Holiday Lights & Non-Xmas Activities, & the largest list of New Years “First Night” Celebrations in New England

For years I’ve been hunting down creative alternatives to Xmas. There are not many. You can see a movie, visit a Chinese restaurant, do folk dancing, or go skiing. But don’t forget that the post just before this one lists holiday lights! I track 21 different holiday light attractions in New England, the biggest list ever.

And because New Year’s is coming up, here are some off-beat ideas, including the largest list of City “First Night” celebrations, plus a bunch of other ideas. Don’t make me sad and just hang out in a bar or restaurant for New Years. You can do so much better than to basically have the same damn getting drunk experience these bars offer every night of the year.

Love this blog? Subscribe to email, Facebook, or Twitter. And do me a favor and tell some friends.


Ho Ho Holidays
Holiday caroling – High Street Hill 12/24 Boston Metro
It’s not too late for Xmas caroling! This one is always Christmas Eve at 5:45pm on the Upland Road Green. It’s been happening for 30 years, no need to call to confirm that yes, it’s really happening again this year. But I did anyway.
Upland Road Green, Brookline, MA. more
Christmas Eve Caroling – Louisburg Square on Beacon Hill 12/24 Boston Metro
But I might suggest going to Louisburg Square instead, where the American tradition of caroling was started. I went last year and it was fun. They had bellringers and the crowd made no attempt to stay on tempo or in tune. 7:30pm.
20 Louisburg Square, Boston, MA.Beth Ketterson, 617-854-9019, or Mary Jane Sawyer, 781-444-5119.

The Week in Weird
All-Night Israeli Dance Marathon 12/24 Boston Metro
Want to avoid Xmas? It’s hard! I have searched for years trying to find alternative Xmas Day events and came up with not much. I’m guessing this event is a lot of fun and they’re inclusive of anyone interested in Israeli dance. 6pm-4am.
MIT, Walker Gym, 142 Memorial Drive, Cambridge, MA. more
Explore Jewish Boston by Foot on Christmas Day 12/25 Boston Metro
This event actually wasn’t going to repeat, but I called the guy and asked them to do it again. So viola, on Christmas Day, see a walking tour of Beacon Hill, focusing on Jewish history. It’s not on their calendar, but it wasn’t on the calendar when I called in. Hmm. Well, call to reserve in advance and see if it’s happening.
Meet at Milk St near Devonshire St, Boston, MA.866-939-2557. more
Xmas Day: Movies, Chinese Restaurants, and a few Bars 12/25 Boston Metro
On Christmas Day itself, movie theatres and video rental shops may be open. Restaurants are closed by law but a few bars will be open. Here’s one, for example, The Fireplace in Brookline. Or try your local Chinese restaurant. And see IMDB for a list of movie theatres.
Various Locations, Boston, MA. more
Living in the Dark @ Gore Place 12/30 Metro West
Also this week, learn how people lived before electric lighting at this historic home.
52 Gore Street, Waltham, MA.781-894-2798. more
Paperfest & World of Paper Crafts at Children’s Museum 12/23 – 1/3 Boston Metro
Learn origami, and help break the world’s record for longest paper chain. They’ll bring in professionals all week to talk about paper crafts from around the world. I called in, and the PR rep *swears* it will not be boring for adults! We’ll see! 11am-4pm.
Boston Childrens Museum, Boston, MA. more
Holiday Hijinks Scavenger Hunt 11/28 – 1/1 Boston Metro
This “scavenger hunt” combines several games and seems like a lot of fun. I spoke with the guy for a few minutes on your behalf and this sounds genuinely different: a true game, not just a walking tour for out-of-townies wanting the Boston basics. The only trick is, you need 8 people minimum and it’s $25 per person. It takes 2.5 hours.
Faneuil Hall, Boston, MA. more
MFA Community Day (December) 12/31 Boston Metro
The MFA is free again. (Thanks!). Okay, that’s basically it this week!
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA. more
Ski Resorts open for Xmas Day 12/25 New Hampshire
There are most likely many ski resorts open Xmas Day. Here’s one. Call your favorite ski resort if you have one.
Various Locations, Various. more

New Years Eve
New Year’s Eve Labyrinth Walk 12/31 Metro West
Now on to New Year’s Eve! This is the most creative thing I’ve seen. This church has both indoor and outdoor labyrinth and you can come do a 30-minute walk and reflect on life. I called and they swear it is not heavy-handed with religion. You can just show up and do it for fun. 5-7pm, but you can do their outdoor labyrinth anytime.
262 Chestnut Street, Franklin, MA. more
New Year’s Murder Mystery @ Beechwood Mansion 12/31 Rhode Island
Being involved in this interactive murdery mystery performance in an old Newport mansion sounds like so much fun!! Call immediately; they may already be sold out.
Astors’ Beechwood Mansion, 580 Bellevue Avenue, Newport, RI. more
New Years’ Eve Contra Dances 12/31 Metro West
OK, let’s say you’re afraid of walking in the cold and just want to stay in a single place for New Years. Pick up any paper and you’ll see that restaurants and bars are having their usual non-special special celebrations. Here are some parties that are out of the ordinary. The first one is a fantastic folk dance.
Scout House, 74 Walden St., Concord, MA. more
New Year’s Eve Dance Party at Folk Arts Center of New England 12/31 Boston Metro
Or, try this folk dance, which is more easily subway accessible.
Church, 11 Homer Street, Newton, MA. more
New Year’s Dancin’ Eve 12/31 – 1/3 Metro West
This one’s not just a party, it’s an entire weekend for dance lovers! So I decided to include it.
Marriott Hotel, Burlington, MA. more
Nudist resort New Years’ 12/31 Connecticut
Or, perhaps you’d like to try a party at a nudist resort.
Woodstock, CT. more
Nashoba Ski Area New Year’s Eve Celebration 12/31 Northern Mass
This is my top pick though. Skiing, riding, tubing until 11:30pm and then a parade and fireworks! Let’s hope the fireworks don’t start an avalanche.
Westford, MA.978-692-5700. more
New Year’s Eve @ Wachusett Mountain 12/31 Worcester
Most ski resorts are having a New Years celebration. The best ones like Wachusett Mountain have firworks and let you ski at night until midnight! And they have snow tubing, too. There’s a shuttle from the Commuter Rail you can take. See their website.
Princeton, MA. more
New Years’s Jam @ Earthdance 12/29 – 1/3 Western Mass
They claim this all-weekend dance festival is sold out every year. Who knows? It’s an off-beat way to spend New Years.
Plainfield, MA.413-634-5678. more
First Night Boston 12/31 Boston Metro
Okay, I can’t put it off any longer. The big event of the week is New Years Eve and I’ll be so disappointed if you go to a bar where the “New Years Celebration” is just like everyday business and your idea of a creative celebration of life is getting drunk and forgetting what happened. You can do better! I now present the biggest list of arty New Years Eve events in New England. I know it’s the biggest because I Googled every single town in the state, so much that Google briefly shut me out for too much searching. So here are some great ideas. Let’s start with the big one in Boston, First Night. You buy one ticket and get admission to dozens of dance, music, & participatory events, all within walking distance of each other downtown. It’s really fantastic and you must give it a shot. It’s the largest New Years celebration in the country. The trick is to stand in the back and don’t be afraid to leave & go next door midway through a performance. Starts in the early afternoon and goes through midnight.
Various Locations, Boston, MA. more
First Night Grand Procession & Fireworks 12/31 Boston Metro
Don’t want to pay for a ticket? The parade is free and ends with a big bang in Boston Common, where there are usually ice sculptures. (Except last year it wasn’t cold enough and they had some kind of snow-plastic instead.) Starts at 5:30pm and ends with fireworks at Boston Common at 7pm, and then over Boston Harbor at midnight.
From Hynes Convention Center to Boston Common, Boston, MA. more
First Night Tours @ Otis House 12/31 Boston Metro
While you’re at First Night, make sure to visit this historic 1796 mansion right in downtown Boston.
141 Cambridge Street, Boston, MA.617-227-3956. more
Bright Night Providence 12/31 Rhode Island
Tired of First Night Boston? Why not get a hotel room and visit another city? Everyone wants a stake in this game. Providence has a First Night experience, too, with two sets of fireworks, and world-famous acrobats as the headliners!
Providence, RI. more
First Night Worcester, MA 12/31 Worcester
But wait! Worcester is getting in on the act, too! And they’ll have shuttles so you don’t have to drive.
Worcester, MA. more
First Night Northampton, MA 12/31 Western Mass
Further away but trying harder than Worcester is First Night Northampton.
Northampton, MA. more
First Night, Jr. @ Holyoke 12/31 Western Mass
Website is down but I called and it’s definitely happening. There’s a carousel and a lot of kids stuff going on like facepainting, unspecified “crafts”, and balloon animals. 2009: 10am-3pm.
Holyoke Heritage State Park, 221 Appleton Street, Holyoke, MA.413-534-1723 or 413-530-0893. more
New Year’s Needham, MA 12/31 Metro West
This one’s much smaller, but close to Boston.
Needham, MA. more
City Celebrates! New Year’s Eve, New Bedford, MA 12/31 Southern Mass
A national park in New Bedford will have arts, a parade, and fireworks, from 4-9pm. Although it says 2009, I called and yes, this really is their “New Years 2010” celebration.
New Bedford, MA.508-996-8253. more
New Years Rockport Eve 12/31 South Shore
There will also be short 45-minute performances at 15 venues in the downtown area of Rockport. 6pm-midnight.
Rockport Downtown area, Rockport, MA. more
Beverly’s New Year 12/31 North Shore
This one ends early, it runs 3-7:30pm. There’s a parade but there don’t seem to be fireworks.
Cabot Street, Beverly, MA.978-922-8558. more
First Night Chatham, MA 12/31 Cape Cod
This is the only one on Cape Cod. They have an impressive list of 20 venues and an afternoon schedule, an evening schedule, and fireworks.
Chatham, MA. more
Billerica Family First Night 12/31 Northern Mass
In Billerica they’ll have ice sculptures and a parade in front of city hall, but no town-wide performances. 4-8pm. To see it, click “Departments” -> “Recreation” -> and Winter Brochure.
Billerica, MA. more
First Night Portsmouth, NH 12/31 New Hampshire
I couldn’t find anything in Concord, the capitol of New Hampshire, but they’re having a First Night celebration in Portsmouth.
Portsmouth, NH. more
First Night Wolfeboro, NH 12/31 New Hampshire
This is the only other one in NH that I found.
Wolfeboro, NH. more
First Night Hartford, CT 12/31 Connecticut
Fireworks at 6pm and midnight.
Bushnell Park, Hartford, CT. more
First Night Danbury, CT 12/31 Connecticut
And in Danbury.
Danbury, CT. more
First Night Wesport, CT 12/31 Connecticut
And more, in Westport CT and Weston, CT.
Westport, CT. more
First Night Burlington, VT 12/31 Vermont
Vermont is getting in on the game as well. Theirs looks especially well organized, with 23 arts venues.
Burlington, VT. more
First Night Montpelier, VT 12/31 Vermont
Burlington is not actually the capitol of Vermont. It’s Montpelier, the “smallest capitol in the nation”, which is doing it too, with 11 venues.
Montpelier, VT. more
First Night St. Johnsbury, VT 12/31 Vermont
St. Johnsbury, VT is about as far north as Montpelier. Maybe you could visit and go skiing, too. Their website is blank but the town hall’s calendar lists it, so it must be proceeding.
St. Johnsbury, VT. more
New Year’s Eve at the Irish Cultural Center of New England 12/31 South Shore
OK, if none of the above appeals, I give up. I have failed to separate you from the desire to just get smashed and dance. Here are a two of the more exceptional of the normal parties.
200 New Boston Dr, Canton, MA. more
Spirit of Boston New Year’s Cruise 12/31 Boston Metro
Here’s a creative idea: seeing the fireworks from a ship. Call for reservations.
Commonwealth Pier, Boston, MA.617-748-1450. more


Want this weekly? subscribe and see Wheel Questions, too. Send encouragement & ideas to