New Year's Eve revelers converged on Times Square to watch the dropping of a new energy- efficient ball, while gay couples in New Hampshire awaited the stroke of midnight to take advantage of a new law allowing civil unions.
Crowds gathered hours before midnight for the 100th anniversary of the Times Square ball drop despite temperatures in the 30s Fahrenheit (0 to 4 degrees Celsius).
Milwaukee resident Jennelle Joset and her mother, Wanda Bowers, had been standing around since 1 pm, wearing hats with big plastic wheels of cheese to show their Wisconsin pride.
"I had to do this once, to see it once before I die," Bowers said.
The first ball was an iron-and-wood contraption lit with 100 25-watt incandescent bulbs. Last year's version had more than 600 incandescent and halogen bulbs.
But the star of this year's extravaganza was lit up with 9,576 tiny LEDs that organisers said would draw about as much electricity as 10 toasters.
Philips Lighting, which made the light-emitting diodes, said they would be more than twice as bright as last year's energy-hungry lights and are capable of generating more than 16 million colours.
A different sort of light show was set in Brooksville, Florida, where the ball being dropped was a 200-pound fiberglass tangerine, with light bulbs inside.
And in downtown Miami, the Big Orange will slowly climb to the top of the Hotel Inter-Continental, followed by a laser and fireworks show.