Thousands will celebrate New Year's Eve at midnight in downtown Raleigh during First Night with the traditional acorn drop and fireworks. But the party actually starts long before the calendar has officially turned to 2016.
At 2 p.m., Wednesday, at Market Hall in City Market, Art Putt miniature golf will be open to those with First Night buttons. The game features nine holes created by local artists. You can play your way through salamanders, Krispy Kreme, pirates and more. It also is open from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m., Thursday.
On Thursday, First Night activities begin at the very family-friendly hour of 2 p.m., with a Children's Celebration inside and outside the state museums of natural sciences and history.
On Fayetteville Street, there will be a large Ferris wheel and The Sizzler, an update on the old Scrambler ride, set up. Get there early to avoid long lines. Families can wrap up the evening at 7 p.m. with an early acorn drop (Raleigh is the City of Oaks, thus the acorn) and fireworks before heading home for a good night sleep.
Since 1990, Raleigh has rung in the new year with a First Night celebration. The annual event features two acorn drops and fireworks - at 7 p.m. and midnight. You'll also find dozens of performances, activities and opportunities to take in all that the city has to offer.
You don't need to buy a First Night button to stand on Fayetteville Street and see the fireworks. But you will need a button if you want to ride the Ferris wheel or Sizzler; take part in any of the activities; or see any of the performances. First Night buttons are on sale for $10 through Thursday. Kids 5 and under are free. On Thursday, the price goes up to $14 for adults and $11 for kids ages 6 to 12. (Kids 5 and under are still free).
The First Night website lists the full Children's Celebration schedule, but activities include lots of crafts and games (including Twister using acorns).
You'll also find performances. The Paperhand Puppet Intervention will have stilt walking puppet performers roaming the plaza between the state museums starting at 3:30 p.m. Street piano player Tom Merrigan will be outside performing on that same plaza from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Inside the natural sciences museum, The Happy Accidents, Enloe High School's improv troupe, will perform from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
In the N.C. Museum of History, Raleigh Little Theatre's Storytellers, a group of young performers, will perform "American Fairy Tale" at 3 p.m. Then, the First Night Raleigh Star Search Winners will perform a dress rehearsal at 4 p.m.
At 6 p.m., much of the party at the museums moves down to Fayetteville Street during the People's Procession, a parade that includes anybody who wants to be in it, along with big and amazing puppets from the Paperhand Puppet Intervention.
If 7 p.m. is still too early for bed for your crew, there are plenty of family-friendly performances throughout the evening. Shows to consider include improv from both ComedyWorx and Transactors; a performance from the African American Dance Ensemble; Hobey Ford's Golden Rod Puppets; and The Snyder Family Band.
If you go, some tips from Terri Dollar, First Night's organizer extraordinaire, via First Night Raleigh's Facebook page.
- Park in a lot close to where you want to end up at night. Or, take advantage of the park and ride options or R-Line bus service.
- Pick one performance or activity you really want to do and go there first. The earlier performances are usually easy to get into. The later ones fill up!
Happy New Year!