In years past, my husband and I always enjoyed celebrating New Year’s Eve. Heading into a big city for New Year’s Eve was fun! We were unfazed by traffic, parking issues, huge crowds, overpriced hotel rooms and restaurants, lines for everything, and a very late night. Then, we added two small children, and our minds spun. At first, we decided we could say good-bye to celebrating New Year’s Eve altogether. Then one year, we headed to Chatham, Cape Cod, and what we found was a fun, relaxing, and family-friendly New Year’s Eve experience.
This year Chatham is celebrating their 25th year of First Night Chatham and have added many great Silver Jubilee Events to celebrate. Now you can purchase your buttons online.
We always drive by to admire the Chatham Lighthouse
So, those of you with young children, pack up the family, and consider spending the final days of the year on Cape Cod. Here are some suggestions I hope you find helpful if you decide to celebrate First Night in Chatham.
Enjoying the interactive yo-yo performance
Reserve your vacation rental. I would suggest choosing a home close to town so you can park the car in the driveway and walk to the downtown Main Street area. Search for
Buy your buttons. Buttons are $20 for adults, $5 for children, and free for children two and under. You can purchase them online (there is shipping and handling charge of about $4). Another option is to buy the buttons with cash or a check at one of 8 local stores, but call ahead to make sure they have some as First Night Chatham buttons usually sell out by the afternoon of the 31st. The buttons give you access to all the events and festivities. Many of the events in the afternoon do not require buttons, so check the schedule to see if buttons are needed for the events you wish to see. Our kids were plenty happy with the free ones.
For kids (and maybe some of you parents) who can’t stay up late, there is plenty to do:
The Family Face Painting is the first activity, which begins at noon at the Middle School. Face painting is always popular, so get there early, and then you won’t have to miss any of the performances.
My kids love stomping bubble wrap at home, so I imagine they will love the Bubble Wrap Stomp at the Community Center at 1 PM.
Back by popular demand, the Toe Jam Puppet Band. They performed this past summer at Heritage Museums and Gardens, and they are wonderful - lots of singing and dancing and, of course, amazing puppets. They will be performing at the Community Center at 12:30 PM and 2 PM.
Cirque du Jour is bound to be hit at First Night Chatham. With a ringmaster, jugglers, live animals, clowns and trapeze artist, kids are going to love this circus. Catch them at
1 PM, 3 PM, 5 PM and 7PM at the Middle School Gym.
Next up, if you have a train enthusiast in the family, then make your way to see the model trains at The Atwood House Museum. They can be viewed from 1 PM to 5 PM, and it is going to be quite the layout of trains running on the tracks.
Ice carving is also very entertaining for little ones and worth a stop. A chainsaw and a block of ice? If the kids don’t love it, the dads will! Cape Cod ice carver, Chip Koser, will be on the Community Center Front Lawn from 12:00 to 4:00 PM.
Kids love making sandcastles, even in the winter! Sand sculptor Greg Grady will return to create a Silver Jubilee Tribute to First Night Chatham sand sculpture that will be on display all summer on Main Street. Following the popularity of last year’s Sand Castle in front of the Community Center during First Night, we’ve asked the artist to return to Chatham and give us a sculpture to marvel at all summer long.
Because we have a daughter who is a horse enthusiast, a horse drawn carriage ride was not going to be overlooked. We loved it. We got to see the town - all while being snuggled up with one another. They are offered from 1:45 PM to 4:45 PM. One of the highlights for my son was the free shuttle rides from location to location. Who knew that would be such a hit?
Horse drawn carriage rides through town
Even if your little ones are too little to stay up late, New Year’s Eve in Chatham is great and offers an “early bird special” New Year’s Eve, which includes a parade and fireworks. So grab your horns and bells, and join in the noise parade. As the name indicates, it is, well, noisy. If your kids are sensitive to noise, you may want to watch it pass rather than take part, but you will certainly want to watch the fireworks that are geared toward the younger set.
The New Year’s Eve celebration ended for us at around 6:30 PM. We enjoyed coming “home” and playing some games that the owners of the vacation rental had supplied. We sipped some sparkling cider and nibbled on sweet treats before putting the kids to bed. At midnight, we did head out on the deck to catch a glimpse of the First Night fireworks over
Please note that, if you have older children or your kids can stay up later, there are a host of activities held in the evening, ranging from concerts to poetry readings to events just for middle school teens and events just for high school teens. We had brought food with us since our vacation rental had a fully equipped kitchen, so we did not eat at First Night Chatham. But there were plenty of food vendors and restaurants at different locations offering everything from hot cider doughnuts to pulled pork sandwiches.
Overall, it was a great way to spend a New Year’s Eve, and we look forward to making it a family tradition.
Go to First Night Chatham Events, for a complete listing of events.