Ten Best: Places to be on New Year’s Eve

by Brian Clarey

Las Vegas

To some folks, New Year’s Eve is no big deal, just another mile to mark on the inevitable slide towards death. But to a certain kind of person it is a very big deal, if only as the last night of the year to get his douche on by swilling two dozen drinks and invading the personal space of everyone in the room. A lot of these types will be in Las Vegas, most likely at the Hard Rock but also filling party rooms up, down and off the Strip. The good news is that you can be right there with them for $193, including all taxes and fees. Northwest flight 2905 leaves Piedmont Triad International Airport at 6 a.m. and, after stops in Detroit and Minneapolis, lands in Vegas at 1 p.m., plenty of time to catch a tan poolside at whatever hotel you can sneak into.

Times Square, New York City

Please trust me on this one: You do not want to go to Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Seriously. It’s like 11 degrees out there by 1 Times Square, and not even the crushing mass of foul-smelling, whiskey-smacked, spit-talking, loudmouthed hooples that befouls the streets will keep you warm. You can expect to pay a $50 cover charge (at least!) to use a proper bathroom – and I use the word “proper” loosely – and you most certainly will get either groped, propositioned, have your pockets picked, be puked upon, have someone spit in your mouth, wake up with an inadvisable tattoo or any combination of these things. But I know you’ll probably go anyway, so try to have fun, dear. And don’t touch anything.

Downtown Winston-Salem

Sure, Ziggy’s is closed – for now – but there’s still plenty of places to be in the Cancer City when the clock strikes midnight. Our neighbors on Trade Street will surely be besieged by overdressed scenesters and folks who look like they wandered down from the mountains alike. A rock-and-roll New Year’s show explodes at the Garage with Box Wine, Wafer Thin and the bo-stevens; there should be a run on the good scotch at Finnigan’s Wake; the Silver Moon Saloon might burst at the seams and all the cool kids will be at Elliott’s Revue. All except this one, that is.

New Orleans

Even in the post-Katrina era, the holiday that is New Year’s Eve takes about a week in New Orleans, what with the street parades, the Sugar Bowl parties and the 24-hour bars. And the fact that Carnival season (that’s Mardi Gras, folks) officially begins on the twelfth night after Christmas, Jan. 5, means that for locals Christmas is just a training period for the big game. Flights are a little pricey: I found one for $544 out of PTI at 7 a.m. I’ll book it for you if you promise to take me with you.

Prague, Czechoslovakia

Okay, I’ve never been to Prague, but reliable sources (AKA the internet) tells me that it is the hottest city in Europe, particularly on New Year’s Eve. Word is there’s a huge street experience on the Old Town Square with ample booze, hours of fireworks and thousands of attractive East Europeans who, I’ve heard, have a way more relaxed attitude when it comes to sex. And herpes.

Reykjavic, Iceland

It will be cold in Iceland on New Year’s Eve. I think. Is Iceland the cold one? Gotta be. Anyway, they call it Gamlarskrold, and the locals celebrate by welcoming tourists into their homes, serving them steaming drink, lighting bonfires and prancing around in elf and faerie costumes. Just like in Lord of the Rings! As a bonus, if the night is clear you’ll see the splendor of the Northern Lights as midnight strikes.

Downtown Greensboro

Don’t bite on those sour grapes – there’s plenty to do in Greensboro on this most sacred of holidays. Make restaurant reservations early in the week, say for 9 o’clock or so, and you’ll be ready to cruise the bars before the ball drops. Take your pick of the big rooms downtown – Greene Street, the N Club, ReMix Lounge – or go for a more chummy atmosphere at one of the many, many barrooms in the district. Or, what the hell, catch a cab over to the Blind Tiger and party down with the Mantras.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Granted, Amsterdam is not for everybody. But if you like hookers, weed, sex shows, Vincent Van Gogh, poetry, Rembrandt, coffee and The Diary of Ann Frank you might enjoy it. The website lists 25 or so parties with names like “Glam City,” “Butter,” “Grimetime” and “Des Promises De La Nuit.” And, you know, there’ll be hookers and weed.

Rio de Janiero, Brazil

While I have never personally attended the big New Year’s Eve bash called Rveillon on Copacabana Beach in Rio, I’ve read about the massive turnout – almost 2 million people – and the candles floated out to sea as an offering to Iemanj, the goddess of the water. And my imagination is fertile enough to picture all of the half-naked, fully drunk revelers as they pass out, one by one, on the sand.

Stay home

Meh. What’s the big deal about New Year’s Eve anyway? It’s a Monday night, for cryin’ out loud. What’s wrong with procuring a six-pack of excellent beer, whipping up a big tray of pigs in blankets, catching Shrek 2 on HBO and seeing if the kids can stay up until midnight? I’ll let you know how it works out.