Mexico City has the world-class nightlife of Paris at half the cost – and far quirkier New Year's customs. To ensure good luck, capital residents wear red underpants, run around the block carrying empty suitcases, and eat 12 grapes in quick succession (each fruit is accompanied by a wish for the coming year.) Taking part in the fun is easy – there are street parties throughout the 500-square-mile city – but plan on reveling in the same neighborhood where you'll be staying if you don't want to battle 20 million other people for a cab after the clock strikes.
In the Centro Histórico, site of the largest party, with bands playing from the afternoon onwards and a huge fireworks display in the main square at midnight, the Hotel Downtown is a 17th-century building refurbished in 2012 as a boutique hotel with modern, 500-square-foot rooms. The large, stone-floored roof bar has a pool and a panoramic view of the full range of Centro architecture (decaying colonial gems sandwiched next to questionable seventies construction); the ground floor features the acclaimed Azul Histórico restaurant. A more peaceful option is the Hotel Maria Cristina, located on a quiet street within walking distance of Paseo de la Reforma, Mexico City's eight-mile-long main drag, which has floats and a carnival-like atmosphere on New Year's Eve. The hotel is a few minutes' walk from the Ángel de la Independencia sculpture, where there's a street party and fireworks, and it's also on the edge of the Zona Rosa, a young, raucous neighborhood stuffed with bars and clubs (and Mexico's Koreatown). If you want to barhop your way into 2014, you've come to the right place.
Hotel Maria Cristina hotel has a large garden with a meticulously kept lawn and restaurant service, and it's decorated with a mixture of traditional glazed tile and carved wood. The 150 rooms are minimally decorated but comfortable, and many have garden views. For something with a bit more personality, the quirky Red Treehouse in the bohemian park- and restaurant-filled Condesa neighborhood is ideal. The small hotel feels like a guesthouse, and on New Year's Eve the owners host a big dinner for their friends and the hotel's guests: It might be the best way to experience a real Mexican New Year's Eve, grapes and all.