Guide to Raleigh’s First Night

jalexander@newsobserver.comDecember 30, 2013 


Workers set up a ride at the corner of Hargett and Fayetteville streets in downtown Raleigh on Monday for First Night, Raleigh’s New Year’s Eve celebration held annually in the downtown area.


  • First Night Facts

    What: First Night Raleigh 2014

    When: Kids’ activities start at 2 p.m.

    Where: Downtown Raleigh

    Cost: $12 adults, $10 kids


— From all sorts of art and music to rides for kids and adults, downtown Raleigh’s annual First Night will offer plenty of choices on the last day of 2013.

Terri Dollar, Artsplosure program director, said when she first started organizing First Night 15 years ago, Raleigh’s downtown was a far different destination. The evening’s energy was the same but the event was much smaller, with about 35,000 people in attendance, Dollar said.

“Fifteen years ago people were calling us and saying, ‘Uh, where’s downtown Raleigh? I’m in North Raleigh and how do I get to downtown?’ ” Dollar said. “Seriously. But we don’t get those anymore.”

Now, 23 years strong, First Night evolves as Raleigh has evolved. Streets are blocked off from the State Capitol to City Plaza. Last year’s event reached 100,000 people. Dollar said she expects more than 100,000 to attend the 34 venues tomorrow, especially with fairly good weather. Tuesday night’s forecast predicts cloudy skies early, then partly cloudy after midnight, low of 31 degrees.

Entrance requires purchase of an All-Day pass that allows access to the alcohol-free events. Passes cost $13 for adults and $10 for children ages 6-12. Children 5 and under get in free.

“Plan ahead,” Dollar said.

Where to start

It’s physically impossible to attend all 68 events, so stick with some highlights. If you’re a family with kids, or you’re just not a night owl, come early. The children’s celebration starts at 2 p.m. at the Bicentennial Plaza. All kids must be accompanied by a parent. Children can get on rides, visit one of the three state museums on the mall, and watch musical and other performances.

Then at 6 p.m. the first countdown will begin before the copper acorn, Raleigh’s municipal symbol, drops at the main stage on City Plaza at the 7 p.m. early edition.

Time for grownups

If you’re a young adult, and you plan on starting late, start off at the rides or the Indy Rock concert and make your way to one of Comedy Worx’s three shows – the latest starts at 10:30 p.m.

If you’re no longer a young adult or don’t like rock music and rides, try ballroom dancing at the Sir Walter Ballroom Apartments near City Plaza from 7:30-11 p.m., or check out one of the jazz concerts.

Grand Finale

At 11 p.m. the countdown to the New Year begins. Stay and watch fireworks light up the sky, while the acorn drops at midnight and you make your New Year’s resolution amid a crowd of celebrants.

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