First Night Boston: Family-Friendly New Years Eve Fun with Kids in Boston
Boston rings in 2014 with its annual First Night celebration, the country’s oldest and largest New Year’s Eve arts festival that showcases the work of 1,000 artists in 200 performances and exhibits at 35 indoor and outdoor venues in downtown Boston.
The New Year's Eve celebration starts at 1pm on Saturday, 12/31 and features music, dance and theater performances, 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 2014.
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 and metro Boston Bank of America branches. New price for 2014: All outdoor events are free; your $10 First Night button is your ticket to all indoor events.
First Night Highlights
FedEx Family Festival: The Hynes Convention Center is packed with kid-centric events from 1pm to 6pm: performances by Dan Zanes, Ellis Paul, and the Airborne Comedians; a Puppet Showplace Theatre festival; crafts, dance, and circus arts workshops; anime films, magic shows, and more. (Requires button)
Greenway Carousel: Take a spin on the Greenway Carousel from 11am-7pm. Erich Benton performs a family-friendly magic show at 2pm and 4pm. Carousel tickets are $3/ride, or 2 for 2 with your First Night button.
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-3pm
- Old South Meeting House - free admission from 10am-4pm
- Mary Eddy Baker Library - free admission from 10am-5pm, plus all-day crafts, face painting and other activities
- MFA - free admission to first 300 button holders, opens at 10am
For more museum activities, see the First Night schedule, and select "Museums and Cultural Institutions" on the right.
6 Helpful Tips
Our family has attended First Night four times, and each time we get smarter about how to get the most out of the event. Hopefully these tips will help make your experience a good one.
- 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.
Have fun, and stay safe!
Originally published 12/11; Updated 12/12, 12/13