Shop till you drop, but not at the mall.
That's the idea behind the sixth annual Miracle on Main Streets, a Baltimore-wide initiative that begins Tuesday and encourages residents to shop at local retailers and explore the city's neighborhoods.
Managed by the Baltimore Development Corp. as part of its Baltimore Main Streets program, the Miracle campaign promotes shopping districts in 10 city neighborhoods: Belair-Edison, Brooklyn, East Monument Street, Federal Hill, Fell's Point, Hamilton-Lauraville, Highlandtown, Pennsylvania Avenue, Pigtown and Waverly.
More than 50 free activities are planned, including tree lightings, concerts, parades and visits from Santa. Also, free parking will be available on weekends from now through Christmas.
The holiday shopping season "is the part of the year that can provide a profit margin" for a business, Baltimore Development Corp. President M.J. "Jay" Brodie said.
City leaders are trying to help merchants attract customers by calling attention to the wide range of goods and services they offer and the improvements made to Main Street districts in recent years, he said.
"You're seeing fewer vacant storefronts, more shops and more attractive places to walk," Brodie said. "It all makes for a more pleasant shopping experience, and it's more convenient for many people."
The districts offer "a shopping experience that you cannot get anywhere else," Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in a statement. "Where else but Baltimore could you roller skate with Santa — or see Santa arrive by tugboat?"
Rawlings-Blake, City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young and other city officials will kick off the monthlong program at 6 p.m. Tuesday with a concert at St. Peter Claver Catholic Church Hall, part of the Pennsylvania Avenue Main Street district.
A complete schedule of events and information is available at http://www.MiracleOnMainStreets.com.