Let the bright lights of big cities and small towns dazzle you this season.
Walk down lighted paths and drive the twinkling streets as the area lights up.
Lights on the Bay
Thru Jan. 1Sandy Point State Park sparkles when Lights on the Bay transforms the Bayside beach into a gleaming winter world, with nearly 70 elaborate animated displays casting light over the water. Cruise through two twinkling miles, featuring fairy tales and Annapolitan scenes. New this year, passengers only rent a pair of Holospex glasses, and the lights become 3-D with secret images hidden within the glowing specters. Listen to your own holiday sound track, but drive carefully: The roads are reindeer crossing zones and illuminated deer have been known to soar over roadside revelers. 5-10pm nightly, rain or shine, including holidays @ Sandy Point State Park, Rt. 50, by the Bay Bridge. $12/car; $15/3-D glasses to benefit Anne Arundel Medical Center: 443-481-3161; www.aahs.org.
Winterfest Lights up Ocean City
Thru Jan. 1See shining lights by the seashore when Ocean City strings the boardwalk with over a million Christmas lights. Start your tour at the inlet lot, traveling through the Tunnel of Lights, featuring a gleaming archway of over 800,000 tiny bulbs. Take a turn down Baltimore Ave., from 15th to 32nd Sts., through the Avenue of Trees. Arrive at Northside Park, off 127th St. and Isle of Wight Bay, where luminous displays of ski-jumping bears and a toy soldier spectacular lead you to the Winterfest Village. Enter the heated tent to sip hot cocoa, browse through Yukon Cornelius’ Gift Shop and sit with Santa at his beachside getaway for a photo and last-minute gift requests. Later, pay for passage aboard the Winterfest Express and tour the mile-long illuminated boardwalk ($4/riders 12 & up). Train tour free Christmas. Su-Th 5:30-9:30pm; FSa 5:30-10:30pm @ Northside Park 127th St. & the Bay, Ocean City: 800-oc-ocean; www.ococean.com.
Watkins’ Festival of Lights
Thru Jan. 1; lights Nov. 23Cruise a 2.5-mile loop through a twinkling winter wonderland at Watkins Park. Pop in a seasonal CD and get bright ideas for large-scale decorating. Over a million lights form dazzling displays of lighted archways holiday scenes. Santa inspects the park opening night, greeting the revelers and posing for pictures. Nightly 5-9:30pm @ Rt. 214 to Watkins Park Dr., Upper Marlboro. $5/car; $10/multi-visit pass; $15/mini-bus; $25/bus; free Dec. 25: 301-249-5033; www.pgparks.com.
Miracle on 34th Street
Thru Jan. 1; lights on Nov. 24The residents of Hampden, Baltimore perform a decorating miracle, defying rising energy costs on the 700 block of 34th St. Thousands of lights sparkle from homes, holiday statues wave to passers by and a gleaming hubcap tree welcomes in the season. Park a few blocks away and walk the glowing expanse of sidewalk to appreciate the holiday feel; the heavy slow traffic that floods 34th may make a car tour more taxing than festive. dusk-11pm; dusk-dawn Christmas Eve @ 700 block of 34th St., Baltimore. free: 410-659-7300; www.christmasstreet.com.
Chesapeake Beach Beacons
Thru Jan. 1; lights on Nov. 25Chesapeake Beach bursts with light in the Brightest Beacon on the Bay competition. Start at the traditional illumination festivities at Town Hall and drive through the Bayside town glowing with elaborate light displays on homes and businesses. 6pm lighting ceremony @ Town Hall, 8200 Bayside Rd., Chesapeake Beach: 410-257-2230.
Thru Dec. 30; lights on Nov. 30The Mormon Temple shines bright over the Washington area in the annual Festival of Lights. More than 450,000 lights twinkle around the temple, which features a live Nativity scene every evening and nightly music performances. dusk-10pm lights; 6-9pm nativity scene; 7-8pm nightly music outside The Mormon Temple, 9900 Stoneybrook Dr., Kensington. free: 301-587-0144; www.lds.org/placestovisit/location/0,10634,1836-1-1-1,00.html.
Thru Jan. 1; lights on Dec. 6Venture into Charm City for a monumental occasion, as Baltimore lights its Washington Monument. The obelisk the first Monument to George Washington begun in the US is the center of a holiday street fair, featuring musical acts, refreshments and mingling street performers. Heralding the big moment, local choirs sing holiday tunes, Mayor Shelia Dixon flips the switch, and hundreds of tiny lights are dimmed by and the flashes of a spectacular fireworks show. 5:30pm street fair; 6pm choral performance; 6:50pm lighting @ Mount Vernon Place, 600 block of North Charles St., Baltimore. free: 410-244-1030.
Light up the Capitol
Thru Jan. 1; lights on Dec. 6Have a capital time at the Capitol, as the glimmering Holiday Christmas Tree illuminates the U.S. Capitol lawn, across from the reflecting pool. After a message of peace from President Bush, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi leads the public illumination ceremony with Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, representing the state of Vermont, which donated this year’s balsam fir from the Green Mountain National Forest. This year country music superstar Sara Evans and 14-year-old Holly Stell, The Petite Pavarotti, sing about the spirit of the season. Then walk to the Botanical Gardens for a Vermont-style reception featuring cider and maple candies. 3:30pm gates open; 5pm Ceremony Dec. 6; illumination nightly @ the Ellipse, south of the White House grounds, Capitol Hill: 202-224-2621; www.capitolchristmastree2007.org.
Annmarie Garden of Lights
Thru Jan. 1; lights on Dec. 7As the sun sets over the sculptures that line the paths of Annmarie Garden, intricate light displays glow. This year six scenes burn bright in the night: The traditional ice skater display returns by popular demand. Be sure to avoid pillaging pirates, who invade the Bay searching for Christmas booty. Venture under the rainbow, where mythic creatures twinkle in every color and twirl through a ballroom dance display. Famous explorers light up as they meet endangered species and join a glowing Animal Parade. Handmade decorations and lights designed by Annmarie’s resident artists brighten each display. Keen-eyed kids will enjoy the Holiday I Spy game, searching for hidden decorations among the colorful displays. Closed Christmas Eve. No buses. 6-9pm nightly @ Annmarie Garden, Dowell Rd., Solomons. Suggested donation of $5: 410-326-4640; www.annmariegarden.org.
National Christmas Tree Program
Thru Jan. 1; lights on Dec. 8Only those that stood in line for tickets are admitted into the Thursday lighting ceremony, but the President’s Park welcomes all seasonal spectators Dec. 8. Stroll through a grove of festive trees one representing each state, territory and the District of Columbia lining the path to the towering national fir, a gaudily lit gargantuan designed by General Electric’s Kathy Tresciano. Inspect an intricate railway system circling its base, featuring a winter wonderland scene and intricate models. Local musical groups and dance companies add to the holiday hullabaloo, playing several evening concerts a day. Concerts run from Dec. 8-23: 6-8pm M-F; 4-6pm SaSu. Visit the evergreens daily 11am-11pm @ President’s Park, south of White House, Washington, DC. free: 202-208-1631; www.nps.gov/whho.
Columbia Plays a Symphony of Lights
Thru Jan. 5; lights on Nov. 19Gigantic light sculptures and elaborate animated scenes line the Symphony Woods in Columbia. Drive the 1.4 mile path thru glowing displays of toy soldiers, Mother Goose and Santa’s workshop. The path is drive only, so provide your own seasonal sound by caroling through, or taking the vocally safer route and playing some festive tunes. The proceeds from the dazzling drive benefits Howard County General Hospital. 6-10pm @ Symphony Woods, Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia. $15/car: 410-740-7666; 410-740-7570.
Garden of Lights at Brookside
Thru Jan. 6; lights on Nov. 17Over 700,000 lights bloom from Brookside Gardens, a walk-through illuminated interpretation of the four seasons. Amble by displays of swimming geese and flying cardinals, watch a hungry bunny stalk a gardener sowing seeds and avoid a sparkling monster that waits down the trail. Navigate the changes of season as you pass luminous displays of falling snow, sparkling rainbows and falling leaves. This year get caught in a summer thunderstorm, complete with lightening, while admiring floating water lilies and daffodils. Walk through a kaleidoscope caterpillar and displays of flowers blooming. Escape from the seasons in the visitors’ center and sip cocoa at the auditorium, where musician give free concerts every night from 6:30-8:30pm. Garden of Lights Nov. 17, 18 & 21; 23-25; 28-30; Dec. 1 & 2; 5-9; 12-23; 26-30; Jan. 1-6. 5:30-9pm (last car admitted 8:30pm) @ Brookside Gardens, Wheaton. $15/car (cash only): 301-962-1453; www.brooksidegardens.org.
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