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(2011 - Winter Issue)

Writer: Jane Stokes

If you dream of escaping the deep-freeze soon, as well as the holiday stress, take a look at how much fun New Year’s Eve will be in some of the world’s most alluring places:

Bonne Année Ville-Marie

Wine, dine, stay at the warm and welcoming Hôtel Le Saint-Sulpice, then later, stroll to the best party in Montréal. The hotel is just a five-minute walk to the Old Port where, in the grand square called Place Jacques-Cartier, the countdown begins under the midnight sky and in the company of 50,000 like-minded revellers. Join them on a giant dance floor with live bands, DJs, refreshments, fireworks and a celebration of the past, present and future. tourisme-montreal.org

Ride a Future Wave

Partying in South Beach on the eve of January 1 will give you the magic of Miami Beach and will also put you squarely in the midst of the trend-setters for 2012. Stay at least three days and join in the Orange Drive Festival (between 6th and 9th streets) culminating in the Orange Bowl football game on January 1. Highlights include the En Vivo Latin festival, the Gridiron Bash Pep Rally plus a spectacular countdown to the New Year. Or, get tickets to dine and dance aboard Island Queen Cruises or head off with the family to Bayfront Park in downtown Miami where admission is free for a full show of musical entertainment, merrymaking and fireworks. visitflorida.com

Over the Rainbow

In Florida, point your car at Mile Marker 0 on U.S. Route 1 as you glide over 205 kilometres of colourful islands and cays until you arrive at Key West gold. This southernmost city—also known as The Conch Republic—is truly set apart with a kickback character all its own. Nothing is too wild for the Key West crowd and, no matter whether you let it all hang out or just hang loose, the free spirit of the local conchs is both appealing and amusing. New Year’s Eve begins with the legendary sunset celebration at Mallory Square. From there, the crowds will lead you to parties in many directions, but mainly along central Duval Street where you can participate in such happenings as the monstrous conch shell lowered from the roof of iconic Sloppy Joes and the arrival of Sushi, a local drag queen, as she’s lowered from a balcony in a huge high-heeled shoe. fla-keys.com

Turquoise Tranquility

Just south of the Bahamas, the Turks & Caicos Islands surface in a sparkling sea so intensely turquoise the colour has an uncanny way of appearing in every place and name, such as hotels called Turquoise Reef, Turks Head Inn and Club Med Turkoise, just to name a few. It’s sunny all right and, as many say, “it’s so arid here, it’s exotic.” Every shoreline is a broad and immaculate bleached-white beach and one-third of the land area of the Turks & Caicos and vast tracts of inshore waters and reefs are officially protected. If you want nothing less than a dream week in this setting, including a New Year’s Eve treat, reserve your suite or beach house at Parrot Cay for its 10-day (December 21–January 3) hospitality extravaganza. turksandcaicostourism.com

Get Lucky

Las Vegas is a sensational party town 365 nights of the year, so picture how good it gets on special occasions like New Year’s Eve when the casino strip spills over with 300,000 revellers. All of it walkable, Las Vegas fans will tell you “from casino shows to fireworks to the hottest nightclubs such as Pure, Lax, Body English, Tryst and Tao, there’s more entertainment concentrated here than anywhere else in the world.” Even if your New Year’s Resolution is to make healthier choices, you’ve come to the right place. On a two-day package, for example, consider including Cirque du Soleil’s new poolside yoga class plus spa treatments to boost your metabolism. Many eateries are also serving more nutritious menus, such as the popular Picasso restaurant at the Bellagio resort with its vegetarian Farcie, a dish with curried couscous, artichokes, zucchini sofrito, piquillo pepper and sautéed onions. vegas.com

Paint This Town Red

Rooted deeply in the golden age of the seafaring trade, open-minded Amsterdam reconfirms its reputation for equality and tolerance at the cusp of every New Year. This means that partying in Europe’s most liberated town will deliver more than its fair share of entertainment and surprises by simply strolling the pathways and bridges alongside the countless canals, all of them aglow with pretty lamps and spotlights, many of them red. Join a dance party, a quirky shindig, a themed blowout or the fireworks extravaganza, which residents say is very special for kids. Popular club locales are Paradiso, Apenkooi, Dazzleville, TNT, Loveland, Can You Feel It and All is One. visitholland.com

Waltz on the Blue Danube

Staterooms sell out quickly on Avalon Waterways, but imagine celebrating New Year’s Eve taking in German and Austrian ports of call such as Nuremberg, Passau, Linz and Melk on a nine-day river cruise from Prague to Vienna along the iconic Danube. This premium, small-ship cruise line schedules a few festive season river itineraries, including a week on Germany’s romantic Rhine and the fairytale Mosel. avalonwaterways.ca

Late, but Shrewd

With a little guidance, it’s not too late to make holiday travel plans, even to the most popular destinations. For example, Aeroplan members are now effectively using the Last-Minute Travel Tool, an online search feature that pinpoints destinations with attractive flight availability within 14 days of your search. aeroplan.com

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