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A Guide to Celebrating New Year’s Eve and Day, Boston-Style

Ring in 2019 with music, dancing, comedy, and more


Come Monday night, we will be ringing in the New Year in typical Boston fashion—which means plenty of live music, ice skating, fireworks, and dazzling light shows. We’ve put together a list of events and activities that are happening throughout the long weekend, including theater, comedy shows, museum exhibitions, and more.

We wish everyone a happy and healthy 2019.

New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day Festivities

2019 First Night Celebration
Monday, December 31

Since 1975, Boston’s First Night First Day celebration has been the most popular way to end the current year and start the next in Boston. This year’s event, which offers free family-friendly entertainment, is expected to draw more than 200,000 people. Most of the action takes place in and around Copley Square. The live musical performances, on the main stage in Copley Square, begin at 12:30 pm on Monday with a performance from Hyde Park–based vocal troupe Sweet Harmony. Other groups performing include the Handel and Haydn Society and the Boston Sax Quartet. You can also catch a skating show sponsored by the Skating Club of Boston on the Frog Pond in Boston Common. And the Boston Public Library’s central branch in Copley Square will host free family activities and comedy acts throughout the day. As an added bonus, event sponsor AT&T will have a free hot chocolate bar.

The annual procession from Copley Square to the Boston Common starts at 6 pm and will feature giant puppets, a Chinese dragon, and antique cars. Be sure to stick around the Common after the procession for a fireworks display at 7 pm.

As midnight approaches, Copley Square will come alive during its annual Copley Countdown, with live music by Boston-based hip-hop duo STL GLD, American Idol contestant Sonika Vaid, and this year’s headliner, Chadwick Stokes and the Pintos, who take to the stage at 11:20 pm and play through midnight. The countdown includes a midnight pyrotechnics and light show. There will also be fireworks over Boston Harbor. The best viewing sites are at Christopher Columbus Park, Fan Pier, and Piers Park.

Boston First Night First Day is free to the public. Find a full schedule here.


Boston Pops New Year’s Concert
Monday, December 31

This year’s annual Boston Pops New Year’s Eve concert will feature special guest Seth McFarlane, creator of Family Guy (and a New England native). Doors open at 8:30 pm, and the music and dancing begin at 10 pm. There will be many dining options available and a cash bar. The show starts at 10 pm.

Tickets, ranging from $55 to $180, can be purchased online

the Boston Pops New Year’s Concert

Ring in the new year in style at the Boston Pops New Year’s Concert. Photo courtesy of the Boston Pops

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

Head to Harvard University’s Sanders Theater on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day to hear the Grammy-nominated Boston Baroque tackle Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 and Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto, featuring Boston Baroque concertmaster Christina Day Martinson. Music director Martin Pearlman, a College of Fine Arts professor of music and historical performance, will conduct the orchestra. Listeners can enjoy champagne and chocolates, too.

Boston Baroque will also perform a free community concert at Dorchester’s Strand Theatre in Upham’s Corner on Sunday, December 30, at 2 pm. The event is presented in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Arts & Culture.

Tickets for Boston Baroque’s New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day concerts are $45 to $105 and can be purchased here. 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).

Reserve tickets for the free community concert online, or pick up tickets in advance at the Boston Public Library Upham’s Corner branch front desk, 500 Columbia Rd., Dorchester. Find directions here. Or alternatively, call the box office at 617-987-8600.

Theater and Comedy Shows

Barber Shop Chronicles at American Repertory Theatre (A.R.T.)
Monday, December 31

Following its critically acclaimed run in London, Barber Shop Chronicles has arrived at the Loeb Drama Center in Cambridge as part of its US premiere tour and has been receiving rave reviews. The play, written by Inua Ellams, eavesdrops on groups of African men gathered in barbershops in Johannesburg, Harare, Kampala, Lagos, Accra, and London, where they gather to discuss a wide-ranging list of topics, including masculinity, and the relationships between fathers and sons. This play includes music and dance, which serves to celebrate African culture.

Barber Shop Chronicles is at the Loeb Drama Center, 64 Brattle St., Cambridge, through January 5. There will be no performance on New Year’s Day, but two performances on New Year’s Eve, at 2 and 7:30 pm. Tickets start at $25 and can be purchased online.

The Donkey Show
Monday, December 31

The American Repertory Theater’s The Donkey Show is a disco adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which unfolds around you with mirror balls, feathered divas, roller skaters, hustle queens, and a catchy soundtrack of disco hits from the 1970s.

The New Year’s Eve performance of The Donkey Show is at the OBERON, 2 Arrow St., Harvard Square, Cambridge. Purchase tickets, $45-$55 for dance floor and $95 for VIP table seats, here. Doors open at 9 pm and the performance begins at 10 pm. And the postshow party goes until 2 am. You must be 18+ to enter and 21+ to purchase alcohol. A valid ID is required.

People dance in a room with a disco ball and paper butterflies

The American Repertory Theater’s The Donkey Show, a disco-themed take on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, will offer a special New Year’s Eve performance that includes a postshow party, at A.R.T.’s second stage, Oberon. Photo courtesy of A.R.T.

Improv Asylum’s Holiday Show
Monday, December 31

Improv Asylum is one of Boston’s most innovative comedy troupes. Their two final holiday shows of the season will be performed on New Year’s Eve, featuring a blend of the group’s signature improv and sketch comedy, with themes centered around the holidays and the new year.

Improv Asylum is at 216 Hanover St. The two performances are at 7:30 and 10 pm, respectively. Tickets are $35 and can be purchased here. To purchase more than 10 tickets, please call the box office at (617) 263-6887.

Pete Davidson & Friends at the Wilbur
Monday, December 31

On Sunday, comedian Pete Davidson of Saturday Night Live fame will perform a stand-up comedy routine along with some special guests at the Wilbur in Downtown Boston. Davidson has also appeared in the Comedy Central Roast of Justin Bieber and the Netflix film Set It Up.

Pete Davidson & Friends takes place at The Wilbur, 246 Tremont St., Boston, at 9:45 pm. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased here

Shear Madness
Monday, December 31

The longest-running theatrical production in the country, Shear Madness is a whodunit comedy that relies on the audience to help solve the murder that takes place on stage. The production promises new clues and twists every night, making each show different from the last.

Shear Madness has performances on Monday, December 31, at 5 and 8 pm at the Charles Playhouse Stage II, 74 Warrenton St. Tickets are $58 (plus a $7 service charge if bought online); avoid the service charge by purchasing tickets at the box office on Monday, 10 am to 4 pm, Tuesday through Friday, 10 am to 8 pm, Saturday 10 am to 9 pm, or Sunday, noon to 7 pm.


Ansel Adams in Our Time at the Museum of Fine Arts
Monday, December 31

The Museum of Fine Arts’ newest special exhibition showcases the work of legendary American photographer Ansel Adams. The exhibition looks back at Adams’ central themes of desert and open space that “popularized the notion that the American West was a pristine, and largely uninhabited, wilderness.” It also looks forward to place Adams’ work alongside some 20 contemporary artists, including Mark Klett and Abelardo Morell, whose work is focused on the environment and natural resources.

Ansel Adams in Our Time is at the Museum of Fine Arts, 265 Huntington Ave., through February 24. The museum is open on New Year’s Eve but not New Year’s Day. Find directions here. Admission is free for BU students, staff, and faculty with a valid ID. General admission is $25 for adults, $23 for students. Tickets to the show can be purchased online

 a black and white photograph of a mountain and river

Ansel Adams in Our Time, the blockbuster show at the Museum of Fine Arts, juxtaposes the famed photographer’s work with that of contemporary artists. Ansel Adams, The Tetons and Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, 1942. Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts

December Vacation Week at the Museum of Fine Arts
Wednesday, December 26, through Monday, December 31

The museum invites people of all ages to take part in a series of hands-on activities based on festive celebrations around the world. This year, visitors will have a chance to explore unusual musical instruments such as the Turkish crescent and the Highland bagpipes, make their own South American quipu, and view a German ceramic sculpture, the Dogs Wedding.

December vacation week activities are offered daily between 10 am and 4 pm, from December 26 to December 31. The activities are free with museum admission. Hours and admission prices are here (free to BU students and faculty/staff with ID).

The Polar Express 4-D Experience at the Museum of Science
Monday, December 31, and Tuesday, January 1

Every year, the Museum of Science brings the holiday classic The Polar Express to life in digital 3-D screenings accompanied by 4-D multisensory effects. Based on the Caldecott Medal–winning children’s book, the film tells the story of a young boy who embarks on a magical adventure to the North Pole on Christmas Eve. An exhibit hall admission ticket and a timed ticket are required, so check the website for available times.

General admission is $28 for adults, $24 for children 3 to 11, and $23 for seniors. Admission is free for members. 4-D theater tickets are an additional $6 for nonmembers, $5 for members. Show times vary per day: view the daily schedule and purchase tickets here

Ice Skating

Boston Common Frog Pond

Surrounded by trees illuminated with holiday lights, Boston Common Frog Pond offers storage lockers, lessons, skate sharpening, and rentals (visitors can also bring their own). The Frog Pond was voted outdoor skating rink of the year by USA Today in 2018. Be sure to check out the café for some hot chocolate and other tasty treats.

The annual First Night Skating Spectacular, sponsored by the Skating Club of Boston, returns with a free show starting at 6 pm featuring national and international competitive figure skaters, soloists, groups, wee skaters, and the Skating Club of Boston’s Team Excel Synchronized Skating and Theatre On Ice of Boston team.

The rink is open for public skating from 10 am to 9 pm (10 pm on Friday and Saturday) throughout the festive period, but closed on Christmas Day. (The rink will close to the public at 4 pm on December 31 for the Frog Pond Skating Spectacular and will remain closed after the show.) Those under 58 inches are admitted for free, those taller pay $6. Skate rentals are $12 for adults, $6 for kids. Lockers are $4 and skate sharpening is $10 a pair. Ticket sales end 30 minutes before closing. You can find more information here.

People skate on the Boston Common Frog Pond

The Boston Common Frog Pond was ranked outdoor skating rink of the year by USA Today. You can rent skates or bring your own. Photo courtesy of Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism/Flickr

Kendall Square

The Community Ice Skating @ Kendall Square outdoor rink offers a great experience for skaters of all ages and skill levels. The rink is open from mid-December to mid-March, weather permitting, so check their Facebook page for updates. The rink provides skating lessons for novices, skate rentals, skate sharpening, and a café. Find a full list of prices and services here.

Kendall Square Ice Skating is at 300 Athenaeum St, Cambridge. Hours for Community Ice Skating @ Kendall Square are here. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for students with ID and seniors, and $1 for children age 13 and under; skate rentals are $8 for everyone except children 13 and under ($5).

Harry Jones can be reached at joneshj@bu.edu.

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