Monday is usually the slowest night of the week, with many bars, clubs and restaurants either nearly deserted or actually closed as people stay home in droves. But with New Year's Eve falling on a Monday this year, the whole town will be jumping.

The most popular spot to welcome the new year, our town square if you will, is of course the Inner Harbor. The big news story there Monday night will be the huge octopus covering the side of the National Aquarium. Well, actually that octopus will be one of the many laser images projected onto the Aquarium and the World Trade Center in a high-tech laser and fireworks show celebrating the Aquarium's new Marine Mammal Pavilion.

Of the many thousands of whoopee-makers gathered at the harbor, more than a few will be coming from the city-sponsored non-alcoholic parties at the Convention Center. "Party With a Pop," 9 p.m.-11:30 p.m., features calypso music by Mama Jama, oldies with the Mahoney Brothers, a cappella singing from Regency, comedian Blaine Capatch, a disc jockey-ruled dance floor, and a chance to make your own music cassette in a Super Star Recording Booth.

The variety of musical events all under the Convention Center roof makes it convenient for families in that if teens are embarrassed to be seen with their parents, they can go to a room of their own.

Admission is $7 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under. The price of admission includes free snacks and soda. For more information call 837-4636.

For those who gather around the harbor itself in the hours before midnight, the Scott Cunningham Blues Band plays at the Harborplace Amphitheater 9 p.m.-midnight.

Below is a sampling of what else is available on New Year's Eve. Reservations are required for many parties, and in any event it's a good idea to call ahead rather than get the new year off on a turned-away note.

Of other offerings at the Inner Harbor, you can't get any closer to the watery action than the Bay Lady or Lady Baltimore. Cruises board at 8:15 p.m. and last from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m. The price of $88.40 per person includes dinner, open bar and a "Fabulous Fireworks" continental breakfast. For info call 727-3113.

Among hotels within earshot of the fireworks, the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel (962-8300) has several options for the evening. The first, with a nautical theme, begins with a ballroom reception with champagne and hors d'oeuvres 7:30 p.m.-9 p.m., then switches to another ballroom for dancing to the band Odyssey and food from these ports of call: Naples, Hong Kong, Baltimore and New Orleans. Tickets are $179 per couple and include parking. For $339 per couple, you also get an overnight room.

A third option, in the hotel's video nightclub Impulse, runs 9 p.m.-3 a.m. It includes a New Orleans buffet. The cost of $25 per person includes complimentary champagne toast, noisemakers and danish and coffee.

The Hyatt Regency (528-1234) has a party 8 p.m.-2 a.m., costing $40 per person, at which the entertainment includes the Ed Williams Big Band, Beat Clinic and The Klassix.

At the Radisson Plaza Lord Baltimore (539-8400), options include a Top 40 band, dinner buffet and overnight accommodations for $250 per couple; dancing to a Top 40 DJ, hors d'oeuvres, large screen TV and a cash bar for $15 per person payable at the door; or dinner in Maestro's.

The Stouffer Harborplace Hotel (547-1200) has a "Midnight Magic" party that includes a reception beginning at 7 p.m., open bar, dinner, palm and tarot card readings, magicians, and the New York City Swing Band and the Freddie Stevens Orchestra " playing until 2 a.m. Cost: $125 per person.

If overnight accommodations are desired after all that merrymaking, the total comes to $379 per couple. Other Stouffer options that night include a restaurant meal with jazz and contemporary music played by the Mary Brinner Quartet 8 p.m.-1 a.m., and a jazz trio in the lobby bar 8 p.m.-1 a.m.

There is an oldies music-oriented party at the Omni Inner Harbor Hotel (385-6450 or 752-1100), co-sponsored by WQSR-FM, 8 p.m.-2 a.m. It includes a four-course dinner, open bar and midnight champagne toast. The host is the DJ Rouse and Company, and there also will be live performances by the Angels ("My Boyfriend's Back") and The Tokens ("The Lion Sleeps Tonight"). Cost: $119 per couple or $219 per couple with guest room.

The hotel's Baltimore Grille has dinner to the sound of a jazz duo, priced at $38.75 per person or $89 per person including guest room. And the hotel's Corner Bar has a cash bar with light fare menu for a $10 cover charge that includes party favors and champagne toast at midnight ($89 with guest room).

The downtown Holiday Inn (685-3500) has a $229 per couple party package that includes dinner, hors d'oeuvres, champagne, open bar, Top 40 band and overnight accommodations. For $179 per couple, you can have all of the above except dinner and also you'll listen to a DJ rather than a live band.

Among the many clubs and bars near the harbor, the festive spirit is being mixed with the fighting spirit at the Baltimore Original Sports Bar (962-1000), which dedicates its New Year's Eve party to the American armed forces in Saudi Arabia.

Partygoers are encouraged to bring goods to be shipped to the soldiers there. The wish list includes baseballs, comic books, beef jerky, shaving cream, chewing gum, batteries, and sand flea cream.

The party itself at the Original Sports Bar runs 7 p.m.-5 a.m. The $15 cover charge includes a performance by the rock band Burst of Silence, a dinner buffet and continental breakfast, and the obligatory midnight toast.

Just yards away at the Brokerage, Slapstix Comedy Club (659-SLAP) has Kelly Monteith performing at 8 p.m. for $12 per person and at 10:30 p.m. for $40 per person or $75 per couple; the 10:30 p.m. show includes reserved seats, breakfast buffet, open bar, live band and dancing after the show, champagne and party favors.

Also in the Brokerage, Fat Tuesday (727-4822) has the Rattle Cats playing for a $3 cover; and Grog & Tankard (727-5522) has the All Mighty Senators playing.

In Fells Point, Sanctuary (327-8800) has a dance party starting at 8 p.m., with hors d'oeuvres and a champagne toast, for $15 in advance or $20 at the door. Max's on Broadway (675-MAXS) has the band Obstructed View that night.

In South Baltimore, those who want to raucously rock in the new year can do so at Hammerjacks (481-6000), where Child's Play is on stage for $10 a ticket.

Heading north, the Cross Keys Inn (532-6900) has a $189 per couple package that includes a five-course champagne dinner, dancing to jazz vocalist Brenda Alford and her trio, overnight accommodations, and a bottle of champagne. Other price options are available.

In Towson and vicinity, the party starts at 9 p.m. at Buddy's (339-7880) with live music, party favors, champagne toast and continental breakfast for $10 per person.

The Sheraton Towson (321-7400) will turn its F. Scott Fitzgerald Ballroom into a party site with the band Fancy Colors, open bar, dinner, dancing, and midnight champagne toast action lasting until 2 a.m. Cost: $159 per couple. If it's a nightclub atmosphere you want, the hotel's disco, Warfield's, offers hors d'oeuvres, pastry and coffee at $25 per person.

At Martinique (668-2234), the $20 per person bash features party favors, midnight toast and continental breakfast, or for $55 per person, a seven-course meal, champagne and breakfast.

The party planned 9 p.m.-3 a.m. in the ballroom of the Days Inn in Timonium (592-3820) offers buffet, open bar and champagne, with oldies music by Big Cam and the Lifters and more recent numbers by Don't Stop. Cost: $110 per couple. Room packages are also available.

At the Holiday Inn in Timonium (252-7373), dinner, open bar, music and dancing, a champagne toast and continental breakfast can be had for $49.95 per person.

Padonia Station (252-8181) has a dinner buffet with open bar and dancing 8 p.m.-2 a.m. at a cost of $40 per person. Next door, at Christopher's (252-8181) 8 p.m.-2 a.m. and at $40 a head payable in advance, you can hear the bands Destiny and Boot Camp, while also enjoying the open bar and buffet.

The Embassy Suites Hotel in Hunt Valley (584-1400) offers a two-room suite and party package for $240 per couple which includes cocktail reception, buffet dinner, dancing to the band Network, and New Year's Day breakfast.

Marriott's Hunt Valley Inn (785-7000) offers an open bar, four-course dinner, dancing to the music of the Fred Hall Orchestra, continental breakfast and overnight room for $255 per couple.

Meanwhile, in East Baltimore, the Quality Inn East (633-9500) opens the doors of its Destinations nightclub at 8 p.m. for dancing, open bar, champagne, a hot and cold buffet, and live music by Front Page, at a cost of either $34.50 per person or $129 per couple (including overnight room.) Also at the Inn, doors open at 6:45 p.m. at Shalimar's dinner theater for the show "Lullaby of Broadway," a buffet, champagne, continental breakfast, and dancing with a DJ playing music from the '50s and '60s, at a cost of $50 per person.

Partners (633-8044) has a no-cover party with DJ music, free buffet, party favors and champagne at midnight.

The West Indian Ballroom Dance Club of Maryland is kicking off its first New Year's Eve semi-formal dance starting at 10 p.m. at the Teamsters Union Hall at 6000 Erdman Ave. There will be live music by Collin Dennis and Flames of New York, as well as records spun by a couple of DJs. Admission is $5 in advance or $10 at the door.

To the northeast, The Barn (882-6182) has a New Year's Eve party with the band Great Train Robbery, a buffet and open bar for $30 per person.

To the northwest, the Pikesville Hilton Inn (653-1100) has a ballroom celebration 8:30 p.m.-2 a.m. featuring dinner, open bar, live music, midnight champagne and an overnight room for $195 per couple ($120 per couple without room).

South of the city, you can take off into the new year at the Best Western Hotel at Baltimore-Washington International Airport (796-7775), which has a four-course dinner, dancing, overnight accommodations and breakfast for $175 per couple.

Also at BWI, the Sheraton International Hotel (859-3300) has a $25 per person party at its Safari Club or a more restrained dinner for $75 per couple at Michener's restaurant. There is also an overnight room rate of $65 that includes breakfast for two.

And the BWI Airport Marriott (859-8300) has a $199 per couple package including dinner, open bar, live music by the band December's Rainbow, continental breakfast and an overnight room.

Located near BWI, Jewel of the Nile (379-0557) nightclub has a party with cash bar starting at 8 p.m. for $15 per person that includes party favors, champagne toast and continental breakfast.

In Columbia, the Columbia Inn (730-3900) offers dinner at 8 p.m., a swing band and dancing until 1:30 a.m. Cost: $150 per couple. There is also a $49 room rate for partygoers.

The party at the Columbia Hilton (997-1060), 7:30 p.m.-1 a.m., features a cocktail hour, four-course dinner, open bar and champagne toast, coffee, tea and danish, and the band Full Circle. The cost including overnight accommodations and breakfast is $199 per couple, or $175 per couple without overnight room or breakfast.

Among other Columbia offerings, Clyde's (730-2829) has dinner specials and, starting at 10 p.m., DJ-sparked dancing to golden oldies until 3 a.m. And Michael's Pub (290-7878) has dinner, DJ, dancing, party favors and free champagne at midnight, with no cover and no reservations required.

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