First Night Raleigh, the big New Year's Eve celebration in downtown Raleigh, is taking on a serious carnival vibe this year.
Not only will the giant Ferris wheel return, but there also will be the Jumbo Drop, where riders can go straight up, 80 feet in the air, and then fall back to street level. It's essentially the same ride Raleigh's acorn takes as it's lowered each year. (Special note for Raleigh newcomers: Raleigh is the City of Oaks, so we drop a giant acorn every year on New Year's Eve).
The event, which is 2 p.m. to midnight, also offers a variety of circus-related shows, including several from acrobatic performers from Cirque de Vol, a new studio in Raleigh that offers classes for kids to adults.
But, as First Night fans know, there is much more.
The early Children's Celebration runs from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. in and around the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences and the N.C. Museum of History. The event includes activities, crafts, performances and much more.
New this year is Tots Under the Big Top on the fourth floor of the natural science museum's Nature Research Center. From 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., find activities designed for kids 6 and under, including crafts, a Jammin' Baby interactive music program, and more.
My absolute favorite part of this event is The People's Procession, which starts around 6 p.m. from the Children's Celebration, and proceeds to Fayetteville Street, where the acorn is dropped. The parade features anybody who wants to be in it, along with giant puppets from the Paperhand Puppet Intervention. The parade ends at the acorn just in time for the early acorn drop at 7 p.m., followed by fireworks. (The acorn drop and fireworks happens again at midnight).
Other highlights for families that caught my eye:
- Screenings of Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted at 4 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 8:15 p.m., at the Nature Research Center, the new wing of the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences.
- Red Grammar, a leading family entertainer, will perform at the N.C. Museum of History at 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
- Tim Gabriel’s Little World, featuring his moving miniature scenes, at the Raleigh City Museum.
- Gracie the Clown from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at Kindred, a boutique.
- A giant Lite Brite will be on the 200 block of Fayetteville Street from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. It's very low-tech, but my kids have enjoyed this every year.
If you just want to watch the People's Procession and acorn drop, you don't have to get admission buttons. But if you want to take part in pretty much any of the activities, you'll need to purchase a button.
An all-day pass is $9 in advance and $12 for adults and $10 for kids on Dec. 31. Kids 5 and under are admitted for free when accompanied by an adult with a First Night Raleigh All-Day Pass admission button or wristband.
Click here for details.