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Best New Year's Eve Events in New England

Yankee Plus Dec 2015


Best New Year’s Eve Events in New England
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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! If we’ve missed your favorite, let us (and everyone!) know in the comments section.

new year's eve


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.


Downtown Countdown
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.


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 1,000 artists help Bostonians ring in the new year in style, with button-admission events including a grand procession down Boylston Street, 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, noise parade, 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 laser show and spectacular fireworks display at midnight. Venues throughout the city feature puppet shows, theater, storytelling, dance, magic, and music.


First Night Wolfeboro
A festive evening of family fun and activities on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee, First Night Wolfeboro’s button-admission includes live music, food, parade, magic, skating, and two outstanding fireworks displays over the lake at 8 p.m.


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 5:40 p.m. and midnight.


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 on New Year’s Day as the Newport Polar Bears take their annual noontime plunge.

Please Note: This information was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

Aimee Seavey


Aimee Seavey


Associate Editor Aimee Seavey is a staff writer for Yankee Magazine and assists in the development and promotion of content for through blogging and social media outlets.

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4 Responses to Best New Year’s Eve Events in New England

  1. Mike Mahan December 27, 2014 at 11:11 am #

    I don’t think there is the bonfire at First Night Chatham anymore. We’ve gone every year for a number of years but the bonfire wasn’t on the schedule last year or for this year’s upcoming celebration. I hope it is brought back!

    • Aimee Seavey December 27, 2014 at 1:36 pm #

      Hi Mike. Thanks for the info. What a bummer! We don’t see it listed anymore, either, so the listing will be updated.

  2. Lil December 28, 2014 at 10:39 am #

    First night Portsmouth, NH. We went last year, they give you a list of events so you can plan accordingly. It was in the teens last year but we had foot and hand warmers. We stayed at the Sherdian and walked to everything we wanted to see. Also, there is stand up comedy at the hotel (price was inexpensive).

  3. cheryl December 31, 2014 at 12:04 pm #

    Agreed – Portsmouth, NH is perfect for families. We go to have dinner, see the ice sculptures, dance to a dj in the street and watch the 7pm fireworks display – nice and early for young kids to enjoy.

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