20 Community Highlights: First Nights to First Day Hikes. Emancipation Proclamation to John F. Kennedy.

Ring in the New Year with First Nights and First Day Hikes! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

First Nights to First Day Hikes. Emancipation Proclamation to John F. Kennedy. Dinosaurs to Bubbles… These are just a few of the learning highlights we’re featuring this week! Get out into your community and learn while you play!  And be sure to check our list of supporting book titles to supplement the learning on the different topics highlighted each week. Purchase them for your family library, or check them out from the public library!


In Holyoke on New Year’s Eve, families can enjoy performances, music, museum adventures, merry-go-round rides, and a New York-style ball drop by 4pm as part of Holyoke’s First Night, Jr., a special family celebration to ring in the new year! Popular magician Ed Popielarczyk will share illusions, there will be live ice-carving, families can get unique balloon sculptures created, the merry-go-round will be offering unlimited rides, and there will be lots of other special guests and events.

Northampton’s First Night provides endless opportunities for family fun on New Year’s Eve! The 12-hour event features a wide variety of performances at spaces throughout town. Families can see puppet performances, learn about numerous types of music and instruments, watch local youth share their skills in a talent show, see incredible feats of physics performed by the A to Z yo-yo team, watch family-friendly theater, and dance along to local favorites for kids and adults.

Both Wilbraham and Orange celebrate too! Wilbraham will celebrate New Year’s Eve as part of their 250th celebration.  There will be live music, food, entertainment, and fireworks! And the 16th Annual Starry Starry Night celebrates New Year’s Eve in the heart of downtown Orange with live music, dancing, and hayrides. Puppet parade and fireworks too.

Another annual tradition is at Jiminy Peak in Hancock where there is a beautiful torchlight parade down the mountain as soon as the ski lifts close, followed by fireworks over the mountain!


What better way to usher out and welcome in a New Year than a hike through the winter woods with your family?  On Saturday, December 29th, explore Bartholomew’s Cobble with the Trustees of Reservations in Sheffield– the yearly Hot Chocolate Saturdays series begins this week! Throughout the winter, families can hike, snowshoe, and/or cross-country ski at the Cobble, and end their excursion with a cup of cocoa in the visitor center. Families can practice looking for signs of birds and mammals, and can explore the changes that have taken place to the landscape since winter set in.

On New Year’s Day, guided hikes across the country start off the new year on Tuesday, January 1 as part of a National First Day Hikes movement, a “get outdoors” initiative for people of all ages. In the morning, Mass DCR will offer a guided hiked of the DAR State Forest in Goshen. Visitors can learn about the history of the Daughters of the American Revolution State Forest and enjoy a tour of the Nature Center. Meet at the warming hut for a short (1 mile) for a free family-friendly hike.

In the afternoon on New Year’s Day, families can explore remnants of abandoned farmland, forest succession and perhaps see some wildlife at Pittsfield State Forest on a free guided First Day Hike with Mass DCR. The 45-minute, 2.5 mile trek will follow the Tranquility and Hawthorn trails – dress warmly and bring your snowshoes. Leashed dogs are welcomed too.  Meet at the State Forest Ski Lodge. Afterwards return to the rustic lodge for  hot chocolate by the fireplace.


Old Sturbridge Village is open for school vacation! Kids get free admission, and families can enjoy a host of historic and seasonal activities, including sledding and skating! There will also be indoor performances of all sorts, crafts demonstrations, and hands-on activities for kids. Families can learn about life in early New England, and the many different skills and resources that 1830’s life required.

Monday evening, December 31st, celebrate the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation – and celebrate, the new year, too! – with historical reenactments, celebration, and more in Springfield! Taking place at the Sovereign Bank building, the city of Springfield’s unique new year’s celebration will be hosted by the Peter Brace Brigade, and will feature historical reenactors, dressed in period clothing and Civil War uniforms. There will also be music, treats, and celebratory champagne for adults.

On Tuesday, January 1st at 2pm, ring a bell to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation! Churches throughout the Pioneer Valley will be letting the beautiful sound of bells ring out through the crisp air in remembrance of Lincoln’s landmark policy to end slavery – celebrate in your own home by ringing bells and learning together about the history surrounding the proclamation and the changes that it brought to the country.


The Springfield Museums are alive with science adventures! On Saturday, December 29th, families can take in a performance by Dinoman Dinosaurs at the Springfield Museums. Dinoman will take the audience on a trip through the Mesozoic era, using magic, mayhem, and spectacular props. On Sunday, December 30th, the museums host BubbleMania! BubbleMania: Effervescent Entertainment is filled with comedy and wit, and will teach audience members all about the amazing magic of bubbles – all to a soundtrack of swing music. Then on Friday evening, January 4th, visit the Springfield Museums for Stars Over Springfield, an exciting skygazing event at the museums’ observatory. Hosted by the Springfield Stars Club, the event will help kids learn about the things that they see in the sky every night. In case of overcast weather, a planetarium show will be presented instead.


Opening reception for a group exhibit titled Places We Live, Play & Learn: Narratives of Life by Western MA Youth Photographers, comprising of 20 Western MA youth ages 10-18, takes place on Sunday at noon, December 30th in Cummington.  Youth participants in this group exhibit were encouraged to explore, document and share their connections to their hometowns through photographic images and an accompanying narrative. Combined, the pieces together reflect and communicate how these participating youth view and understand their local history, culture and/or community values, as well as the significance of the physical spaces surrounding them.


Make a New Year’s resolution to spend time with your husband, wife, partner and/or friends this year!  Book a babysitter or sleepover for your kids and consider these four options for a fun parents’ night out this coming week:

In Franklin County on Saturday, December 29th: Celebrate New Years Eve a few days early at the Arts Block in Greenfield! The Roger Salloom Band, Charles Neville, and Jessica Freeman will play a fantastic show at Brick Wall Bistro.

In Hampshire County on Monday, December 31st: Ring in the New Year at Popcorn Noir’s Glitter Ball in Easthampton with dinner, music and a party! There will be tarot card reading, gogo dancers, hula hooping, costumes, and more!

In Hampden County on Thursday, January 3rd: Test your knowledge together on Springfield history at a trivia-themed Culture and Cocktails event at the Springfield Museums! Guests can also explore the Wood Museum of Springfield History’s newest exhibit, titled, “The John F. Kennedy Experience!”

In Berkshire County on Saturday, December 29th: Bring your sweetheart or good friend to Hilltop Orchards in Richmond, home of Furnace Brook Winery, for a full moon snowshoe trek and bonfire.  There will also be wine tasting and live entertainment following a 1.5 hour guide trek through the woods.  Snowshoe rentals available too.  – Also in Berkshire Cty., on Friday, January 4th: Yes, Maria, Yes! You can see the David Wax Museum at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield! The group – named one of the best acts at the 2011 South by Southwest festival – plays a fusion of Mexican folk, American roots, and indie rock.

List of Weekly Suggested EventsFind out about these events and over 100 other events & activities happening all next week in our List of Weekly Suggested Events. All of our listed events are “suggested.” Please take a moment to confirm that these events are happening as scheduled, along with time, place, age appropriateness and costs before heading out.


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