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Holiday Guide

Ten Can’t-Miss Holiday Happenings

Hit all of these for the maximum holiday cheer allowed by law

Photo: Downtown Partnership, License: N/A, Created: 2011:12:01 08:50:00

Downtown Partnership

Raven Lardarius Webb, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, and several local choirs will be on-hand for The washington Monument lighting


Miracle on 34th Street

Now through Jan. 1, 700 block of 34th Street, christmasstreet.com.

Since 1947, the inspiring mix of kitsch, niche, and stitch has made the 700 block of 34th Street the block to see. A winter wonderland of snowmen, santas, trees, menorahs, trains, lights, and only-in-Baltimore decor, it has evolved over the decades, with stalwarts like Elaine Doyle-Gillespie’s peace-themed display sharing space with Jim Pollock’s hubcap tree. New this year: a Boh/Utz –themed house. It’s a demonstration of craft and community, with layers of private pride (and drama) beneath the breathtaking Hampdenness of it all. Yeah, some complain about the lack of parking, the noise, the pollution—it is Baltimore. But in the end, there is nothing else like it anywhere. We checked.

Holiday Festival of Trains and Toys

Now through Dec. 31, the B&O Railroad Museum, 901 W. Pratt St., (410) 752-2490, borail.org.

Some liked to think of the late, great William Donald Schaefer, Baltimore mayor-cum-Maryland-governor-cum-comptroller, as the Pink Energizer Bunny. Turns out he was not only toy-like, but also toy-loving—including toy trains. The B&O Railroad Museum lays out his extensive collection, among many other train sets on display, for the holidays. “Civil War Santa” and Mrs. Claus, along with Frosty the Snowman, will be chilling amid the indoor carousel rides at Santa’s North Pole. Thomas Nast images of Santa and an exhibit of B&O’s holiday celebrations during its heyday round out the museum’s packed schedule for one of its busiest seasons.

Power Plant Light Show Spectacular

Now through Dec. 31, Power Plant Live, 34 Market Place, (410) 727-5483, itsawaterfrontlife.org.

Power Plant Live is already a spectacle of sorts—a repurposed old industrial building, now firmly entrenched in Baltimore’s waterfront tourism economy. For the holiday season, though, the brick edifice serves as a canvas for trippy light artists whose lasers, LEDs, and light projections create eye candy for five minutes three times a night, with fireworks added to the mix for the 9 P.M. show, all accompanied by music. It ain’t exactly Vegas, but it’s the brightest show in town.

The Chanukah House

Now through Dec. 31, 6721 Greenspring Ave., thechanukahhouse.com.

If you think the Miracle on 34th Street is your one-stop-shop for over-the-top holiday displays, think again. Chanukah is the Festival of Lights and this house in Pikesville takes the name seriously, with endless glowing menorahs and dreidels, along with four animatronic characters singing Chanukah songs (think Chuck E. Cheese, but with yarmulkes), a train display, inflatable characters, and much more. And like the Miracle on 34th Street, the Chanukah House has become a friendly, communal event—it’s not enough just to drive by (you can’t engage the voice-activated “Ask a Rabbi” booth from your car). You have to get out, chat with the super-friendly owners, and take in another awesome slice of Baltimore holiday magic.

MICA Holiday Art Market

Dec. 5-8, 10 A.M.-6 P.M., the Brown Center, 1300 W. Mount Royal Ave.,(410) 669-9200, mica.edu.

Forget the frenzied mall crush, and find truly unique holiday gifts at MICA’s annual art market instead. All the creations are made by the art institute’s students, faculty, alumni, and staff—more than 275 of them, some of whom will be on hand to chat. Among the offerings are not just prints, paintings, and sculptures, but also toys, T-shirts, jewelry, and wrapping paper. There’s a feel-good element to this kind of shopping: Not only are buyers supporting local artists, but some of the proceeds help fund need-based MICA scholarships.

Washington Monument Lighting

Dec. 6, 5:30-8 P.M., 600 block of North Charles Street, bop.org, $28-$175.

It’s the best when you forget it’s happening and stumble upon it while walking your dog. The square, packed with neighbors and gawkers, hot toddies discreetly steaming above mittened hands. The singing, the stories and news passed around, and the anticipation: The monument lights up tonight. It’s been happening like this since 1972, when Nixon was in the White House and Schaefer was in City Hall—having just been elected to his first term as mayor. He copied the monument lighting idea from Indianapolis (shhh!), but that city has nothing like the 178-foot-tall Washington Monument to drape with diodes, festoon with fireworks, and shoot lasers from, so that it looks like Washington is fighting aliens with his coolly lifted hand.

Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker

Dec. 14, 7:30 P.M. and Dec. 15, 2 P.M. and 7:30 P.M., Hippodrome Theater, 12 N. Eutaw St., (410) 837-7400, france-merrickpac.com.

Holy shit, it’s The Nutcracker! But not just any Nutcracker: This one is Russian-style, performed by actual Russian ballet stars! And it’s the Russian version of Tchaikovsky’s classic. No sugar plum fairies here, no sir! The second act of this production, now in its 20th year, is all about the Land of Peace and Harmony. How’s that for a twist? Familiarity aside, there is reason to see this Nutcracker even if your grandkid or niece is not onstage—though they might well be. It’s an absolutely boffo show that has been honed and sorted for two decades, and now features all new costumes, puppets, a seven-story tree. . . . Be astonished again.

A Christmas Carol

Dec. 16, 6:30 P.M., Patricia and Arthur Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric, 140 W. Mount Royal Ave., (410) 900-1150,lyricoperahouse.com, $17-$37.

More than 30 years have passed since the Nebraska Theatre Caravan first started touring its production of Charles Jones’ adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol around the country, so its formula—in essence, to instill the classic story with a Currier and Ives look and feel—is a proven commodity. Those who want their seasonal dose of Scrooge administered with the polish and professionalism of a large, practiced cast, a set worthy of Broadway, and plenty of spirited musical numbers, won’t want to miss this.

Baltimore Bass Connection Xmas Party

Dec. 23, 8 P.M., the Ottobar, 2549 N. Howard St., (410) 662-0069, theottobar.com, $15.

The annual cranium-jarring, booty-bumping, sweat-gland-squeezing orgy of very large sound has moved from Sonar to Ottobar, and, as always, its community of performers—Spank Rock, the Death Set, Le1f, Big Mouth, and Braider performing live sets, with DJs Chris Devlin, Ron Darko, Roofeeo, Musa, Hoff, Honor Titus and Money Honore, and Adam Gonzo spinning in between—will deliver decibels in heaping holiday helpings. If the Grinch had been into this stuff before setting out to steal Whoville’s very loud fun, he could’ve saved himself a lot a trouble and regret—though this wired-and-woofered extravaganza will muster much more bass than any jingtinglers and floobfloobers ever could.

New Year’s Eve Spectacular

Dec. 31, 9 P.M.to Jan. 1, 12:30 A.M., Harborplace Amphitheater, Pratt and Light streets, bop.org.

There is nothing more bracing than being in the crowd as the fireworks burst over the harbor on New Year’s Eve. The crisp air biting your cheeks, the funk band’s bass salute, and the brass. The feeling of accomplishment for having ridden the gauntlet through the new gates around the fenced compound that the promenade becomes. The show starts right after dinner, at 9 P.M., at the Harborplace Amphitheater at Pratt and Light streets. The fireworks strike at midnight, and everyone always says they’re somehow better than the Fourth of July variant.

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