Growing up in the Midwest during the 60’s, New Year’s Day morning meant one thing: watching the Rose Bowl Parade on TV. While the wind howled and the snow piled up outside the windows, we could only shake our heads in wonder — and more than a little envy — at all those lucky Southern Californians in their shirtsleeves.

Decades later, our horizons have broadened…but that longing for an exotic holiday getaway still makes an annual appearance. So where can you go when you want to escape the seasonal craziness and soak up some history, culture and change-of-scenic beauty?

At Classic Journeys, our 13 walking tours departing in late December are a great place to start. By popular demand, our guests won’t be tuning in to see the ball drop on New Year’s Eve; instead, they’ll be singing a rousing chorus of “Auld Lang Syne” from the rainforests of Costa Rica to the isle of Capri.

Rest assured, there’s no shortage of festive glitz…if by glitz, you mean fireworks lighting up the Renaissance skyline of Florence, or a palatial New Year’s feast hosted by the Royal family in India’s Udaipur. And then there’s Morocco…where a luxury Berber tent encampment in the Sahara becomes our desert ballroom to dance the night away.

Group dancing in Morocco

Maybe Machu Picchu has been on your list of must-sees since you first saw its picture in a grade school textbook. Or your inner engineer has always craved an up-close look at the Panama Canal (not from the deck of a cruise ship, but through the eyes of the people who live there). Even if you hear the siren song of Southeast Asia, why settle for the same old, same old for New Year’s when there’s an elephant in Laos or Thailand who’s trumpeting your name?

Like us, kids are always up for a slam-bang way to welcome the New Year, too. That’s why we planned a quartet of family vacations to coincide perfectly with holiday break. From ziplining in Costa Rica and mountain biking in Peru to paddling a jungle canoe in Panama or hitching a camel ride in Morocco, the kids will never forget where they rang in 2012.

All 13 trips, whatever your destination, depart the last week in December for seven to 11 days total. For more specifics, including day-by-day itineraries and pricing, give one of our Guest Services Coordinators a buzz at (800) 200-3887.

* PS Here’s the $64,000 question: how do you say “Happy New Year!” in Quechua (KETCH-u-ah)? That’s the native language of the Central Andes in Peru, and we admit it had us stumped. Turns out it’s “Allin wata kachun qanqunapaq!” (all-yin wa-ta ka-chun kan-koon-a-pak). In other words, may you soar to new heights in Machu Picchu!