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New Year's Eve: Fireworks and Festivities, Family Style

Between celebrations in the streets, huge public parties, theme park festivities and events at cultural centers, you're bound to find something that the whole family can participate in and enjoy.

 The specific promotions described in this article have now passed, but it remains online so that the resources named will be of future use to travelers.


They may not be able to stay up until midnight, but New Year's Eve is often more exciting for kids than it is for their parents. There's dressing up, excitement, parties and maybe even fireworks so if you happen to be traveling this festive season, don't forget to give the kids a New Year they will remember. Between celebrations in the streets, huge public parties, theme park festivities and events at cultural centers held throughout the country, there's bound to be something that the whole family can participate in and enjoy.


Carlsbad, CA is a half hour drive north of San Diego and it's home to the legendary LEGOland (tel. 760/918-5346; A kids' favorite throughout the year, during the holidays the 128-acre theme park is decked out with twinkling lights, jolly music, and a 30-foot LEGO Christmas tree. LEGOland celebrates the imminent arrival of 2009 with its annual New Year's Eve party which gets started in the afternoon on New Year's Eve, with streamer cannons and noisemakers along with all their favorite rides attractions and larger-than-life LEGO exhibits. Children can share their New Year's resolutions live on a giant television screen, plus there is live entertainment and a DJ in Miniland USA. At 6pm, the mighty LEGO brick, a colorful homage to Times Square's ball, will be ceremonially dropped. The kid-friendly evening culminates in a fireworks display immediately following the ball-drop. Tickets (including the party and full day admission) cost $52 for kids or seniors and $62 for adults.

If you're in the Allentown or Philadelphia area, The Da Vinci Science Center (tel. 484/664-1002 x121; is holding a Family New Year's Eve Science Party which will include the Center's second annual New Year's Eve fireworks presentation and the return of "Balloon Freak" John Cassidy who holds Guinness World Records for inflating the most balloon sculptures in one hour, inflating the most modeling balloons in one hour, and inflating a single balloon sculpture in 6.4 seconds. The evening also will feature a buffet dinner, an open exhibit floor, several science activities with a New Year's Eve flavor, and party favors. The festivities begin on Wednesday, December 31, 2008 at 6 pm and tickets cost $29 for kids and $39 for adults (member discounts apply)

A kaleidoscope of colors and light displays will fill the skies above you on the final evening of 2008 at Walt Disney World (tel. 407/824-4321; The day and night will be filled with parties, parades, celebrations and fireworks this New Year's Eve. If you can handle the crowds, then you'll be in for an exhilarating (and definitely exhausting) adventure. It may be best to avoid park hopping that day and arrive early as there will be no pass-outs granted and the parks will likely fill to capacity by early afternoon. The Magic Kingdom is open from 8am on December 31, closing at 1am. Mickey's "Once Upon a Christmas Parade" will be held at 12pm and 3pm; there the Spectromagic show at 7pm and 10:30pm; Holiday Wishes Fireworks at 8:30pm and the crescendo "Fantasy in the Sky" fireworks at 11:50pm. Epcot is also open from 8am to 1am on New Year's Eve with a special version of "IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth," the laser-light spectacular featuring dancing flames and cascading fountains at 7:40pm and 11:50pm. Disney Hollywood Studios will be open from 9am to midnight with their "Lights, Camera, Happy New Year" fireworks at 11:50pm plus "Mulch, Sweat and Tears" will be performing and a DJ will be playing tunes at Mickey's Sorcerer's Hat. The Fantasmic show, a lavish spectacular of water animation, lasers and fireworks will run at 6:30pm and 8:30pm. Although the Animal Kingdom is only open from 8am to 8pm, there will be a Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade at 3:45pm


First Night is an enormous program of family-friendly New Years Eve visual and performing arts celebrations held throughout the country (and in a few cities abroad). Originally starting with First Night Boston ( over 30 years ago, First Night has become a nationwide phenomenon with over 100 cities participating. First Night aims to be accessible and affordable to all, an alcohol-free, public festival that marks the passage from the old year to the new with art, ritual and festivity. Held in both indoor and outdoor venues in close proximity to each other, a single admission button provides entry to all First Night performances and activities.

First Night 2009 is Boston's 33rd celebration of the arts and community and features favorites like the interactive Fedex Family Festival, colossal ice sculptures, the Mardi Gras-style "Metro Grand Procession" and two dazzling fireworks displays. It will feature over 1,000 artists in 200 exhibitions and performances in over 40 locations in the downtown Boston area. The Fedex Family Festival, held at the Hynes Convention Center will offer dozens of events and activities for kids and their caretakers to enjoy. Highlights include Bee Hive Children's Art Studio and Gallery ( from 1pm to 6pm -- giving kids the opportunity to make glittery tiaras, jeweled crowns, colorful hats, magic wands, and sparkling necklaces; Bonaparte ( at 1pm and 2:15pm, a highly visual show featuring dramatic and magical appearance of live animals; Dan Butterworth Marionettes' ( puppet-filled Carnaval del Mundo at 1:45pm, 3pm and 4:15pm; and Dinoman -- a Dinosaur Exploratorium ( from 1pm to 6pm -- with large dinosaurs on display and Hadrosaur and Triceratops bones to touch.

Admission to all events from 1pm to midnight is available by purchasing a First Night button, available online prior to the date for $15 per person over the age of four (under fours are free) plus a $3 shopping charge per order or $18 per button on the day. They are also available from retailers. A full list of retailers is available on the website.


Don't let a little cold weather stop you and your family from getting old and enjoying First Night in a city near you. Button prices are varied prices depending on which city's First Night celebrations you wish to experience. Check out other cities' First Night festivities including: