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Ringing in a New Year

A guide to celebrating New Year’s Eve and the start of 2014


With Hanukkah and Christmas over, everyone’s sights turn to New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. How to mark the end of 2013 and ring in 2014? For those who are staying local for the holiday, we’ve put together a list of suggested events that will help ensure a celebratory holiday.

First Night

First Night

It wouldn’t feel like New Year’s Eve in Boston without First Night, the annual daylong (and into the night) festival of the arts, now celebrating its 37th year. The popular citywide event was nearly forced to shut down in June, when the board of directors of the nonprofit announced that there wasn’t enough funding to continue operating another year. But thanks to a $100,000 contribution from the Highland Street Foundation and support from several corporations and the city of Boston, the country’s oldest and largest New Year’s festival is back. Visitors will be treated to two fireworks shows, ice sculptures, live musical performances, a grand procession, and more. Don’t miss the live “Toast of the Nation” broadcast with Berklee alum Donald Harrison and the Donald Harrison Quintet, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Patti Smith, and five-time Grammy Award and Grammy Lifetime Award winner the Blind Boys of Alabama.

The First Night Festival is Tuesday, December 31, from 1 p.m. to midnight at venues in and around Copley Square, 206 Clarendon St., Boston. Find a complete schedule of events and locations here. All First Night outdoor events are free, but admission to indoor events requires the purchase of a First Night button ($10), available online, at ArtsBoston’s BosTix booths in Faneuil Hall Marketplace or Copley Square, at participating Boston-area Bank of America branches, and at participating Boston-area CVS stores. By public transportation, take any MBTA Green Line trolley to Copley.

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Join the Boston Pops Swing Orchestra for a special New Year’s Eve performance at Symphony Hall. Photo courtesy of Stu Rosner


Boston Pops Swing Orchestra New Year’s Eve Concert

There’s no better way to ring in the New Year than by heading over to Symphony Hall for a performance by the Boston Pops Swing Orchestra. Led by Bo Winiker, this special New Year’s Eve Pops performance will feature melodies made famous by Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, ABBA, and Elvis Presley. Symphony Hall will offer café-style seating, and food and drink can be purchased—and of course, there will be a dance floor.

Boston Pops Swing Orchestra’s New Year’s Eve Concert is Tuesday, December 31, at 10 p.m. at Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Ave., Boston. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $50 to $135 and can be purchased online. By public transportation, take an MBTA Green Line E trolley to Symphony.

Boston Baroque’s New Year’s Eve and First Day Concerts

If your musical tastes run more to the classical, check out Boston Baroque’s annual New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day concerts at Harvard University’s Sanders Theater. Now celebrating its 40th anniversary, the Grammy-nominated orchestra performs under the direction of Martin Pearlman, a College of Fine Arts professor. This year’s concerts feature an all-Bach program: Brandenburg Concertos No. 3 and No. 4, and Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht (The Coffee Cantata), BWV 211. To add even more pizzazz to this festive New Year’s tradition, champagne and chocolates will be served at intermission.

The Boston Baroque Gala New Year’s Eve Concert will be performed at Harvard University’s Sanders Theater, 45 Quincy St., Cambridge, at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, December 31, and the First Day Concert at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, January 1. To purchase tickets, call 617-987-8600, ext. 113. Tickets range from $50 to $85. By public transportation, take an MBTA Green Line trolley to Park Street, transfer to a Red Line train towards Alewife, and get off at Harvard Square.

Boston Common Frog Pond ice-skating

Start the New Year with a scenic skate at the Boston Common Frog Pond. Photo courtesy of Smart Destinations

Sports and Outdoor Activities

Boston Bruins vs the New York Islanders

For some, there’s no better way to ring in the New Year than cheering for a home team. New Year’s Eve, the Bruins, who have been leading the National Hockey League’s Eastern Conference, take on the New York Islanders.

The Boston Bruins host the New York Islanders Tuesday, December 31, at 7 p.m. at TD Garden, 100 Legends Way, Boston. To see if tickets are still available and to buy them online, click here. The game will also be televised..

Boston Common Frog Pond

Although First Night Boston’s main attractions are at Copley Square, be sure to stop by the Boston Common Frog Pond on New Year’s Eve to see First Night Boston: Frog Pond Skating Spectacular. You’ll enjoy the Skating Club of Boston’s world-class figure skating show, which includes national and international skating champions, synchronized skating, and theater on ice teams.

Feel like taking to the ice yourself? You can enjoy the scenic beauty of Boston Common and its holiday lights while skating your own “show” daily during the Frog Pond’s public skates.

First Night’s Frog Pond Skating Spectacular, at the Boston Common’ Frog Pond, at the corner of Beacon and Walnut Streets, is Tuesday, December 31, at 6 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. The Frog Pond is open for public skating Mondays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesdays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Public skating ends at 4 p.m. New Year’s Eve. Adult admission is $5; children 13 and under skate for free. Skate and locker rentals are available. Take any MBTA Green Line trolley to Park Street and walk across Boston Common.

L Street Brownies Annual New Year’s Day Swim

It might be January, but that won’t keep some people from taking an ocean plunge. Splash into the New Year with the L Street Brownies annual New Year’s Day Swim. Join hundreds of others brave enough to take a dip in Boston Harbor. It’s all for a good cause. Proceeds help raise funds for local scholarships and other charities. This fun and freezing South Boston tradition has been a New Year’s must for over 100 years.

The L Street Brownies New Year’s Day Swim is at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, January 1, 2014, at 1663 Columbia Rd., South Boston. There is no fee to participate, but swimmers are asked to make a $1 donation. Registration starts at 8 a.m. outside the multipurpose room at K Street. Both members and nonmembers may participate. By public transportation, take a Green Line trolley to Hynes Convention Center, transfer to a #9 bus toward City Point and get off at East Broadway at O Street.

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John Singer Sargent’s masterful watercolors, including Venice Under the Rialto Bridge, are the subject of a blockbuster show at the Museum of Fine Arts. Students with a valid BU ID get in free. Photo courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts

Museums, Theater, and Comedy

John Singer Sargent Watercolors at the Museum of Fine Arts

Time is running out to see this blockbuster show featuring the work of one of America’s preeminent late 19th- and early 20th-century artists. John Singer Sargent was one of the world’s most renowned and accomplished portrait painters until he forsook oil painting to work in watercolors as the new century dawned, painting mostly landscapes. This exhibition’s 92 paintings, culled from the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts and the Brooklyn Museum, attest to Sargent’s dazzling technique and mastery of light and color. Included are striking landscapes of Venice and the Middle East.

The Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave., Boston, is open Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., and Wednesdays to Fridays, 10 a.m. to 9:45 p.m. Note: The MFA will be closed on New Year’s Day. Admission is free for BU students with a valid ID, $25 for adults, $23 for seniors 65 and older and students 18 and older, and free for children 6 and under; youth ages 7 to 17, $7.50 on weekdays before 3 p.m., free on weekdays after 3 p.m., weekends, and public school holidays. Wednesdays after 4 p.m. admission is by voluntary contribution. Take a Green Line E trolley or the 39 bus to the Museum of Fine Arts stop or the Orange Line train or MBTA bus routes 8, 47, or C2 to the Ruggles stop. More information can be found here or by calling 617-267-9300. John Singer Sargent Watercolors runs through January 20, 2014.

The Donkey Show

What New Year’s Eve would be complete without mirrored balls, feathered divas, roller skaters, and hustle queens? The American Repertory Theater reprises its staging of The Donkey Show—a disco version of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream—at its Club Oberon venue. The critically lauded production is sure to have you laughing. And when the show ends, the party begins. Patrons are invited to stay and disco the night away. A special champagne toast at midnight will top off the festivities.

Tickets to the 9 p.m. New Year’s Eve performance of The Donkey Show can be purchased here for $55 (standing room only). Club Oberson is at 2 Arrow St., Harvard Square, Cambridge. Phone: 617-495-2668. By public transportation, take an MBTA Green Line trolley to Park Street, transfer to a Red Line train toward Alewife, and get off at Harvard Square.

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Catch disco fever with the ART’s dazzling production of The Donkey Show, which will have a special New Year’s Eve performance complete with a champagne toast. Photo courtesy of the American Repertory Theater

The Comedy Studio

Laugh your way into the New Year by catching one of the two performances of Comedy Studio’s New Year’s Eve Spectacular, hosted by owner Rick Jenkins. The special holiday show features comedians Dan Boulger, Peter Bowers, R. A. Bartlett, Al Park, and Jim Whitman. If you miss the New Year’s Eve show, stop by on Wednesday, January 1, for the comedy club’s Fresh Faces Showcase, featuring 10 up-and-coming comedians who will help you laugh all your 2013 woes away.

The Comedy Studio is at 1238 Massachusetts Avenue. Phone: 617-661-6507. The New Year’s Eve Spectacular is Tuesday, December 31, from 8 to 10 p.m. Tickets are $12. The Fresh Faces Showcase is Wednesday, January 1, from 8 to 10 p.m. Tickets are $10. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. for both shows. Buy tickets online here. By public transportation, take an MBTA Green Line trolley to Park Street, transfer to a Red Line train toward Alewife, and get off at Harvard Square.

Third Annual One-Minute Play Festival

The third annual One-Minute Play Festival (#1MPF) returns the first weekend of the New Year and again teams with Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, home to BU’s Creative Writing Program graduate playwriting program. Billed as “America’s largest and longest running short-form theater company,” the festival will feature work by more than 50 new and established Boston-area playwrights. #1MPF works with partnering organizations in nearly 20 cities with a goal of giving back to artists in each of those communities.

The third annual Boston One-Minute Play Festival runs Saturday, January 4, through Monday, January 6, at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, 949 Commonwealth Ave., Boston. Performances are at 8 p.m. Tickets, which can be purchased online, are $20 for general admission. A portion of the proceeds benefit BPT’s artist residency program.

Irene Berman-Vaporis can be reached at imbv@bu.edu.

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