A giant Ferris wheel will soon take over a strip in downtown Raleigh, along with all of the other fun, festivities and activities that come with the city's annual First Night celebration on Wednesday.
First Night Passes - your ticket into all of the performances and various celebrations and activities - are on sale now. It's best to get them before Wednesday when the price goes up.
The overall schedule for the big event, which draws thousands downtown for Raleigh's version of a ball drop at 7 p.m. and midnight with an acorn, is roughly the same.
The Children's Celebration runs from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. in, around and outside the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences and N.C. Museum of History. Kids can make a space man and comet, among other crafts. They can design a flower to carry in the People's Procession. There's a special toddler play area in the history museum. There's also comedy, music, magic and other live performances. (I hear Sonic Escape and El Gleno Grande are not to be missed).
And a don't miss for retro cartooon fans: A Jetsons Cartoon Marathon starts at 5 p.m. at the natural sciences museum. (It's 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.).
At 6 p.m., the People's Procession, featuring giant puppets from the Paperhand Puppet Intervention, brings the Children's Celebration to Fayetteville Street for the 7 p.m. acorn drop and fireworks. The procession involves puppeteers and anybody else who wants to tag along.
From there, the evening features music, comedy, improv and more from groups from around the region and the country. New this year is a special focus on high school talent. There will be a venue for teen improv on the fourth flour of the natural sciences museum with three different groups performing from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
And there will be an entire venue programmed and performed by local high school students from several high schools. It's called the High School Hubble in Artspace, which is about a block of City Market, and will feature bands, dance groups, artists, improv troupes and more. It's open from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Other popular activities for families:
The Rad Rad Dance Revolution in Marbles' Venture Hall in the IMAX building is 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. It's a collaboration between Renay Aumiller Dances (RAD) and the video game, Dance Dance Revolution. The game is used to determine where and how the dancers move through space.
The African American Dance Ensemble performance at First Presbyterian Church at 7:30 p.m., 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., is always a family favorite. And Out of this World Creation in the PNC Plaza features colorful and whimsical creations by Raleigh artist Greg Carter.
And, of course, there's the Ferris wheel. It runs from 2 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. and sits on Fayetteville Street at Hargett Street. The gondola-style Ferris wheel stands 90 feet tall. The line can get really long for this one. If you can swing it, it's best to get there when it opens (or earlier to secure your spot in line) if you want to avoid a really long line.
Of course, you're going to need a First Night Pass to do pretty much all of this. You don't need a button to see the acorn drop and fireworks, but you'll need one to get into any of the performance, the Children's Celebration and the Ferris wheel.
Passes are $10 in advance. The price goes up to $14 for adults and $11 for kids ages 6 to 12. Kids 5 and under are admitted free when with a button or wristband-wearing adult.
Volunteers can get a free button if they commit at least 2.5 volunteer hours. Organizers are looking for volunteers who are at least 16 years. This could be a fun volunteer opportunity for families with older kids.