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A Guide to New Year’s Eve in Boston

Concerts, fireworks, and other festivities to help you ring in 2016

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Another holiday season is just about over, so we’ve put together a great list of events in and around Boston to help you greet the New Year and kick off the first weekend of 2016 in festive style. There are fireworks displays, concerts, family-friendly museum events, plays and movies, and outdoor ice skating. So enjoy, and have a safe and happy New Year.

New Year’s Eve Celebrations

2016 First Night Boston
Thursday, December 31, and Friday, January 1

There’s no better way to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Boston than by heading over to Copley Square and taking part in First Night Boston, the country’s oldest and largest New Year’s Eve festival. Now celebrating its 40th anniversary, this celebration of the arts is completely free and open to the public and is presented by the Highland Street Foundation and the Mabel Louise Riley Foundation. This year, First Night will be held over two days, instead of just one day as in the past. On Thursday, December 31, events commence at 11:50 a.m. with an opening ceremony, then an afternoon of family fun, with live music, dance, face painting, and puppet shows, followed by a procession to Boston Common at 6 p.m. and a Family Fireworks display. The live performances (along with ice sculptures and light shows) continue in Copley Square until midnight, when the evening ends with two fireworks displays (details below).

First Night Boston festivities begin December 31, 11:50 a.m. to midnight, and continue Friday, January 1, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., at venues in and around Copley Square. Find a complete schedule of events and locations here. All First Night events are free and open to the public. Take any MBTA Green Line trolley to Copley. 

Boston Family Fireworks
Thursday, December 31

If you’re unable to spend the day in Copley Square, catch the First Night Boston Family Fireworks, a dazzling 12-minute pyrotechnics display, at the Boston Common, at a child-friendly 7 p.m. rather than midnight. Boston Family Fireworks celebrates New Year’s Eve at midnight Greenwich Mean Time—also known as Universal Time—when most of the world marks the arrival of the new year. Local philanthropist David Mugar came up with the idea in 2000, and it’s now a staple of Boston’s New Year’s celebrations.

The 16th Annual Boston Family Fireworks show is Thursday, December 31, at 7 p.m. at the Boston Common baseball field at the corner of Boylston and Charles Streets. Take any MBTA Green Line trolley to Arlington or Boylston. 

Midnight Pyrotechnics Show
Thursday, December 31

First Night goes out with a bang at midnight—literally—with an incredible pyrotechnics show in Copley Square. Boston-based neo-soul/funk band Ripe will perform as the clock counts down to midnight.

The Midnight Pyrotechnics Show is at midnight December 31 in Copley Square. Fireworks will be set off from the roof of the Fairmont Copley Hotel at 138 St. James Ave., and is expected to last 15 minutes. Take an MBTA Green Line trolley to Copley Square.

Midnight Fireworks Display over Boston Harbor
Thursday, December 31

The biggest fireworks event of the evening, First Night Boston’s Midnight Fireworks Display at Boston Harbor, draws thousands of tourists and locals. The 15-minute display, sponsored by the City of Boston Credit Union, illuminates the city’s skyline with dazzling explosions of color.

The Midnight Fireworks Display begins at midnight over Boston Harbor and runs about 15 minutes. Take an MBTA Green Line trolley to Park Street and walk. 

The Houston Bernard Band will be playing at Loretta's Last Call's New Year's Eve party. Photo courtesy of the Houston Bernard Band

The Houston Bernard Band will be playing at Loretta’s Last Call’s New Year’s Eve party. Photo courtesy of the Houston Bernard Band

Loretta’s Last Call Presents: the 2nd Annual New Year’s Eve Hootenanny
Thursday, December 31

If you’re looking to ring in 2016 with some country flare, head over to Loretta’s Last Call in the Fenway for the country bar’s second annual New Year’s Eve Hootenanny, which will include live music from the Houston Bernard Band, a buffet, and a midnight toast. Tickets must be purchased in advance, and remember to wear your cowboy boots.

Loretta’s Last Call is at One Lansdowne St., Boston. The 2nd Annual New Year’s Eve Hootenanny (21+) kicks off at 9 p.m. Tickets are $40 and must be purchased here. You must give your name and the name of anyone you are purchasing a ticket for; there will be no entry for anyone whose name is not on the list. Take an MBTA Green Line trolley to Kenmore Square.

Concerts

Boston Pops Swing Orchestra New Year’s Eve Concert
Thursday, December 31

If you’d like to dance away the final moments of 2015, catch the Boston Pops Swing Orchestra’s annual New Year’s Eve concert at Symphony Hall, led by “legendary bandleader extraordinaire” Bo Winiker. There will be a cash bar and several dining options. Doors open at 8 p.m., and the music and dancing begin at 10.

The Boston Pops Swing Orchestra’s New Year’s Eve Concert is Thursday, December 31 at 10 p.m. at Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Ave., Boston. Tickets range from $51 to $140 and can be purchased online. Take an MBTA Green Line E trolley to Symphony. This event typically sells out, so be sure to buy tickets in advance.

Boston Baroque’s New Year’s Eve and First Day Concerts
Thursday, December 31, and Friday, January 1

The Boston Baroque Orchestra, recently nominated for two Grammy Awards, will present two performances of Antonio Vivaldi’s most popular work, The Four Seasons, at Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre, on New Year’s Eve and again on New Year’s Day. Musical director Martin Pearlman is a College of Fine Arts professor of music and historical performance. Also on the program are Vivaldi’s Concerto for Sopranino Recorder and Corelli’s Concerto Grosso in F. Each performance will include a champagne and chocolate toast at intermission.

The Boston Baroque Gala New Year’s Eve Concert is Thursday, December 31, at 8 p.m., and the First Day Concert is at 3 p.m. Friday, January 1, both at Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre, 45 Quincy St., Cambridge. Purchase tickets, $60 to $90 for the general public, online or call 617-987-8600. The following discounts are available 90 minutes before each performance: student rush ($10, ID required), senior rush ($20, age 65+), and $30 under 30 (tickets for patrons age 30 and below, ID required). Take an MBTA Red Line trolley to Harvard Square.

Boston Baroque’s Third Annual Free Community Concert
Sunday, January 3

Boston Baroque repeats the performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons Sunday at its Third Annual Free Community Concert, at Dorchester’s Strand Theatre. The immediate positive and transformative impact in the community of the orchestra’s first free concert, in 2013, prompted Boston’s Mayor’s Office to invite Boston Baroque to make this an annual event.

The Boston Baroque’s Third Annual Free Community Concert is Sunday, January 3, at 2 p.m., at the Strand Theatre, 543 Columbia Rd., Dorchester. Reserve tickets online, call 617-987-8600, ext. 413, or pick up tickets in advance at the Boston Public Library’s Upham’s Corner branch front desk, 500 Columbia Rd., Dorchester.

Theater and Comedy Shows

Improv Asylum Main Stage Presents: The Holiday Show
Thursday, December 31

Looking to laugh your way into 2016? Head to the North End to catch Improv Asylum’s Main Stage Holiday Show. The 90-minute holiday-themed revue combines audience-participation improv segments and written sketches. The company’s website promises that the sketches “will have you laughing so hard that your belly will shake like a bowl full of jelly.”

The New Year’s Eve Improv Asylum Holiday Show is Thursday, December 31, at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Improv Asylum is at 216 Hanover St., Boston. Tickets range from $28 to $33 and can be purchased here. Take an MBTA Green Line trolley to Haymarket Station and walk to the North End.

The Donkey Show
Thursday, December 31

For an unforgettable New Year’s Eve experience, don’t miss the American Repertory Theater’s special late-night production of its long-running production The Donkey Show—a disco adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The party that begins as the performance unfolds around you—with mirrored balls, feathered divas, and disco hits of the 70s—continues well after the midnight champagne toast.

The New Year’s Eve performance of The Donkey Show is at Oberon, the American Repertory Theater’s second stage, 2 Arrow St., Harvard Square, Cambridge. Purchase tickets, $55 for dance floor and $95 for VIP table seats, here. Doors open at 9 p.m., performance begins at 10 p.m., and the postshow party goes until 2 a.m. Take an MBTA Red Line train Harvard Square. 

Shear Madness

Shear Madness, the nation’s longest running theatrical production, is at the Charles Playhouse. Image courtesy of Shear Madness

Shear Madness
Thursday, December 31 through January 2

Opened in Boston in 1980, Shear Madness, the whodunit comedy caper that relies on audience participation to help solve a murder committed on stage, is the longest running theatrical production in the United States. Audience members help solve the murder mystery by pointing out clues, questioning the characters, and uncovering the killer. The improvisational production includes up-to-the-minute topical humor. Find out why more than 11 million people around the globe have enjoyed this theatrical event.

Shear Madness has performances on Thursday, December 31, at 8 p.m.; Friday, January 1, at 5 p.m.; and Saturday, January 2, at 6 p.m. at the Charles Playhouse Stage II, 74 Warrenton St., Boston. Tickets are $50 (plus a $6 service charge if bought online); avoid the service charge by purchasing tickets at the box office, Monday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 7 p.m.

ImprovBoston: 100 First Jokes
Friday, January 1

Feeling a little blue now that New Year’s Eve is over? Some of the best of Greater Boston’s stand up community will take the stage for two minutes or less to tell their brand-new jokes—the first of 2016. ImprovBoston has assembled 100 comics, and 50 will perform at each of two shows—the first at 7:30, the second at 9:30. Note: Because of the content, the show may not be appropriate for all audiences and is not recommended for children.

Improv Boston: 100 First Jokes is Friday, January 1, at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. at ImprovBoston, 40 Prospect St., Cambridge. Take an MBTA Red Line train to Central Square. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased online here.

Buyer & Cellar at Lyric Stage
Saturday, January 2, and Sunday, January 3

Buyer & Cellar is a hilarious comedy about out-of-work LA actor Alex More who suddenly finds employment in Barbra Streisand’s private basement shopping mall, referred to in the play as the Great Mall of Malibu. The one-man show stars Lyric Stage veteran Phil Tayler, who plays More, Oprah Winfrey, Streisand’s husband, James Brolin, Golden Girls actress Bea Arthur, and the Streisand herself. The play was inspired by Streisand’s 2010 coffee table book, My Passion for Design 

The Lyric Stage Company production of Buyer & Cellar is Saturday, January 2, at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday, January 3, at 3 p.m., at the Lyric Stage Company, 140 Clarendon St., Boston; phone 617-585-5678. The running time is 100 minutes (there is no intermission). Purchase tickets, $25 to $65, online here. Take an MBTA Green Line trolley to Copley.

5th Annual Boston One-Minute Play Festival
Saturday, January 2, through Tuesday, January 5

Boston Playwrights’ Theatre and Boston Public Works team up to present the Fifth Annual Boston One-Minute Play Festival. This “part community-convening, part social action, and part play festival” features new one-minute plays by the 50 Boston and New England playwrights invited to this year’s festival. Presented in two parts, Series A, titled: Where Have We Been? A Body of Plays Examining Our Distant and Recent History, is Saturday, January 3, and Sunday, January 4, at 8 p.m. Series B, titled Where Are We Going? A Body of Plays Imagining What Our Future Might Look Like, is Monday, January 4, and Tuesday, January 5, at 8 p.m. Part of the proceeds benefit new play programming and artist funding at Boston Public Works Theater Company and Boston Playwrights’ Theatre.

The 5th Annual Boston One-Minute Play Festival runs Saturday, January 2, through Tuesday, January 5, at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, 949 Commonwealth Ave., Boston. Performances are at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online or by calling 866-811-4111.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

No film of the holiday season has been more eagerly anticipated than Star Wars: The Force Awakens, now showing at the AMC Loews Boston Common 19 and at Regal Cinemas Fenway. The PG-13 film is the latest (and seventh) installment in the franchise first introduced by George Lucas in 1977 and stars Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Lupita Nyong’o, and Oscar Isaac, along with Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and Harrison Ford reprising their original roles as Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, and Han Solo. Directed by JJ Abrams, the film begins 30 years after Han Solo defeated the Galactic Empire. Han and his allies face a new threat from the evil Kylo Ren (Driver) and his army of storm troopers. The film opened nationwide December 18 and is on track to become one of the year’s top moneymakers.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is playing at the AMC Loews Boston Common 19, 175 Tremont St., Boston. Find a list of showtimes  here. Take any MBTA Green Line trolley to Boylston or an MBTA Orange Line train to Chinatown. Find Regal Cinemas Fenway, 201 Brookline Ave., Boston, showtimes here. Take an MBTA Green Line D trolley to Fenway.

Ice Skating

If you’re in an ice-skating mood this holiday, head to one of these Boston-area rinks for a festive outdoor activity. It’s a great way to get some fresh air and burn off some of the calories consumed over the past week or so.

Boston Common Frog Pond and First Night Skating Spectacular

Arguably the best spot in the city for outdoor skating, the Boston Common Frog Pond skating rink offers great views of the Boston Common holiday lights. Admission is $6 for people 58 inches and taller, free for those shorter than 58 inches. You can bring your own skates or rent them ($12 for adults, $6 for kids). You can also rent a locker for $3, get your skates sharpened for $10, and rent a Bobby the Skating Seal aid for $10 an hour. After spinning around the rink, enjoy a cup of hot cocoa or a hot dog, hamburger, or chicken tenders at the Frog Pond Café.

Boston Harbor Hotel Ice Skating

The Boston Harbor Hotel’s Winter on the Wharf offers outdoor ice skating. Image courtesy of the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism

The Frog Pond is once again hosting a free special event, First Night Skating Spectacular, on Thursday, December 31. Produced by the Skating Club of Boston, it will feature international and national competitive figure skaters

The free First Night Skating Spectacular starts at 6 p.m. on Thursday, December 31, at the Boston Common Frog Pond, opposite the corner of Beacon and Walnut Streets. The rink is open for public skating Monday, 10 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Take any MBTA Green Line trolley to Park Street.

Winter on the Wharf at Boston Harbor Hotel

The ice skating options continue at the Boston Harbor Hotel’s rotunda ice rink. The 2,500-square-foot rink offers picturesque views of the city skyline and the waterfront and can accommodate up to 75 skaters.

The Boston Harbor Hotel, 70 Rowes Wharf, Boston, ice rink admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children. Skate rentals are $10 for adults and $8 for children. Extended holiday hours through January 3 are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Otherwise, the rink is open Monday through Friday, 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Take an MBTA Green Line trolley to Park Street. 

Community Ice Skating @ Kendall Square

If you’re looking for a place in Cambridge to ice skate, look no further than Kendall Square’s outdoor ice skating rink. It offers skate rentals, lessons, skate sharpening, and a café with drinks and snacks. Find a full list of prices and services here.

Community Ice Skating @ Kendall Square is at 300 Athenaeum St., Cambridge. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for students with ID and seniors, and $1 for children age 13 and under. Take an MBTA Red Line train to the Kendall/MIT station.

Museums

December Vacation Week at the Museum of Fine Arts
Saturday, December 26, through Sunday, January 3

The MFA will once again offer hands-on art programs for people of all ages during its annual December Vacation Week, from December 26 through January 3. Visitors can create their own stained-glass windows, construct puppets, design festive party hats, and make a shining 3-D sculpture. Find a full schedule of events here. These activities are free with general admission.

The vacation week activities are offered between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. (10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, December 30). The Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave., Boston, is open Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., and Wednesday through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 9:45 p.m. Note: the museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. on Thursday, December 31, and will be closed Friday, January 1. 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. Admission for youth ages 7 to 17 is $10 on weekdays before 3 p.m., free on weekdays after 3 p.m., weekends, and during public school holidays. Find directions here.

Kids of all ages can marvel at Josiah McElheny’s sculptures before creating their own shining 3-D masterpieces during the Museum of Fine Art’s December Vacation Week. Image courtesy of the MFA

Kids of all ages can marvel at Josiah McElheny’s sculptures before creating their own shining 3-D masterpieces during the Museum of Fine Arts December Vacation Week. Image courtesy of the MFA

Class Distinctions: Dutch Painting in the Age of Rembrandt and Vermeer at the Museum of Fine Arts

This groundbreaking show offers a whole new approach to 17th-century Dutch painting. Featuring 75 paintings—including masterpieces never before available for public viewing in the United States—the exhibition illustrates the ways paintings from the period represent the various socioeconomic groups of the new Dutch Republic. In the show are portraits, seascapes, landscapes, and genre scenes. Among the artists are Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Pieter de Hooch. The work is arranged according to 17th-century ideas about class distinctions.

Class Distinctions: Dutch Painting in the Age of Rembrandt and Vermeer is on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave., Boston, through January 18. See info about hours and directions above.

Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College, 19331957 at the Institute of Contemporary Art

This fascinating show pays tribute to the legacy of Black Mountain College, a small experimental college that opened in 1933 in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. In its short history, the school exerted an enormous influence on postwar cultural life in America. The exhibition traces the role of faculty artists such as John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Robert Motherwell, Elaine de Kooning, Willem de Kooning, and Robert Rauschenberg. Black Mountain, which closed in 1957, is among the first institutions to emphasize the relationship among art, democracy, and globalism. On view are individual works by more than 90 artists affiliated with Black Mountain College as faculty and students.

Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College, 1933–1957 is on view at the ICA, 100 Northern Ave., Boston, through January 24. The museum is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. It is closed most Mondays and on Friday, January 1. Admission is $15 for adults, $13 for seniors, $10 for students, and free for children 17 and under and museum members, and is free on Thursdays from 5 p.m. (4 p.m. during Leap Before You Look) to 9 p.m. Find directions here.

Campus Sports

Dorms and classrooms may be empty, but the BU women’s basketball team has two home games this week and welcomes fans to cheer them on: Wednesday, December 30: BU hosts the College of the Holy Cross at 2 p.m. in Case Gym; Saturday, January 2: BU hosts Lehigh University at 2 p.m. in Case Gym.

Tickets to events at Case Gym can be purchased at the Case Center ticket office, 285 Babcock St., one hour before games. Tickets are $7 for the general public, $5 for BU students, faculty, and staff, and free for students with a BU sports pass.

Jennifer Bates can be reached at jennb7@bu.edu.

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