Home for the Holidays: A Baltimore Christmas
Back in Baltimore, it’s a waterfront life! Discover all the charm that Charm City has to offer
By Courtney Guth, University of Maryland
On Friday, I packed my bags and headed home. All my papers were turned in. All my exams were done. All that was left to do was drive right up I-95. The drive’s not too bad, but music definitely makes the time go faster. Luckily, I found a few local stations playing Christmas music 24/7. A little Christmas cheer makes the drive pass by faster for sure. Like many travelers, I have my favorite holiday tunes. The campy show-tune classic “We Need a Little Christmas” puts me in the spirit from its first line instructing me to “Haaaauuuulll out the Holly.” I always turn up the volume, roll down the windows, and rock out to the Tans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Christmas Eve Sarajevo.” And who can resist belting along with Mariah when “All I Want for Christmas is You” comes on? However, around home there’s one Christmas tune that tops the rest, and that’s “Crabs for Christmas”
I doubt this silly song is known outside of the the Maryland area, but it’s a fun tune that we enjoy around here year after year. I happened to hear it during my late night drive up 95, and I realized I could not wait to enjoy some of the Baltimore’s Christmas time festivities. Luckily, my plans for my first day home involved a trip to this fantastic place to explore all of the Christmas spirit Charm City has to offer.
Christmas Village in Baltimore
This year a new Christmas tradition arrived in Baltimore straight from Germany (but kind of sort of by way of Pennsylvania). After finding success in Philadelphia, the Christmas Village decided to head down to Baltimore’s Inner-Harbor. Hailed as “the authentic German Christmas Market,” the village brings a little bit of the Rhineland to Maryland. Just off of Light Street, The Christmas Village opened on Thanksgiving and will remain downtown through Christmas Eve. For $5, visitors can continuously experience all that the village has to offer. A one time ticket purchase grants you access through the whole season.
While I did not buy anything during my afternoon adventure in the market, I had a great time browsing with my family. You don’t have to have a German heritage to enjoy all that the Christmas Village offers. Vendors filled the village selling everything from handmade mittens, hats, and scarves to glass ornaments and jewelry. Artists and crafters weren’t the only vendors with goods to sell. No German village is complete without food. The Christmas village featured a Bavarian Beer Garden, German Grill, and plenty of tasty winter treats. In order to further the holiday spirit, a main stage in the center of the village hosted entertainers singing songs or playing instruments. I completed all my christmas shopping early, but if I had any last minute shopping to do, this would be a great place to do it. I appreciated the unique wears for sale, and I hope make this new Baltimore holiday addition an annual tradition.
34th Street Lights
After enjoying dinner at the Inner Harbor, my family and I made our way to one of Baltimore’s older holiday traditions, the lights on 34th street. You’ve probably heard of the film Miracle on 34th Street, but you may not know of Baltimore’s own 34th street. Over the years, I have seen some great neighborhood decorations. I frequently drive around my own town to see what my neighbors have done. However, the neighbors on 34th street take the cake…or more appropriately take the fruitcake when it comes to decorating for Christmas. The whole street gets in on the act and strings lights from house to house, with each trying to outdo the next in the most friendly way. This street puts Clark Griswold’s holiday lights to shame.
You can admire most of the lights from the sidewalk as you walk down the street, but some neighbors are nice enough to open up their porches or homes to visitors. One home features a guestbook and toy train that goes around the ceiling. Another neighbor opens up his foyer as an art shop and sells fantastic metal works with a Baltimore flair. Baltimore takes great pride in its crabs, Old Bay, Utz chips, and Natty Boh beer, and you can witness that pride in the decorations. The street gets pretty crowded, so plan to park a few blocks away and just walk down.
If you park a few blocks away, you can explore all that Hamden has to offer. Just minutes from downtown, Hampden is a small Baltimore neighborhood with a big heart that retains its “old town” feel. Retailers converted old row-homes into small restaurants and stores giving the neighborhood its cozy atmosphere. You won’t find one storefront that you can shop at anywhere else. All of the businesses are independently owned making them unique to the area. The main stretch of shops and cafes known as the avenue are on 36th street, so it’s the perfect outing to combine with your trip to 34th street. In Hampden, the shops are just as eclectic as the goods they sell.
I honestly could have made a whole daylong adventure out of the shops I visited during my trip downtown. I plan to go back and visit soon. During this trip, I mostly poked around a few antique stores and a charming bookshop. If thrift stores and vintage goods are your thing, then you definitely have to pay 36th street a visit. I checked out at least four during my short evening exploration, and there were a few more I didn’t get to see. Perhaps I will get back there to spend some of my Christmas money. Not only does the street feature vintage treasures, it is also home to a few art galleries and stores selling hand-crafted goods.
So if you’re ever in the area, be sure to check out the holiday charm of charm city! What holiday traditions does your hometown offer? Feel free to share below!