From Canada to the Caribbean and beyond - where to go for New Years
I know. We haven't even seen American Thanksgiving yet, let alone Christmas. But you gotta plan things in advance, so here's a quick look at a few personal faves where you might want to spend New Year's Eve.
WHISTLER - The village is awesome almost any time of year. But the streets will be filled with revellers and the restaurants will be popping the bubbly on Dec. 31. The snow looks to be quite solid this year, and there's still some buzz from the Winter Olympics a couple years back. The Four Seasons gets incredible reviews and the Fairmont is lovely. I stayed at the Westin a few years ago and quite enjoyed it. And the Hilton room I stayed in one time was enormous. Or you can save money by staying in a condo or even down the road in Squamish. Don't miss the Peak to Peak gondola between Whistler and Blackcomb mountains - a treat even if you don't ski.
SANTA BARBARA - L.A.'s great, but if you're looking for something a tad quieter this is an awesome town. I was there a couple weeks ago and had great food and incredible local wine (especially Pinot Noir and Syrah, plus Chardonnay if that's your thing). There's only one freeway, but there's plenty to do and the beaches are wonderful. Check out, again, the Four Seasons (see photo at left of the A-1 Coral Casino pool area and Butterfly Beach). Or try any number of smaller hotels along the seaside strip. There's a nice-looking Holiday Inn Express right downtown, just off State Street in an historic building.
MAUI - I haven't spent New Year's Eve in Lahaina, but I was there for Halloween a couple years back and it was a huge treat. The beaches are awesome, and it's whale-watching time, so that's a bonus. Great golf and fabulous food. Save money at the Mauian Hotel or the Napili Sunset on Napili Beach, or splurge at the Napili Kai Beach Resort. Down at Ka'anapali, the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel is right on the water and is one of the most Hawaiian properties in the islands. Pop open some California sparkling wine, toast the new year, then go jump in the Pacific to celebrate. Just don't drink too much.
ST. JOHN'S - George Street has been known to attract all sorts of celebrities, including Blue Rodeo singer Jim Cuddy. It's a wild place with great music and incredibly friendly locals. New Year's in Canada's party capital would be even better than normal. There are plenty of options, from the Delta to smaller chains. I quite enjoyed the Murray Premises when I was there a few years ago. Be sure to wander up to Signal Hill for the views (see photo, albeit in summer and sorry about that!), and check out the galleries and museums while you're in town. This is a city with a lot going for it.
KEY WEST - You can't talk about parties and leave out Key West, where hundreds if not thousands of folks gather each night to salute the sunset with a frosty beverage - or six. Awesome bars, of course, but also plenty of history and culture, including the former home of Ernest Hemingway and the Florida White House of Harry Truman. Great food either indoors or out under the trees and stars at Blue Heaven. Again, plenty of chain hotels such as Marriott, etc.. Casa Marina, a Waldorf Astoria property, has smallish rooms but awesome grounds and is a quiet, romantic spot just a few blocks from the action.
ST. LUCIA - Eager for some Hawaii-South Pacific scenery but can't afford the air fare or dont' want to spend the time flying? Stay in the south end of St. Lucia, where the twin mountains called the Pitons look a lot like the ancient peaks of Tahiti or north Kauai. Super-friendly locals. Splurge at the Jalousie Plantation, which has a wonderful restaurant and bar and is nestled right between the Pitons on one of the best beaches (see photo at left) for swimming and snorkeling. Or stay the night further north in a condo or an all-inclusive and wander down for the day. Check the Friday night fish fry on the island, or even drop in for some country and western dancing in downtown Castries.