The question has probably already come up: What are you doing on New Year's Eve? We've taken a look at how five destinations are preparing to say goodbye to the old and ring in the new.
The Windy City celebrates the New Year as part of its Winter Wonderfest, with fireworks across Lake Michigan and an evening of activities for adults and children alike.
What: Chicago's Winter Wonderfest
Where: Navy Pier (tel. 800/595-PIER; www.navypier.com)
Key Details: The New Year's Eve celebration starts early with a family-themed party with fireworks, interactive dance party with DJ Warp in the family pavilion where kids can ring in the new year early.
Best Place to View: A cruise around the lake with entertainment, food and the whole works provides a great perspective; Odyssey Cruises offers some (tel. 888/741-0281; www.odysseycruises.com)
Important Information: Admission is free; fireworks location is listed as Dock Street.
Other Events: Ice skating in Millennium Park (tel. 312/742-1168; www.millenniumpark.org) can be an invigorating way to welcome the New Year; the James Hotel, home to David Burke's restaurant Primehouse (tel. 877/JAMES-55; www.jameshotel.com), will host a party with a special menu.
Places to Stay: The Kohler Hotel (tel. 800/344-2838; www.destinationkohler.com) has a New Year's Eve package that starts at $176.50 and it includes accommodations for two, New Year's eve party at the American club, with open bar, and live music. The Hard Rock Hotel (tel. 312/345-1000; www.hardrockhotelchicago.com) has a New Year's room package available from $299 for a deluxe king room that includes complimentary valet parking, champagne and late check out.
Although throughout Asia New Year's celebrations aren't traditionally held until a bit later, the western concept of a New Year's Eve -- fireworks and the like -- takes place with Victoria Harbor as the backdrop.
What: New Year's Eve Countdown Carnival 2008
Where: Sha Tin Park, Sha Tin Town Hall Plaza & Podium
Key Details: The evening consists of fireworks that go off from the rooftops of Two ifc, Hong Kong's tallest buildings, along with nine other skyscrapers in town and light up the North Shore of Hong Kong Island.
Best Place to View: On the Kowloon side, you can get a good view from the waterfront between Avenue of the Stars and the Hong Kong Cultural Centre. On the Hong Kong Island side, set yourself up along the promenade at the Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai; the area around Central Piers is also
Other Events: Hong Kong Disneyland's (www.hongkongdisneyland.com) Sparkling Christmas takes place through January 2.
Places to Stay: The Hong Kong tourism site (www.discoverhongkong.comwww.discoverhongkong.com) offers a few packages for New Year's, including stays at the Island Shangri-La from HKD 7500 (approximately US$967) for three days and two nights, or two nights and three days at the Renaissance Harbor View Hotel from HKD 4136 (approximately US$533).
The city returns to the London Eye for a fireworks celebration. Many of the areas with good vantage points will be shut to vehicular traffic; there will be great views from Westminster Bridge.
What: London's Fireworks
Where: London Eye, Westminster Bridge Road, County Hall, Riverside Building
Key Details: Fireworks are launched from the 442-foot London Eye, an enormous observation wheel that permits you to see dozens of the city's attractions in a half an hour. It gets very crowded and you won't be permitted in the viewing area once it is full.
Best Place to View: Victoria Embankment, the South Bank and Westminster and Waterloo Bridges
Important Information to Consider: If you want to access the events from the riverside areas in front of the Southbank Centre, you need to book a table at one of the restaurants.
Other Events: Special New Year's Eve performance of Cinderella at the Lyric Theatre; New Year's Eve Service at St. Alfege's Church; dance the night away at Brixton Academy's party.
Places to Stay: The Four Seasons Canary Wharf (tel. 44/7510-1999; www.fourseasons.com/canarywharf) has a special that includes a three-course dinner, valet parking, a room upgrade (subject to availability) and a full English breakfast, priced from £445 for a standard room and £675 for a one-bedroom suite.
New York City
When we think of New Year's Eve, New York's famous celebration comes to mind as the quintessential party. It's been going on for 100 years and attracts millions of revelers who brave the often sub-freezing temperatures.
What: New Year's Eve in Times Square
Where: One Times Square, 42nd Street, Broadway and Seventh Avenue: (www.timessquarenyc.org)
Key Details: A new ball that's twice the size of previous incarnations will usher in 2009. Its design features cutting on both sides to maximize the light. For the first time it will be in on public display all year.
Best Place to View: Some might argue Times Square itself is the best place to view, but one staffer at NYC & Company (www.nycgo.com) recommended the second floor of the McDonald's -- not the best place for ambiance, arguably -- at between 46th and 47th Streets on Seventh Avenue.
Important Information to Consider: Don't even think about driving; surrounding streets are usually blocked off (check www.nyc.gov/html/nypd closer to the holiday for details), so public transit (or hailing a cab -- good luck!) is the way to go.
Other Events: The New York Philharmonic (www.nyphil.org) features mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, with selections from Carmen and The Merry Widow; Jazz at Lincoln Center (www.jalc.org) features Paquito D'Rivera and Cuban Jazz.
Places to Stay: The W Hotels in New York (tel. 888/625-5144; www.whotels.com/newyork) offer a "Celebrate" package, complete with a 2009 calendar, party favors, a bottle of Champagne, a camera. Hide the previous night's damage by staying in bed for a late check out and by using Bliss eye cream. Rooms start from $269. The package is available through January 29, 2009.
Sydney will likely host 1.2 million people at its fireworks and lights display festivities (www.sydneynewyearseve.com).
What: New Year's Eve Light Parade and Fireworks and lights display
Where: Harbour Bridge
When: 9pm (family fireworks) and midnight; activities start at 1pm.
Key Details: Sydney is one of the first cities to welcome the New Year -- only New Zealand, ahead by two hours, beats this Aussie city.
Important information to Consider: Many people eat dinner at restaurants around the harbor to take in the more than 50 boats that will pass through, so it's wise to reserve ahead of time so you're guaranteed a spot. Bonus: It's summer in Australia.
Best Place to View: There are several choice vantage points, including the Royal Botanic Garden, Clark Island, and the Sydney Opera House -- the latter has a capacity of 8,000.
Other Events: Camp overnight at Cockatoo Island (www.cockatooisland.gov.au) and enjoy the unique view of fireworks; bring your own food and beverages; enjoy a sit-down, six-course meal and an 8-member live band at the Taronga Centre.
Places to Stay: The North Sydney Harborview Hotel (www.viewhotels.com.au) is a perfect -- and popular -- place to stay; rates are available from A$700 (approximately US$460).