Raleigh refuses to lie low when it comes time to ring in the New Year, and it’s been this way for the past 23 years. Come rain or shine, since 1990 First Night has taken Raleigh by storm every New Year’s Eve with a celebration of art and community throughout downtown. The evening is based on the Four Pillars of First Night: Celebration, Community, The New Year and The Arts and is meant to embrace and celebrate Raleigh’s vibrant downtown culture. This year the big night of celebration will feature a huge variety of performances and hands-on activities at more than 28 indoor and outdoor venues around the city, including plazas, street corners, churches, museums, banks and theaters.


The New Year’s Eve day will kick off early with the Children’s Celebration from 2-6pm, featuring an array of make-and-take arts and crafts as well as storytellers and children's’ theater performances. The Scrap Exchange will have a station set up on Edenton St. where young friends can craft their own festive get-ups out of recycled materials to wear during The People’s Procession.

The Fantastical First Night Ferris Wheel is back for the second year in a row, joined by a new ride from the North Carolina State Fair. The Jumbo Drop will hoist brave patrons 80 ft. in the air before lowering them at a stomach-dropping speed to the safety of terra firma. If you’re feeling the need to get centered before the New Year arrives, yoga classes will be held at Vault Yoga Studio at 8 pm and 10 pm. Circus performers from Cirque de Vol Studios will enthrall audiences with aerial feats and fire dancing, acrobatics and oddities on Fayetteville Street throughout the course of the evening.

Plan on turning over a new leaf in 2013? Come attach yours to the Resolution Oak on Fayetteville St., a creation of sculptor Jennifer Van Orden. In case you need more of a reason to attend First Night Raleigh, a gigantic LITE BRITE made from colored, recycled water bottles will be created on the 200 block of Fayetteville St. All First Night attendees are invited to participate in the crafting of this large-scale light installation.

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Of course, it would be a crime to miss the People’s Procession, a tradition as critical to First Night’s history as the giant acorn drop (hey, Raleigh is the City of Oaks). As New Year’s Eve transitions from day to night, children and adults alike march down Salisbury St. and around the N.C. State Capitol led by Rhea, the famous three-headed dragon created by Paperhand Puppet Intervention.

A number of well-known local bands will light up the stage at City Plaza starting with the Jonathan Scales Fourchestra, who will bring its steel-pan jazz fusion to audiences at 6pm. Later on in the evening, area natives and national act Delta Rae will host a countdown to the New Year, letting its unique mix of blues, bluegrass and pop ring loud at City Plaza from 10:45 pm until midnight.

Hop on the First Night Raleigh Tram and venue-hop from place to place. Musical talent will be exhibited throughout the city all night long. Iconic blues legend Cool John Ferguson Trio will take the stage at Longview Center at three different times on NYE, and singers from the N.C. Opera will perform opera favorites at Edenton Street United Methodist Church at 8 pm and 10 pm. Other performances include theater, comedy, visual art displays, dancing and a variety of other musical performances. Check out all of First Night’s performances and activities here.


The night will come to an explosive peak with the midnight countdown and giant acorn drop followed by a fireworks display. This year, for the first time ever, First Night Raleigh has a mobile app that can be easily downloaded to your iPhone, iPod or Android and will help you make the most of your NYE by keeping you up to speed on times and places of First Night’s performances and activities.

All day passes cost only $9.00 and gain you access to every performance, venue and interactive activity. Get yours now!