MIAMI (CBS4) – New Year’s Eve party preparations are under way in Miami and Fort Lauderdale as the end of 2012 approaches.

The Big Orange took its moment in the spotlight.

As the clock ticked toward midnight, the citrus symbol known this year as “La Gran Naranja” began its climb up the Intercontinental Hotel in Downtown Miami.

That’s right, for the 26th year, Mr. Neon moved up during the countdown.   “It’s amazing,” said seven year old Simone Deacon, upon seeing the Big Orange for the first time.

“We’re backwards in time or something,” Ninfa Chavez said. “That’s different!”

Chavez said she lives nearby and is considering stopping by Bayfront Park for the festivities Monday night.

Tourists are also expected to pack the park.

“It’s amazing,” Kim Virgo said while snapping pictures of the 35-foot LED orange. “It’s different from home, but it’s good.”

Virgo is visiting from Jamaica.

Larry Tosten is here from Jacksonville.  “Oh it goes to the top, that’s super cool, I didn’t know that,” he said.

Others come here year after year. For Vernon Brooks, it’s a family tradition and over the years he’s found a way to get the best seat in the house. “That’s one major reason why we came early we have the perfect spot so we can just look up and see the countdown,” he said.

Most will watch from the grass, while about 300 others enjoy the view from on board a luxury yacht docked just feet away from all the action.

“This is a great piece of real estate in downtown Miami,” said Aaron Lester, Director of Operations for ExpoShips. “We’re right here next to Big Orange. We have the best view of the fireworks in town.”

The $40 million yacht is approximately 300 feet long and four stories tall.

“She has four bars, a V.I.P. lounge one floor below, 28 galleries and a restaurant on the top level,” said Captain Craig Morgan.

Tickets for the ship, which start at $100, are still available.

You don’t have to look far for another bright display.

For the first time, the Miami Tower’s new multi-million dollar lighting system will dazzle revelers with a special countdown light show.

“It’s a lot of people coming to downtown,” parking company operator Brenda Metral said.

That’s welcome news for downtown businesses, especially those that will be parking, as others party, the night away.

“All December 31st is good here for parking lots. All December,” Metral said. “Thank God. We need money!”

Miami isn’t the only city celebrating the New Year in style.

There’s a big bash planned in Fort Lauderdale, too.

The “Downtown Countdown” started early at 4:30 p.m. and runs until 3 a.m.

“(The) crowd is already picking up from outside so we’re expecting it to be a good turnout,” bartender Kourtney Wilcox said.

The city celebrated the end of another year with a riverside street party.

The annual downtown countdown stretched several blocks, and had a little something for everyone.

“It really is a wonderful event,” Mayor Jack Seiler said. “People come down here, spend a little time. And guess what? They keep coming back throughout the year.”

Concessionaires braced for a busy evening of dishing out food and booze.

“It’s very good for business,” concession stand operator Chris Raden said. “It’s a lot of fun. People have a good time. It’s very safe.”

Officers wee on hand to make sure the celebration remained family-friendly.

There was face painting, bounce houses, and games. Plus, the city held a special countdown at 7 o’clock for the kids.

“That’s a great idea,” mother Jil Simon said. “Whenever you have kids you’re not thinking for New Year’s Eve but it looks like to be a lot of fun.”

But once the children were away, the adults could still play.

Many planned to make it a late night, or an early morning.

“4 a.m.,” bartender Don Singleton said of the hours he planned to keep. “Right up until. Then we’ll be kicking people out the door.”

Barricades blocked off several streets near the Broward Center for the Performing Arts Monday.

They will remain closed until 8 a.m. Tuesday.


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