"First Night" events celebrate New Year's Eve with family-friendly non-alcohol-imbibing festivities-- and as if that weren't good enough, they're low-cost, too.
The idea dates back as far as 1976: Boston pioneered a First Night Celebration as "an alternative way of ushering in the New Year." In Boston, and many cities since, the focus is on community and on performing arts. Here's Boston's Mission Statement:
First Night's mission is to broaden and deepen the public's appreciation of the visual and performing arts through an innovative, diverse and high quality New Year's Eve program which offers the community a shared cultural experience that is accessible and affordable to all.
What this translates into is low-cost, high-quality fun. My memory of a First Night in Vancouver, BC is of friendly crowds (beer-bottle-free), plenty of kids in strollers, and excellent short performances of drumming, dance, and more, at multiple venues within walking distance, and at minimal admission cost.
Nowadays, hundreds of cities worldwide celebrate First Night, and in many cases the celebration is a day-long event. Here are links to find out what's happening:
- Boston First Night
Boston deserves a special mention for staging the first First Night, and also because its First Night is a big celebration, with hundreds of exhibitions and performances, multiple indoor and outdoor venues, and midnight fireworks. A First Night Button gives admission to all the indoor performances --theater, dance, music, and more. Outdoor events are free. There's also a Family Festival designed for families with wee kids. See more about Boston's First Night.
First Night Pittsburgh
This event in downtown Pittsburgh is the biggest New Year's Eve celebration in the area,and has an annual parade, a Family Tent, street acts, and indoor performances with dance, music, mime, magic, story telling... A low-cost First Night button gives first-come first-serve admission to events in multiple venues including majestic theaters in the Pittsburgh Cultural District*. The night ends with midnight fireworks.
- First Nights near Washington DC
A roundup of events in Maryland and Virginia.
- First Nights in New England
About's Guide for New England covers many destinations.
- First Night Celebrations in Virginia
Several cities celebrate, including Charlottesville whose First Night Virginia is one of the largest in the world, second only to Boston. Also in on the act are Alexandria, Williamsburg, Fredericksburg...
- New Year's Eve First Night Celebrations in the Southeast
About.com's site for Southeast US Travel rounds up other First Nights in the region.
- First Night St.Lous
This family-friendly even draws nearly 15,000 people and is one of the biggest New Year's Eve celebrations in St. Louis. Admission buttons are low-cost and the evening ends with fireworks.
- More Cities with First Nights
For the US, head to First Night USA for more cities with First Night festivities. Some cities have had to curtail their First Nights due to tough economic times, but nonetheless First Nights are a growing trend. There are also many First Night events in Canada, Europe, and other countries.