Ditch those awkward, claustrophobic parties on New Year's. Do something different. Around the country, more and more places are offering community First Night celebrations that envelop the winter wonderland joyfulness in the air. New York City's Times Square New Year's Eve celebration is the mother of all block parties, but there are a potpourri of activities throughout the five boroughs, starting with the most fun midnight Fun Run around Central Park and Brooklyn’s New Year’s Eve 5K Run in Prospect Park, to enchanting First Night festivities in Portsmouth, NH and revelries in Orlando.
Visitors from around the globe join New Yorkers to experience New Year’s Eve in Times Square and the many exciting events happening throughout the five boroughs. Few events in the world are as exciting and extraordinary as New Year’s Eve in New York City. From watching the ball drop in Times Square to the celebrations in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx, New York City is the place to make the first memories of 2014.
Over 100 million television viewers in the United States and more than 1 billion people worldwide are expected to join the estimated 1 million revelers in New York City to watch a 106-year-old tradition: the Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball Drop. A 12-foot geodesic sphere covered in 2,688 Waterford crystals, the ball weighs 11,875 pounds and is powered by 32,256 Philips Luxeon Rebel LED lights, capable of creating a palette of more than 16 million vibrant colors. At 11:59pm, the ball begins its descent atop One Times Square as millions of people count down the final seconds of the year and celebrate the beginning of a new year full of hopes, challenges, changes and dreams.
Watching the ball drop in Times Square is one of those things that everyone should do at least once in their lifetime. For me, it was a couple of years ago - a sensational experience, I can testify - and I can share some hints:
You have to get to Times Square in the early afternoon, before 3 pm, to even get inside the "zone" that is otherwise cordoned off by New York's Finest. And the most significant thing to remember about this is that you can't leave and return and there are no bathroom facilities within the zone. Bring your own bottle of water and snacks but don't drink much before you come (though I did see some pizza deliveries being made, how is beyond me).
Keep the weather forecast in mind, but come with layers of clothes, particularly warm socks and hats and a waterproof cover, and possible feet and hand warmers. You might also bring a small collapsible seat or something to sit on like a cushion. You can't bring much in because of security. Definitely bring your camera (check battery) because the images are fabulous with all the neon lights.
It is a marathon that tests endurance - literally standing in one place for eight or more hours. It is this physical challenge that becomes part of the fun (and part of your own legend which you will be able to tell over and over).
The assembled minions are a cross section of humanity - not too many fat cats among the hoi polloi in these crowds. But that is the most fun - this sense of community that forms and being part of this amazing celebration.
Gathering from early afternoon, the dazzling lights, neon colors, massive dynamic photos from gigantic billboards add to the energy and the people around you become your new best friends.
Times Square has been the center of worldwide attention on New Year's Eve, ever since 1904 when the owners of One Times Square started holding rooftop celebrations to greet the New Year. The first Ball Lowering celebration took place in 1907, and this tradition is now a universal symbol of welcoming the New Year.
My other favorite way of celebrating New Year's Eve is the Emerald Nuts Midnight Run hosted by the New York Road Runners Club. Join in the fun and celebrate with dancing (starting at 10 p.m.) which is free and open to the public, followed by a costume parade and contest (starting at 11 p.m.) at the Central Park Bandshell at 72nd Street near 5th. With a countdown to midnight beginning at 11:59 p.m., the 4-mile unscored run (but prizes for the winners!) begins at the stroke of midnight, as a spectacular 15-minute fireworks display lights up the night and the start of 2014.
(Registration will close at 11:59 pm on Saturday, December 28; fee up to $65, and you have to pick up registration number at NYRR, 9 East 89th St, between Sunday, Dec 29 and Tuesday. Dec. 31, 855-5MY-NYRR, www.nyrr.org/races-and-events/2013/nyrr-midnight-run-presented-by-emeral....)
For visitors arriving in New York City before the ball drops, there are plenty of early New Year’s Eve events and activities happening throughout the five boroughs, including:
New Year’s Eve Wishing Wall: Every year at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, thousands of wishes from people from around the world cover Times Square. Anyone can come to the Times Square Museum & Visitor Center (located at Seventh Avenue between 46th and 47th Streets, open seven days a week, 8am–8pm) to record their wishes, dreams and goals for 2014 on pieces of paper and add it to the Wishing Wall. Individuals may also submit a wish from wherever they are by going online to timessquarenyc.org (page available in English, Spanish and French). All the wishes from the wall and online will be collected and added to the confetti that will rain down onto the streets of Times Square at midnight on New Year’s Eve.
Good Riddance Day: This year, celebrate Good Riddance Day on December 28, and say farewell to the worst memories of 2013 in Times Square. The Times Square Alliance and Countdown Entertainment have teamed up with Cintas to invite everyone to say goodbye to their awful, depressing and embarrassing memories. Whether you want to scrap an old love letter, a parking ticket or a pile of medical bills, your bad memories can be shredded and destroyed by a mobile shredding truck that will be present in Times Square. Bad memories can also be entered in a contest to win a trip to Times Square for New Year’s Eve by submitting them at cintas.com/goodriddanceday by November 22.
New Year’s Eve at the New York Marriott Marquis and Renaissance New York Times Square: On December 31, have the ultimate New Year’s Eve party experience at the New York Marriott Marquis (located at 1535 Broadway, between 45th and 46th Streets.) Revel in the view of Times Square from eight stories up at the elegant Broadway Lounge while enjoying live music, entertainment, delicious cuisine, an open bar and so much more. Various seating arrangements are available, ranging from communal seating to direct ball drop views.
Take part in the gala at The View Restaurant and Lounge for dinner and dancing 48 stories above Times Square. The night consists of a five-course meal, a spectacular DJ, dancing, a live streaming of the Times Square ball drop and breathtaking panoramic views of New York City. For information on tickets and pricing, visit nymarriottmarquis.com/newyearseve and nymarriottmarquis.com/newyearseve/theview.
For both a climate-controlled and stellar view of the New Year’s Eve ball drop, The Renaissance Times Square’s R Lounge in Times Square is the place to be. With floor-to-ceiling windows, you can’t beat this view of Times Square while enjoying all the comfort of the indoors. While taking in this phenomenal view, enjoy dinner and a full open bar in the evening’s celebrations. New Year’s Eve packages for the hotel and viewing start at $2,500. Visit rloungetimessquare.com/newyearseve.
Many other distinctive New Year’s celebrations and events are taking place throughout the City—what follows are some highlights of activity in the five boroughs:
Grand Army Plaza: Spend New Year’s Eve in Prospect Park under Brooklyn’s dazzling fireworks display at midnight hosted by Borough President Marty Markowitz and Prospect Park Alliance with Eric Adams, Brooklyn Borough President-elect. This is a free event that includes hot refreshments and entertainment that is welcoming of all ages. The best viewing locations for the fireworks are in Grand Army Plaza, along West Drive in Prospect Park, and along Prospect Park West between Grand Army Plaza and 9th Street.
Along with the fireworks, enjoy the taste of some of New York’s best food trucks, including MudTruck, Rickshaw Dumplings and Wafels & Dinges. The trucks will be at the Grand Army Plaza Arch on the Union Street side from 10 pm until 12:45 am. For more information, visit prospectpark.org.
Brooklyn’s New Year’s Eve 5K Run: Join in the only nighttime race held all year in Prospect Park to kick off New Year’s Eve, brought to you by the Brooklyn Road Runners and Sketchers. The race starts at 11:15pm at Prospect Park West and 9th street. There is rolling registration, and the cost depends when you register, starting at $25 if registered by December 23 (you can also register the day of the race). For registration information, go to prospectpark.org.
Coney Island Polar Bear Club Annual New Year’s Day Swim: On January 1, the Coney Island Polar Bear Club will be hosting their annual New Year’s Day plunge into the Atlantic Ocean. The swim is open to the public and starts at 1pm on the boardwalk at Stillwell Avenue. Donations to Camp Sunshine, a charity for children with life-threatening illnesses, are welcome. For more event, pledging and registration details, visit polarbearclub.org.
The New York Botanical Garden: As a part of the 2013–2014 annual Holiday Train Show, Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends will be taking children and their families on a memorable sing-along adventure through the station. On January 1, there will be showings of Thomas and Friends at 11 am, 1:30 pm, 3:30 pm and 5:30 pm. The festivities of the Holiday Train Show will be occurring on both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day from 10am to 7pm. For information on tickets and deals, go to nybg.org/priceless.
Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises: This New Year’s Eve party cruise takes visitors right to the Statue of Liberty for a phenomenal viewing of the New Year’s fireworks. The cruise includes hors d’oeuvres, a full open bar, party favors, a DJ and a champagne toast at midnight. The cruise boards at 9 pm and sails from 10pm to 1am. Tickets can be purchased at an all-inclusive price of $149. (Must be 18 years old to board and 21 years old to drink alcohol.) For more information or to purchase tickets, go to circleline42.com.
New York Philharmonic: New Year’s Eve Concert with Musical Humorists Igudesman & Joo. Alan Gilbert will conduct the Philharmonic’s annual New Year’s Eve celebration on December 31. In their Philharmonic debuts, this year’s special guests will be Igudesman & Joo, the musical humor duo whose comedic, insightful and virtuosic interpretations of classical repertoire (à la Victor Borge and Danny Kaye) have made them viral Internet stars. nyphil.org
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Times Square: Ripley’s family-friendly Times Square New Year’s Eve festivities begin at 8 pm on December 31. At Ripley’s Odditorium, with over 18,000 square feet of themed galleries featuring 500 unique and exciting artifacts, enjoy fire-breathing acts, a DJ dance party and a champagne toast at midnight. Parents can relax with an open bar and hors d’oeuvres while the kids take part in face-painting and magic shows and chow down on popcorn and cotton candy. For ticket prices and more information, visit ripleysnewyork.com.
World Yacht Cruises: Cruise around Manhattan with superb views of the City skyline while enjoying a five-course dinner, open bar and live entertainment all night long. Tickets for the New Year’s Eve Classic Cruise also include front row views of the fireworks, party favors and a midnight champagne toast. Boarding is at 9pm, and the cruise sails from 10pm until 1am. The fun continues with a dockside party until 1:30am. Tickets are $350, including all taxes and fees. To purchase tickets or for more information, visit worldyacht.com.
Resorts World Casino hosts a New Year’s Eve celebration. Choose to celebrate at an all-out party with favors, a DJ and a 3,000 balloon drop at midnight, or watch the Times Square ball drop on the largest TV screen in Queens. Enjoy dining specials at RW Prime steakhouse or Genting Palace Asian restaurant. To make reservations or for more details, visit rwnewyork.com.
Angelina’s Ristorante: Celebrate the New Year at your own pace with one of three meal and party options: a five-course dinner, an à la carte menu or an all-night buffet. Some options include a live band or DJ and open bar. For more details, call 718-227-2900, or check angelinasristorante.com.
To plan your New Year’s Eve visit to New York City, go to nycgo.com.
First Night Festivals Build Community
First Night is a substance-free, New Year's Eve festival of the arts which began in Boston in 1976 and now serves as a model for some 200 similar celebrations worldwide.
Boston's First Night Festival
This year’s First Night Boston celebration, presented by Highland Street Foundation, is a daylong festival of art, music, dance, sculpture and fireworks that takes place on December 31. All First Night outdoor events are free and admission to indoor events will require the purchase of a First Night button, which cost $10 (children under 4 admitted free) and are available online at Artsboston.org and at participating Boston-area CVS Stores, Bank of America locations, cultural institutions and more. For a complete
list of advance sale locations or to buy buttons online, visit www.firstnightboston.org.
A new button benefit is rolled out daily on Twitter via @FirstNight and many button benefits extend beyond New Year’s Day.
Highlights of this year’s festival include:
Boston Family Fireworks is a 10-minute Boston Family Fireworks display on the Boston common (7 pm);
Bank of America Grand Procession, Boylston Street to Boston Common, themed “Rise and Shine” including the Puppeteers’ Cooperative, Back Alley Puppet Theatre, inflatables, mobile sculptures, drummers, dancers and Duck Boats
Family Festival at Hynes Convention Center, a centerpiece of First Night, featuring headliners Dan Zanes & Elizabeth Mitchell with You Are My Flower; Ellis Paul and a puppet festival presented by the Puppet Showplace Theatre.and Simply Circus with thrilling bicycle and trampoline stunts, dance, and face painting. An exciting new addition to the festival is First Light which will feature three rooms full of interactive sound and light reactive art exhibits.
State Street Corporation Midnight Fireworks, Boston Harbor will showcase the city’s skyline as the light dances across sky and water.
Liberty Mutual Copley Stage, Copley Square, will be the epicenter of the New Year’s Celebration. Framed by Ice Sculptures, world class architecture and a video projection display second to noneheadliners Gentlemen Hall and many other acts will ring in the new year.
Zebbler Studios projection installation, Copley Square - Boston Public Library: Peter Berdovsky - Zebbler Studios, renowned for the Zebbler Encanti Experience, and his work with EOTO and Shpongle, will transform the façade of the Boston Public Library with a stunning projected animation and video installation, beginning at dusk and culminating in a 10 minute countdown-to-midnight finale featuring an inspired custom video piece themed the History of Boston.
FIGMENT Boston, Boston Common, is creating a special “event within an event” for the 2014 First Night celebration. FIGMENT creates free, volunteer-driven participatory art events that bring together the community in a celebration of art and a culture where everything is possible. At each event, the public is invited to play with art that temporarily transforms public spaces into wildly creative places that disappear without a trace.
Hynes Convention Center: Patti Smith and Her Band at the Hynes Convention Center Grand Ballroom (A limited number of premium seats will be made available for this event). Also, Anais Mitchell (Limited number of premium seats will be made available for this event.) and Dean Wareham
Berklee Performance Center: Sierra Hull and Donald Harrison Quintet
Beantown Outloud: A Literary Celebration of Boston: Boston Public Library: Bestselling novelists Sue Miller (“The Lake Short Limited,” “While I Was Gone,” “The Good Mother”) and Chris Castellani (“A Kiss From Maddalena,” “All This Talk of Love”) will read excerpts from their work dedicated to the city they call home. This event will include shorter readings by long-time city residents whose memoirs recall Boston as it used to be. Hosted by fellow native Steve Almond (“Candyfreak,” “My Life in Heavy Metal”).
See more at www.firstnightboston.org.
First Night Burlington, Vermont: Burlington was the fifth city in the world to embrace the First Night concept. First Night Burlington has become Vermont's largest, single-day arts festival, A First Night Button admits you to all official events on a first-come first-served basis. There are over 20 venues in downtown Burlington where First Night performances and activities take place over a 12-hour period. Tickets are required in addition to the button for select shows at the Flynn Center Main Stage, the Memorial Auditorium Main Floor and FlynnSpace. Check the Festival-at-a-Glance for specific details (First Night Burlington, 230 College Street, Burlington, VT 05401, 802-863-6005, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.firstnightburlington.com.)
First Night Chatham, on Cape Cod, is a family-friendly, alcohol free, town-wide celebration of the arts with over 70 performances and events. Not to be missed this year: A new venue, the fabulous Orpheum Theater on Main Street, with afternoon and evening performances; 13 new performers; 57 entertainers;14 special events; New mobile-style web pages to make it easier to view the performers and schedules from your smartphone (see preview). Cape Cod Opera’s final bow as the beloved performing group salutes the movies on December 30, the night before the night. Should buttons sell out again this year, revelers will find 12 button free events, plentiful food vendors, and a welcoming town full of warmth, appropriate noise and energy, and both early and late fireworks (508 945-1122, email@example.com, www.firstnightchatham.com).
First Night Portsmouth, NH: Fireworks, ice sculpture, a street dance and multiple indoor performance venues are the “building blocks” of FN Portsmouth. First Nighters will be able to enjoy a wide range of music and dance. The Button is your pass to hours of great entertainment from 4 pm to midnight on December 31st. The Button is available online at www.proportsmouth.org and may be purchased at the Hannaford’s (Pic ‘n Pay) on Islington Street (For more information on First Night® and all Pro Portsmouth, Inc. events visit the website at www.proportsmouth.org or call 603-433-4398.)
Portsmouth is a treasure trove of history and heritage. Pure delight to stay. The highlight is the living history village, Strawbery Banke (Guided Holiday House Tours Dec. 26-30), 14 Hancock Street, Portsmouth NH, 03801, 603-433-1100, www.strawberybanke.org.
Wolfeboro First Night, in New Hampshire's Lakes Region, also offers First Night Event. Admission is by button only (children 10 and younger are free with button wearing adult); seating is on a “first come” basis. Buttons are $7 before Dec. 30th, and $15 day of event at the Wolfeboro Area Chamber of Commerce. They are also sold at sites located on the map the evening of Dec. 31st. (firstnight.wolfeboro.net/information). The Wolfeboro Inn in Wolfeboro is offering a New Year's Eve package for their First Night Wolfeboro 2014 event; the package includes lodging and two admission buttons to First Night Wolfeboro.
New Year's Eve in Orlando
Orlando, the home of magical places like Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, and SeaWorld, offers a myriad of magical celebrations for First Night.
Walt Disney World Resort: Celebrate the new year at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios theme parks. Each of the three parks will have special enhancements to their nightly fireworks and entertainment with special midnight fireworks at Magic Kingdom Park and Epcot. December 31, is also one of the most popular days to visit. So be sure to pick your park of choice and arrive early before the parks "closes" to additional guests.
Universal Orlando Resort: Celebrate the New Year at either or both of Universal Orlando's theme parks - Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios from 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. on New Year's Eve. New Year's Eve festivities in the parks include party zones that will feature DJs, character appearances and fireworks at midnight. Admission to the theme parks on New Year's Eve is the same as the standard gate price.
New Year's Eve at SeaWorld Orlando: SeaWorld Orlando celebrates our connection to the sea, sea life and the world we share as we ring in the New Year, SeaWorld style. A spectacular musical celebration and bold fireworks display send a wave of welcome to the new year ahead (7007 SeaWorld Drive, Orlando, FL 32821, Park opening to midnight, Admission included with regular park admission, 407-363-2259).
LEGOLAND Florida - Kid's New Year's Eve: Happy Kids' New Year's Eve at LEGOLAND Florida where the giant LEGO brick drops at a very kid-friendly midnight KST (Kid Standard Time) - otherwise known as 7 p.m. Other event elements include fireworks and a dance party DJ (LEGOLAND Way, Winter Haven, FL 33884).
New Year's Eve at CityWalk Orlando: Step up your New Year's at Universal CityWalk with a party that doesn't stop until next year. Bid a fond farewell to 2013 with incredible food and live performances. Between shows, dine on all-you-can-eat gourmet cuisine, including filet mignon, jumbo shrimp and decadent desserts. You'll also enjoy live entertainment in every club, a midnight champagne toast, and more (1000 Universal Studios Plaza, Orlando, FL 32819, 11 am - 2 am, $124.99-$144.99, 407-363-8000
Hard Rock Live at CityWalk: Ring in the New Year with Dierks Bentley, The Cadillac Three and Rosco Bandana (6050 Universal Boulevard, Orlando, FL 32819, doors open 8:30 pm, Show starts at 9:30 pm, $250 Meet & Greet Tickets, $175 Balcony Tables, $150 Lower Balcony, $125 Upper Balcony, $75 GA Standing Floor, www.hardrock.com)
New Year's Eve at DisneyQuest: Celebrate New Year's Eve with an exciting evening of fun, games, music and dancing at DisneyQuest Indoor Interactive theme park in the Downtown Disney area. (Downtown Disney, 1486 E Buena Vista Dr, Orlando, FL 32830, 8 pm - 1 am, $50 - $60,407-934-7639).
NYE 2014 Downtown Orlando at Wall St. Plaza: Raise a glass to the new year at downtown Orlando's ultimate block party at Wall St. Plaza. Enjoy access to 9 venues on 2 city streets for 1 ticket price (25 Wall St., Orlando, FL 32801, 8 pm - 3 am, $20 - $25, 407-849-0471, wallstplaza.net).
Karen Rubin, National Eclectic Travel Examiner
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