Published Thursday, Dec. 31, 2009 | 7:27 p.m.
Updated Friday, Jan. 1, 2010 | 2:58 a.m.
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What's your New Year's resolution?
More than 300,000 New Year's Eve revelers packed the Las Vegas Valley on Thursday evening and into the early morning hours today to say goodbye to a decade and one of the hardest years the city has faced.
But Thursday night wasn't about looking back. The throng of partygoers gathered to celebrate and look forward with a chance to start anew in 2010. Amid the booms of fireworks ricocheting off Strip casinos, the crowd cheered and celebrated along Las Vegas Boulevard.
Lathika Sadasivan and Sajit Bhaskaran, of Sunnyvale, Calif., stood near the entrance of Planet Hollywood's Miracle Mile shops to watch fireworks with family members who came from as far as Singapore.
"It was just spectacular ... the silhouette over the tall buildings," Sadasivan said. "It's just the spirit of it all. You are surrounded by all these people who are pushing and shoving, but for some reason you don't seem to mind on a night like tonight."
Bhaskaran said the fireworks display wasn't alone in lighting up the night sky. New Year's Eve also brought a full moon — the first on Dec. 31 since 1990 and the last until 2028, according to NASA.
"Man tries to match it with all these fireworks and lights but you look up and realize you really can't," Sadasivan said.
For many partiers along the Strip, this year's display was a greater success than last year's. A year ago, lackluster fireworks that were shot from the ground brought numerous complaints, prompting organizers to return fireworks to the rooftops.
Complaints about last year's fireworks show were heard as far away as Washington state.
"I heard these were much better than last year's," said Janine Hall, a visitor from Seattle.
"I give them a 10!" others yelled.
Pedestrians poured out of casinos and onto Las Vegas Boulevard during the decade's last few hours to stake out their spots. The sidewalks were packed with tourists, many carrying yard-long margaritas.
Still glowing from her $50 Keno winnings at Aria, Diane Steele, 61, of Phoenix, was ready to ring in 2010.
"I'm gonna lose weight, travel more," she said, listing her New Year's resolutions. "And win more money."
Steele was staying at the Monte Carlo with three friends she met 12 years ago through a divorced women's group in Arizona. Ten years ago they started coming to Las Vegas for New Year's Eve to celebrate their friendship.
Las Vegas isn't just glitz and boozing for them — it's tradition.
Steele's friend, Renee Walton, 58 — the "baby" of the group, according to friends — said one of her resolutions was to "come to Vegas more."
This year's event was "fantastic, better, so much better," Steele said. "Vegas is a fantastic place."
Up and down Las Vegas Boulevard, visitors flocked to stands selling plastic drinking chalices, beaded necklaces and flashing 2010 eyeglasses. Metro Police were handing out red Solo cups to those carrying forbidden glass bottles and aluminum containers — and pouring their new drinks for them.
Before the fireworks began, a group of locals stopped to watch the fountains at the Bellagio. Even though Tiki Seaboy and Larry Larson had seen them dozens of times, the fountains were more special on New Year's Eve, the pair said.
Dressed in party hats and glow-stick necklaces, their group had its partying well under way.
"I've lived here for 12 years but this is my first New Year's Eve down at the Strip," Seaboy said.
Most people walking along the Strip were dressed in street clothes, but several tourists who visited CityCenter's new Aria resort were decked out in fancy floor-length dresses or black suits.
The complex was abuzz with activity as Eve Nightclub at Crystals, and Gold Lounge and Haze at Aria officially opened their doors.
Two girls from Jakarta, Indonesia, sat in a pocket park between Aria and Crystals waiting for a table at new CityCenter restaurant Besos.
"We've never celebrated New Year's here," said Stella Hartanto, 21, who attends the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. "I've heard it's the best."
Both she and her friend, Vindriani Lukito, 20, who attends Purdue University in Indiana, were giddy with excitement about the fireworks show.
Although Lukito didn't have a New Year's resolution, Hartanto had a practical one.
"I'm going to graduate soon, so probably, it's to find work," she said, laughing.
At Crystals, a line had formed outside the entrance of Eve with eager club-goers curious about the new addition to Las Vegas' nightlife. They also wanted a glimpse of the club's celebrity owner, Eva Longoria Parker.
Areeya Richle, a new Las Vegas resident and transplant from Vancouver, was one of many patient partiers waiting outside. Richle said his group members knew someone who was able to get them in.
"We're hanging out in here for a while and then watch the fireworks on the Strip and hopefully come back," Richle said Thursday night.
Earlier in the evening, some visitors made the "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign their first stop before heading up the Strip. With an Elvis impersonator on hand, out-of-towners had all the elements of a classic Las Vegas photo op.
A group of friends from New Jersey walked from their room at Tahiti Village to snap a photo before the New Year's festivities. The Las Vegas trip had been two years in the making, Charmaine Hamza said.
"We're all 21 now and we're celebrating our 12 years of best friendship," said her friend, Felicia Clark. "It's a sister vacation."
Clark said they were heading to Encore's XS and were ready for the $75 cover charge. As for their New Year's resolutions, the girls said they hoped to nurture their long-standing friendship.
"One of us moved away but she's moving back so we're hoping to all become closer and let our bonds grow stronger," Hamza said.
Thiago and Silvia Dutra, of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, also stopped by the sign to take pictures before beginning their evening.
"We think it will be a nice place to celebrate the new decade," Thiago Dutra said. "We think it's the best place to be for New Year's."
The couple normally visit the beach with friends on New Year's Eve, but this year they decided to try something new — fireworks and a private party on the Strip.
"And getting drunk, of course," Dutra said.
A slew of celebrities made appearances up and down the Strip, including Pete Wentz at Jet; 50 Cent at Pure; Eva Longoria Parker at her nightclub, Eve; Fergie and the Black Eyed Peas at LAX; and Christina Aguilera at Tao.
Jose Montano, 26, of Orange County, Calif., was sipping a bright orange, 190-Octane drink from a giant cup when he walked back to meet two friends outside LAX.
"We just want to have fun, man," he said. "I just want to hang with the boys."
Efren Camare, 28, of Orange County, was sitting across from the club's entrance with his friend, Raymond Chaidez, 25, also of Orange County.
At midnight, "I'm going to be giving my homies high fives and hugs for a happy new year," Camare said. "It has been a lousy year. We're ready for the next one."