Boston First Night/First Day: Is It Worth It?
As many of you know, I’m a huge fan of Boston. It’s a wonderful city, filled with cultural gems, amazing food, and some of our nation’s greatest historical sites. So when I was given the opportunity to spend New Year’s Eve in Boston this year, I jumped at the chance.
For the past five years, my family has refrained from giving Christmas gifts to one another in the traditional sense. Instead, each unit within the group (my parents, myself and my husband, and my brother and his girlfriend) choose one activity for the group to enjoy together. We’ve escaped mystery rooms, taken cooking classes, and gone roller skating. It’s been a great decision so far.
This year we decided to take things one step further and spend the New Year’s holiday weekend together. Having always heard great things about Boston’s First Night/First Day celebrations, we thought we would check out what Beantown had to offer. (Sorry to any of you who are actually from Boston and resent my calling it Beantown.)
We set out on our journey on Saturday the 30th so we could check out the San Adams brewery tour and some other Boston tourist destinations. I’d highly recommend the tour! Upon arrival, your ID will be checked and you’ll be given a ticket (actually just a label from a bottle of beer). The tour is free, however. We arrived in time to be placed on the next tour, and only needed to wait about twenty minutes for our turn. During the wait, we stood in a large atrium filled with banners displaying San Adams’ various awards from beer tasting competitions over the years. It was a neat space!
The tour itself was also quite interesting. We were guided through the process of how beer is brewed by a young woman I can only describe as an extreme connoisseur. Then, we were given a keepsake sampling glass and allowed to taste three kinds of Sam Adams brews. The beer was handed out in pitchers, and guests were invited to serve themselves. There was plenty of beer for us to have multiple helpings of each variety, which made for a fun afternoon.
After our brewery tour, we checked into our hotel and then grabbed an Uber to Quincy Market for dinner. Having visited Boston on many occasions, we knew we were fans of the market and its many dining options. After browsing shops for a time, we stopped by the Cheers for some quick dinner. The food was about what you’d expect from a chain restaurant in a tourist area, and I wouldn’t say the waiter knew my name. But for a good meal to sober up with, it wasn’t half bad.
We spent the evening back at our hotel suite playing board games and drinking Sam Adams. Not a bad end to a very touristy Boston day!
On New Year’s Eve, we started the day off with a delicious free breakfast at our hotel, the Marriott Residence Inn Back Bay. (Aside from a mysterious evacuation notice without explanation on our first night, the hotel was great!) After we ate, we bundled up and hit the town for First Night.
In Boston, First Night activities go throughout most of the day on New Year's Eve. They include both indoor and outdoor events, some of which require a free ticket. If you arrive a bit in advance of the performance, you usually will have no problem getting a ticket. In our case, we waited in line for tickets, got them, and then immediately handed them off to a volunteer as we entered the event. They seemed to be solely for tracking capacity of the venue.
We went to a saxophone quartet performance at the Boston Public library. The performers were very talented, performing a variety of medleys as well as some student work. We then sat in on an improv show, which was amusing but not hilarious. Improv is a tough nut to crack, however, particularly when trying to keep a show family friendly. I commend the actors on a job well done!
Throughout the city, businesses had sponsored ice sculptures related to the First Night theme, Enchanted Forest. I can’t even imagine how talented an artist must be to make something so beautiful out of ice, but it was certainly an impressive display!
For the most part, we avoided the outdoor events because it was actually horrifically cold. Many traditional aspects of First Night, such as the People’s Procession and family fireworks, were actually cancelled because the temperatures were so low. It was one of the coldest New Year’s Eves on record, in fact. After grabbing some dinner at a Five Napkin Burger, we tried to brave the cold a bit longer, but ultimately were forced to head back to the hotel once again. It was just so frigid!
Fortunately, the fireworks over Boston Harbor were still on and were broadcast on a local network, so we were able to watch those while we drank the rest of our Sam Adams and played some more board games.
All in all, it was a nice weekend away and a great chance to clock some family time. Would I visit Boston again for this sort of event? Perhaps. I’m not much for the cold, so I think I’d do better at a summer music festival than a winter affair. First Night/First Day had many offerings, sure to please the concert/theatre lovers out there. If you don’t love show tunes, classical music, improv, or being cold, however, I might recommend visiting Boston at a different time. All that being said, I highly recommend the San Adams brewery tour. I’ve done a couple of other such tours (Ommegang in Cooperstown, New York, and Guinness in Dublin, Ireland), and I thought that the Sam Adams tour was just as good, if not better, than comparable experiences.
We completely skipped the First Day celebrations, which were limited and largely targeted towards families with children. Instead we hit the road and hit up a British Beer Company, yet another chain restaurant, for lunch. We were much less adventurous than usual when it came to dining on this trip. However, the BBC is a favorite, serving delicious pub food. It's awesome soundtrack of British classic rock isn't too shabby, either.
Had it not been so cold, I definitely would have wanted to hit up the North End for dinner while in Boston. Delicious Italian food abounds in this awesome neighborhood, and it’s a great place for a night out.
Want more suggestions for what to see and do in Boston? Check out my travel tips for the city here.
Have you been to Boston for First Night/First Day? What did you think? Drop your comments and suggestions below!