WRAL First Night Raleigh: A Guide to Downtown Raleigh's Massive New Year's Eve Celebration
Wednesday, December 14, 2022, 11am by visitRaleigh
Who's ready to close out 2022 in a big way and ring in the new year with a bang? We are! WRAL First Night Raleigh, a downtown Raleigh New Year's Eve celebration for more than 30 years, is an all-day event with live music, tons of kids' activities, a 90-foot-tall Ferris wheel and other amusements and a countdown to midnight (where, yes, a giant acorn drops from the sky as the clock strikes 12). Celebratory fireworks highlight a jam-packed day of festivities that's suited for the whole family.
Get all the need-to-know details below and plan your trip to the City of Oaks!
As always, grownups can save a little by buying tickets in advance of the event. Until Dec. 31, advance tickets go for $12 for everyone age 6 and up (kids 5 and under are free when accompanied by a ticketed adult).
If you want to buy tickets at the gate, the price rises to $16 for everyone age 13 and up, while remaining the same $12 for kids ages 6 to 12. Tickets give you access to First Night venues, performances, amusements and interactive exhibits, happening from 2pm-midnight on Dec. 31.
Live music at City Plaza will get underway at 6pm. Taking the main stage this year:
- G Yamazawa, a Durham native and National Poetry Slam Champion whose debut album “Shouts to Durham” charted at #37 on the iTunes top rap albums (he's also performed at the Pentagon and Sundance Film Festival!);
- “Cosmic Soul Rock” artist Rebekah Todd;
- the funky, soulful, bluesy Duck the Band;
- and 2019 International Bluegrass Music Association Momentum Instrumentalist of the Year Tray Wellington, performing along with musicians Josiah Nelson, Nick Weitzenfeld and Katelynn Lowe.
Indoor venues will come alive with more music ranging from folk to jazz and improv comedy by ComedyWorx. Notable performances include City of Raleigh Medal of the Arts recipient Gregg Gelb with the youth jazz ensemble, Venezuelan and Appalachian folk music duo Larry & Joe and First Night Raleigh 2022’s headliner Sonny Miles at CAM Raleigh.
The big Ferris wheel is back again for ticket holders, positioned on Fayetteville St. between Morgan and W. Hargett Sts. and offering bird’s-eye views of the festival. Other amusements such as slides and skee-ball will also be on hand. All amusements are open 2-11pm.
This year will also welcome a silent disco featuring three live DJs starting at 8pm at Artspace and sponsored by Lenovo. New Media artist, graphic designer and educator Robin Vuchnich brings her interactive art installations back to PNC Plaza, available for ticket holders to experience starting at 8pm.
For three decades, Raleigh has lived up to its City of Oaks nickname with its iconic acorn sculpture (made by artist David Benson in 1992 in honor of the city’s bicentennial). For most of the year, the half-ton sculpture sits on display outside Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts.
But come New Year’s Eve, the acorn will be back at City Plaza to make its annual midnight drop—preceded by the obligatory countdown and followed by fireworks.
The Countdown to Midnight begins at 11:05pm with headliner G Yamazawa.
For the kids
WRAL First Night Raleigh festivities kick off at 2pm with the Children’s Celebration, when the Ferris wheel and amusements open. And families can share an early acorn drop and fireworks show with their kids with the Early Countdown at 7pm (also great for adults who don't want to stay out late!).
Header photo by Sandra Davidson, courtesy of First Night Raleigh
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