Best New Year's Eve Events in New England
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.
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.
The city of Bangor and Beal College invite residents to ring in the new year with free family-friendly events, including a variety of entertainment and outdoor musical performances, a Mr. and Mrs. Paul Bunyan Contest, and a grand finale 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, bundled up next to a bonfire. Button-admission offers theater, live music, indoor putt putt golf, noise parade, and a circus. At midnight, a giant lighted cod drops, 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, 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 5:30 and midnight.
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 6 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.