* What: First Night Alexandria.

* When: 5 p.m. Tuesday until next year!

* Where: Various locations in Alexandria.

Some people like to greet the new year with wild debauchery, others with pensive introspection. But for those in the moderate middle -- looking for a festive celebration without the ugly hangover -- a First Night celebration is a wonderful way to go.

First Night Alexandria returned last year after a one-year hiatus with more than 100 performers on more than two dozen stages and 15 venues. The all-ages entertainment buffet is back again this year, and the multicultural family-oriented entertainment offerings are as varied as ever.

With the purchase of an admission button, participants can spend the entire evening exploring Old Town and seeing showcases by area musicians, dancers, actors, magicians and visual artists. (Children under 12 don't need a button but must be accompanied by an adult wearing one.) Embracing even the smallest revelers, the event also offers storytellers, puppeteers, clowns, balloon artists and hands-on projects designed specifically for children.

You can stroll down King Street and enjoy the sights and sounds at your leisure or catch a free DASH shuttle bus to see a favorite performer at any of the participating venues.

According to a preliminary program posted at the organization's Web site, www.firstnightalexandria.org, the event features dozens of performers, the vast majority of which are local talents. Some potential highlights: medieval and Renaissance music by High Bridge Consort; the a cappella stylings of the Stairwells and Reverb; roots rock from Ruthie & the Wranglers and the Grandsons; folk rock from Michelle Swan, Rachel Cross and Lisa Moscatiello; Celtic harpist Sue Richards; Latin salsa by Pablo Antonio y La Firma; Scottish fiddler Bonnie Rideout; and blues from the Janine Wilson Trio.

Attendees can also hear children's and gospel choirs, traditional music from Ireland and other spots around the globe, hip-hop, jazz and most other stops on the popular music spectrum. Obviously, with an event this complicated, the program is subject to change, but if you can't find something you like on a schedule this extensive, maybe you'd better stay home with a Guy Lombardo album. And, yes, Virginia, there will be fireworks. First Night Alexandria culminates in a spectacular display at midnight on the Masonic Memorial grounds.

-- Marianne Meyer

First Night Alexandria admission buttons are required for entrance to all performances and are on sale throughout the area. Buttons are $10 through Monday; $15 if purchased Tuesday. Starting at noon Tuesday, buttons can be purchased at the First Night Alexandria headquarters in the Embassy Suites Hotel lobby. Buttons also will be available at all venues New Year's Eve. You can take Metro to the celebration via the Blue or Yellow line to the King Street station, and free DASH shuttle buses will take you to any of the festivities. Parking in all city-owned lots and parking meters is free after 5 p.m., and many other facilities will be free for drivers with First Night admission buttons. For directions, maps, a list of businesses selling admission buttons, and a full schedule of performances visit www.firstnightalexandria.org. If you have additional questions or would like to volunteer to help, call 703-838-4200, Ext. 210.