Baltimore gets all lit up beginning Saturday, as Light City takes over the Inner Harbor with its megawatt art, entertainment and innovation.
Most of the attention, as it should be, will be centered on the BGE Light Art Walk, 21 brightly and inventively lit art installations installed harborside along Pratt and Light streets, from the Maryland Science Center north and east to Harbor East.
But Light City, now in its third year as what organizers bill as a "festival of light, music and innovation," is more than a feast for just your eyes. Your ears and taste buds should also have a fine time, and hopefully your imagination will be engaged as well.
Here's a list of 10 things you don't want to miss at Light City 2018, running at the Inner Harbor Saturday-April 21. It's not exhaustive, but it should at least give you an idea where to start.
No disrespect to Kimbra, G. Love & Sauce or the dozens of other acts who will be making music from two stages over Light City's eight-day run, but none of them are legends and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees. He's a hip-hop pioneer, whose 1982 effort with the Furious Five, "The Message," was among the genre's first mainstream hits. 10 p.m.-11:30 p.m. Saturday at the Light Up the Night concert stage, Pratt and Lights streets.
Beautiful and functional, Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang's installation features 27 functioning pedicabs, decorated with more than 900 handmade lanterns. Perfect for Light City fans unwilling (or unable) to walk the festival under their own power. They'll be setting off from Stop No. 49, near the terminus of the Light Art Walk off President Street in Harbor East.
Drone Prix at Light City
An officially sanctioned drone race (betcha didn't even know there was such a thing) through a combination light installation-obstacle course-sculpture garden. A collaboration between local artists McCormack and Figg and Global Air Media, the race is the only one of its kind in the world, according to organizers. They also say it will buttress Baltimore's reputation as "the drone capital of the United States." Again, who knew? Going on throughout the festival at Stop No. 1 on the Light Art Walk, east of the intersection of Light Street and Key Highway.
Light City boasts two special ways to quench your thirst this year: Night Thyme, the "official" Light City rye cocktail, featuring Le Mondae's Citrus Thyme Shrub, and Lumen Ale, concocted by The Brewer's Art especially for Light City. Both will be available at beverage stations throughout the festival.
Get yourself a bird's-eye view of the whole Light City landscape from the top of this 70-foot-tall Ferris wheel. Just $5 a ride, free if you happen to be a bird. Stop No. 17 on the Light Art Walk, on Light Street about two-thirds of the way between Key Highway and Pratt Street.
From Kyle Miller, Tim Scofield and Steve Dalnekoff,* the team that came up with Charlie the illuminated peacock two years ago, for the first Light City. This 20-foot-long, 15-foot-wide and 10-foot-high octopod will not only be lit up, but its tentacles will move. A bit creepy, perhaps, but cool. Stop 45 on the Light Art Walk, on Pier 5, near the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse.
Opening Night Parade
Light City kicks off at 8 p.m. Saturday with an illuminated march from the Maryland Science Center to the National Aquarium. Besides featuring all sorts of illumination, the parade will include the Frederick Douglass High School Marching Band, the New Baltimore Twilighters, 901 Arts Drum Line and Bateria Terra Maria, plus stilt walkers, the Cristo Rey Step Team and more. C'mon, who doesn't love a parade?
Self-Guided Audio Tours
Thanks to Live Baltimore, this year's Light Art walk comes with audio annotation. Festivalgoers can dial 410-934-7821, enter the number of the Light Art Walk stop and hear all about what they're looking at.
Light City's daytime component offers speakers and workshops aimed at social innovation (it's why they call this a light and ideas festival), including ArtLab, EduLab, FoodLab, GreenLab, HealthLab, MakerLab, SocialLab and YouthLabs. All feature speakers who are experts in their fields, many from outside Baltimore and with national reputations. A great chance to listen and be heard on a range of topics of national concern. New this year, admission is pay-what-you-can; rarely have quality education and enlightenment been so affordable. April 18-21 at The IMET Columbus Center, 700 E. Pratt St. Schedule and full descriptions: lightcity.org/innovation.
LIT City Baltimore
An illuminated dance party featuring DJ James Nasty, along with an open bar for beer, wine and cocktail, and food from some of Baltimore's finest restaurants including Cava Mezze, Chez Hugo Bistro, The Owl Bar, Sobo Café and the Horseshoe Casino restaurants (Gordon Ramsay Steak, Guy Fieri's, and GDL Italian by Giada). All under the protection of the underside of the Orleans Street Viaduct (aka The Light Tunnel). 8 p.m.-11 p.m. Thursday, $40. Sponsored by the Downtown Partnership. godowntownbaltimore.com.
*An earlier version of this story misspelled the names of Kyle Miller and Steve Dalnekoff.