Don’t Drop the Ball: Unique Celebrations

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Sick of ringing in the New Year at the same old bar or sitting around the living room watching the ball drop in Times Square? Take a hint from some local traditions, and non-traditions, around the world and get creative.

Here's what they're doing in five other parts of the world to celebrate the fact that 2008 is over, and 2009 is at last here.

Drop Something Different
Key West, Fla.

In Key West, they eschew the familiar dropping of the ball in favor of the dropping of the big red shoe.

For the 12th straight New Year's Eve, drag queen Sushi, also known as Gary Marion, is lowered to the pavement along Duval Street in an eight-foot shoe at the Bourbon Street Pub, right in the heart of the island city's main party district. "In New York City, they drop the ball," says Sushi. "In Key West they drop me, in the shoe."

'Sushi' opens the New Year in Key West.

Other locales dropping bizarre objects with more flair than just a lighted ball include the Dillsburg, Pa., pickle drop, the Walleye drop in Port Clinton, Ohio, and the big cheese drop in Plymouth, Wisc..

Hogmanay
Edinburgh, Scotland

Hogmanay is how they party in Scotland at the end of the year. Starting on Dec. 29, revelers in Edinburgh take advantage of parties in the streets, but there are more than plenty of activities for families as well.

On the 29th, "a river of fire" proceeds through the town down the Royal Mile, as a blazing torchlight procession makes its way through the city, accompanied by drummers and bagpipes.

The family hoog on the 30th offers Scottish ceilidh dancing, and there's even a kids' duathlon to accompany the Edinburgh Bicycle Triathlon on Jan. 1, for those who are able to shake off a hangover with a brisk ride.

More adult partiers will find a wealth of concerts and opportunities for boozing and dancing, and a less intimidating Loony Dook on the first, as the well-dressed keep their clothes on to swim in the River Forth.

Napa Valley Wine Train
California's Napa Valley

Oenophiles might want to head out to Northern California and reserve a spot on the Napa Valley Wine Train, where revelers spend the night hurtling toward 2009.

A five-course meal, which includes sparkling wine from Domaine Chandon, oysters and a caviar reception, is followed by dancing at the train station to the sounds of Casino Royale. Pretend you're Bond, James Bond, on the train's traditional route, which meanders along a 36-mile roundtrip trail of wine valley between Napa and the quaint village of St. Helena.

Sit back and enjoy the wine and the food, in vintage style, aboard restored Pullman Dining and Lounge cars dating back to 1915 or above in 1947 Vista Dome rail cars.

See the New Year Before Anyone Else
Gisborne, New Zealand

The Kiwis beat us each year in greeting the New Year, so why not join them? This coastal town on the island nation is the first to see the sun every day of the year, and also the first to see midnight on Jan. 1. You'll be the first to ring in 2009, or 2010.

In New Zealand, it's the middle of the summer too, and currently they are in the heart of their "Endless Summer" festivities in Gisborne. Head to the town center and party with local musical acts at the Countdown at the Town Clock, then wake up leisurely to try your hand at swimming with the dolphins at the Te Tapuwae o Rongokako Marine Reserve or play a round of golf at the Patutahi golf club.

'Forget It, Jake, It's Chinatown'
San Francisco

If you always find New Year's to be a bit anticlimactic no matter how you ring it in, consider celebrating the Chinese New Year this time around, and head out to San Francisco, for the annual Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt.

Your trip will coincide with the usual festivities in the vibrant Chinatown of the Bay Area starting on Jan. 26, and you can certainly ring in the year of the ox with two weeks of gift-giving, fireworks, dragon dances and red packets.

But on Feb. 7, put together a team and run after 16 clues highlighting the uniqueness of the city's history, architecture and some of its more obscure landmarks. Prizes include a cake in the shape of a key and bottles of champagne, with awards going out to the most sleuthy teams, of course, but also for the best-dressed and best-named squads. Tickets range from $30-$40 per person, depending on when you buy, with proceeds going to local charities.

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