Arts & Culture

First Night Raleigh – and 11 other ways to kick 2016 out the door

First Night Raleigh, a downtown tradition since 1991is a reliable, wide-ranging way to ring in the new one in downtown Raleigh.
First Night Raleigh, a downtown tradition since 1991is a reliable, wide-ranging way to ring in the new one in downtown Raleigh.

Saturday night brings the end of the year that cost us David Bowie, George Michael, Prince, Carrie Fisher, Leonard Cohen, Janet Reno, Anton Yelchin, Gene Wilder and Muhammad Ali, to name just a few; plus, a hurricane that decimated parts of Eastern North Carolina and wildfires that brutalized our mountains. So it is with great relief that many of us approach the end of this seemingly cursed year.

First Night Raleigh, a downtown tradition since 1991, is a reliable, wide-ranging way to ring in the new one.

New this year at First Night is the DIY Festival, which starts at 2 p.m. Saturday at The N.C. Museum of History, the N.C. Museum of Natural Science and on the Bicentennial Plaza. It features workshops, but also musicians, artists and craftspeople demonstrating how they honed their crafts. Take ukulele lessons, try your hand at choreography or dig through the materials brought by the Scrap Exchange.

Then, the People’s Procession leads to the 7 p.m. family-oriented countdown, Acorn Drop and fireworks display.

First Night continues, naturally, until midnight signals the new year. Music ranges from local rockers Birds of Avalon and Jack the Radio to banjo and fiddle bands, and jazz and bebop, as well as blues and gospel singing.

Transactors Improv, Happy Accidents and Comedy Worx bring the laughs, while other attractions include carnival rides (including the Fantastical First Night Ferris Wheel) and a putt-putt course created by local artists.

Midnight, naturally, bring the countdown, Acorn Drop and fireworks display.

First Night Passes bought day-of are $14 for adults and $11 for kids 6-12. Kids 5 and under are free when accompanied by a paying adult. Passes bought in advance are available at Harris Teeter and CVS stores and are $10, or can be ordered on Visit

Here are some other options for ringing out the old year.


▪ Elsewhere in Raleigh, Marbles Kids Museum holds its annual Noon Year’s Eve, a celebration designed for kids who absolutely won’t be up at midnight. Count down to noon and celebrate with bubble wrap fireworks. Museum admission is $5, while those 1 and under get in free. Info:

▪ That evening at 8:00, the N.C. Symphony joins forces with the N.C. Jazz Repertory Orchestra for “New Year’s Eve in Vienna.” Tickets range from $53-$83 (

▪ Jam band Big Something plays Lincoln Theatre at 9 p.m., and tickets cost $25 ( And Kings’ rings in the year with a drag show headlined by high-profile queens Alaska Thunderf--- 5000 and Katya Zamolodchikova. Tickets cost $10-$45 and this evening-long extravaganza starts at 6:30 p.m. Info:


▪ The N.C Chinese Lantern Festival and Cary’s Koka Booth Amphitheatre ring in the year with a fireworks display over Symphony Lake. Adults pay $15, those 3-17 pay $10 and kids 2 and under are free. Gates open at 6 p.m., fireworks display at 9:30 p.m. Info:

Chapel Hill

▪ Morehead Planetarium and Science Center’s annual Night Lights program, a family-friendly New Year’s celebration that runs from 2-6 p.m., features science activities, food trucks, photo booths and an early countdown under the Planetarium dome. Tickets cost $5. Info:

▪ A jazz concert to benefit the Inter-Faith Council for Social Services starts at the United Church of Chapel Hill at 7 p.m., and donations will be taken to benefit the IFC. Info:

▪ At Cat’s Cradle, the shows run later, with Boom Unit Brass Band playing the Cradle and The London Souls playing the Back Room. Both shows start at 9 p.m., with the funky brass band costing $10 and the Souls costing $15. Info:

▪ And to laugh your way into 2017, go by one of DSI Comedy Theater’s three New Year’s shows: the all-ages Family Countdown lasts from 6-7:15 p.m. and is $12. Following that, The 2017 Pregame lasts from 7:30-9 p.m. and will fall somewhere between the family-friendly cleanness of the early show and the all-out raunch of the late one. Tickets to the pregame are $18. Then at 10 p.m., it’s the 21-and-up Best Countdown Ever. Cocktail attire is requested, and the $25 advance/$30 day-of tickets include party favors, noisemakers and champagne for the midnight toast. Info:


▪ Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University holds a New Year’s Eve brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. To make a reservation, visit or call 919-684-6032.

▪ In the evening, the Durham Jazz Workshop holds its New Year’s party and fundraiser with Ariel Pocock Trio. Tickets for the 9 p.m. event, which are $50, go to support jazz programming and classes at DJW. Info:

▪ And at Motorco, the annual Motoroboto New Year’s Party celebrates any year attendees want to. JFK Jr. will play hits from the ’80s and ’90s, while participants are encouraged to dress like it’s the era where they feel they belong. Tickets are $15 in advance or $18 day of. Info: