A quarter of a million revelers gathered in New York's Times Square for a traditional welcome to the New Year, while a round of alcohol-free festivities called First Night set a theme of sobriety in New York and other cities across the nation.
The Times Square celebrants watching a 200-pound, bulb-covered ball drop into 1994--an event in its 86th year--were showered with 3,000 pounds of confetti from the tops of surrounding buildings as 22 colored spotlights streaked across the square.
"Great, I love it! It's better than Paris!" exclaimed 14-year-old Bo Ehlers, of Copenhagen, Denmark, who accompanied his mother to the New York celebration.
The First Night observances were supplemented by the annual offers of free rides home for imbibers.
First Night should "encourage people to celebrate collectively together without drugs and alcohol," said Doris Stephens, executive director of the celebration in Providence, R.I.
Plus, "it allows people to enjoy entertainment and performing arts that they might otherwise not take the time to see," she said.
Providence's First Night opened early, at 1 p.m. Friday. People were invited to nearly 200 entertainment events with more than 800 performers in 32 locations across the city, Stephens said.
Organizers of First Night in New York City sold admission for events ranging from a petting zoo to ballroom dancing in the huge central room of Grand Central Terminal, which is usually filled with harried commuters.
Families were invited to a similar event in Oklahoma City, called Opening Night and featuring storytellers, clowns, magicians and musicians performing everything from jazz to country.
Bus rides for revelers in Portland, Ore., were free after 6 p.m. Speed's Towing offered free tows throughout the holiday season, along with a promise to see that the driver also gets home safely.