On The Town

Holiday Light Shows and Drive-Thru Displays to Check Out in December

From the harbor to Hampden, the Baltimore area is aglow with festive family fun.

The name of the holiday season game is hustle. As soon as December rolls around, the obligations are in full effect, sometimes leaving little time to embrace the comfort that this time of year promises. If you’re looking for a way to take a step back and enjoy some of the season’s simple pleasures, how about admiring the enchanting holiday lights around town?

From new displays to twinkling traditions, there’s no shortage of opportunities to get in the spirit. Bundle up, grab your friends and family, and head out to one of these ongoing illuminated events, which can be viewed while on foot or from the comfort of your car.

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12/2: Baltimore Parade of Lighted Boats
Bundle up tight and grab a warm beverage before parking yourself along the water to catch a glimpse of this annual holiday procession. Setting sail from the Anchorage Marina on Boston Street, the festively illuminated vessels are typically visible from Canton, Fells Point, Harbor East, the Inner Harbor, Federal Hill, and Locust Point.

12/3: Winter Lights at the Observatory
The annual kickoff to the holiday season in Patterson Park will feature live music, food trucks, a toy drive, and even a visit from Old Saint Nick. Show up early to enjoy the festivities beginning at 4 p.m., before the official Patterson Park Observatory lighting at 6 p.m.

12/7: Monument Lighting at Mount Vernon Place
This beloved first-Thursday-in-December tradition brings throngs of Baltimoreans to Mt. Vernon to witness the Washington Monument glow with thousands of LED lights, against the backdrop of shooting fireworks. After hitting your favorite neighborhood bar for drinks beforehand, head to Mount Vernon Place to shop local vendors, groove to live performances, and hear remarks from city dignitaries before the countdown begins.

TO 12/30: Upperco Yuletide Village 
Bundle up and make a trip out to the county, where this mesmerizing drive-thru installation (courtesy of Upperco Volunteer Fire Co.) awaits. Complete with everything from twinkling lights and a train garden to a Santa-ready reindeer station helmed by Rudolph, the experience is open Fridays through Sundays leading up to Christmas, and Monday through Friday December 26-30. 16020 Carnival Ave. $25 per car. 

To 12/30: Winter City Lights
With more than 1 million lights across 18 acres, this light festival’s season promises to deliver a breathtaking experience. Take a walk down the illuminated 1.5-mile trail that transforms the woods into an enchanted forest, or take in the majesty of a 52-foot Christmas tree. Visitors can also look forward to food, bonfires, snow tubing, and nightly “snowfall” to put you in the ultimate holiday mindset. 4501 Olney-Laytonsville Road, Olney. $39-$48.

—Courtesy of Merriweather Symphony of Lights
—Courtesy of Old Westminster Winery

TO 12/31: Miracle on 34th Street
In Hampden, on the 700 block of W. 34th Street between Keswick Road and Chestnut Avenue, the annual Miracle on 34th Street runs through New Year’s Eve. The time-honored winter tradition features more than two dozen Baltimore rowhomes and front lawns decked out with over-the-top light displays. With so much creativity and possibility, you never know what you might discover along this Hampden sidewalk. 700 W. 34. Street.

TO 1/1: Charm City Lights
Druid Hill Park will play host to this brand new drive-thru display from the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks. The ticketed attraction ($10 per car) features a one-mile stretch of more than 250,000 holiday lights, custom animated displays, and a massive Christmas tree. The lights are open from 5:30-9:30 p.m. nightly, or you can plan an outing on one of three designated walk-thru and bike-thru theme nightsDruid Hill Park. Enter at the Rawlings Conservatory at Auchentoroly Terrace and Gwynns Falls Parkway. 

TO 1/1: Lights on the Bay
Now in its 28th year, this holiday drive-thru is lighting up Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis. Open evenings from 5-10 p.m. on weekends (6-10 p.m. on weekdays), the annual fundraiser for the SPCA of Anne Arundel County allows cars to travel through illuminated archways and experience shining sleighs, stars, castles, and, of course, installations dedicated to our furry friends. Plus, bring the youngsters for a kids-only scavenger hunt and prize raffle based on items in the light show. The price of admission varies by the size of your vehicle and visitors also have the option to purchase 3-D glasses. 1100 E. College Pkwy, Annapolis. $20-50.

TO 1/1: Merriweather Symphony of Lights
More than 300,000 bulbs are used to light up Merriweather Post Pavilion for this Howard County tradition. With the exception of designated walk-through nights on Dec. 5, 7, 12, and 31 (when fireworks will go off on the hour for the annual New Year’s Eve celebration), the holiday spectacular is open to cars from 6-10 p.m. on weekdays and 5-10 p.m. on weekends. 10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy. Columbia. Drive-thru entrance on Broken Land Pkwy / Hickory Ridge Rd. $20 per car. 

TO 2/2024: Sailing Through the Winter Solstice
Delight your favorite sailor with a road trip to Downtown Frederick to enjoy this ever-growing fleet of holiday-themed vessels, which will be on display now through February 2024. Feast your eyes on an array of glowing pirate ships, gaff-rigged ketches, sparkling schooners and yawls. Plus, be sure to cast a vote for your favorite one. Proceeds from each vote are set to benefit Color on the Creek and other Frederick county-based initiatives. 35 E. All Saints St. $1 per vote

TO 2024: Winter Greenhouses Beneath Twinkling Lights at Old Westminster Winery
This Carroll County spot is taking holiday sipping to gorgeous new heights with its winter greenhouses. Each weather-proof fixture sits beneath sparkling strung lights, with toasty heaters and decor to make the perfect festive setting for your party of 2-20 guests. 1550 Old Westminster Road. Package prices vary.