The first “First Night” festival took place in Boston back in 1976, organized by a small group of artists who wanted a way to celebrate the new year by staging indoor and outdoor performances in an alcohol-free environment. The event was a success, and the “First Night” movement soon caught on and spread to dozens of other cities. Here’s a look at our picks for some of the Best New Year’s Eve Events in New England, including First Night celebrations and more!
Best New Year’s Eve Events in New England | Connecticut
First Night Hartford
This citywide arts festival features wristband-admission events throughout the city leading up to midnight, including face painting, carousel rides, ice skating, dancing, food, comedy, horse-drawn carriage rides, fortune telling, and more! Fireworks welcome the new year from Bushnell Park at 6 p.m. and midnight.
Best New Year’s Eve Events in New England | Maine
The city of Bangor invites residents to ring in the new year with free family-friendly events, including a variety of entertainment and outdoor musical performances, great food, and a grand finale beach ball drop at midnight in West Market Square.
Great Sardine and Maple Leaf Drop
For a truly original start to your new year, head to Eastport for the annual Great Sardine and Maple Leaf Drop from the Tides Institute and Museum of Art. Many local restaurants and businesses are in on the fun, with special menus, entertainment, and late hours. At 11 p.m. Eastern (or midnight Atlantic time) a giant red maple leaf drops to ring in the new year, followed by an 8-foot sardine an hour later at midnight Eastern time.
Best New Year’s Eve Events in New England | Massachusetts
First Night Boston
Started in 1976, organizers claim Boston’s First Night celebration is the oldest and largest New Year’s Eve arts festival in the country. Today artists help Bostonians ring in the new year in style, with free events including a grand procession down Boylston Street, musical performances, spectacular ice sculptures, and midnight fireworks over Boston Harbor to keep the party moving.
First Night Chatham
Celebrate the new year in Cape Cod style. Button-admission offers theater, live music, indoor putt putt golf, and a circus. At midnight, a giant lighted cod drops at Oyster Pond, followed by a fireworks display.
First Night Worcester
Family-friendly events run all day long with button-admission, ending with a spectacular fireworks display starting at 11:15. Venues throughout the city feature puppet shows, theater, storytelling, dance, magic, and music. Note:
First Night Worcester has announced
that the 2017 celebration would be its last.
Best New Year’s Eve Events in New England | New Hampshire
First Night Portsmouth
Outdoor and indoor events take place throughout the day. Buttons grant you access to indoor venues for music, shows, and all around fun. Show your button at Puddle Dock Pond at Strawbery Banke
for a discount on skating, and don’t miss the fireworks at 7:30 over South Mill Pond.
Best New Year’s Eve Events in New England | Vermont
First Night Burlington
Head to Main Street for Burlington’s annual button-admission First Night festivities, packed with more than 12 hours of alcohol-free events for all ages. Take in dozens of live musical acts, storytelling, animated-cartoon screenings, live comedy and even a circus. Meals are served at a handful of locations, and free waterfront fireworks on Lake Champlain light the sky at midnight.
Best New Year’s Eve Events in New England | Rhode Island
Newport Polar Bear Plunge
If midnight parties aren’t your thing, ring in the new year by jumping (or watching others jump) into the freezing cold waters of Easton Bay in Newport, RI
, on New Year’s Day as the Newport Polar Bears take their annual noontime plunge.
If we’ve missed your favorite New Year’s Eve events, let us (and everyone!) know in the comments section.
This post was first published in 2014 and has been updated.