Editor's note: This is one in a series of occasional articles exploring destinations easily reached from BWI-Marshall Airport.
When the clock strikes midnight this New Year's Eve, where will you be? Why not take your champagne toast on a trip and begin 2016 in a new, happening destination? From Chicago's brand-new extravaganza to beachfront fireworks in Miami, check out these celebrations, guaranteeing you a crazy start of the new year. Best of all, these destinations are just a few hours away via a nonstop flight from Baltimore's BWI-Marshall Airport.
Move over, Times Square. This year marks the inauguration of Chi-Town Rising, a free six-hour celebration of nonstop music and entertainment along the Windy City's Riverwalk.
Party: Beginning around 11 p.m., indie-rockers American Authors perform, followed by the legendary band Chicago, leading up to midnight when a "Chicago star" – composed of over 6 million pixels — will rise 36 stories, launching an epic fireworks show over the Chicago River. But, if you prefer to celebrate indoors this time of year, many hotels around the city are hosting ticketed parties in conjunction with the event, including The Radisson Blu Aqua, Hilton Chicago and Marriott. Famous Navy Pier also hosts a series of spectacular parties and several party cruises, with celebrations leading up to midnight fireworks over Lake Michigan, which will be synchronized with Chi-Town Rising's display.
Stay: Partnering with the Chi-Town Rising event, many downtown hotels are offering lodging packages with private parties, access to the VIP concert and exclusive fireworks-viewing areas. Hyatt Regency Chicago's VIP New Year's Eve package provides front row access to the concerts, two tickets to their indoor private party and a room with king-size bed. From $599 at chicagoregency.hyatt.com. Or celebrate privately in your room, with a view of the outside action at the Sheraton Chicago, from $359 at sheratonchicago.com.
Getting there: On Dec. 31, Southwest flies nonstop from BWI to Chicago Midway from $99. United flies nonstop from BWI into O'Hare International from $139.
While Sin City is a sizzling spot for midnight revelers year-round, on Dec. 31 the city bursts into revelry of blazing neon, earning its designation as one of the top-ranked New Year's Eve destinations in the world.
Party: Las Vegas' famous Strip shuts down to traffic beginning at 5 p.m. for what's billed as "the country's biggest free street party." At midnight the sky explodes with some 80,000 fireworks shot from the roofs of seven casinos and choreographed to music. There's also Downtown Countdown at the Downtown Freemont Street Experience featuring 13 tribute bands performing on three stages and an exclusive fireworks show. Of course, the hotels and clubs — even some spas — are hosting over-the-top parties and headlining entertainers including Bruno Mars, Maroon 5, Britney Spears Celine Dion, Nicki Minaj, Snoop Dogg and Nick Jonas. Or if money's no object, you can stage your own party with killer views and no crowds, 550 feet above Vegas on The High Roller. Billed as the world's tallest observation wheel, each glass-enclosed cabin accommodates up to 25 adults with a full bar.
Stay: Book a Sky Loft at MGM Grand. Located 29 stories up, it comes complete with butlers to customize your pillows and bath, beverage-stocked refrigerators, spa baths and steam showers, and touchscreen tablets to control everything from temperature to TV. From $848 at skyloftsmgmgrand.com. Or splurge on the hotel's $8000 NYE package, which includes tickets to a private Michael Buble concert.
Getting there: On Dec 31, Southwest flies nonstop from BWI to Las Vegas' McCarran Airport starting at around $289.
On New Year's Eve this mecca of country music reverberates with the sounds of everything from accordions and banjos to zydeco. Celebration options include Nashville's famous street party, hotel galas, and country rock and cowboy bands in bars and clubs.
Party: Leave it to Music City to host Bash On Broadway, a free street concert with headliners Kings Of Leon, Chris Stapleton, The Whigs and Kelsea Ballerini. At midnight, watch the big music note drop as fireworks and confetti fill the air. The bars along Broadway host shindigs of their own, many with free admission. If you want to watch the downtown festivities from above, check out the party at UP Rooftop Lounge starring country music artist Jenn Bostic. And while Opryland itself is taking the night off, the Gaylord Opryland Resort hosts a New Year's Eve Indoor Street Party with three live bands and a DJ, a dinner buffet and a champagne toast at midnight. Then, begin 2016 rubbing shoulders with tomorrow's country music stars at Wild Horse Saloon's New Nashville party on New Year's Day, where the lineup stars newly signed artists.
Stay: Gaylord's Opryland Hotel New Year's Eve package includes lodging and tickets to the resort's dinner and dance party (3 bands and a DJ), $429. marriott.com/hotels/travel/bnago-gaylord-opryland-resort-and-convention-center/. Regular rooms begin at $247.00
Getting there: Southwest flies nonstop from BWI to Nashville on Dec. 31 from $99.
Disney, Universal Studios, Sea World — these are destinations that know how to throw a party, complete with parades, dancing in the street, fireworks and top-notch entertainment. On New Year's Eve, the parks sizzle even brighter with round-the-clock celebrations. And for grown-ups, Orlando offers an impressive number of venues for sophisticated, non-G-rated celebrations.
Party: In a city famous for its year-round glitter and nightly fireworks, the Lights, Camera, Happy New Year Fireworks show choreographed to rock music at Disney's Hollywood Studios takes first prize. But for families, New Year's Eve is a spectacular event at all of the theme parks here. The Magic Kingdom hosts festivities all day long, leading up to midnight's Fantasy In The Sky. Epcot's World Showcase allows visitors to experience New Year's celebrations around the world. Nickelodeon Suites throws the "biggest, wildest, messiest pool party of the New Year," ending in 400 gallons of green slime. For adults, general admission into Universal's City Walk on NYE includes access to six nightclubs, an enormous outdoor dance floor, entertainment, food and midnight pyrotechnics display. For big-name entertainment, Kristin Chenowith is performing with Cheyenne Jackson at Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts.
Stay: Villas of Grand Cypress' special for two includes suite accommodations and five-course dinner at Nine18, one of only two four-star restaurants in Orlando. From $625 at grandcypress.com/accommodations.
Getting there: Both Jet Blue and Southwest Air fly nonstop from BWI on Dec. 31 from $149.
London combines a storied history with cutting-edge culture. Six hours ahead of Baltimore, they set the stage for an all-out party vibe.
Party: At midnight, Big Ben rings out and the sky explodes at London's New Year's Eve Fireworks over the Thames. Best views are in the ticketed section, but many folks arrive in the early afternoon and claim a spot by the river or on Primrose Hill. For a grander experience, watch the fireworks from above in The Shard Western Europe's tallest building, where you'll party with 360-degree views, live music and a midnight champagne toast. If you want to laugh out 2015, check out the city's comedy scene. One of the hottest tickets in town this night is Bill Bailey, London's top comedian, whose performance is a mashup of original music. For the first time ever, Cirque Du Soul is hosting a NYE extravaganza performance at the Art Deco-style Troxy with edgy entertainment including cabaret and burlesque, and encouraging guests to don Old World cabaret attire — top hats, boas, corsets. For the cultured crowd, London's Royal Opera House is hosting dinner and a performance of classics, ending in the Amphitheatre Terrace for unparalleled views of the London fireworks display. In the morning, don't miss one of the first and most famous celebrations of the New Year — the London New Years Day Parade. Commencing at Piccadilly, this year it will feature more than 8,000 performers representing 20 countries, and is broadcast around the world. While it is a free event, it is possible to purchase spectator seats in the grandstand.
Stay: The four-star St. James Court, whose posh restaurants offer elegant menus, is convenient to everywhere you'll want to be on New Year's Eve. stjamescourthotel.co.uk/. From $385.
Getting there: British Air flies nonstop from BWI to Heathrow on De. 30 (arriving on the morning of Dec. 31) from $871. britishairways.com.
Every night of the year, NOLA's French Quarter is abuzz with merriment, folks feasting on the finest Cajun and Creole fare, and jazz pouring out of clubs. But New Year's Eve raises it to a more rambunctious level.
Party: The biggest event here is the free Crescent City Countdown. The night begins with a live music show at Decatur Street City Stage featuring Big Sam's Funky Nation, followed by Terrance Simien + the Zydeco Experience. Rather than a ball drop, the Fleur de Lis descends down a 25-foot flagpole at midnight, followed by fireworks over the Mississippi River. Perhaps the most outrageous celebration is at the risqué Bourbon Pub and Parade, whose New Year's Eve tickets extend into a New Year's Day Hung Over and Broke Party. For families, both the Louisiana Children's Museum and Audubon Zoo host daytime celebrations.
Stay: To experience the flavor of this city, stay at an inn in the French Quarter, where the owners can provide tips on the best venues and make you breakfast after your wild night. There are many to choose from, including Marigny Manor House, from $249, and B&W Courtyards, from $215.
Getting there: On Dec. 31, you can fly Southwest nonstop to New Orleans from $215.
With December temps averaging 65-78 degrees, "The 305" (aka Miami) is the perfect locale for New Year's Eve festivities under the stars.
Party: Kick off your celebration at The Orange Bowl with Clemson vs. Oklahoma. Then go home and gussy up. Or not. Whereas nightlife in this city can be a pricey ticket, some of the best New Yera's Eve celebrations here are casual and free. Celebrity DJ Pitbull's New Year's Revolution is Miami's biggest New Year's party. Held outdoors at Bayfront Park, it features fireworks, dancing and countdown to midnight when "The Big Orange" ascends to the top of the Intercontinental Hotel. In South Beach, Lummus Park also hosts a free al fresco dance party with live music and midnight fireworks. Many of Miami's beautiful people party with DJ Robin Schulz at the open air Five Star New Year's Eve Party on Watson Island, where the tickets begin at $550.
Stay: The W South Beach's package ($25,000) will get you and three friends six nights in an oceanfront Oasis suite, transportation to and from the airport, NYE dinner at Dutch restaurant, and VIP tables at both of W's parties: WALL Lounge, starring Jean Claudes Ades + Oxia, and W Wet Pool. wsouthbeach.com/.
Getting there: On the morning of Dec 31, American Airlines flies nonstop from BWI, from $169.
Info: All free NYE events are listed on the city's website: miamiandbeaches.com.
Whoever said celebrating New Year's Eve requires braving freezing temps with a chance of ice? For many, Cancun's December temps averaging 73 degrees are reason enough to rejoice. Add to that intriguing New Year's traditions, like eating 12 grapes at midnight, earning you a dozen wishes for the new year, as everyone shouts Feliz año Nuevo!
Party: NYE Cancun, the city's largest beachfront New Year's Eve festival, features a concert by electronic music superstars Empire of the Sun, Steve Angello, Mariana Bo, Rossell, and Jorge Nava in a blowout concert. The Illusionists, the outrageous magicians/stuntmasters of "Britain's Got Talent" and "America's Got Talent," stage a New Year's Eve performance at Moon Palace. In nearby Playa del Carmen is Coincidance, a four-day music festival with events along the area beaches and jungles.
Stay: The New Year's Eve package at Oasis Cancun includes lodging, meals, all beverages, and tickets to NYE Cancun. From $356.
Getting there: On Dec. 31, Southwest flies nonstop from BWI to Cancun from $154.
Info: NYE Cancun
Closer to home
If you don't want to hop a plane, you can always hop a train or even go by car to these popular and nearby destinations.
New York City
No other city can offer the magnitude of celebration options, ranging from the most extravagant (read: expensive) to the fabulous and free. To avoid the traffic crunch, take Amtrak into New York Penn Station for $53. If you're willing to arrive in the morning hours and spend the day guarding your spot, you might get close enough to high-five host Ryan Seacrest at Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve. This year's superstar performers include Carrie Underwood and One Direction. Of course it all leads up to the most famous midnight ball drop of them all. If you want the ball drop experience but don't want the throngs of people, hop on the D train to Coney Island for its LED Ball Drop, followed by fireworks. The real party begins after midnight at the boardwalk bars and restaurants' after-parties. Some of the city's most beautiful midnight fireworks are across the East River in Brooklyn's Prospect Park, which is free and includes refreshments and entertainment. If you prefer margaritas to champagne, check out Jimmy Buffett and Huey Lewis and The News' New Year's Eve concert at the Barclays Center. Meanwhile, fans of cult band Phish are stoked to rock in 2016 at their New Year's Eve concert at Madison Square Garden. For a healthy kickoff to the new year, New York Road Runners Midnight Run includes dancing and music, costume contest and a 4-mile race around Central Park at 11:59 p.m. Info: nycgo.com
Perhaps the best thing about seeing out the year in Philly is that there are practically as many fabulous events for families as there are for the party crowd. Revelers with early bedtimes love Franklin Square's Kids' New Year's Eve Countdown, featuring a 6 p.m. "square" drop, a dance party and great views of the early fireworks show at Penn's Landing. Nearby is the Franklin-inspired Electrical Spectacle light show. Adventure Aquarium hosts New Year's Eve Splash, a "countdown" dance party, special animal guests and views of the city's early fireworks. For grown-ups, SugarHouse Casino puts on Philadelphia's fireworks display over the Delaware River twice on New Year's Eve — at 6 p.m. and again at midnight. The casino also hosts New Year's Eve Dance Fever, a private dance party with a fireworks viewing area. Folks can lace up and skate into 2016 at the Holiday Party on Ice at the Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest, featuring entertainment, party favors and great fireworks views. But surely the most avant-garde party around town is FringeArts' New Year's Funkin' Eve dance party featuring the provocative Red 40 and The Last Groovement. Info: nyephilly.com, delawareriverwaterfront.com/events