Come visit, the lights are on, says the Maryland Office of Tourism. Candlelight tours, holiday illuminations, lighted-boat parades and Chesapeake Bay lighthouses are all beacons of light that reveal authentic Maryland experiences and destinations.
Lighted-boat parades are another holiday mainstay. The 25th annual Baltimore Parade of Lighted Boats, Dec. 1, starts in Fell’s Point at 5:30 p.m., and continues to the Inner Harbor at 6 p.m. A week later, on Dec. 8, 6-8 p.m., the annual Eastport Yacht Club Lights Parade features 70-plus powerboats and sailboats cruising through Annapolis Harbor. And, the Solomons Lighted Boat Parade, also on Dec. 8, at 6:15 p.m., is one of the highlights of this Southern Maryland town’s yearly Christmas Walk – a weekend of seasonal events occurring along streets lit by luminaries.
Here is a sampling of candlelit tours, illuminations and light displays across Maryland, followed by a selection of lighthouses that are open to visitors.
State House by Candlelight, Dec. 7-8, Annapolis (Anne Arundel County) – The nation’s oldest state house in continuous legislative use is open to visitors, 7-9 p.m. both evenings, with free admission. Musical performers include the Chesapeake Youth Orchestra. Photo ID is required to enter.
Chesapeake City Winterfest, Nov. 23 – Jan. 12 (Cecil County) – Holiday lights and displays beckon from both sides of the Chesapeake and Delaware (C&D) Canal for this first annual event. A self-guided candlelight tour of the historic district starts at City Hall on Dec. 8. Advance tickets are $12. Horse and carriage rides, and strolling carolers are all part of the town’s Victorian Christmas celebration. C&D Canal Museum extends its hours for the season. And, shuttle service into town is available weekends.
Luminaria Night Celebration, Dec. 22, Vienna (Dorchester County) – More than 1,500 luminarias line the streets of this colonial town along the edge of the Nanticoke River for an annual event sponsored by the Vienna Heritage Museum. Private homes, historic buildings and community churches open their doors, 5-8 p.m., for public tours. Free trams shuttle visitors along the route.
Winterfest of Lights, Nov. 15 – Jan. 1, Ocean City (Worcester County) – The Winterfest Express takes visitors on a musical, mile-long trip in Northside Park (125th Street and the bay) featuring a 50-foot Christmas tree and lighted displays that depict the 12 days of Christmas, Santa’s workshop and The Wizard of Oz. Winterfest Village serves hot chocolate to visitors after the ride. And, Santa is available for photos nightly through Dec. 23.
Concord Point Light, Havre de Grace (Harford County) – Located at one end of a waterfront promenade overlooking the juncture of the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay, this is the oldest Maryland lighthouse open to the public. It’s the second oldest in Maryland, built in 1827, and similar in construction to the 1825 lighthouse at Pooles Island, which is off-limits. Both are granite towers (painted white) with mahogany doors. A restored keeper’s dwelling is 200 feet from the lighthouse. The first keeper was John O’Neill, a local War of 1812 hero. Havre de Grace Maritime Museum and Havre de Grace Decoy Museum are nearby.
Drum Point Light, Solomons (Calvert County) – This completely restored lighthouse, in operation from 1883 to 1962, is part of the Calvert Marine Museum. Drum Point is a 1.5-story white, hexagonal screw-pile cottage. When built, it had a light that could be seen for 11 nautical miles and a 1,400-pound fog bell. It originally stood in 10 feet of water at the northern approach to the Patuxent River. By 1900, the water level had dropped to three feet. Drum Point stood on dry land by the time it was decommissioned. The museum offers regular tours of the lighthouse.
Hooper Strait Light, St. Michael’s (Talbot County) – Now part of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum overlooking the Miles River, this screw-pile lighthouse was headed for demolition in 1966 when the museum interceded. The lighthouse, which includes a hexagonal dwelling, was built in 1879. It was installed at Hooper Strait, a passageway connecting the Chesapeake Bay and Tangier Sound, about 40 miles south of its present location. Groups can spend a night at the lighthouse and experience the lifestyle and duties of a 19th-century lighthouse keeper.
Seven Foot Knoll Light, Baltimore Inner Harbor – Built in 1855 from prefabricated parts, this screw-pile lighthouse was installed at the mouth of the Patapsco River. The original octagonal structure was upgraded in or around 1875 with a round dwelling unit, 40 feet in diameter, encircled by a gallery deck. A number of lighthouse keepers lived here with their families during the 133 years that it was manned. After a simple steel tower replaced the lighthouse in the 1980s, Baltimore City acquired the lighthouse and restored it with interior exhibits. Seven Foot Knoll is now part of Historic Ships in Baltimore’s maritime collection.
Thomas Point Shoal Light, near Annapolis (Anne Arundel County) – This Maryland icon, one of the most recognized lights along the Chesapeake Bay, is also one of only 10 lighthouses in the U.S. to be designated a National Historic Landmark. Tours of Thomas Point depart from the Annapolis Maritime Museum. The hexagonal, screw-pile structure, built in 1875, stands just north of the South River, south of Annapolis – the sole screw-pile light on the bay still in its original location. It was built to withstand the fields of moving ice that had severely damaged other screw-pile lights on the bay. The first two lighthouses at Thomas Point were on-shore towers that succumbed to erosion.
The first lighthouse in Maryland was erected in 1822, and the last in 1910.