How to Have a Happy New Year at First Night!

New Year’s Eve can seem like an adult holiday, but it doesn’t have to be. “Highmark First Night” in downtown Pittsburgh is a family friendly celebration. Some parents might be hesitant to bring children, especially young children, to a New Year’s Eve celebration, but First Night is designed to get young children and families home and the kids in bed, long before midnight.

Downtown Pittsburgh is rocking on New Year’s Eve with 14 blocks filled with more than 100 events, all  alcohol-free. Highmark First Night manager Sarah Aziz says it’s, “a nice way to finish out this year, go into next year clean and fresh, and you feel good the next day.”

She suggests you get downtown early and get parked so you don’t miss the kick-off — the early-bird fireworks at 6pm, for those who won’t make it til midnight. The best viewing spot is right outside Fifth Avenue Place.

Then, warm up inside Fifth Avenue Place for kids’ activities, including caricatures, clowns and crafts. After that, make your way to the heated “family tent” next to the Benedum Center with hands-on activities for kids making light-up pins and more.

Then, pick one of the many performances all around downtown. The Yanlai Dance Academy is performing, showcasing traditional Chinese dancing. The Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre students perform scenes from the Nutcracker at the August Wilson Center.  The CLO Ministars sing and dance at the Cabaret at Theater Square. The Balmoral Pipes and Drums and Scottish Dancers perform at the First Presbyterian Church. These are just some of the many shows throughout downtown.

Then, at 9 pm, head back outside for the parade down Liberty Avenue featuring giant puppets.  Aziz’s young children come every year. She says, “they come out and watch the parade which is like the biggest hit with al lthe kids — the marching bands, firetrucks amazing puppets, and then they head home at 8:30.”

For parents of teenagers who can stay a little later, Highmark First Night can be a great place for them to exert a little independence. The 14 block area is well lit, full of families and is alcohol free. “I have some friends who have teenagers and say it’s a good event for teenagers because they feel so safe,” Aziz says.

You will need a First Night button to get into the events. Buttons are $10 each, and kids 5 and under are free.  For details, go to the Highmark First Night website: