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Ring in 2012 with a Local New Year's Eve

Many people insist the best way to spend New Year’s Eve is to go to Times Square in New York City. But why leave Washington, D.C. when there’s plenty to do here!

In the greater Washington, D.C. area, there are many unique ways—different from what you may be used to—to ring in 2012.

One of the most all-encompassing celebrations, with plenty of entertaining events for adults and kids, is First Night Alexandria, which occurs all throughout Old Town Alexandria and includes scavenger hunts, live music and a ball drop at midnight.

The party begins at 1:00 p.m. on December 31st with the third annual Fun Hunt, a search throughout Old Town that all attendees are eligible to participate in. Clues take you around the area and lead to answers on quiz sheets everyone is given. The hunt runs until 4:45 p.m., but only takes around an hour-and-a-half to complete, so scavengers can maintain a leisurely pace.

Anyone that completes the hunt correctly is eligible for the prize drawings, with first prize taking home an overnight stay at the Lorien Hotel & Spa in Old Town, free personal training sessions, gift certificates galore from many of the shops in Old Town and passes for a cruise on the Potomac. Second and third place also receive bounties, with overnight stays at other Alexandria hotels as part of the prize packages.

After the Fun Hunt, the party really gets started. All across the city, restaurants and bars will host live bands. One of the most popular acts performing is Curtis Blues, an interactive one-man blues band. He will be playing half-hour shows every other half-hour at Bittersweet, on King Street, from 7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.  For kids, at Nickells & Scheffler, on Duke Street, 16-year-old sensation Keira Moran will play half-hour shows as well.

At midnight, after all the events are over, participants at First Night Alexandria gather on the lawn of the George Washington Masonic Memorial for a ball drop, which includes over 6,000 inflatable balls, and a dance party that lasts until 12:30 a.m.

Tickets for First Night Alexandria cost $20 per person and allow admission to all events.

If you’re looking for another way to share New Year’s with your family, but can’t expect your children to make it all the way to midnight, then Maryland Science Center, in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is the place to go. From 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., the Center hosts its annual Midnight Noon celebration, where, when the clock strikes 12:00 p.m. on December 31, the Science Center’s ball drops and kids celebrate with noisemakers and balloons.

The entire Maryland Science Center is open during the exhibit, which means that alongside celebrating the New Year, kids can visit the great exhibits. Among the most popular are “Dinosaur Mysteries,” which includes full scale models of many dinosaurs and “Newton’s Alley,” where hands-on physics exhibits are geared toward kids.

Admission to Midnight Noon is free with paid admission to the Science Center  $15 for adults and $12 for kids under 13.

For a more adult celebration of New Year’s Eve, Glen Echo Park, in Maryland, has just the event. The New Year’s Eve Swing Dance, held at the park, is a throwback to celebrations from America’s Big Band Era. The event begins at 8:00 p.m. with lessons for beginners, so when the Tom Cunningham Orchestra takes the stage at 9:00 p.m., everyone will be ready to roll and have a swinging New Year’s. Tickets for the dance are $25 per person.

So this New Years, instead of the typical party and midnight ball drop, head out of the house and try something totally different.

– David

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