Top Cities in North America to Ring in the New Year


It’s time to bust out that tiny glittered hat! New Year’s Eve is quickly approaching, and you know what that means: party, party, party. Now, you can certainly hang out at your local dive and be home at a reasonable hour. But that’s boring. And you don’t want to start off 2018 as “that” person. Which is why we’re here to recommend some of the most popping cities in North America to spend the holiday.

To best illustrate which cities are living it up in style, we created an emoji rating system.

🍸The Lit Level icon indicates the level of crazy nightclubs, bars, and nightlife you can expect.
🎆The Big Booms icon rates the size of the fireworks show for the evening. The bigger, the better.
😎The Sun’s Out, Fun’s Out icon is awarded for good weather during the holiday.

Get ready to pop Champagne and throw confetti. New Year’s Eve 2018 is about to go off.

San Diego, CA, USA


Lit Level – 🍸 🍸 🍸 🍸 🍸
Big Booms – 🎆 🎆 🎆
Sun’s Out, Fun’s Out – 😎 😎 😎 😎 😎


We don’t have to pimp San Diego’s appeal. This is a place where flip-flops are the standard apparel for everything from beach walks to job interviews, and a whole day of the week is dedicated to tacos (Taco Tuesday). It’s a laidback place, and frankly, San Diegans are probably too busy sipping on cold margaritas in the warm winter weather to care much about rankings and lists. But that’s exactly why we love it so much. Not only is the weather pitch-perfect in late December, but there are a ton of events to get your party on.

Top picks:

  • If you want a NYE that leaves you with glitter in your hair and confetti in your purse (and who doesn’t?), the Gaslamp Quarter is absolutely where you need to go. New Year’s events are being thrown at some of the hottest clubs, like Onyx Room, PARQ, and Fluxx.

  • If you’re still singing, “I’m on a boat!” then you’re going to love the New Year’s Eve Yacht Party. Fireworks are blasted over the water, for a truly pretty sight at midnight.

  • When it’s time to absorb all that booze in the a.m., Breakfast Republic has you covered. This hipstery joint includes everything from mushroom ‘n pesto benedicts to Oreo® cookie pancakes.

 

Niagara Falls, ON


Lit Level – 🍸 🍸
Big Booms – 🎆 🎆 🎆 🎆 🎆
Sun’s Out, Fun’s Out – 😎 😎


Regarded as the biggest New Year’s party in the country, Niagara Falls on New Year’s Eve is a firm believer in go big or go home. The annual event takes place at Queen Victoria Park, which includes live performances from acts like James Barker Band, Jess Moskaluke, Simple Plan, and Marianas Trench. While the event is family-friendly, there’s also a separate area to get tipsy. Once you’ve had your fill, fireworks are shot off the Niagara Gorge in one of the biggest booms in Canada.

Top picks:

  • Some traditions are lame. This one is not. The Niagara Falls Winter Festival of Lights is one of those events you can’t miss. There are roughly 2 million lights displayed in the most epic proportions.

  • Prepare to get the Champagne flowing and remember to not aim that cork at someone’s eye. Some of the top spots around here include Club Se7en and Dragonfly Nightclub, which are having blow-outs for the holiday.

  • Don’t forget to add a little culture to your vacation before the year is up. The current Pieces of Canada exhibit at the Niagara Falls History Museum is nearly over. Here, you’ll find 150 objects that represent what Canada means to each donor, in honor of, you guessed it, the 150th

 

Oakville, ON


Lit Level – 🍸
Big Booms – 🎆 🎆 🎆
Sun’s Out, Fun’s Out – 😎 😎 😎 😎 😎


Some things shrink when they hit cold water, but not courage! And it takes some major bal—uh, major spirit to jump into the freezing waters of Oakville, Ontario. But that’s exactly what happens every January 1st. In fact, the Polar Bear Dip that takes place in this friendly town is the largest in the country. Needless to say, anyone with a heart condition may want to support the crowd from a distance instead of pulling a Jack Dawson and Rose DeWitt into the icy depths (and yes, there was enough room for two on that door). Normally, we’d give this destination zero stars in the warm weather category, but since people are running into freezing waters willingly, we’re giving five out of five for bravery.

Top picks:

  • If you’re in town for New Year’s, you jump into the icy waters with the rest of the crazies at the Polar Bear Dip. Plus, it’s for charity, so while some heroes wear capes, you can rock icicles in your hair.

  • Feel like being brave in 2018, but with a ton less risk? Then cross indoor skydiving off your bucket list at iFly Toronto, where you can float above enormous wind tunnels like Peter Pan.

  • They say that millennials spend too much money on avocado toast. We say, who cares! More toast! And when you make a date at Ben & Florentine, you can enjoy toppings like goat cheese and capers.

 

Pasadena, CA, USA


Lit Level – 🍸 🍸 🍸
Big Booms – 🎆 🎆
Sun’s Out, Fun’s Out – 😎 😎 😎 😎 😎


Speaking of places to spend New Year’s Day, Pasadena, California, has a particularly famous event that has been going strong for over 100 years: the Rose Parade. This festival means business when it comes to its floral requirements. Each float in the long parade must be covered by either flowers or natural materials like leaves and bark. Fun trivia: It’s estimated that each float contains more flowers than an average florist will use over the course of five years. So, if you want to spend your holiday in the warm Cali sun, smelling like daisies, you know where to be.

Top picks:

  • If you want club action during your holiday, favourites include Club 54 for raucous energy, The Granada LA (in nearby Alhambra) for Latin beats, and LindyGroove for a little bit of swing.

  • Want to ignore your resolution to eat in more often? A little visit to POP Champagne Bar & Restaurant can help with that. Menu items include just about every Champagne you can think of and in-your-face ice cream flavours like basil, maple pancake, and caramel popcorn.

  • If exercise is on your resolutions list, make a huffy puffy jaunt to Eaton Canyon Falls and awaken those muscles.

 

Calgary, AB


Lit Level – 🍸 🍸
Big Booms – 🎆 🎆 🎆 🎆 🎆
Sun’s Out, Fun’s Out – 😎 😎 😎


Not all celebrations include having to hold your friend’s hair back. Some places are wonderfully family-friendly, like spending New Year’s Eve in Calgary. This event is no joke. There’s free hot cocoa for the first 2,000 people here, as well as line dancing, ice carvings dotting Stephen Avenue, and a ton of live music before the big booms of midnight. There’s even a glow-in-the-dark dance party at the Municipal Building that wraps up with a special countdown at 9 p.m. for the kiddos who need to head to bed.

Top picks:

  • Each year, Calgary Zoo puts on Zoo Year’s Eve, which includes ice skating, walks through the lit up ENMAX Conservatory, and interactive exhibits.

  • Splash into 2018 at the Village Square Leisure Centre. Home to a giant wave pool, slide, and even a hot tub, this becomes a family hot spot as the centre does a countdown at 5:15 p.m. for an early cheers to New Year’s.

  • Once the kids are left with the babysitter, parents can get crazy. Might we suggest the New Year’s Eve Gala at Hotel Blackfoot? This year’s theme is all about the roaring 20s, so get that flapper-wear ready.

 

St. John’s, NL


Lit Level – 🍸 🍸 🍸
Big Booms – 🎆 🎆 🎆
Sun’s Out, Fun’s Out – 😎 😎


Can’t wait for 2018? Then you need to book yourself a ticket to the Canadian city that experiences the new year first: St. John’s. Fun Fact: The year switches 30 minutes before Halifax and 1.5 hours before New York. Don’t miss the annual fireworks show that takes place on Quidi Vidi Lake and gains more acclaim every year. Whether you’re the eldest sibling or just like to be first in everything, this is where you want to be on New Year’s Eve.

Top picks:

  • Fancy a drink to cheers to the new year? There are several excellent bars in town, starting with the Duke of Duckworth. The pub, which has been a local hot spot for 25 years, offers local brews as well as specialty cocktails. Other favourites include Bernard Stanley Gastropub and Shamrock City Pub.

  • When you’re ready to get those legs pumping the next day, a hike up Signal Hill National Historic Site should do the trick.

  • OK, hipsters, this one is for you. The Vinyl Room at The Reluctant Chef offers hand-crafted cocktails, craft beer, and best of all, they only play vinyl records. You can go through their collection and request anything you’d like played. Digital music is so 2017.

 

Taos, New Mexico, USA


Lit Level – 🍸 🍸
Big Booms – 🎆 🎆 🎆 🎆
Sun’s Out, Fun’s Out – 😎 😎 😎


It goes without saying that places like Whistler, Banff, and Aspen are jam-packed with people this time of year. You might as well be dodging tourists just as much as navigating around trees. But we happen to know a ski destination straight out of a storybook that’s still under the radar (for now): Taos Ski Valley. Enchanting and thrilling, there’s nothing like it. And after gliding down the mountain, New Year’s Eve celebrations are waiting for you at the bottom of the slopes.

Top picks:

  • The fireworks show is something else. At 5:30 p.m., the laser light show begins, followed by skiers rushing down the mountain with only flares of light to guide their way. After the torchlight parade, the fireworks pop in the night sky.

  • The Taos area is well known for its sense of art and beauty. If you’re in town for a few days, make a date with the Taos Art Museum.

  • Mornings = mimosas. Kick off 2018 with morning cocktails from Gutiz. Or if you prefer a sober buzz, The Coffee Apothecary has only been open a year and is already one the most popular places for craft lattes.

 

Amelia Island, FL, USA


Lit Level – 🍸 🍸 🍸
Big Booms – 🎆 🎆
Sun’s Out, Fun’s Out – 😎 😎 😎 😎 😎


If you haven’t heard of Amelia Island, Florida, what on earth are you waiting for? Forget Miami and fly right on over Orlando. Because this island off northeast Florida is the most enthusiastic place in the state. There always seems to be some sort of festival going on, whether that’s celebrating shrimp, cycling, jazz, or anything else. And the island goes off for the holidays and New Year’s.

Top picks:

  • The Ritz-Carlton is putting on its 6th annual New Year’s Eve Black & White Gala, and makes it #fancy with lobster, braised short ribs, and a full display of desserts.

  • Forget New York: Fernandina Beach is hosting its annual Shrimp Drop—and yes, we mean that literally. It’s a light-up shrimp that drops at 7 p.m. to ring in the new year. Fireworks shoot off immediately after.

  • Ready to turn it up to 11? The Palace Saloon has been around since 1903 and they know what they’re doing. Drinks include the Pineapple Express with spice rum and sweet and sour, Jalapeno Margarita with a spicy bite, and Pirate’s Punch, which is made from a secret house recipe.

 

Rosarito, Baja California, MX


Lit Level – 🍸 🍸 🍸 🍸
Big Booms – 🎆
Sun’s Out, Fun’s Out – 😎 😎 😎 😎 😎


If you’re a superstitious traveller, you’ll want to pay close attention to the New Year’s traditions in Mexico. Locals have a variety of good luck habits, like eating 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight, cleaning house for a fresh start to the year, and swallowing a teaspoon of lentils for good fortune. Whatever floats your boat, make sure you do it before lounging out on the sand in paradise.

Top picks:

  • New year, more wine! An insider like you knows that Baja vineyards are on the rise. Sample them with Baja Winery Tours, which will put a happy buzzed feeling in your belly.

  • Shake, shake, shake off the previous year at the annual New Year’s Eve Party at Rosarito Beach Hotel. There’s a gala dinner to absorb the tequila and live music after.

  • DJs. Ocean waves. Is it any wonder why Papas and Beer is the premier club in Rosarito? This is the kind of place where every Friday and Saturday night is a holiday, let alone New Year’s.

 

Toronto, ON


Lit Level – 🍸 🍸 🍸 🍸 🍸
Big Booms – 🎆 🎆 🎆 🎆
Sun’s Out, Fun’s Out – 😎 😎


When we surveyed 1,000 Canadians to choose their favourite big city, Toronto was the roaring winner. And what’s not to love about T-Town? The sights, the flavours, and the fact that it’s the largest city in the country all add to the glow. And when it comes to New Year’s Eve in Toronto, the town doesn’t slouch. Pack those comfy slippers in your bag, because you’re in for a night of dancing on tables and in the streets, and your tired feet will thank you later.


 

Top picks:

  • Nathan Phillips Square is the #1 place to be on New Year’s—which is what the other 49,999 people there will tell you. There are live DJs, food trucks, and an insane fireworks show lighting up the skyscraper-filled night.

  • There are so many clubs here, you might want to pace yourself. To start, Rosewater is throwing “The Largest Singles New Year’s Party” and the Gladstone Hotel is throwing a Studio 54 party. You can also count on salsa clubs like Lula Lounge and high-octane clubs like Nest throwing down.

  • For something a little different, Massey Hall is hosting its annual New Year’s Eve Extravaganza and Hot Docs Cinema is showing its annual viewing of “The Big Lebowski.”

The new year is beginning and with it, the promise of bigger parties, bolder adventures, and more travel. Start 2018 right with an epic New Year’s Eve in these top towns. It’ll set the tone for living your best life.

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About Author

Jennifer Cuellar

<p>Jennifer Cuellar is a writer, an avid explorer, and fan of all things Games of Thrones-related. When she’s not sipping tea in a café by the beach, she’s off writing about wondrous cities you simply have to visit. From mountain peaks to downtown streets, there’s a world of adventure waiting to be explored. She spotlights top cities to tour, which attractions you’ve got to see, and off-the-beaten path activities to try during your next vacation. Let’s go travel!</p>

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