The Events Offer a Chance for the Entire Family to Celebrate Together
Ocean City’s popular First Night will return for the 29th time this year, and a full lineup of entertainment and activities remains on schedule for the Dec. 31 celebration.
First Night offers more than 70 entertainment programs at 20 different venues throughout town. The lineup includes something to satisfy every taste and age group. A fireworks display rings in the new year at midnight. The fun continues on New Year’s Day with a 5-kilometer run on the boardwalk and the First Plunge in the Atlantic Ocean.
The headliner for First Night 2022 is the Grammy-winning group Tavares. Top hits from Tavares include “It Only Takes a Minute,” “Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel,” “Don’t Take Away the Music” and “More Than a Woman.” The kids will love Grammy-winning children’s artist Tim Kubart, who will be joined on stage for an interactive show by his band, the Space Cadets.
The rides at Wonderland Pier will return this year, and other returning favorites include the ice-skating rink, inflatables, the Harlem Wizards, a karaoke party, magician Chad Juros, a Country Line Dance Experience and the Legacy Band.
The Ocean City Arts Center will join the fun this year with a social music listening activity called “Hear Here!” That will make the Ocean City Community Center a special for activities with events under the same roof at the Free Public Library, Aquatic & Fitness Center, Historical Museum, Library Atrium and the Senior Center.
Here’s our guide to how to enjoy First Night and First Day in Ocean City.
WHEN: First Night events run 4 p.m. to midnight on Friday, Dec. 31, 2021. The First Day 5K starts at 1 p.m. and the First Plunge goes off at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022.
ADMISSION BUTTONS: Buttons ($20) are good for all events. Children under age 2 are free. Buttons are on sale now.
- Online: Visit firstnightocnj.com.
- By phone: Call 609-399-6111.
- At our City Hall Welcome Center at 861 Asbury Avenue (9th Street entrance): 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (except 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve, closed on Christmas Day, and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on New Year’s Eve).
- At the Roy Gillian Welcome Center (9th Street causeway): 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays; 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Christmas Eve, closed on Christmas Day; and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.
- At the 46th Street Welcome Center (4500 block of West Avenue): 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Christmas Eve and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.
Pickup at will-call will be available daily at the City Hall Welcome Center (Ninth Street entrance). Button sales and will-call pickup will be at the City Hall Welcome Center 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. on the day of the event (Dec. 31).
PARKING AND TRANSPORTATION: All municipal parking lots and metered parking spots are free. Jitneys will provide free transportation from 5 p.m. until 12:30 a.m. for button-holders, operating continuously between all venues starting at the Ocean City Transportation Center (Ninth Street and Haven Avenue) and Seventh Street Parking Lot (Seventh Street and Central Ave.). For a route map and complete information, visit firstnightocnj.com.
COVID PRECAUTIONS: As per the latest CDC and state guidelines, face masks are strongly recommended for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals in indoor settings. Masks and hand sanitizer will be available at all venues.
FIREWORKS: A fireworks display will ring in the new year starting at midnight Dec. 31. They will be launched from the beach between Fifth Street and Sixth Street. The display can best be viewed from the boardwalk or beach between Third Street and 14th Street – though access to the area near the launch site will be blocked.
DINING AND SHOPPING: Food and drink will be for sale at Ocean City High School (Sack O’ Subs), Wonderland Pier (6th Street Pizza and Grill) and Ocean City Community Center (at the cafe) with snack stands at St. Peter’s United Methodist Church.
KICKOFF: Everybody is invited to the Ocean City Music Pier at 3:45 p.m. for the official ribbon-cutting to open the 2022 festivities.
OTHER FUN ACTIVITIES: Stop by the Music Pier to see the First Night ice sculpture. Interactive photo booths will be set up in the Ocean City High School cafeteria, the Community Center and the Civic Center.
HISTORY: First Night in Ocean City was modeled after an alcohol-free New Year’s Eve celebration in Boston that marked the nation’s bicentennial in 1976. The first celebration in Ocean City in 1992 included 25 entertainment acts in five different locations with admission buttons selling for $8 ($5 before Dec. 26). About 800 buttons were sold. While other First Night events have faded, Ocean City’s has only grown more popular with families making it an annual tradition for a safe New Year’s Eve. Today, attendance is capped at 10,000 with admission buttons selling out year after year.
FIRST DAY AT THE BEACH
BOARDWALK RUN: A 5-kilometer run starts at 1 p.m. in front of the Ocean City Music Pier. Race-day registration begins 11 a.m. at the Music Pier at Moorlyn Terrace. Winter hats will be given all who pre-register and while supplies last. Race-day entry fee is $35 ($25 if you register by Dec. 24 and $30 if you register by Dec. 30). For full information, links to online registration and printable forms, visit www.ocnj.us/race-events.
FIRST PLUNGE: The ocean plunge starts at 2 p.m. on the beach adjacent to the Music Pier (on the Eighth Street side). Participants should register inside the Music Pier before heading to the beach. Registration is free, but all participants must sign a waiver. First Day At The Beach shirts will be on sale at the Music Pier.
SHOPPING EXTRAVAGANZA: There will be an all-day shopping extravaganza with discounts at stores on Asbury Avenue and the boardwalk from 5th to 14th Streets. Free horse-drawn carriage rides on downtown Asbury Avenue will be available noon to 3 p.m. on Jan. 1. Board at Sixth Street and Asbury Avenue.