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Boston might be home to the original First Night celebration in Massachusetts, but it certainly isn’t the only one.
Since the art-inspired celebration first took place in the 1970s, more than 200 cities, several of which are in Massachusetts, have adopted and put their own spin on the festivities.
If your holiday plans put you close to any of these five cities and towns, they’ll have more than enough to keep you entertained during the countdown to 2015.
First Night Northampton
In Northampton, the First Night history runs nearly as deep as it does in Boston. This year’s celebration marks the 30th anniversary of First Night Northampton and the special occasion will be marked with activities, performances and more at 20 different downtown venues.
East Street Ballet at First Night Northampton
The fun begins at noon with a “Circus Wonderland” at the Northampton Academy of Music; from there, the rest of the day will feature theater, dancing, puppetry, live music and all other manner of family-friendly festivities, leading up to the raising of the ball at the Hotel Northampton (which also happens to be an excellent place to tuck in!). Before you head off to First Night Northampton, it’s best to grab a button, which will gives its wearer entry to everything that’s happening.
First Night Worcester
The sound of music will be just about everywhere in Worcester on New Year’s Eve, as the city’s First Night celebration offers performances from groups with jazz, funk, rock, country, blues and Caribbean influences. To accompany the shows, a selection of Worcester’s top attractions will be offering free admission to those who have a First Night button throughout the day.
The EcoTarium will welcome all button wearers for free on December 31st
Buttons can be purchased either online or at dozens of locations throughout the city, which are listed in full here. Naturally, fireworks will help cap off the night, and they’ll begin shooting into the sky over Bell Hill around 10:15 p.m. To save yourself a very late-night drive heading out of the city, the Courtyard Marriott is a good overnight option, and also happens to have a First Night special.
First Night Chatham
Fittingly, Chatham’s First Night extravaganza has a decidedly nautical touch. The midnight ball drop in this Cape Cod town is in fact a Cod Drop, which is exactly what it sounds like. Before the illuminated fish descends upon Chatham, however, residents and visitors are treated to a day and evening packed with everything from sandcastle sculptures to road races.
The town of Chatham welcomes 2014 via Facebook
After things get underway with a town photo, it’s on to the events. The Carnival Caper parade, horse-drawn wagon rides, mini-golf, children’s art studio are just a few of the highlights. Another is the Bubble Wrap Stomp, which is always a big hit with the kids, and, rumor has it, adults who have been spending too much time at work. There are fireworks at Veterans Field around 6:00 p.m. and Oyster Pond at midnight, to accommodate families with kids of all ages. To find all the necessary info about buttons, nearby accommodations and all other matters, just click here.
First Night New Bedford
Another Massachusetts city rich in maritime history, New Bedford has its own First Night jubilee, with the Seaport Cultural District serving as the headquarters. Between 5:00 – 8:30 p.m. on December 31, concerts, kids’ activities, art exhibitions, magic performances and much more will fill up the city’s historic streets; even better, the programming is free!
The New Bedford Whaling Museum, pictured here at night, will be a happening place on New Year’s Eve
Once the clock strikes 8:30 p.m., all eyes will turn to the waterfront, where fireworks will put a whole lot of color in the sky over State Pier. Those looking to continue their merrymaking can grab a ticket to the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center bash, where the party goes on from 7:00 – 10:00 p.m. To see where you can grab a little rest in New Bedford as the evening winds down, click here.
First Night Beverly
For more than two decades, Beverly has hosted a premier North Shore New Year’s Eve shindig, and the upcoming 2014 First Night will no doubt continue that tradition. From 3 – 7 p.m., the city’s downtown area is set to host games, arts, crafts, train rides, fire spinning, curious critters and a whole host of other activities pitch-perfect for young ones.
A very festive Dimaje Hair Studio in downtown Beverly via Facebook
The evening’s showstopper begins at 6:00 p.m., with the Grand Procession parade setting out from Cabot Street and making its way around the block. At 6:45 p.m., the beach balls drop, giving families ample time to relax afterwards or have some more fun before calling it a night. For a full look at the First Night Beverly events, as well as where you can buy buttons and which activities require them, just click here. If you’re heading into the area, the Wylie Inn and Conference Center at Endicott College is quite suitable for an overnight.
What’s your favorite way to ring in the New Year? Let us know below in the comments!
Photo at the top by Lynn Graves