Looking for things to do on New Year’s Eve? There’s no party like an Alexandria party! Old Town will transform into a giant performance venue for the 23rd annual First Night Alexandria. That’s right, more than 150 live shows will take over Alexandria art galleries, historic sites, churches and boutiques, and a fireworks finale—the only fireworks show in the D.C. region—will ring in the New Year over the Potomac River. So, whether you’re in search of a romantic evening for two, kid-friendly activities or a night out with friends, we’ve got tips on how to do First Night Alexandria like a pro.
1. Get Your Admission Badge
Your First Night badge gets you admission to the bash’s 22 indoor venues in Old Town for only $30 in 2017. Plus, kids 12 and under and active military can attend for free! Order online and then pick up your badges on New Year’s Eve at the Durant Arts Center (beginning at noon), the Torpedo Factory Art Center (beginning at 2 p.m.), the George Washington Masonic National Memorial (beginning at 7 p.m.). You can pick up your online-purchased badge before New Year’s Eve at the Alexandria Visitor Center starting December 21 (call 703-838-5005 for hours). For those needing last-minute admission, every venue will sell badges 15 minutes before the first performance, but check First Night’s admission page for details about how to pay. Keep track of your badge—it’s your ticket for the night!
2. Choose Your Own Adventure
With more than 150 performances and activities, the way to get the most out of your First Night experience is to do a little planning ahead. Check out the schedule and interactive map online or review the paper schedule you receive with your admission badge. Plot the course of your evening based on the location and timing of your must-do performances, and where you want to end up for the fireworks finale. Most performances happen periodically. For example, the Irish Breakfast Band is performing every hour-and-a-half while Mike Rose Magic is happening every 45 minutes. Also note that some of the performances may be more of a sit-down concert as opposed to a pop-in-and-go experience. You can you also plan your transportation during, and to and from the event with recommendations on the First Night website.
3. Stroll through Old Town or hop on the free King Street Trolley
Every year, First Night revelers stroll Old Town’s historic streets among art galleries, shops, historic sites and more that have been transformed into cozy performance venues, from the Torpedo Factory Art Center near the waterfront to the George Washington Masonic National Memorial near the King St-Old Town Metro station. The 22 venues are all within one mile of each other, so it’s walkable throughout the night. You can also take the free King Street Trolley which runs every 15 minutes. For the best chance to get a seat on this busy night, board at the top of King Street at the King St-Old Town Metro station or at the foot of King Street at the corner of Union Street. There will also be a First Night shuttle between the Metro and the George Washington Masonic National Memorial. Bonus: this year, the Metro is free for all riders after midnight and will be running until 2 a.m.
4. Bring the Family
As the largest family-friendly New Year’s Eve party in the D.C. area, First Night is chock-full of activities for kids. Balloon sculptures? Magic shows? Dancing? We’ve got it! And the fun starts early! During the day, you can take part in the 9th Annual Fun Hunt around Old Town, a pet art competition at the Torpedo Factory, story time with Paddington Bear at Hooray for Books! and more. In the evening, find face painting, model boat building and more at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, magic shows at The Little Theatre of Alexandria, and an old fashioned carnival in Del Ray at the Mount Vernon Recreation Center.
5. Make it a Date
Nothing makes sparks fly like fireworks, right? First Night’s got all the ingredients for a romantic New Year’s Eve on the town: art galleries host jazz concerts and couples dance to roots music at the Torpedo Factory Art Center. Settle in with your sweetie for acoustic performances by Al Petteway and Amy White at the Old Presbyterian Meeting House, Nicole Belanus at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and the Washington Philharmonic’s Woodwind Quartet at Washington Street United Methodist Church. Go out for dinner at one of Old Town’s cozy restaurants, enjoy the fireworks, and stay overnight just steps away at one of Alexandria’s hotels. Now that’s amore!
5. Celebrate with Friends
Whether you’re into honky-tonk, folk rock or even traditional Irish music, you and your friends can hit the dance floor and groove to live performances at the Torpedo Factory and the George Washington Masonic National Memorial. Starting at 10:30 p.m., DJ Ray Casiano will play music at the foot of King Street near the waterfront to keep you dancing through the fireworks at midnight! Toast the New Year at hip Old Town restaurants, some offering special New Year’s events of their own. With so many different shows to choose from and a dazzling fireworks display, First Night definitely beats crowding into your friend’s apartment or the neighborhood bar to watch New Year’s happen in Times Square.
7. Ring in the New Year with Fireworks
Dazzle your way into 2018 with an unforgettable display of fireworks bursting over the Potomac River at midnight. Friends and family cozy up at the Alexandria marina for the closest view, but there are plenty of other great viewing positions. Find a spot at Founders Park or Waterfront Park, located just north and south of the marina on the waterfront. Get a great view by standing on lower King Street, where the first and sometimes the second block get closed down for traffic. You can also count down to the New Year from the George Washington Masonic National Memorial steps, where you can enjoy a perfect long view of the fireworks.
For more information about First Night Alexandria, click here.