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5 Great Places to Spend New Year’s Eve 2015 on Points and Miles

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Toast the new year in the best way possible — traveling to a destination known for throwing a killer New Year’s Eve party! TPG Contributor Lane Nieset takes us around the globe to some of the hottest New Year’s Eve destinations for over-the-top firework displays and celebrity-led soirées.

1. Miami, Florida

Mondrian Miami
Spend the day poolside in South Beach on New Year’s Eve before heading out to one of the celebrity-hosted parties for midnight celebrations. Image by the author.

New Year’s Eve in Miami brings all the fanfare of the high-end clubs in Vegas, but instead of the desert, you’re partying right on the beach. Restaurants around town offer elaborate prix-fixe dinners that are the perfect place to start the evening (and Champagne drinking) before heading to one of the high-end hotels on South Beach or Downtown for a star-studded party led by a celebrity host. A few highlights this year include the Fontainebleau poolside party with The Weeknd and KYGO; Steve Aoki headlining at LIV; and WALL’s BE CRAZY Ibiza party with Jean Claude Ades and Oxia. While tables and tickets at these events can skyrocket in price, the city also hosts free fireworks at midnight at 9th Street and Ocean Drive.

Getting there: American Airlines, Delta, Frontier, United and Virgin Atlantic fly to Miami International Airport (MIA), while Alaska, Allegiant, JetBlue and Southwest fly into Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL).

Where to stay: Travelers who want to be in the midst of the parties on South Beach — and stay where one of the hottest is held — will love Ian Schrager’s Miami Beach EDITION, one of the top new hotel openings on the beach in the past few years, with 294 rooms, a Jean-Georges Vongerichten-run restaurant and the Studio 54-style club Basement. Rates around New Year’s Eve start at $929 (and include the $25 daily resort fee) or 50,000 Marriott Rewards Points. For something a bit more low-key that’s set in just as great of a location, Hyatt Centric South Beach is within walking distance of Lincoln Road and South Beach’s top clubs, but is a quieter option than some of its more party-centric neighbors; rates start at $297 (plus a $20 daily resort fee) or 25,000 Hyatt Gold Passport Points. For more ideas on how to spend New Year’s Eve in Miami, see our post, My Miami: Inside Tips on Where to Beach, Eat, Party & More.

2. Istanbul, Turkey

Perch up by the Bosphorus for the firework show over the bridge. Image by the author.

If you’re looking for New York-style energy, Istanbul is the place come New Year’s Eve as the city pops with more than 15 million people spread throughout street parties in spots like Taksim Square and Istiklal Street. Of course, you can also post up in a private party at one of the many exclusive restaurants and clubs in town, or you can hit the Bosphorus for one of the best views of the fireworks over the bridge as the clock strikes midnight. For more ideas on things to do in Istanbul, see our post, 5 Things I Loved About My Trip to Istanbul.

Getting there: Air Canada, Air France, British Airways, Delta, Emirates, Etihad, KLM, Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines fly into Istanbul Atatürk Airport (IST). For tips on navigating award travel, see our post, How to Use Airline Miles for Award Travel to Istanbul.

Where to stay: With one of the best locations near the Topkapi Palace and Blue Mosque in the Old City, the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet, part of the Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts program available to holders of the Amex Platinum card, features 65 rooms spread throughout the walls of a 100-year-old converted Turkish prison. Rates start at 440 euros ($479) per night and perks of the Amex program include daily breakfast for two, room upgrades on arrival and a $100 property credit. In Istanbul’s business hub of Levent, the 78-room Istanbul EDITION features some of the more spacious rooms in town, starting at 420 square feet, in addition to a three-floor ESPA spa, a screening room and the Turkish tea room-inspired Gold Bar. Rates start at 145 euros ($158) or 50,000 Marriott Rewards Points per night. For more hotel ideas in Istanbul, see our posts, Which Points Hotels Do You Recommend in Istanbul? and Hotel Review: Soho House Istanbul.

3. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Palm Islands, Dubai
One of Dubai’s record-breaking New Year’s firework shows takes place over manmade island The Palm Jumeriah. Image by the author.

Leave it to Dubai to break records even when it comes to fireworks displays. After hosting the largest and longest show in the world for New Year’s Eve in 2014, the city continues to go above and beyond each year. Catch the shows over The Palm Jumeirah, the Burj Khalifa and the Burj Al Arab, or better yet, go for a lavish dinner with prime firework views indoors (and away from the crowds) at Madinat Jumeirah or The Address Downtown Dubai. For more Dubai travel tips, see our post, 10 Photos: Mega-Malls, Panoramic Views and More in Dubai.

Getting there: Air Canada, Air France, British Airways, Delta, Emirates, KLM, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, United and Virgin Atlantic fly to Dubai International Airport (DXB).

Where to stay: The over-the-top, water-themed Atlantis, The Palm on Palm Jumeirah is a five-star spot set on more than 113 acres with a water park, Dolphin Bay, three private beaches and 23 restaurants and bars. Rates start at $1,067 per night. The world’s tallest hotel, the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai, is spread across two towers with 1,600 rooms on 72 floors featuring panoramic city views. The Category 7 Marriott starts at 1,573 AED ($428) or 30,000 Marriott Rewards Points per night.

4. London, England

New Year's Eve London
Catch London’s New Year’s Eve firework display over the London Eye. Image courtesy of ragavvidya/Flickr.

While Americans watch the ball drop in Times Square, the Brits toast to the new year in London with 12 blasts from Big Ben followed by a televised firework display over the London Eye. Purchase a ticket to the show and settle in along the Thames across from the Houses of Parliament to catch the photo-worthy display that’s the largest in the UK.

Getting there: American Airlines, British Airways, Delta, United and Virgin Atlantic fly into London Heathrow Airport (LHR), while London Gatwick (LGW) is served by budget carriers like Norwegian and EasyJet from other destinations in Europe. British Airways also offers direct flights from New York (JFK) to LGW. For help deciding between London airports, see our post, Which London Airport Should You Choose? 

Where to stay: One of Starwood’s newest properties, the 91-room boutique Great Northern Hotel (see our review here) is set in a Victorian landmark from 1854, located right across from the Eurostar terminus in King’s Cross St Pancras. Rates at the SPG Category 5 hotel start at £169 ($255) or 12,000 Starpoints per night. Located a quick walk away from the London Eye, the London Marriott Hotel County Hall sits on the banks of the Thames so you’ll be able to catch views of the fireworks right from your room. Rates at the Category 9 hotel start at £240 ($363) or 40,000 Marriott Rewards Points per night.

5. San Francisco, California

New Year's Eve Fireworks San Francisco
Watch the fireworks over the Ferry Building that lights up the Transamerica Pyramid and Embarcadero Center. Image courtesy of San Francisco Travel Association/Can Balcioglu.

It’s not every day you get to ring a 2,100-pound Japanese temple bell, but on New Year’s Eve you can have at it on the 16th-century bell at the Asian Art Museum. Get ready to hear 108 strikes come midnight, a tradition meant to “start humanity on the right path” for the new year ahead. While the bell is chiming, take a seat for the fireworks lighting up the sky over the waterfront, Ferry Building and San Francisco Bay Bridge.

Getting there: American Airlines, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest, United, Virgin America and WestJet fly into San Francisco International Airport (SFO).

Where to stay: The 804-room Hyatt Regency San Francisco is right on the Embarcadero waterfront (which means fabulous views of the water from the rooms). The hotel is known for one of the best New Year’s Eve parties in town, “Champagne Resolutions,” which takes place in the 17-story atrium lobby at 9pm on December 31. Rates start at $169 per night or 15,000 Hyatt Gold Passport Points. The 592-room Fairmont San Francisco (see our review here) on Nob Hill also hosts an annual New Year’s Eve gala, as well as a four-course dinner with live jazz at its restaurant, Laurel Court. Rates at the Fairmont start at $467 per night.

Be sure to see our posts, 10 Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve Escapes With Cheap Flights and When to Book Your Christmas and New Year’s Eve Travel — and share some of your favorite spots to celebrate New Year’s Eve with us in the comments below!

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