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Top 10 Spots for New Year's Eve 2005

Illinois, USA
: Bash at Buckingham Fountain

When it comes to New Year's Eve, Chicago is our kind of town. Bundle up and head for Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park. Recorded classical music kicks off the festivities at 10 p.m. The payoff for freezing your derriere off? Midnight fireworks casting their reflections onto Lake Michigan. Countdowns also take place at Navy Pier and the Lincoln Park Zoo—the latter starts early for those with little ones. If you want to get a jump on your resolution to lead a healthier life, join the United for Peace athletes for a 5K run at the Heartland Café at 8 p.m.


: Go Hog Wild at Hogmanay

Hogmanay! While this sounds like an event Harry Potter and his cohorts might attend, it is in fact a true-life New Year's Eve festival held far north of Hogwarts. This four-day celebration features street theater, live music, an impressive torchlight parade and the burning of a Viking boat. On the actual eve, nearly 100,000 people don flamboyant Hogmanay hats and gather in Princes Street for the Hogmanay Street Party. Fireworks are launched from seven locations, including Arthur's seat. Insider tip: Calton Hill has views of five different firework displays.


Florida, USA
: Explore the Magic Kingdom

By selecting Orlando for this list, what we actually mean is Walt Disney World. The happiest universe unto itself provides something sassy for everyone. Check out rock band Cheap Trick at Downtown Disney's 21-and-older street party, or take in a parade and early fireworks at the family-friendly Magic Kingdom; big band music, Latin dancing and an Auld Lang Syne finale are just a few of the highlights at Epcot; and a new fireworks show is featured at Disney-MGM Studios. But if you really want something explosive, treat yourself to Cirque du Soleil's La Noube, with a special ending created just for this night.


Czech Republic:
Old World Charm

Stalls selling mulled wine, a winter chill in the air and the baroque architecture of the Old Town Square. Surely, you can't imagine better trappings for a traditional New Year's Eve. The streets of Prague fill with revelers, and fireworks spark at every turn: consider yourself fair warned. The ultimate firework show, though, is over Prague Castle and the River Vltava. You can watch them from waterfront restaurants, the Charles Bridge or even the castle. For the ultimate view, hop a river cruise and ring in the New Year in style.


Party in the Piazza

If you're not attending mass or ducking broken crockery thrown out windows—one of those crazy Italian tradition—you should make your way to Piazza del Popolo, the site of the city's most notable New Year's Eve festivities. Anchored by the beautiful Renaissance church, Santa Maria del Popolo, the square makes a captivating setting for locals and tourists to gather for concerts and fireworks. On New Year's Day, the piazza fills again, this time with families. Mask making and acrobats keep kids entertained while parents recuperate from the night before.


California, USA
Dance Under the Stars

The City by the Bay doesn't have a New Year's Eve central, like New York's Times Square. But it does know how to whoop it up, and visitors will find countless celebrations to choose from. The San Francisco Symphony is presenting a gala at Davis Symphony Hall, and for those less cultured types, Gordon Biersch is throwing a bash at its Embarcadero venue. In fact, anywhere on the water is where you want to be, so you can catch the fireworks. For fun, check out Pier 23 Café, with dancing under the stars. Of course, no place beats the dinner and dance party at Top of the Mark, on the 19th floor of the InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel.


: The Mexican Las Vegas

We cannot picture Prince Charles, Champagne flute in hand, strutting down Acapulco’s Costera to ring in the New Year. But in the 1920s the Brits weren’t quite so reserved and it took one Prince of Wales to put this seaside resort on the radar of the international jet set. Even today, all of our Mexican friends agreed that Acapulco is the place to be on New Year’s Eve. You’ll find a lot of revelers from Mexico City in town—with the new Mexico-Acapulco expressway, it’s just two hours by car to this Pacific resort. Wherever you turn, the city is one huge party, from the beaches to the legendary clubs and discotheques. Most of the action is bound to take place on the Costera, or Grand Boulevard, of Acapulco. With temperatures in the high 80s, the city sizzles on and off the party circuit, but keep in mind that it’s been dubbed “The Mexican Las Vegas.” So if you prefer more sedate diversions, head for Guadalajara.


A Peaceful Ringing In

Although the western New Year is celebrated in major Chinese cities, it is in fact the lunar New Year—which falls on the first day of the first lunar month (a date that changes annually on the Western calendar)—that really matters. Why not try a little something new, set debauchery aside, and head for Longhua Temple and Park in the south of Shanghai this January 29. To literally ring in the New Year, over 100 Buddhists strike the temple's five-ton copper bell at midnight. Each stroke is said to represent an earthly happiness.


Waltz into the New Year

It's not surprising that classical music is the highlight of New Year's Eve in Vienna, most notably the Vienna Philharmonic's performance at Musikverein Hall. If you can't make it into the night's other see and be scene event—the Kaiserball at Hofburg Palace—console yourself with dancing in the street. Along the New Year's Eve trail that winds through the historic section of the city, you can sip and nibble from street stalls, and take an impromptu, al fresco dance lesson, which you'll put to good use post-midnight, during the public playing of the Blue Danube Waltz.


Wish upon a Whistler

A winter wonderland, with or without festivities, Whistler hosts First Night, an annual New Year's Eve street fair of live music, interactive arts and street performances. This family-friendly, alcohol-free event takes place throughout the village and features an array of diverse attractions: a kids' performance of Chibi Taiko (Japanese drumming), African and Caribbean-inspired marimba and lots of crafts. Make a lantern or party hat, or contribute to the community 2010 quilt. The romantic in you will be drawn to the Wishing Chair, where you can make a wish for the upcoming year.

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(Updated: 10/29/08 KR)

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