A new holiday light show will engulf Power Plant in a celebratory glow. There will be a lantern parade along the Inner Harbor promenade, a workshop to craft handmade ornaments followed by tree decorating, carolers, public cookie-decorating and rides for children in a trackless train.
These are just a sampling of the events to be offered during a free, family-oriented festival called "It's a Waterfront Life." The festival, sponsored by a consortium of downtown businesses, begins Friday and runs through New Year's Eve.
"In the past, our members have each put on their own holiday activities," says Laurie Schwartz, executive director of the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore.
"This year, they decided to pool their money and to take a more unified approach. This is a challenging year for families, and the Partnership is doing everything it can to help people enjoy the holidays. We're sponsoring dozens of events over the next six weeks, and they're all free."
The past year also has been challenging for businesses. So though the festival events are free, downtown establishments hope to persuade visitors to open their wallets by offering lower prices. For example, there will be reduced admissions on some days at the Maryland Science Center and the National Aquarium, and several downtown restaurants and garages also will offer discounts.
"Everyone is just thrilled with the kind of buzz that's been building around the festival," Schwartz says. "And it's easier than ever to get to the Inner Harbor now that the Charm City Circulator is running three different routes."
Highlights of "It's a Waterfront Life" include:
•A $400,000 light, laser and music show will illuminate the Power Plant three times a night on weekdays and four times a night on weekends. Each show will last between six and eight minutes and will start on the hour beginning at 6 p.m. Some nights will include fireworks.
"It's going to be unlike anything Baltimore has seen before," Schwartz says.
•Borrowing from a popular event organized by the Creative Alliance, Baltimore's first-ever Holiday Lantern Parade will wind along the harbor promenade at sunset Saturday . Visitors can spend the afternoon making lanterns in West Shore Park next to the Maryland Science Center. There will also be "reindeer" rides.
"The reindeer might look kind of like ponies," Schwartz says.
The parade begins at 5:30 p.m. and ends in a visit to Santa's temporary lodgings next to the Harborplace Amphitheater.
•Regardless of the weather, the Inner Harbor is guaranteed to have flurries on Dec. 18, the Sunday before Christmas. The "Let It Snow" celebration will feature ice carvings and a snow machine or two.
Of course, Baltimoreans prefer their precipitation in the form of rain. More than one city resident has referred to the first winter flake as "the white death." But Schwartz, her tongue firmly in cheek, promises that the festival won't result in any next-day school closures.
"I'm pretty sure," she says, "that we won't get so much snow so that the city will be paralyzed."
Festival details can be found at itsawaterfrontlife.org or by calling 1-877-225-8466.
An earlier version of this story provided incorrect dates or locations for some activities during the "It's a Waterfront Life" festival, which features nightly light shows at Power Plant. "Reindeer" rides will be offered Saturday at West Shore Park and a lantern parade will wind along the Inner Harbor promenade near Light Street. Participants also will be able to decorate (though not bake) cookies at several events. The Sun regrets the error.