Preview Of First Night St. Louis

December 17, 2012 7:00 AM

Photo: Thinkstock



First Night® St. Louis is an alcohol-free, family friendly performing arts event of epic proportions in the Grand Center district. The party starts on December 31st at 6 p.m. and continues until after midnight.

The streets and theaters of Grand Center will be filled with music, dance, jugglers, stilt-walkers, comedy acts, progressive theater, ethnic performances, hot chocolate, tasty snacks and thousands of festive partygoers. A five-block area of Grand Avenue and adjacent side streets are closed to traffic so bundled-up revelers can walk from one venue to another enjoying street performances, theatrical lighting and participatory art installations in the outdoor space across from The Fabulous Fox. Typical activities include creative approaches to sharing New Year’s wishes and publicly burning regrets.

Related: 2012 St. Louis Holiday Theater Preview

All performances are family friendly, but this event attracts art-loving adults as well as people looking for children’s entertainment.

First Night was founded in Boston in 1976. St. Louis has been home to a First Night celebration since 1991. The Convention Center was the event’s original home and in the early years, the city had some logistical issues with finding the right location for the celebration. Grand Center has been a happy solution for the last 10 years and the event is now a well-established tradition in the theater district.

Each year’s theme is decided by a contest. The 2013 theme is “A Traveling Circus.”

Opening ceremonies take place on the Main Stage outdoors at Grand and Lindell at 6 p.m. and entertainment continues on that stage all evening until the countdown to 2013 at midnight. The sidewalk under the marquee at The Fabulous Fox is the place to buy admission buttons, pick up programs and ask questions. Programs will list the dozens of concerts, dance performances, comedy acts, magicians and other shows in the area’s theaters, churches, galleries and indoor venues. First Night has always offered a wide variety of musical performances, from harp soloists to rock bands and bluegrass to drumline. Dance performances from around the world take place throughout the festival space. In the past, these have included flamenco, African dance, belly dance and other ethnic performances. A heated dance tent with a DJ lets partygoers show off their own moves and blow off some holiday steam together.

Children’s activities are a popular segment of First Night for families. Make-and-take projects, storytelling and children’s music and theater delight kids and parents. The 9 p.m. fireworks display gives a sense of ringing in the New Year to little ones with early bedtimes.

Snacks, coffee and hot chocolate are available at the First Night Coffeeshop and outdoor snack booths and food trucks round out the festival’s food supply.

Related: Top Local St. Louis Arts Programs To Support

At midnight, thousands of people in the street count down to the New Year and sing “Auld Lang Syne” while the grand finale fireworks burst overhead.

Outdoor events are free but indoor events require an admission button. Buttons are priced at $10 for adults and $5 for children and one button provides admission to unlimited entertainment in all of the indoor venues. Children ages five and under are admitted for free.

Grand Boulevard between Lindell and Delmar will be closed to traffic for the event beginning at 6 p.m. There are a number of parking options including side street parking, lots on Washington, Olive and Samuel Shepard or a garage on Olive. Expect to pay about $10 for parking unless you can find a space on the street. Meters need to be fed until 7 p.m. There is a Grand Center Metrolink Station about five blocks south of the event.

For more information, visit

Note: A similar event, First Night Riverbend, takes place in the Illinois suburb of Godfrey at Lewis & Clark Community College. For more information on that event, click here.

Lauren Haas is a writer who specializes in finding the fun! Lauren was the publisher of the St. Louis Area Family Gazette for eight years, and now writes freelance articles on St. Louis events and attractions, budget travel, arts and entertainment and fitness topics. Her work can be found at

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