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First Night Boston: What to know for the big New Year’s Eve event

From fireworks to street closures, here’s a guide to attending America’s oldest and largest New Year’s Eve arts festival

Boston Globe via Getty Images

America’s oldest and largest New Year’s Eve arts festival, First Night Boston (est. 1975), kicks off at noon on Monday, December 31. Here’s what you need to know.

Where is it and when?

It starts at noon on New Year’s Eve and runs to about a half past midnight on January 1, 2019.

The bulk of the festivities are in Back Bay’s Copley Square, including at and around the main hub of the Boston Public Library there. There will be other programming at Boston Common, Trinity Church, the Christian Science Plaza, and the Old South Church—all in Back Bay, too.

How much does everything cost?

First Night Boston events are free. Some of the events at the Boston Public Library will be ticketed, however, and are basically first come, first served.

So what’s playing and when?

A lot! The most complete rundown of First Night Boston events at its various locations can be found through the festival’s organizers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the more family-friendly events are earlier in the day on New Year’s Eve and the more animated fare is later into the evening.

Copley Square’s main stage will have live musical performances beginning at 7:30 p.m.

The famed ice sculptures—at Boston Common’s Frog Pond, in Copley Square, at the Four Seasons at 200 Boylston Street, and in two spots at the Boston Public Library, including at Exeter and Boylston streets—are available for viewing throughout the day, of course.

You can also stay ahead of any changes in the schedule through the First Night Twitter feed. Last year, after all, some events were scaled back or cancelled due to the extreme cold.

And when are the fireworks?

The fireworks on December 31, 2016.
Boston Globe via Getty Images

There will be three chances to ooh and aww at New Year’s Eve fireworks. The first is from 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Boston Common. This is billed as the more family friendly time.

The second and third are happening at the same time—midnight—in two different spots. There’s the so-called Copley Countdown—a pyrotechnical and musical performance from Copley Square starting at midnight—and a fireworks display over Boston Harbor viewable from the North End and the Seaport District as well as other points in downtown.

What’s the best way to get to First Night Boston?

Public transportation. The festival’s organizers recommend the Green Line to Copley. Use this handy trip planner to gauge your route.

There is no designated parking for First Night Boston. The organizers recommend—if you absolutely have to drive—trying nearby parking garages, including the Clarendon Garage, Copley Place, the Prudential Center, and the Boston Common Garage.

So which streets will be closed?

Dartmouth Street will be closed from St. James Avenue to Boylston Street from December 31 through January 1. Trinity Place and Blagden Street will be closed both days.

Boylston Street will be closed from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on December 31 along the parade route from Dartmouth Street to Boston Common.

Anything else to know?

  • You can donate to First Night Boston, which is raising money this year for nonprofits “rooted in supporting and empowering women in our neighborhoods.”
  • Boston police suggest that attendees leave backpacks and other larger bags at home.
  • It’s illegal to smoke—anything—in public spaces in Boston. Same for drinking alcohol (though bars will be open later than usual on December 31).
  • There will be emergency stations as well as spots for collecting lost children in Copley Square and at Beacon and Charles streets.
  • Don’t want to fight the crowds? Telemundo Boston, NBC10 Boston, and New England Cable News (NECN) are broadcasting segments of the performances and the fireworks.