The 10 Most Underrated Places to Celebrate the New Year

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Bucket List Worthy   Hot off the Press  

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Watching the ball drop in New York City or admiring the fireworks on Copacabana Beach are some of the most well-known — and grossly over-crowded — ways to celebrate the new year. But what many celebrators don’t know is that these famous parties can easily be subbed for less publicized (and less expensive) events and locations around the world. From Toronto to Quito, Reykjavik, Portland and Prague, these underrated New Year’s celebrations will leave you with unforgettable experiences and a little money left in your pocket.

#1. Cape Town, South Africa

Photo credit: Margaret
Photo credit: Margaret

Be sure to extend your holiday vacation through January 2 if you’re headed to Cape Town, because the party doesn’t stop on the first day of the new year. Cape Town’s New Year’s Eve waterfront fireworks, which can be watched from the top of the majestic Table Mountain, are certainly one reason to attend, but it’s the festivities to follow that really make this an unforgettable New Year’s destination. The Cape Town Minstrel Carnival parade, featuring 10,000 participants with their faces painted white, takes place on January 2 to honor the survival of the city’s diverse heritage.

#2. San Juan, Puerto Rico

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If you’ve been dreaming of celebrating the new year in Miami but are weary of the crowds and sky-high prices, San Juan is an ideal alternative. Catch an elaborate fireworks display on Condado Beach, then head to a posh beachfront hotel like La Concha for late-night parties that cost half the price of Miami’s to attend. And don’t forget to follow Puerto Rico’s tradition of eating 12 grapes in the 12 seconds before 12 a.m. to ensure good luck throughout 2015.

#3. Niagara Falls, Canada

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You don’t have to fly to a tropical destination or one of the world’s biggest cities to enjoy an extravagant New Year’s Eve celebration. Niagara Falls hosts the biggest party in all of Canada by blasting off an incredible 900 kilograms of fireworks in two locations over the falls. Don’t miss out on the live music leading up to the display, and be sure to take a cruise though the magical Ontario Power Generation Winter Festival of Lights while you’re in town.

#4. Quito, Ecuador

Photo credit: Photo credit: Carlos Adampol Galindo
Photo credit: Photo credit: Carlos Adampol Galindo

Were you dissatisfied with the year 2014? There’s no better time or place to put the past to rest than New Year’s Eve in Ecuador. Across the country, celebrators build effigies to represent all of the bad that happened throughout the previous year. The effigies are thrown into a pile and burned at midnight in celebration of the new year and the passing of the old one. Once the effigies are burned and everyone’s slate is clear, the parties begin and continue all night.

#5. Goa, India

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Goa, India has long been known for its beachfront parties, but New Year’s Eve presents some of the best. Whether you’re into big beach bashes (head to Anjuna) or more quaint, scenic get-togethers (think Palolem Beach), Goa is guaranteed to offer the sand-between-your-toes New Year’s Eve you’re looking for.

#6. Valparaiso, Chile

Photo credit: a L p
Photo credit: a L p

Visiting “Chile’s Cultural Capital” for New Year’s Eve will be memorable in more ways than one, but what you really came to see is Valparaiso’s three-day-long “New Year’s Eve By the Sea” celebration. Three days of festivities end with the largest fireworks display in all of South America, which can be seen from atop Valaparaiso’s hills or even better, a charter boat out to sea.

#7. Portland, United States

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Not all great New Year’s Eve celebrations involve posh parties and dreamy far-away destinations. Portland, Ore., is a foodie-friendly New Year’s Eve destination with five-star dining options (try Beast in northeast Portland or Andina in the Pearl District), delicious craft beers and plenty of outdoor adventures to burn it all off the next day.

#8. Toronto, Canada

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Toronto is your affordable and more comfortable alternative to New Year’s Eve in jam-packed Times Square. You still get all of the champagne, night clubs, delicious meals and parties you’d find in the “City that Never Sleeps,” but you avoid the outrageous price tags and overly-crowded establishments.

#9. Reykjavik, Iceland

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Iceland has a reputation of being extremely low key when it comes to nightlife, but the country’s capital is a completely different story on New Year’s Eve. It’s as though the entire city parties together with communal bonfires, fireworks, dancing and drinks. Although the city doesn’t perform an official fireworks display, they do have an open policy that allows them to be blasted off from backyards just about anywhere.

#10. Madeira, Portugal

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Wine-lovers rejoice! Madeira Island is the perfect, off-the-beaten-path place to enjoy a New Year’s Eve celebration filled with fireworks, ocean breezes, seafood, parties and of course, plenty of wine. Take to the streets (where you can also enjoy a glass of wine) to bring in the new year with elaborate fireworks displays over the ocean, then kick off your shoes and party on the beach with your toes in the sand.

About the Author: Courtney McCaffrey

Courtney McCaffrey is a freelance writer and editor based in Wilmington, N.C. In addition to writing, she lives for travel - seeing new places, learning new cultures and surfing new waves.

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