Why Baltimore should be on your nice list this holiday season

Nov 6, 2019

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When you think of Christmas getaways, you might immediately think of the Big Apple. New York City is lovely at the holidays, but my family’s go-to for a holiday weekend is Charm City. Here’s why we love to visit Baltimore during the holiday season.

Related: Here’s why Baltimore should be your next travel destination

Go ice skating

I’m a fan of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor for a year-round weekend getaway, but the destination really shines when days get short. The Harbor’s outdoor ice skating rink is already open daily through January 20. For just $14 including skates you can stay on the ice as long as your legs will let you.

Visit an authentic Christmas market

Another highlight of an Inner Harbor holiday is the German-style Christmas market that runs this year on selected days from November 23-December 24th. If you love Christmas markets but Europe isn’t in the cards this year, Baltimore’s German Christmas Village offers a more accessible alternative.

Christmas Village in Baltimore is a combination of an outdoor and indoor holiday market at the Inner Harbor. (Photo by Andre Chung for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Christmas Village in Baltimore is a combination of an outdoor and indoor holiday market at the Inner Harbor. (Photo by Andre Chung for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Need to stock up on nutcrackers, nesting dolls or hand-painted Christmas ornaments? The market is the perfect place for you. We give each kid $10 to pick out an ornament each year. Not only do we enjoy displaying them on our tree, but the kids also will have a head start when it’s time to create their own holiday traditions.

The food offerings include bratwurst, schnitzel, gingerbread and (of course) a beer garden. Live entertainment rounds out the holiday fun. A distinctive souvenir is the glühwein mug that comes with discounted refills on the steamy, spicy concoction all season long (or you can fill one with hot chocolate for the kiddos). We have a collection of these adorable keepsakes dating back a decade. Kids are free every day and adults visit free Sunday–Thursday; weekend admission is only $5.

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If you’re planning a visit this season, you might want to consider visiting the weekend of December 7–8. During that weekend, the Christmas Market and Inner Harbor museums (including the National Aquarium and the Maryland Science Center) charge just $1 for entry. That said, lines can top an hour to visit for that bargain price, so it might not be worth the wait to you.

Check out an incredible holiday light display

Our favorite Baltimore holiday activity takes place away from the Inner Harbor: the “Miracle on 34th Street.” Now in its 72th year, the neighbors of 34th Street in the Hampden neighborhood of Baltimore close the block to cars and string it with lights from end to end. What began as a neighborhood activity has grown to be world famous. Each house takes pride in trying to out-do its neighbor. Best of all: 34th Street is 100% neighborhood driven and 100% free.

People enjoy the Christmas lights on the 700 block of 34th Street in the Hampden community of Baltimore (Photo by MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP via Getty Images)
People enjoy the Christmas lights on the 700 block of 34th Street in the Hampden community of Baltimore. (Photo by Mladen Antonov/AFP via Getty Images)

Let me give you a visual image of Christmas Street: Imagine, if you will, a street from A Christmas Story where each resident is Clark W. Griswold. Christmas Street looks like a movie set because real people don’t live in places with such civic pride, do they? Yes. Yes, they do.

The decorations reflect Maryland from top to bottom: Chesapeake Bay crabs, the Utz Potato Chip kids, O’s and Natty-Bos (Orioles Baseball and National Bohemian beer for the non-natives), Ravens football… you get the idea. Others are purely whimsical: Christmas trees of hubcaps and vinyl 33 RPM records, anyone?

Related: Free things for families to do in Baltimore

It takes about an hour to walk the block end-to-end. If you can go on a weeknight it will be a lot less crowded. However even on Christmas weekend, we’ve never found it out of control. This light tour is corny, kitschy, goofy and entirely family-friendly fun.

While corporations aren’t welcome, some residents sell their own wares. For instance, an artist constructs angels out of Natty Bo beer cans. One is now a prized holiday possession in our household, reminding us of our visits to Baltimore.

When we arrive we park about two blocks away and stop at 7-11 for a hot chocolate on the way in. (I told you, this is not commercial in any way.) Driving is far and away the easiest way to get there from the Inner Harbor, but you could also Uber for around $10-$15 each way.

Delight in the Highlandtown train garden

This is a fun and free event that spans the Saturday after Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. Head to Engine House #41 at 520 S. Conkling Street in Highlandtown to see the Holiday Train Garden. In its tenth year, this is a holiday tradition in Southwest Baltimore and it takes an army of volunteers months to prepare each year.

Bottom line

Baltimore is chock-full of holiday cheer. Best of all, a visit to Baltimore won’t break Santa’s bank, leaving you plenty left over to shop for souvenirs at the German Market.

Featured photo by MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images.

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