It's still a couple of weeks away, but if you want a good time on New Year's Eve, you'd better start looking and booking now. Here's the London Eye's guide to the biggest night of the year
In London alone, hedonists will spend in excess of pounds 3 million on clubbing this New Year's Eve. The logistical nightmare of trying to find a gig that all your friends are willing to attend is practically impossible (does the phrase, "I couldn't stand that kind of music all night" sound familiar?), but the alternative of staying home is tantamount to admitting defeat and waiting for the imminent onset of middle age.

Before we get into the good, the bad and the ugly of NYE gigs, there's one piece of essential advice that will maximise your chances of having fond New Year memories.

Buying a ticket for NYE is only the second most important aspect. It's easy to find good music but it's people who make an event a success.

When the clock strikes 12, you should feel inclined to randomly hug complete strangers. If you get the feeling that they're aliens and you'd prefer to keep your own counsel, then you've wasted your loot.

Surrounding yourself with friends is the best way to overcome this problem, but with so many musical tastes to satisfy, it's not always possible. It's fun to seek adventure in tiny groups but consider carefully whether the size of the venue and its clientele are to your taste. NYE is the biggest club night of them all and it also produces the most horror stories.

There are a few gargantuan events, with excellent line-ups, scheduled for this NYE; World Dance at Wembley, Universal Dance at London Docklands and Essential at the Alexandra Palace (see competition, p53).

World Dance has a well-earned reputation for slick organisation but gigs of this size are a risk. Last year's sell-out NYE event at the Ally Pally offered, among others, Sasha, Orbital and the Chemical Brothers. With clubbers arriving in their thousands, many ticket holders queued for over an hour in the freezing cold, the cloakrooms were all full by 11pm and the toilets were either outdoors and freezing or indoors and flooded.

This NYE, if you're put off by mega-scale events, here are four other gigs worth a look.

NYE at The End boasts soft woods and bright neon, which combine to create an innovative interior aesthetic. It took a while, but Layo, Mr C, and their DJ cohorts have educated the London massive to the ways of funky techno. They're joined by Bushwacka B, Dave Angel and Colin Dale in the main room. The sound system here is bone-shatteringly good, and with the DJ booth situated in the middle of the dancefloor, it's an interactive experience. And the "no-highbrow" dress code attracts real people up for a great night.

Milk 'n' 2 Sugars moves away from The Cross for their debut NYE gig. Their most adventurous production to date sees them move to a lavishly- dressed, listed building in a secret central London location. The clientele will easily mirror the interior's glamour. Uplifting anthems and bangin' house are on the menu for the night, courtesy of Derrick Carter and Dimitri.

Come Dancing's A Night Of A Thousand Stars has set tongues wagging in the capital. The Shepherd's Bush Empire hasn't seen so much excitement and glamour since it hosted Wogan years ago. Skytracker search beams will guide you to the Empire while a 100ft twinkling star cloth adorns the interior, where a 20ft video screen will bombard you with visuals.

The 1,700 who get tickets will be treated to Val and Des on the decks while a selection of disco, breakbeatz and club classics will be played in the second room.

Exhibitionists of all shapes and sizes should secure their tickets for Pushca's NYE Party pronto.

All glamorati, drag queens and decadent darlings are required to attend the Drama Queen celebrations at a purpose-designed BBC television studio. Anyone who's visited Pushca's highly successful gigs at MoS should realise that you only saw some of the goods. Their studio events present Pushca in their natural habitat - a blank canvas upon which they bring their couture fantasies to fruition.

Fat Tony, Miss Barbie and Darren Darling keep the dancefloor moving with high-energy house anthems and uplifting rhythms. Exclusive, stylish and innovative - be a random face in a club or an actor in an awfully big adventure!

The End, 16a West Central St, WC1, 9pm-7am pounds 35 (0171-419 9199)

Milk `n' 2 Sugars, The Debut, Central London location (secret location revealed to ticket holders from 20 Dec). 9.30pm-6am, pounds 25 mems/pounds 30 non- members. 0171-403 331 for booking, 0181-516 8003/4/5 info

A Night Of A Thousand Stars, Shepherd's Bush Empire, 9.30pm-5am pounds 35, 0181-870 0777 for booking details and additional information.

Pushca Drama Queen. A BBC film studio in London (all-ticket event with address to holders only), 9pm-6am pounds 35 members/pounds 40 non-members. 0171-734 7110 for booking details and additional information


The London Eye, in conjunction with Essential, has five pairs of tickets to give away for the huge bash at Alexandra Palace on 31 December. Billed as "the biggest New Year's Eve dance night", Essential @ the Palace features Black Grape, The Chemical Brothers, Roni Size Reprazent, LTJ Bukem and many more star names. And if it all gets too much, there's a full chill-out area with laid back, ambient grooves courtesy of Gilles Peterson, Mixmaster Morris and Global Communications.

To enter, send your name, address and daytime phone number to: Essential/London Eye Comp, c/o Jessie, Essential Ents Ltd, 9 Church St, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 1US, to arrive by 19 Dec.

Tickets are pounds 39 in advance. Credit card bookings: 0990 344 4444; Info hotline: 0891 230 190



@ the cross

On a good night, the dancefloor heaves with the decks situated a mere spitting distance from the crowd. Glitterati provide the night's stylish entertainment and show clubland how to glam it up in the style stakes.

Their gigs generate a real tribal atmosphere, the social vibe is always great and the crowd determined to large it up. Smokin' Jo, Miss Barbie, Craig Jensen and Miss Jools take charge on the decks. A great venue and a dead cert for a cracking NYE.

Goods Way Depot (off York Way), N1 (0171-837 0828) 9pm-7am, pounds 30


@ secret venue

This could well be the freshest R 'n' B NYE party in the capital. Six suits and a host of DJs promise to make this a gig to remember. Hip-hop, rap, R 'n' B, swing, rare, soul and underground house are all on the menu, courtesy of Brain Norman, Micky D, Lloydy, Sammy and Firin' Squad.

It's a celebration of the best in black music - anything that's phat will get a spin of the Technics. All true headz will be fighting to buy their tickets first. Location revealed on ticket purchase (0956 284894). 9pm till very late pounds 28


@ MoS

Still attracting criticism, still doing the business! Pete Tong, CJ Mackintosh and Frankie Foncett in the MoS, hook up with Todd Terry in Manchester and Danny Tenaglia in NYC via ISDN (Radio 1 are also carrying the broadcasts live). Revellers will be able to hear the transatlantic beatz live through the MoS sound system.

Mature crowd, top decorations, bangin' sound system and uplifting vibes. The gig runs from 10pm-10am, so come and have a go if you think you're hard enough.

103 Gaunt St, SE1 (0171-378 6528) 10pm-10am, pounds 40