Coming and Going: New Year's Celebrations Around the World

Sunday, December 28, 2008


10, 9, 8 . . . Let the Fireworks Begin

Let's say that you want to see the best New Year's Eve fireworks display, bar none. And just for the sake of argument, let's also say that money's no object. Where to go? There's the banks of the Thames, of course, the perfect place for a bird's-eye view of Britain's biggest show, in which shells are launched from the London Eye Ferris wheel as Big Ben tolls the new year. As the city's Web site ( puts it, the spectacular 10-minute barrage will also serve as a tourist come-on, lighting up the sky "to remind the world of the unrivalled attractions of London as a place to live, visit and invest." (Hmm.)

Also dependably eye-popping is the show in Sydney, where a spot on the Harbour Bridge will afford you a view of the fireworks in the "New Year's Eve capital of the world," according to the event's official Web site, (Hmm.) And you can't do better than the sands of Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, home of New Year's Eve's "biggest party on Earth." (Hmm.) There you'll be expected to dress in white, mingle with 2 million or so revelers from around the world and maybe make an offering or two to Iemanja, goddess of the sea (

Want something closer to home? How about Las Vegas? The festivities in Sin City will start early -- at 6 in the evening -- when motorcycle daredevil Robbie Knievel attempts to jump an ersatz "erupting" volcano at the Mirage hotel ( From there, it's off to one of the dozens of parties hosted by the town's clubs and then a pilgrimage to the Strip, where at midnight 30,000 shells will be fired from eight locations during an eight-minute show (

All right, we'll stop with the torture. There are plenty of local celebrations worthy of your attention, among them First Night Alexandria ( and New Year's Annapolis ( And what about New York? Before you say you've already seen the ball drop, consider this: New Year's 2009 comes complete with a brand-spanking-new ball, a 12-foot sphere twice the size of orbs past, covered with 2,668 Waterford crystals and capable of projecting innumerable patterns as it makes its descent ( (No fireworks here; for that, New Yorkers have to tramp over to Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn.) Best of all, you don't even have to be there on New Year's to appreciate it. In November, the Times Square Alliance announced that after this year's festivities the ball will rise again, sit permanently atop its pedestal and become a year-round attraction.


This Week: Restrooms

Washington has been a city since 1790, and for almost that long, people have been going to the restroom. But it's safe to say that they've never quite used the restroom like they're going to in January, when -- depending on whom you believe -- 1 million to 5 million visitors will be here, primarily for the presidential inauguration and secondarily to use the restroom. But where will they find one?

The answer is . . . we'll see, as city officials and the Presidential Inaugural Committee are right now deciding on the number and placement of hundreds of portable toilets. But if you just can't wait (heh), there's already a guide for you: "Where to Pee in DC!" It's available through eBay (item No. 120351046988), where it costs $3 plus shipping.


Interested in donating your unused frequent-flier miles to a good cause? The Fisher House Foundation will turn them into airline tickets, offering them free to men and women in the military who are receiving medical treatment at a Veterans Affairs or military facility. Information:


Pay for a three-night package at Universal Orlando Resort in Florida and receive two additional nights for free, or pay for four and receive three free. Deal includes accommodations, admission to Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure, and transportation between lodging and the parks. For example, a five-night vacation for a family of four at the Comfort Inn starts at $670, including taxes. Complete travel by June 27 (blackout dates April 4-18); book by Jan. 31. Info: 877-801-9720,

Reporting: Scott Vogel

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