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First Night Boston

A Celebration of Arts and Community

Once a year on New Year's Eve, the city of Boston begins its festivities with a celebration called First Night Boston or just First Night. The festivities include a variety of music, dance, theater, comedy, arts and crafts, ice sculptures, and fireworks. first night boston - boston first night celebtration - christmas tree in downtown boston

First Night Boston began in 1976 by a group of artists and local residents as a way to bring neighboring communities of the city together in one large celebration.

During this combining of communities into one celebration, this group of individuals sought to give visitors an alternative way to ring in the new year by incorporating local culture while banning the public consumption of alcohol.

Other surrounding towns and communities started their own First Night celebrations and has since spread to cities all over the world.

Beginning at 1 pm and ending at midnight with the Boston Harbor fireworks, the New Year's Eve activities are spread out throughout downtown Boston and include both outdoor and indoor venues.

Literally covering one end of the city of Boston to the other, there are over 30 event locations to enjoy. Even though public transportation like the T (Boston subway system) is the way to go, plan on doing a good amount of walking.

When I was at First Night Boston, it was very cold outside, windy and freezing rain was in the forecast. I saw a lot of people walking around ill-prepared for the weather so I was glad I had looked at the weather forecast ahead of time and dressed accordingly.

I would definitely recommend not driving through downtown Boston during the celebration as roads may be closed at the discretion of Boston Police with traffic being very slow to allow the free-flowing of pedestrian traffic.

If you do want to drive to Boston and park your car, the "official" parking garage for the First Night Boston celebration is The Garage @ 100 Clarendon. Parking on New Year's Eve is $12. There are a few other parking garages throughout Boston with T stations relatively close by:

The Garage @ 100 Clarendon
100 Clarendon Street
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 275-0151
Christian Science Plaza Parking Garage
250 Massachusetts Avenue
Boston, MA  02115
(617) 450-2000
Prudential Center Parking Garage
Boylston Street, Huntington Avenue, Belvidere Street and Exeter Street
Boston, MA  02115
(617) 236-3060

Radisson Hotel Garage
200 Stuart Street
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 482-1800

Motor Mart Garage
26 Park Plaza
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 482-8380
Boston Common Parking Garage
Charles Street
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 954-2098
Center Plaza Garage
One Center Plaza
Boston, MA 02108
(617) 742-7807
Garage at Post Office Square
0 Post Office Square
Boston, MA 02109
(617) 423-1430
Fan Pier Parking
28 Northern Avenue
Boston, MA 02210
(617) 261-4500
Gale International Parking Lot/
LAZ Parking

25 Northern Avenue
Boston, MA 02210
(617) 737-3363

Helpful Tips and Information

To enjoy the day and night's activities to their fullest, you'll want to know some practical information before coming to First Night Boston.

  • As events and activities on the program guide are subject to change, make sure to check out the First Night website for the latest updates. They are also on twitter and can be followed at twitter.com/firstnight.

  • Some of the performances are admitted on a first come, first serve basis. There are no reserved seats and late admission is at the discretion of the site's management.

  • Some of the events are located in places of worship. Food, beverages and smoking are not permitted unless otherwise posted.

  • Many events are interpreted in American Sign Language (ASL) and all official First Night sites are wheelchair accessible, except the Boston Park Plaza Terrace Room.

  • Restroom facilities are located at Boston Common, City Hall Plaza, Copley Square, and the Shops at Prudential Center.

  • Medical emergencies and lost children are handled by Boston's EMS. In any emergency, dial 9-1-1. The Medical/Lost Children stations are located at the Hynes Convention Center - Room 101 from 1 pm - 11 pm and the Boston Common at the corner of Charles and Beacon Streets from 1 pm - 12 am.

  • The First Night Boston activities will go on regardless of weather.

first night boston - boston first night celebtration - first night button

Before coming to First Night Boston, you'll want to make sure you get your button. At retailers, the cost is $18 and free for children under 4. Purchasing the button on www.firstnight.org will give you the special advance price of $15.

Some of the retailers the buttons can be purchased at are Au Bon Pain, Shaw's Supermarket, Tedeschi Food Shops/ Store 24, AAA Southern New England, and Borders.

By purchasing your button, you'll be able to enter many of the events and performances throughout the First Night Boston festivities. There's also extended value and discounts from time of sale, end of November, through the month of January; named First Month.

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Events and Attractions

Throughout the day and night, First Night Boston hosts several events, attractions, fun things to do and see. The city itself is filled with festive lights and Christmas displays along the way such as in areas like Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall.

first night boston - quincy market lights

If you like parades, be sure to be in the area before 5 pm as street side views fill up quickly.

The Metro Boston Grand Procession begins at the Hynes Convention Center at 5:30 pm, travels down Boylston Street, takes a left onto Charles Street in Boston Common. Included in the procession are over 800 artists from all over Boston; marching bands, puppeteers, jazz bands, circus acts and many others.

The attractions at First Night Boston found on the program guide (and also found on their website) can be divided into categories such as music, dance, magic & stunts, storytelling, puppets & theater, film, workshops, visual arts & exhibitions and outdoor activities.

Here is a list of the event locations at First Night Boston:

American Repertory Theatre
64 Brattle Street, Cambridge
Nearest T Station: Red–Harvard

Improv Asylum
216 Hanover Street
Nearest T Station: Green–Haymarket
Capacity: 180
Arlington Street Church
Arlington Street at Boylston Street
Nearest T Station: Green–Arlington
Capacity: 670
King’s Chapel
58 Tremont Street
Nearest T Station: Green/Blue –Government Center or Blue/Orange–State Street
Capacity 350
Boston Common
Nearest T Station: Green/Red–
Park Street or Green–Boylston
The Mary Baker Eddy Library
200 Massachusetts Avenue
Nearest T Station: Green E–Symphony or Green–Hynes
Capacity: 260
Boston Harbor
Nearest T Station: Blue–Aquarium Outdoors
Museum of Science
16 Science Park
Nearest T Station: Green–Science Park
The Boston Park Plaza Hotel
Terrace Room
64 Arlington Street
Nearest T Station: Green–Arlington
Capacity: 350
New England Aquarium
Central Wharf
Nearest T Station: Blue–Aquarium
Capacity: 800
Boston Public Library
700 Boylston Street
Nearest T Station: Green–Copley
Capacity: 342
Old South Church
645 Boylston Street
Nearest T Station: Green – Copley or Orange – Back Bay
Capacity: Sanctuary - 950
City Place/Transportation Building
115 Stuart Street
Nearest T Station: Green–Boylston
Capacity: 500
Old South Meeting House
310 Washington Street
Nearest T Station: Blue/Orange–State Street
Capacity: 650
Copley Square
Nearest T Station: Green–Copley
Old State House Museum
Washington Street at State Street
Nearest T Station: Green/Blue Government Center
Capacity: 45
Emmanuel Church
15 Newbury Street
Nearest T Station: Green–Arlington
Capacity: 900
Orpheum Theatre
One Hamilton Place
Nearest T Station: Green/Red–Park Street
Capacity: 2700
First Church in Boston
66 Marlborough Street
Nearest T Station: Green–Copley
Capacity: Sanctuary - 350
Otis House Museum
141 Cambridge Street
Nearest T Station: Red–Charles Street/MGH or Green/Blue–Government Center
Capacity: afternoon-40; evening-70
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, Christian Science Plaza
175 Huntington Avenue
Nearest T Station: Green E–Symphony
St. Paul’s Cathedral
138 Tremont Street
Nearest T Station: Green/Red–Park Street
Capacity: 650
Hynes Convention Center
900 Boylston Street
Nearest T Station: Green–Hynes
USS Constitution Museum
Charlestown Navy Yard, Building #22 Nearest T Station: Green/Orange– North Station or #93 MBTA bus
Capacity: 350

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One of my favorite things to see at First Night Boston was the ice sculptures in Boston Common. You can really see how talented the artists are through their work in creating these large and intricate displays.

first night boston - ice sculpture in boston common

As you pass by the ice sculptures walking through Boston Common, you'll also see families and friends ice skating at Frog Pond. If you like, you can rent skates and ice skate also, but be prepared to wait in line for quite some time.

We were there watching for 10 or so minutes and didn't see the lines moving much at all. I believe there's a maximum capacity for the ice and people can only go in once the same amount of others comes off. Best to come back another day when there's less crowds to deal with.

Fireworks displays happen twice during the night. One set occurs at 7 pm in Boston Common at the Boston Common Ball field and is touted as "Boston's Family Fireworks Celebration." This is great for kids and everyone else not wanting to stay up for the midnight display.

The second set of fireworks takes place at midnight on Boston Harbor celebrating the New Year with a brilliant display of light, color and sound. We found a spot right behind the Rowes Wharf hotel, through the archway, and I was lucky enough to get some very nice shots (cold as it was outside!).

first night boston - boston harbor fireworks
First Night Boston Essentials

Location: Downtown Boston - 30+ event locations throughout the city as listed above

Phone: First Night Boston Phone: (617) 542-1399

Email: info@firstnight.org

Website: www.firstnight.org

Dates: December 31st. - First Month discounts from end of November (first day button goes on sale) through month of January

Hours: First Night events occur from 1 pm to 12 am.

Prices: $18 for purchase of button, Children under 4 - Free. Buttons can be purchased at Au Bon Pain, Shaw's Supermarket, Tedeschi Food Shops/ Store 24, AAA Southern New England and Borders.
*Buttons purchased in advance online at firstnight.org are $15 each*

Attractions: Cultural events including music, dance, magic & stunts, storytelling, puppets & theater, film, workshops, visual arts & exhibitions and outdoor activities. List of even locations are above. Also included are ice sculptures at Boston Common, Fireworks at 7 pm at Boston Common and 12 am at Boston Harbor and the Metro Boston Grand Procession starting at 5:30 pm at the Hynes Convention Center.

Parking: Parking Garages as listed above.

Hotel Search: Lowest prices for Boston hotels!

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