First Night Hartford is the Connecticut capital's official New Year's Eve celebration held in downtown Hartford. The event brings together dozens of performances and two fireworks displays in this mega-celebration of the new year.
The party gets started at 2 p.m. on December 31 and lasts past the stroke of midnight. From live music to horse-drawn carriage rides, plus improv comedy and fun surprises, First Night events come in a variety and are held at more than a dozen venues and sites in downtown Hartford.
What to Expect
For over 30 years, Hartford has marked the dawn of a new year with a public, non-alcoholic celebration of the arts, and this year's roster of performances and events will be packed, as usual, with family-oriented fun. Activities and performances planned to ring in 2020 are usually announced closer to New Year's Eve.
The complete schedule of events and performers will be available online at the First Night Hartford website. The Family Fireworks take place at 6 p.m. at Bushnell Park, and the Midnight Finale at Bushnell Park will also feature fireworks as Connecticut says "hello" to 2020.
Tickets and Admission
You can purchase your First Night wristband in advance at a number of Hartford-area locations, typically including Highland Park Markets, Whole Foods Markets, AAA branches, CBT/Berkshire Bank branches, the CT Transit Information Booth and the Old State House. At the event on December 31, wristband sales and information booths will be located at several downtown locations. Cash and checks are accepted for ticket purchases.
Getting to First Night
A map of the First Night Hartford venues will be made available online. All the locations are very walkable from one venue to the other so it's recommended that you park once for the night and get around on foot. Some area hotels may even offer special packages for New Year's Eve, which means you can spend the night nearby all the events.
In the past, the events at First Night Hartford have included:
- Fireworks: The Family Fireworks take place each year at 6 p.m. at Bushnell Park, and the Midnight Finale at Bushnell Park will also feature fireworks to welcome in the new year.
- Science Show: An educational spectacle where you could choose from two afternoon shows at Central Baptist Church.
- Improv Comedy: Sea Tea Improv's performers have engaged the audience in this laugh-generating show.
- Mask Making: The Butler-McCook House hosted a hands-on craft workshop.
- Live Music: Musical acts performing at First Night included Bill Walach (Pump House Gallery Courtyard), Don Sineti & Steve Roys (Pump House), and The Boys of Wexford (Pump House Gallery).
- Fortune Tellers: Ten minute Tarot or psychic reading were once available.
- Bushnell Park Carousel Rides: Visit the renovated Bushnell Park Carousel pavilion, where food is sold and rides are free with a First Night wristband.