outfit by adding some accenting colours. Secondly, bring some flowers with you and toss them into the sea before midnight, as an offering to Yemanja, the deity of the seas. Lastly, take a bottle of champagne to pop at midnight; some shake the bottle and spray it, consider yourself lucky if you happen to get splashed!

Extra info: There is no cost to enjoy fireworks from the beach, but be aware that after midnight most peoplego on to private parties, so plan ahead!

3. Firework extravaganza, Sydney

Bright blazes of colour shooting up into the sky over Sydney's Harbour Bridge is perhaps one of the most popular televised images around the world on New Year's Eve. Instead of watching from your sofa, get off your tush and go see it for yourself! The theme of this year's celebration is Time To Dream, where people are encouraged to share their dreams, hopes and aspirations for the coming year.

Of the multi-tiered event the two show-stoppers are the Family Fireworks at 9pm – so the kids can join in the celebrations – and the Midnight Fireworks signalling the start of 2012. Not only will you be slap-bang in the middle of an iconic New Year's Eve celebration, but due to Australia's geographical location you'll also be among some of the first people in the world to see the sun rise in 2012.

Extra info: Getting there may put a dent in your bank balance, but the Sydney Harbour show is free to watch! Check out and experiment with different vantage points to be sure you have a great view.

4. Watch the Ball drop, New York

As the clock strikes 12 the Times Square Ball drops, colourful pyrotechnics explode in the night sky, confetti rains down, and the million-plus party-goers yell, shout, wave pompoms and just generally celebrate.

In the hours leading up to midnight expect to be wowed by star-studded performances and festive activities. This year's celebration will be hosted by Ryan Seacrest, and performers will include the likes of Lady Gaga and Justin Beiber. Dress warm, and bring along nibbles and drinks, but no alcohol due to open container laws.

Extra info: Entry is free, but be sure to arrive early, as the square will fill up quick and there is limited available space.

5. Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

Shake off 2011 German-style at the iconic Brandenburg Gate, where over one million revellers come to welcome in the New Year. The party kicks off at 6:30pm and has a buzzing program, featuring local artists to global superstars. As an important symbol of German history, Brandenburg Gate has a special place in every German's heart and acts as a memorable backdrop to this party's main stage.

Enjoy local beers and food, and don't forget to wish your fellow party-goers “Guten Rutsch” when the clock strikes 12 and thousands of fireworks explode in the night sky. You won't even notice the chill at this massive open-air party, as you dance under the stars until the wee hours of the morning.

Extra info: Admission to the Brandenburg Gate celebrations is free for all, and you won't be expected to leave after midnight, the party rages until the sun comes up!

6. Festival of Lights, Niagara Falls

Lit up with a palette of stunning colours and surrounded by millions of sparkling tree lights, the cascading waters of Niagara Falls make for a magical backdrop to bring in 2012. Over 40,000 people come to celebrate the New Year at this massive outdoor party overlooking the mighty falls.

Kicking off at 7:30pm in Queen Victoria Park, the event features musical talent from some of Canada's biggest names, and two spectacular firework displays planned for 8:45pm and midnight.

Eat delicious food, drink up and indulge in good times with old and newly-acquired friends, while enjoying rhythmic tunes. Dance your way into the New Year opposite the thundering beauty of the Niagara Falls and make memories that will last a lifetime.

Extra info: There is no admission fee for this exciting event, but donations are gratefully accepted; they go towards improving the show the following year ($5-10 recommended).

7. Marina Bay Countdown, Singapore

Thousands of glowing inflatable wishing spheres bob on the water, covered with scribbles of hopes and dreams of locals for the coming year, as a colourfully orchestrated display of lights, lasers and pyrotechnic take over the Singapore skyline when the clock strikes twelve.

In the hours leading up to the countdown expect to be entertained by a variety of different shows and concerts staged on the Marina Bay floating platform.

Join the New Year revelry with more than 250,000 people spanning the bay area and bid farewell to 2011. And don't forget to make your wishes come true, by writing them down on one of the 20,000 wishing spheres before they're cast into the water.

Extra info: You guessed it, Singapore's Marina Bay event is free to all! Arrive early for a front row viewing or scout out vantage points before you go.

8. Table Mountain, Cape Town

Gaze upon thousands of glittering stars while lying on a picnic blanket 1,067 metres above sea level for a peaceful and reflective introduction to the New Year. With unparalleled views of Cape Peninsula, Table Mountain in South Africa is a unique location to bring in 2012. Jump on board a cable car for a ten minute journey to the top of this natural wonder, savouring the 360 degree aerial view as you ascend.

When the clock strikes midnight toast to the New Year with a glass of chilled champagne with family and friends, and enjoy the colourful celebrations taking place below. If you want a bit of excitement after the countdown, continue the night at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront with music, dancing and drinking.

Extra info: A return cable car journey only costs £6 (80 Rand), but you may want to book in advance to avoid disappointment. Make sure you don't miss the last car up at 11pm, and the last car down at 1am. 

Already got plans?

If you've already planned a quiet New Year's Eve with close family and friends but secretly desire a thriving celebration then head over to Hong Kong where this New Year celebration happens a sneaky three weeks later.

Chinese New Year celebrations are determined by the lunar calendar, and in 2012 celebrations will run from the 17 January to 6 February, marking the start of the Year of the Dragon.

The highlight of Chinese New Year, is on the evening of the 24 January when thousands of people line the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront to usher in the New Year with a spectacular firework display over the iconic Victoria Harbour. Alternatively, attend a lively street parade, and watch a colourful display of floats. Dancing dragons weave through the crowds, with up to 50 dancers under its silky body twisting, turning and blinking its eyes.

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