Dsc7273 Edit Rs Credit Matt Palmer
Skiers can spend the day on the slopes and then watch the sky light with fireworks and an epic torchlight parade down the mountain at Squaw Valley resort in Lake Tahoe, Nevada.
Matt Palmer

For centuries, people have greeted the new year with fireworks and explosions. Traditionally, they were seen as a way to scare off evil spirits and bring good luck, but now New Year’s Eve fireworks are an excuse for a final holiday season blowout. The feeling is much different from a Fourth of July show, but just as appealing, says Calvin Iverson of TravelPirates.com, a curated travel deals site/app. “It’s a unique time of year. People are feeling togetherness, and want to go out and celebrate.” He shares some favorites with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY.

Anchorage, Alaska

The state’s largest city has big plans to welcome 2019 with street performers and 3D light projections, culminating with fireworks at 8 p.m. local time, just when the new year reaches the East Coast. “New Year’s is when Anchorage really shines,” Iverson says. anchorage.net

Meredith, New Hampshire

New Englanders love Lake Winnipesaukee as a popular summer getaway – late-night host Jimmy Fallon even named his daughter Winne after the spot – but they also come out for the holidays too. The small town of Meredith launches fireworks from a lake barge between 10:30 and 11 p.m. “The whole town gets in on the festivities,” Iverson says. meredithareachamber.com

New Orleans

The Crescent City may party all year long, but New Year’s is special. Crowds gather on the riverfront to see the city symbol, a fleur-de-lis, drop at midnight. And then fireworks launch over the Mississippi River. One favored viewing spot is aboard the historic Steamboat Natchez. “There are so many places to watch over the river, but being in a steamboat is really cool – a New Orleans experience,” Iverson says. neworleans.com

Lake Tahoe, Nevada

Skiers can spend the day on the slopes and then watch the sky light up at area resorts. Squaw Valley packs in the fun with music, glow stick games and what they hope will be the world’s largest torchlight ski parade down its 3.2-mile Mountain Run. There’s also an East Coast ball drop party, followed by fireworks. “Tahoe is amazing any time of year, but especially in winter,” Iverson says. squawalpine.com


For decades, Boston has welcomed the New Year with First Night, a festival featuring family-friendly performances and activities around the city. It culminates at midnight with fireworks over Boston Harbor. “There are all kinds of places you can watch the display, and tons and tons of people. The city really comes alive at an hour you wouldn’t expect it to,” Iverson says. bostonusa.com

San Francisco

Head down to the Embarcadero on New Year’s to witness a splashy display over San Francisco Bay. The show, launched form a barge south of the Ferry Building, is synched to music and includes new pyrotechnic flourishes every year. Or you catch the performance from a sightseeing boat. “I love that you can go out on the water, cruise around Alcatraz, and watch the lights,” Iverson says. sftravel.com

Walt Disney World, Lake Buena Vista, Florida

While there are nightly fireworks at Disney World, the theme park welcomes New Year’s with a bang. At Epcot Center, visitors can celebrate at each country’s pavilion when their home clock strikes midnight, and then live it up on East Coast time with fireworks around the World Showcase. Over in the Magic Kingdom park, a kid-friendly fireworks show in front of the Cinderella Castle starts just after dark, followed by another show at midnight. “The more celebrations, the better,” Iverson says. disneyworld.disney.go.com

Nashville, Tennessee

There’s no shortage of entertainment on Dec. 31 in Nashville with free performances by Keith Urban, Peter Frampton, Judah & the Lion, and others at Jack Daniel's Music City Midnight. Then, as 2019 approaches, all attention turns to an illuminated music note that drops to welcome the new year, followed by fireworks.  “What a town! It’s so much fun there,” Iverson says. visitmusiccity.com

Niagara Falls, New York/Canada

Whichever side of the border you choose to celebrate, there are plenty of fireworks in the air at Niagara’s cascade. Nightly shows are offered through Dec. 31, and then continue every Friday night until Jan. 31. New Year’s actually has two displays: at 9 p.m. and midnight. niagarafallsusa.com and niagaraparks.com

Honolulu, Hawaii

The last U.S. state to celebrate New Year’s does it with a bang. The action starts on Waikiki Beach with an announcement shot at 11:55 p.m., and one pyrotechnic display every minute until midnight. Then comes a show with fireworks appearing in the form of palm trees and other iconic state shapes to welcome 2019. gohawaii.com