Want a raging New Year’s Eve without the pesky subzero temperatures? Book a trip to one of these sultry party cities: About 2 million hedonists (mostly dressed in white) descend on Rio’s Copacabana Beach to watch fireworks and samba their way along the waterfront. Sleep At: the sprawling stucco classic, Copacabana Palace (800-223-6800). Eat At: Zuka (55-21-3205-7154), modernized surf-’n’-turf. In Sydney, you and the million or so spectators who crowd around the Harbor Bridge to watch the fireworks will be among the world’s first to ring in 2004. Sleep At: the cushy Quay Grand (61-2-9256-4000), near the water. eat at: trendy Italian newcomer Icebergs (61-2-9365-9000). Bangkok’s citywide street parties rage from just after dusk to the wee hours. sleep at: the brand-new Metropolitan (800-337-4685). Eat At: hipster fave the Bed Supper Club (66-2-651-3537).
For a detoxifying entrance to 2004, consider the New Year’s offerings at these top spas: Try a hike or brown-sugar scrub, then watch the fireworks from the beach at Santa Barbara’s Bacara Resort & Spa (877-422-4245; from $425); in Palm Beach, sign up for PGA’s “romantic overnight” package, with couple’s treatments, champagne, and morning yoga on New Year’s Day (800-633-9150; $995); and at Canyon Ranch in the Berkshires, greet the New Year with an in-room massage and DVDs in bed (800-742-9000; from $2,200). —Beth Landman Keil
Deal of the Week
On the heels of a $22 million overhaul, Bangkok’s five-star Shangri-La Hotel is offering a New Year’s Eve package that includes breakfast and a riverboat cruise (perfect for viewing the fireworks) for just $184 a night—a 25 percent savings (800-942-5050; shangri-la.com).
If You’re Going To…
MEXICO CITY Mexico City welcomes a W hotel this month in its upscale Polanco neighborhood. Look for three trendy bars, a sushi-and-seviche restaurant, and the boutique chain’s signature funky décor, like cherry-red rooms, showers with hammocks, and a five-story glass façade (877-946-8357; whotels.com; from $269).
JACKSON HOLE A longtime favorite among hard-core skiers, Jackson has a new soft spot. Four Seasons’s first mountain resort, opening in December, offers ski-in-ski-out convenience, in-room stone fireplaces, slope views, and a full-service spa (800-332-3442; fourseasons.com; from $475). LONDON Grace Leo-Andrieu, the design diva behind such swank properties as Mustique’s Cotton House and Paris’s Montalembert, has turned her attentive eye to London’s Cadogan Hotel, located in cushy Knightsbridge (44-207-235-7141; cadogan.com; from $245). Look for her first touches—new furnishings, updated colors—in January.
ST. BARTS A new batch of tiny, chic hotels is popping up on the Caribbean’s most cosmopolitan island. Our favorite? La Banane, a converted nightclub featuring nine private bungalows with sexy indoor-outdoor showers and two dipping pools (590-530-300; labanane.com; from $486). Also check out cozy newcomer Le Manoir de Marie (590-590-277-927; from $185).
Inn Style: Usher In the New Year Quietly at One of These Cushy Inns. •Some of the most romantic rooms in the Catskills are at the posh Emerson Inn & Spa (845-688-7900; call for rates). Indulge in afternoon tea or a pampering spa treatment.
•Cuddle fireside in a deluxe Adirondack cabin at the Lake Placid Lodge (877-523-2700; from $550). Rooms are decked out with locally made furniture and Persian rugs.
•One of the Northeast’s best inns is right here in Gramercy. Cozy Victorian rooms at the Inn at Irving Place start at $325, with breakfast (56 Irving Place; 212-533-4600).
•For a Norman Rockwell-style holiday, stay at the historic Red Lion Inn (413-298-5545; from $195). Berkshires charm—antiques, local crafts—oozes from sweetly decorated rooms.