London will be the center of world attention in 2012 -- and from the very first hours of the New Year.
As the city prepares to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games, a spectacular fireworks display is set to light up the southern banks of the Thames. The aim is to start 2012 “not with a timid whimper, but a colorful bang,” says Mayor Boris Johnson. The pyrotechnics are produced by Jack Morton Worldwide, with a special soundtrack by Radio 1’s DJ Nihal.
If you decide to head over tomorrow, you’ll be one in an estimated 200,000 people. Get there early -- designated viewing areas close down as soon as they reach capacity. Information: http://www.london.gov.uk/newyearseve.
If you’d rather not stand outdoors all night, Skylon, overlooking the Thames, offers fabulous views. On New Year’s Eve, gala dinner guests can watch the fireworks from a private room on the sixth floor of the Royal Festival Hall, then head back to their table for live music and dancing. Tickets, including a five-course meal, are 240 pounds ($370) a pop. Information: +44-20-7654-7800 or http://bit.ly/to7I8F.
Still more sweeping views of the city can be enjoyed from Galvin at Windows, on the 28th floor of the London Hilton. The five-course New Year’s Eve dinner, with Champagne and canapes as well as live music, is 395 pounds. Information: +44-20-7208-4021 or http://bit.ly/tDDdjf.
Saturday Night Ritz
For deeper pockets, the Ritz Restaurant -- London’s most spectacular dining room -- is serving dinner at 1,150 pounds a head. That ticket (approximately $1,800) buys you a six-course meal, a live-music dance floor, a regimental marching band, a lone piper, and fireworks in the garden. If you have kids with you, they pay a mere 750 pounds each. Just take it out of their allowance. Information: +44-7493-8181 or http://bit.ly/qypgR9.
By comparison, dinner at Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester is a steal -- at 495 pounds (including wine) for grownups. The restaurant doesn’t welcome children, so it’s savings all around. Information: +44-20-7629-8866 or http://bit.ly/vD8clU.
You can spend less and still be fashionable at Nobu Berkeley Street, which has a special menu at 90 pounds, or 150 pounds with matching wines. At trendy Momo’s, the 90 pound menu includes a glass of Pommery and mains such as white truffle risotto and lobster tagine with new potatoes and lobster bisque.
For those who prefer loud music to a sit-down dinner or “Auld Lang Syne,” Kasabian will be taking over the O2. The British quartet is avoiding charges that they’re Oasis copycats by offering more ambitious rock on the album “Velociraptor!”
Ballet aficionados have two versions of “Nutcracker” to pick from. The Royal Ballet’s stays close to tradition, casting principals Alina Cojocaru (at 12:30 p.m.) and Lauren Cuthbertson (at 5:30 p.m.) in the story of a little girl who sneaks down to peek at her Christmas presents and watches all of her toys come alive. Information: http://www.roh.org.uk or +44-20-7304-4000.
Choreographer Matthew Bourne presents his alternative version at Sadler’s Wells, with polka dots and pajamas in place of tutus and tiaras. Information: http://www.sadlerswells.com.
If you’re not too bleary-eyed the morning after, there’s a New Year’s Day parade weaving its way through London, starting on Piccadilly at 11:45 a.m. and heading for Trafalgar Square, Whitehall and Parliament Street. More than 10,000 performers from 20 countries around the world will take part. The parade ends at 3 p.m. Information: http://www.londonparade.co.uk/.
(Farah Nayeri and Richard Vines write for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are their own.)