On The Town

Holiday Light Shows and Drive-Thru Displays to Check Out This Month

From the harbor to the zoo, the city is aglow with festive (and safe) family fun.

We’re all in need of some holiday cheer in 2020. Although many of the city’s beloved  events (including the annual Monument Lighting in Mt. Vernon and Mayor’s Christmas Parade in Hampden) have been canceled or are going virtual in the wake of COVID-19, we can still look forward to the handful of holiday light installations that can be viewed safely from a distance or the comfort of your own car. Throw on a mask, bundle up tight, and get into the spirit with these socially distanced displays. 

12/5 & 12/12: Santa Sets Sail
The new Canopy by Hilton Harbor Point Hotel is kicking its first holiday season off right. What better way to take advantage of its waterfront location—while also keeping visitors safe—than by putting Santa on a sailboat? On Dec. 5 and Dec. 12 at 12 p.m., locals are invited to stand six feet apart on the shore and watch as Santa trades in his sleigh to set sail across the harbor. Snap a few photos, wave to Old Saint Nick, and stick around to enjoy brunch and holiday cocktails on the heated patio at Cindy Lou’s Fish House—Canopy’s new restaurant from Foreman Wolf Restaurant Group.  1215 Wills St. 

Santa will set sail in Harbor Point on 12/5 and 12/12. —Canopy by Hilton Harbor Point

12/13: Chanukah Wonderland Drive-Thru
They don’t call it the Festival of Lights for nothing. To celebrate the miracle of Chanukah (as the story goes, a small amount of oil miraculously lit the temple’s menorah for eight nights), the JCC in Park Heights is hosting a drive-thru experience that allows visitors to bask in the holiday glow without leaving the car. Bring the whole family to enjoy life-size Chanukah decorations, dancing dreidels, live entertainment, and individually packaged goodies and crafts to take home from each stop along the way. 5700 Park Heights Ave. 1 p.m. $5-8 

12/18-12/19: Ice Sculpting Masters Drive-Thru Holiday Display
Eight of the world’s best ice sculptors are heading to Turf Valley Resort in Ellicott City this month to create their most festive carvings in this U.S. National Championship event. Deck out your car (lights, tinsel, and reindeer antlers encouraged) and coast through the display to check out nearly 50,000 pounds of carved ice while sipping on hot chocolate and cider for sale by the resort. As you head home, be sure to visit the event page to cast your vote for the best sculpture in the people’s choice competition. 2700 Turf Valley Rd., Ellicott City. 

TO 12/31: Guinness Holiday Light Walk
This month, the outdoor decor at the Guinness Open Gate Brewery in Halethorpe will expand well beyond its impressive holiday keg tree, which is constructed from more than 250 kegs of Diageo beer. To accompany the tree this season, the brewery will feature a number of glowing outdoor installations that range from the famous Guinness toucan and harp to a classic Maryland crab. While strolling along the walk, guests can sip winter beers such as the new Gingerbread Spiced Stout, the toasty Winter Warmer reminiscent of a cream soda, and the Barrel Aged Coffee and Coconut Porter, which was brewed in collaboration with Vent Coffee Roasters. The light walk is free and open to the public all month long. 5001 Washington Blvd., Halethorpe. 

The Diageo keg tree. —Courtesy of Guinness Open Gate Brewery

Holiday Light Walk at Old Westminster Winery 
In celebration of the season, the team at this Carroll County haven worked tirelessly to string more than 250,000 twinkling lights on their 120-foot light walk. Open Friday through Sunday, the outdoor attraction also provides a great opportunity to sip your favorite canned wines and check out wares from local artisans at the winery’s Holiday Field Market. All donations made from the light walk will directly benefit local food banks.

TO 12/31: Miracle on 34th Street
In Hampden, on the 700 block of W. 34th Street between Keswick Road and Chestnut Avenue, the 73rd annual Miracle on 34th Street runs through New Year’s Eve. In compliance with safety protocols this year, homeowners are asking that visitors plan a drive-by to witness the winter tradition—which features more than two dozen Baltimore rowhomes and front lawns decked out with over-the-top light displays.

TO 1/2: Lights on the Bay
Now in its 26th year, this holiday drive-thru is lighting up Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis. Open evenings from 5-10 p.m., 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. 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. 

TO 1/2: Merriweather Symphony of Lights
More than 300,000 bulbs are used to light up Merriweather Post Pavilion for this time-honored Howard County tradition. With the exception of designated walk-through nights on Nov. 29, Dec. 7,  and Dec. 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. daily. 10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy. Columbia. Drive-thru entrance on Broken Land Pkwy / Hickory Ridge Rd. $20 per car. 

TO 1/3: Zoo Lights
Grab the whole family and head to The Maryland Zoo, where more than 100,000 LED lights will shimmer in the shape of the historic institution’s most beloved creatures. To feast your eyes on the seasonal spectacle, which comes to the 135-acre Druid Hill landmark once a year, you’ll need to make online reservations in advance. Visitors can choose to traverse the twinkling exhibit by foot on Saturdays from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m (this option comes with hot chocolate and free carousel rides—masks required, of course) or opt to drive through the dazzling display while staying toasty in your car on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays beginning at 5 p.m. All ticket proceeds benefit The Maryland Zoo’s animal care and conservation work. 1 Safari Place. $20-45

Additional reporting by Grace Hebron and Lydia Woolever.