New Year’s Eve is one of those holidays that tends to promote unrealistic expectations. There’s so much hype around how best to spend the last night of the year that it’s easy to end up feeling let down by your plans, or stuck with the sense that everybody else managed to do something more glamorous or exciting than you. But that doesn’t have to be the case.
While there’s no such thing as a perfect New Year’s Eve celebration, there are a few locations and activities that can help make your holiday special. Whether your dream evening involves a snazzy party in Aspen or a beachside view of fireworks in the bay, there’s a destination for your perfect evening. Travel abroad or stay stateside, but take the time to plan out your trip to ensure a magical night spent ringing in the New Year with someone you love. We compiled a list of the best New Year's Eve destinations and everything to do once you get there.
If you love the snow and winter sports, Aspen is the perfect place to spend New Year’s Eve. Spend the day on the slopes, and then warm up by dancing the night away and watching fireworks above snow-capped mountains.
See fireworks from Wagner Park: Enjoy a free fireworks show at Wagner Park as you cuddle up near a bonfire complete with a DJ to set the mood. There’s no better place to watch Aspen Mountain glow beneath the light show.
Join a parade in Snowmass Village: Witness the annual New Year’s Eve fireworks show and torchlight parade in Snowmass Village. Skiers and snowboarders light up the slopes during this local tradition.
Party at the St. Regis: For a glitzy kind of evening, head to the St. Regis Aspen for a cocktail party, where you’ll receive complimentary champagne to toast at midnight and enjoy the evening with fellow guests.
San Francisco, California
San Francisco is the perfect combination of city life and nature. Spend time outdoors by the Golden Gate Bridge, or pause on the streets to take in a fireworks show over the water.
Picnic at the Golden Gate Bridge: Arrive early and enjoy a New Year’s Eve picnic by the Golden Gate Bridge as you wait for the clock to strike midnight and the fireworks show to begin. Or skip the crowds and visit the bridge during the day and move your celebration somewhere warm and indoors before midnight.
Have a bonfire at Ocean Beach: Claim a spot on the beach and bring your own firewood for a New Year’s spent on the sand by a crackling fire. It’s the best spot to catch one last sunset for the year.
See fireworks from the Embarcadero: If fireworks are your favorite part of this holiday, you’ll want to find a spot along the Embarcadero between Mission and Folsom for the best viewing location. You’ll have a perfect vantage point to enjoy the beautiful show after a night out on the town.
If Europe is calling your name, journey to Hamburg, Germany, for an unexpected holiday destination. There are so many things to do on New Year’s Eve in this unique city—from local markets to waterfront fireworks.
Visit a Christmas market in Jungfernstieg: Take in the local culture at the Christmas market in Jungfernstieg for a dazzling view of lights and plenty of food and drink vendors to visit. The market is located along Binnenalster Lake, making it a perfect spot for a romantic stroll before midnight.
See fireworks in Landungsbrucken: For a lively environment to enjoy an impressive fireworks display over glistening waters, visit the harbor in Landungsbrucken. It’s a popular spot, but the views will be well worth the crowds.
Go dancing in Reeperbahn: If dancing is on your New Year’s Eve to-do list, you’ll want to check out the nightlife in Hamburg. The locals can be found dancing the night away, so join in the festive fun.
If you find yourself in Atlanta come New Year’s Eve, you won’t be disappointed. Spend time outdoors on a hike before getting ready for an evening of dancing and champagne toasts.
Watch the sunset from Stone Mountain: A well-known spot to catch the best views of the sunset, Stone Mountain provides the perfect New Year’s adventure. If you time it right, you can reach the top of the mountain just as the last sunset of the year begins to set.
Dance at Bar Margot: If you’d rather spend New Year’s Eve indoors while sipping on refreshing cocktails, spend the evening at Bar Margot in the Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta. Enjoy dinner, drinks, and good company as you ring in the New Year.
Party at Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall: For a more relaxed scene, head to Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall. While it’s not the epitome of glamour, it’s perfect for those who prefer a low-key scene.
Key West, Florida
For a truly unforgettable New Year’s Eve celebration, travel to Key West, Florida. Live it up for the night on Bourbon street, or relax at the beach.
Watch the shoe drop at Bourbon Street: Visit Bourbon Street to experience the biggest end-of-the-year bash in town. Instead of watching the ball drop on TV, you’ll get to see the bright red shoe drop at Bourbon Street.
See fireworks on the Blackwater Sound: Catch a fireworks show that will light up the water over Blackwater Sound. Bundle up with someone you love, and watch the show outside near the water.
Hit the beach. If your idea of a New Year's Eve well-spent means crystal-clear waters, white sand beaches, and warm weather, you'll be set. Escape the cold where you live and spend the day at Smather's Beach.
This post was originally published on December 25, 2017, and has since been updated.