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World's Hottest New Year's Eve Parties

New Year's Eve is essentially the Earth's largest global celebration.

Sure, there are some ridiculous parties on a local level that can compete -- Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Carnaval in Brazil, for example -- but New Year's Eve is an entirely different kind of animal. Over a 24-hour time span, massive parties are triggered as every time zone welcomes the New Year. It's a cascading domino effect of sorts, with every city taking its turn to kick off its own party in the best way they know how.

But what's all the ruckus about? Well, for some, the celebration is about saying "good riddance" to the current year, while for others, it's more about a sense of optimism for the coming one. And for almost everyone, it's also just an excuse to party because when it comes to sheer excess and decadence, few holidays can rival New Year's Eve.

We've taken a look at some of the best New Year's Eve parties in the world and put together a short list of our favorites. We tried to put together a nice blend of places, each of which brings their own style into the mix. And although the Times Square party in New York City comes to mind, the combination of freezing temperatures and claustrophobic crowds make it difficult to recommend. Instead, you might want to give one of the following places a shot.

[See a photo recap of the World's Hottest New Year's Eve Parties]

alamosbasement/Flickr [more photos]

7. Prague, Czech Republic

The chilly temperatures do little to detract revelers from converging on Prague for New Year's. If you want to be near the action, find your way to the Old Town Square or the Charles Bridge. Just be forewarned -- this city loves its fireworks, so plan on doing your fair share of dodging colorful projectiles. The main show is the midnight fireworks display over Prague Castle, but with the weather being what it is, you'd do well to retreat into the cozy confines of a warm bar soon after. There, you can drink with your new friends well into the night (and promptly forget their names the next day).

6. Reykjavik, Iceland

If you're looking for a different kind of New Year's party, look no further than Reykjavik. Relaxed fireworks laws means you'll find these colorful explosives wherever you happen to be, lighting the way on a day that typically only sees about four hours of sunlight. Gather around one of the many bonfires throughout the city -- you'll get some much needed warmth while learning some Icelandic folk songs in the process. And if you're lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights to complement the fireworks.

5. New Orleans, La., USA

It's no surprise that New Orleans brings in the New Year with a bang. The ball (well, to be more accurate, it's actually a large gumbo pot) drops in Jackson Square at midnight, touching off a huge fireworks display over the Mississippi River. After midnight strikes, Bourbon Street is the place to be, but if you prefer a less-frenzied experience, there are several cruise options where you can take in the fireworks from a more comfortable vantage point.

Kimmo Palosaari/Wikimedia Commons [more photos]

4. Sydney, Australia

This is where it all begins: Sydney, Australia. With their location, Sydney is the first major city to welcome in the New Year. For an interesting show, check out the Harbour of Light Parade, which starts a little after 9 p.m. and features over 50 illuminated boats cruising the Sydney Harbour. Then there's the main event: A spectacular fireworks show over the Sydney Harbour Bridge at midnight. If all this gets to be too much, fear not:  For those seeking a more intimate experience, there is no shortage of pubs. Weather is an added bonus -- New Year's takes place during the summertime in Australia, so expect comfortable temperatures.

3. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

When most people think of Rio, they immediately conjure up images of Carnaval and its associated decadence. But stay awake on New Year's Eve here because it comes close to matching Carnaval on the madness scale. In Rio, the New Year is about the massive beach gatherings, with two million-plus descending on Copacabana Beach alone. It's also summer in Brazil, so make sure to dress light and bring your beach gear. Just make sure to book months in advance, as accommodations fill up quickly this time of year.

2. Las Vegas, Nev., USA

As one of the party capitals of the world, Vegas definitely knows how to do New Year's right. There are two main "party zones": The Strip and downtown. The Strip is a free-for-all, with people gathering in the middle of Las Vegas Boulevard starting early in the evening. The downtown celebration is all about Fremont Street, with musical accompaniment provided by a host of cover bands participating in TributePalooza. There are no open container laws in Vegas, which definitely accentuates the madness. 

celesteh/Flickr [more photos]

1. Edinburgh, Scotland

While one evening of New Year's partying will suffice for most cities, Edinburgh takes it a step further with the Hogmanay festival. Hogmanay is the Scottish word for the last day of the year, but this celebration is usually more of a four-day affair. The Torchlight Procession is held on December 30 and paints a mesmerizing scene with thousands of torch carriers and a fireworks display at the end. But the highlight for many is the Hogmanay Street Party which gets going at around 9 p.m. on New Year's Eve: Multiple stages featuring live music, outdoor bars, DJ's, all capped off with a massive midnight fireworks show.

[Photos of the World's Hottest New Year's Eve Parties]

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