First Night Boston: Family-Friendly New Year's Eve Fun with Kids in Boston
Boston rings in 2015 with its annual First Night celebration, the country’s oldest and largest New Year’s Eve arts festival. The New Year's Eve celebration features music, dance and theater performances, free and discounted museum admission, a Family Festival at the Hynes Convention Center, a Grand Procession down Boylston Street, colossal ice sculptures, and a spectacular fireworks display at midnight to welcome in the new year.
The First Night Button
In addition to being a work of art (each year, the button is designed by a local artist), the First Night button is your ticket to music, dance, theater, visual arts, film and other performances, exhibits and workshops. Buttons can be purchased online, at local CVS stores, metro Boston Bank of America branches, and BosTix Booths. All outdoor events are free; your $10 First Night button is your ticket to all indoor events.
First Night Highlights
Family Festival: The Hynes Convention Center is packed with kid-centric events from 1pm to 6pm: performances by musician Ellis Paul, Puppet Showplace Theatre, the Skyriders trampoline acrobatic troupe, Maximum Velocity professional stunt troupe, and several local arts organizations. There are also crafts, dance, and circus arts workshops; anime films, magic shows, and more. (Requires button)
Winter on the Waterfront: New Year's Eve on the Waterfront unites a dozen indoor Family Fun Sites along an ice sculpture trail from East Boston to the Seaport. Visit each site for free food, music, crafts and other activities. Family Fun Sites are open from noon to 4 pm.
The Grand Procession: Starting in front of the Hynes Convention Center at 5:30pm and moving down Boylston Street to end at Beacon Street. Organized around the theme of Celebrating Light, parade participants feature the light of the sun, light of the moon, lights of the city and light of the imagination. (Free)
Skating Spectacular: The Skating Club of Boston celebrates the New Year at The Boston Common Frog Pond with the annual Skating Spectacular at 6pm. (Free)
Family Fireworks: Don't be late! The 10-minute fireworks display takes place in the intimate setting of the Boston Common Ballfield (at the corner of Boylston and Charles) at 7pm. (Free)
Ice Sculptures on the Waterfront, at Brewers Fountain, the Frog Pond (Boston Common) and in Copley Square are illuminated at dark with a bright display of colors. (Free)
Midnight Fireworks: The skies above Boston Harbor are transformed with color, light, and sound when the clocks strike twelve and ring in the new year. (Free)
For a complete list of events, see the First Night schedule, where you can sort by venue, family activities, outdoor events and more.
In addition to providing admission to First Night events, your buttons can be used at area attractions on December 31 during special times, including:
- Boston Children’s Museum - free admission from 10am-12pm
- Museum of Science - free admission from 2-5pm
- Mary Eddy Baker Library - free admission from 10am-4pm
- Museum of Fine Arts - free admission from 10am to 4:45pm (buttons also on sale at the MFA)
Other great benefits and freebies include:
- Get discounted tickets to see the Celtics take on the Sacramento Kings at 1pm on December 21.
- Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum offers free admission to the first 300 button holders on December 29 and 30, 2014 from 11am-5pm (with family activities in the studio from 11am-4pm).
- Boston Ballet offers free admission to the first 50 button holders for The Nutcracker on December 31, 2014 at 1pm and 7:30pm.
- American Repertory Theater offers free admission to the first 100 button holders for the 10am children’s performance of The Light Princess on December 31, 2014 and the performance on January 2, 2015.
- For more discounts and free admission opportunities, check the Cultural Partners page of the First Night Boston website.
6 Helpful Tips
- Plan ahead: The First Night website offers an interactive planner, and it’s a really useful tool. There are so many options available that it’s very helpful to go with a few choices already in mind.
- Get an early start: Some of the indoor performances are first-come, first served and can fill up quickly.
- Be prepared for crowds: This is not a typical day/evening in Boston. There are people everywhere, so it's important to reinforce whatever plans your family has in order to stick together (buddy system, what to do if you're separated, etc.)
- Use public transportation: Enough said.
- Dress for the weather! Cold, wet feet and hands will make everyone miserable. Conversely, too many layers will be a major distraction if it's a warm evening.
- Emergency services; restrooms: There are two Lost Children stations: At Hynes Convention Center, room 105; and Boston Common, at the corner of Charles and Beacon Streets. Portable “blue rooms” are located on the Common and Copley Square.
Originally published 12/11 and updated 12/12, 12/13 by Audrey T; revised and updated 12/14 by Tara D.