Christmas preparations have been under way for weeks in Maryland's famous houses and historic sites. And now, dressed in their holiday best, they stand ready and waiting to welcome visitors to seasonal celebrations.
Events with a Colonial flavor will lure visitors to mansions like the William Paca and Hammond-Harwood houses in Annapolis, Mount Clare in Baltimore, the Teakle Mansion in Princess Anne and Hampton Mansion in Towson. But there's much more to Christmas in Maryland than elegant mansions and lavish decorations. Many sites offer period music, dancing, cooking demonstrations and refreshments.
In Fells Point, every weekend until Christmas is busy with holiday activities, concerts, performances, even a scavenger hunt. Weekends in the waterfront towns of Solomons on Dec. 3-4 and St. Michaels Dec. 11-12 offer amusements for all ages. Drive through an illuminated battlefield, ride the B&O; train to the celebration at Mount Clare, attend the nighttime spectacle of a lighted boat parade or visit the Drum Point Lighthouse trimmed from top to bottom for a 19th-century Christmas.
These are but a few of the many holiday offerings in Maryland, so check out the following calendar and pick a date.
Weekends now through Dec. 19
* Olde Fashioned Candlelight Christmas in Fells Point, Baltimore: Shops and homes in this waterfront community are decorated for an old-fashioned Christmas. A town crier announces the events of the evening, including fireside readings of Dickens at the Admiral Fell Inn, a lamplighter's tour, Christmas activities at the Robert Long House, holiday scavenger hunt, horse-drawn carriage rides (small fee), "The Gift of the Magi" performed by the Vagabond Theatre Players, children's breakfast with Old St. Nick and mini-performances of " 'Twas The Night Before Christmas" at the Inn at Henderson's Wharf.
Hours: 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday; noon to 9 p.m. Saturday; 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Special events: parade of lighted boats along the Fells Point waterfront from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 4; musical performances by concert bands, brass quintets, carolers and string quartets. All activities are free unless otherwise stated. (410) 327-8360.
Today and Dec. 4-5
* Holiday Visits at Carroll County Farm Museum, 500 S. Center St., Westminster: "A Gathering of Greens" is the theme of the holiday celebration at this 1800s farmhouse. Costumed guides welcome guests into rooms decked with greenery and featuring Old World customs. Musicians play holiday music; the summer kitchen is the site of open-hearth cooking and gingerbread making; woodcarvers and other craftsmen demonstrate in the museum outbuildings. Also offered: wagon rides (small fee) and holiday foods; and Santa pays daily visits from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays. Admission: $1 for adults; those under 12 free. (410) 876-2667.
Dec. 1 to Jan. 2
* Historic Annapolis Foundation Christmas Celebration, 186 Prince George St., Annapolis: "A Holiday Visit to William and Molly Paca's Colonial Home." Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays; noon to 4 p.m. Sundays. Admission: $4 for garden tour; $6 house and garden tour; half price for children.
Events include Colonial food demonstrations with open-hearth cooking, recipes and food sampling, noon to 4 p.m. Dec. 5; instructions on making holiday decorations, 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Dec. 12; holiday stories for children of all ages, 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Dec. 19. Admission for special events: $4 for adults; $2 for children. (410) 269-0432.
Dec. 2-5 and Dec. 9-12
* Christmas Madrigal Evenings, St. Mary's City: There's a series of candlelight dinners in the reconstructed State House of 1676. Dine with the lord and lady of the manor as madrigals and motets are sung by costumed entertainers. Evenings begin with wassail hour at 6:30 p.m. Admission: $40. (800) SMC-1634 or (301) 862-0981.
* Solomons Christmas Walk, Solomons: This Chesapeake Bay village has 3,000 luminaria, carolers, bell ringers and madrigal singers, a holiday treasure hunt, breakfast with Santa, medieval entertainment, a children's art contest and visits with Santa at Calvert Marine Museum and a lighted boat parade Saturday evening. Hours: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday. (410) 326-2549 or (800) 356-2009.
* State House by Candlelight, Annapolis: Visitors are invited to an open-house celebration with candlelight and holiday music. 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Free. (410) 974-3400.
* Ballestone Manor Holly Tour, Rocky Point Golf Course, Back River Neck Road, Essex: Costumed guides lead candlelight tours through the manor house to visit rooms decorated in period styles. See Santa's workshop, enjoy musical entertainment, talk with Civil War soldiers encamped on the lawn. Tour concludes with homemade cookies and hot cider by the fireside in the 1840s kitchen. Also available: handcrafted gifts and surprise visits by Santa. Also Dec. 5 and Dec. 10-12.
Hours: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Fridays; 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays. Admission: $2.50 for adults; 50 cents for those under 16. (410) 686-5821 or (410) 887-0218.
* Antietam National Battlefield Illumination, Sharpsburg: Drive through the battlefield aglow with light from 23,110 luminarias in remembrance of the casualties of the battle in 1862. Hours: 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Enter on Route 34. Free. (301) 432-5124.
* Lighted Boat Parade, Baltimore: About 45 power and sailboats festively illuminated circle the Inner Harbor and Fells Point waterfront. 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Free. Bad weather date: Dec. 5. (410) 837-4636.
* Colonial Christmas at Mount Clare Mansion, Carroll Park: The 1760 home of barrister Charles Carroll is dressed in Christmas finery and illuminated by candlelight; docents wear Colonial costumes, Christmas music is played and mulled cider and cookies are available. Christmas greens, gourmet items and handcrafts are for sale in the stable on Saturday. Ride a train from B&O; Railroad Museum to Carroll Park on Sunday (trains depart hourly; fare is $2). Also Dec. 5.
Hours: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Admission: $4 for adults; $2 for seniors and students; 50 cents for ages 5 to 12. (410) 837-3262.
* Christmas in New Market: Stroll the picturesque streets of Maryland's "antiques capital" and see more than 30 antique shops. Enjoy Colonial decorations, complimentary hot cider and cookies, horse-drawn hayrides, food, tree-lighting ceremony, and strolling musicians. Carolers and concerts will be at Grace Episcopal church both days at 2 p.m. Also Dec. 5.
Hours: noon to 8 p.m. Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Just off Interstate 70 at Exit 62. Free. (301) 865-5055.
* Christmas on the Susquehanna, Steppingstone Museum, 461 Quaker Bottom Road in Susquehanna State Park, Havre de Grace: The farmhouse is decorated for an old-fashioned Christmas, and handmade Christmas trees are placed throughout the house. Guests can enjoy carols and stories in the parlor and hot mulled cider and cookies in the kitchen. Greens and homemade baked goods are for sale. Also Dec. 5.
Hours: noon to 4:30 p.m. Free. Directions: Take Interstate 95 north to Exit 6 and follow to Susquehanna State Park. (410) 939-2299.
* 19th-Century Farmhouse Christmas at Benson-Hammond House, Andover Road and Aviation Boulevard, Linthicum: Decorated period rooms and costumed docents interpret Christmas traditions in Anne Arundel County, sponsored by Ann Arrundell County Historical Society. Also enjoy holiday refreshments and music; gift shop is open. Also Dec. 5.
Hours: 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Admission: $2 adults; $1 senior citizens; free for ages 6 and under. (410) 768-9518.
* Holiday Candlelight House Tours, Frederick: Tour six private homes in Frederick's historic district constructed between 1820 and 1930, and hear a different musical presentation in each home. Hospitality suite at Frederick City Hall. Also Dec. 5.
Hours: 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday; noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission: $15. (301) 663-8687 or (800) 999-3613.
* Christmas at the Drum Point Lighthouse, Calvert Marine Museum, Solomons: Climb up the hatchway to find an authentic turn-of-the-century display in every room of the lighthouse; tours end with hot cider and treats. Also Dec. 5 and Dec. 11-12.
Hours: 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tour is included in museum admission: $3 adults; $2 children and seniors. (410) 326-2042.
* Holiday Open House at Evergreen, 4545 N. Charles St., Baltimore: Enjoy seasonal decorations, Christmas music and a cup of Christmas cheer during holiday tours at Evergreen House. Have your picture taken in a 19th-century sleigh, and shop at the Christmas boutique.
Hours: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Admission: $5 adults; $2.50 students; free for under 12. (410) 516-0341.
* Museums by Candlelight, Frederick: Eleven historic sites throughout the city and county present programs recalling the holiday traditions of yesteryear, with costumed hostesses, music, refreshments, exhibits, cooking demonstrations and history presentations.
Hours: 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Free, but donations accepted. (301) 663-8687 or (800) 999-3613.
* Candlelight Pub Crawl, Annapolis. Guides in Colonial attire lead walks by candlelight through historic streets of Annapolis; there will also be a progressive dinner and entertainment. Also Dec. 7-9, 12, 14-16 and 19.
Hours: 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Reservations required. Admission: $62. (410) 263-5401.
* Yuletide at Hampton Mansion, Hampton Lane, Towson: Christmas decorations from 18th and 19th century reflect the Ridgely family's hospitality during the holiday season. There will be costumed guides, refreshments and instrumental holiday music each evening.
Hours: 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Free by advance tickets. Reservations accepted until Dec. 3. Also a holiday dinner available in the tea room at 6:30 p.m. Tickets: $30. (410) 583-7401. Decorations remain through Dec. 21 with tours offered on the hour from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. (410) 962-0688.
* Early 18th-Century Christmas Feast, 14800 Gov. Oden Bowie Drive, Upper Marlboro: Elaborate holiday feast at historic Darnall's Chance re-creates meal enjoyed by wealthy 18th-century Marylanders; it is served at 7 p.m. by costumed waiters and accompanied by period music. Tickets: $40. Reservations required by Dec. 3. (301) 952-8010.
* 18th-Century Christmas Celebration at Hammond-Harwood House, 19 Maryland Ave., Annapolis: See Colonial-style decorations created by garden clubs from the Annapolis area. There will be costumed hostesses; musical entertainment in the candlelighted drawing room; hot wassail and cookies in museum kitchen. Greens and decorations are for sale.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. Admission: $6 for adults; $3 for ages 6 to 18. (410) 269-1714.
* Christmas at an English Country House, 3535 Jarrettsville Pike, Monkton: Visit the lavishly decorated manor house, home of the late Harvey S. Ladew, and tour the grounds with the famous topiary hedges. There will be music; complimentary refreshments; and greens for sale on the lawn, and the gift shop and cafe will be open. Also Dec. 12.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission: $5 for adults; $4 for seniors and students; $1 for children under 12. Directions: 14 miles north of Beltway Exit 27B, on Jarrettsville Pike between Jacksonville and Madonna. (410) 557-9466.
* 19th-Century Christmas at Homewood House, Johns Hopkins University, 3400 N. Charles St., Bal
timore. Christmas tours are offered on the hour, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and noon to 3 p.m. Sundays. Also Dec. 12-19.
Events: Period dances by Port of Bladensburg Heritage Dancers at noon, 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Dec. 11; Candlelight tours featuring period music by Classical Interludes, 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Dec. 12 and 13. Admission: $5 adults; $4 seniors and $2.50 students. (410) 516-5589.
* Christmas Light Parade of Yachts, Annapolis Harbor: More than 50 yachts decorated with thousands of lights take part in this annual nighttime parade through Annapolis Harbor and Spa Creek, sponsored by the Eastport Yacht Club, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Free. (410) 263-0415.
* Candlelight Christmas in Princess Anne: Celebration includes a candlelight walking tour through luminaria-lighted streets and an open house at Teakle Mansion, which has been decorated by the Somerset County Garden Club, with costumed hostesses, carolers, music and refreshments. Hours: 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Admission: $3. (410) 651-2762.
* Tome School Holiday House Tour, North East: Ten homes and a Victorian-style church in Cecil County are decorated and open to the public as a benefit for Tome School. Hours: 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tickets: $10. (410) 287-2050.
* Christmas in St. Michaels: Holiday fare includes a house tour of eight decorated private homes from noon to 5 p.m. as well as a parade, exhibits by local artists, a Christmas bazaar, breakfast with Santa, Alpine Christmas Village and Christmas dinner at Union United Methodist Church. Also Dec. 12.
House-tour tickets, which can be purchased on tour day at St. Luke's United Methodist Church on Talbot Street for $15, include admission to Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. (410) 745-5909.
* Union Mills Homestead's Poinsettia and Greens Open House, 3311 Littlestown Pike, Westminster: Several rooms of the 1797 Homestead will be decked out for an old-fashioned Christmas by Alloway Herb Gardens. Hot mulled cider and cookies will be available, poinsettias, wreaths, Christmas trees and greens, other Christmas items, homemade bread and stone-ground flour will be for sale. Santa holds court in the miller's office of the gristmill. Also Dec. 12.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Free. (410) 848-2288.
* Christmas Open House, 1824 Frederick Road, Catonsville. Catonsville Historical Society Museum will be decorated in silver and gold; there will be a train display and light refreshments. Also Dec. 12. Hours: 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Free. (410) 744-3034.
* An 18th-Century Candlelight Musicale at Charles Carroll House, 107 Duke of Gloucester St., Annapolis: Spend an evening at the home of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, complete with candlelight, entertainment by the Annapolis Opera Company and 18th-century refreshments. Hours: 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Admission: $20. Reservations required. (410) 269-1737.
* Christmas Candlelight Tour, Havre de Grace: Christmas tour of historic town features eight private homes, including one modern house built on stilts by the owner and one of the oldest homes in Havre de Grace, owned by Commodore John Rodgers, a hero of the War of 1812. The tour also includes the Susquehanna Museum Lockhouse, Concord Point Lighthouse, Decoy Museum, Jobe's Decoy Shop, the new City Hall and Valery Lloyd's Art Gallery. Refreshments will be served.
Hours: 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Admission: $10. Benefits the Susquehanna Museum Lockhouse. (410) 939-3947.
* Union Square Christmas Cookie Tour, Baltimore: Tour 22 Victorian homes, including the H. L. Mencken House. Cookies will be served. You will also find crafts demonstrations and crafts for sale, and a country store at the school.
Hours: Noon p.m. to 5 p.m. Admission: $10. Tickets sold on tour day at Steuart Hill Elementary School, Lombard and Gilmore streets. (410) 945-1497 or (410) 233-3168.
* Christmas in Crumpton: Several houses in this Chester River village will be open for a candlelight tour; there will be refreshments at each home and caroling at the Crumpton Methodist Church.
Hours: 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Admission: $5 adults; $2.50 children 6 to 12; free under 6. Tickets available at old schoolhouse. (410) 928-3860.
* Christmas House Tour, Bel Air: Eight private homes in the Bel Air area, including the Hays House, will be open for tour to benefit the Harford County Chapter of AMC Cancer Research Center.
Hours: Noon to 5 p.m. Refreshments and holiday boutique at Liriodendron. Tickets: $15. (410) 838-8278 or (410) 272-1331.
* Christmas at Miller House, 135 W. Washington St., Hagerstown: "Christmas Everlasting" is the theme for this year's open house. Twelve areas of the Federal period town are decorated with fresh greens and dried flowers. Also Dec. 22-23, 26 and 29-30.
Hours: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday to Friday; 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission: $2 for adults; $1 for senior citizens; free for students. (301) 797-8782.
* Christmas in Historic Chestertown: The town is having a Christmas tour of 18th- , 19th- and 20th-century homes and public buildings, with refreshments at Christ Church.
Hours: Noon to 5 p.m. Admission: $12.50 in advance; $15 after Dec. 10; $5 for children under 13. Tickets may be bought on tour day at Christ Church or write to Parents' Association, Garnett Elementary School, Calvert Street, Chestertown, Md. 21620. (410) 778-0866.
* Holiday Bus Tour, Baltimore: Sponsored by Baltimore City Life Museums, the tour reveals some of the city's traditions. Refreshments will be served.
Hours: 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tour departs from Peale Museum. Tickets: $15 for museum members; $20 for non-members. Reservations required. (410) 396-3279.
* Victorian Christmas by Candlelight at Surratt House, 9110 Brandywine Road, Clinton: Decorations and traditions re-create a mid-19th-century Christmas. Costumed guides lead tours; Civil War soldiers act as sentries; antique toys, 19th-century Christmas cards and tree ornaments, refreshments and a visit by Father Christmas are added features. Also Dec. 19-20.
Hours: 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 18; 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 19 and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 20. Admission: $1.50 for adults; $1 for senior citizens; 50 cents for students. (301) 868-1121.
* Christmas Garden Open House, Peale Museum, 225 N. Holliday St., Baltimore: Visit the museum's Christmas garden and receive advice on starting your own garden. Refreshments will be served. Hours: Noon to 4 p.m. Free with museum admission. (410) 396-3279.