First Night Hartford 2018 - 2019, Hartford, Connecticut's official New Year's Eve celebration, is now in its 30th year. The event, held in downtown Hartford, brings together dozens of performances and events and not one but two fireworks displays in a mega-celebration of the new year.
It all begins at 2 p.m. on December 31, 2018, and lasts past the stroke of midnight. From live music to horse-drawn carriage rides, from improv comedy to fun surprises, First Night events are held at more than a dozen venues and sites in downtown Hartford, and revelers can partake of it all for just the cost of a First Night wristband.
What to Expect
This is the 30th year that 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 2019 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 Web site. 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 2019.
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 Radisson Hotel Hartford, 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.
First Night Hartford wristbands and commemorative buttons may also be purchased online in advance up until a few days before the event. There is a per order fee for shipping.
In the past, the admission price was $12 for adults, $3 for kids 3 - 15 and under 2, free.
Getting to First Night
A map of the First Night Hartford venues is available online. First Night Hartford is very walkable from one venue to the other so it's recommended that you park for the night and walk around. There are just a couple locations like the CT Science Center (still walkable or take DASH shuttle) that are a little farther away.
For driving directions from your location to First Night you can open this Google Map. First Night has a map of all parking lots and garages on their website. Metered parking on Downtown streets is free on Monday, December 31, 2018, all day.
Several Hartford area hotels usually offer special First Night Hartford packages if you want to avoid driving altogether.
The 2017 First Night program is fun to look through while you wait for this year's schedule to be finalized. While events change from year to year, these events from past years are great examples of what you will experience at First Night:
Fireworks - The Family Fireworks take place 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.
Ice Skating - The Winterfest ice rink was open for extended First Night hours. Skating and skate rentals are both free.
Improv Comedy - Sea Tea Improv's performers 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 - A $10 fee was charged for a 10-minute Tarot or psychic reading.
Bushnell Park Carousel Rides - Visit the renovated Bushnell Park Carousel pavilion, where food is sold and rides are free with a First Night wristband.