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Holiday glow

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Nothing gets you in the holiday mood more quickly than a drive around the neighborhood to check out the lights and decorations. Well, almost nothing. How about a drive through neighborhoods around the city? The following list is just a sample of the many homes out there. Some are repeats from previous years that are worth another look. Others include a few surprises we found that are new to the list.

Naturally, the piece de resistance of lights in Baltimore is a block in Hampden. We hear that organizations plan bus trips to visit this one city block. But driving around town will offer glimpses of lighted beauty in many neighborhoods. Sometimes the fun of it is discovering places on your own. You never know what the next street will offer. However, here is a sampling of highlights that you might want to check out, along with maps to help you plan your routes.

City

1. Here's a beautiful example that shows that holiday lights this time of year are not always in celebration of Christmas. At 6211 Park Heights Ave., the lights are sparkling in celebration of Hanukkah. At night, the first and second floors are lighted up with symbols such as a giant menorah, a candelabrum used to hold nine candles and the Star of David.

2. Travel south on Park Heights to Northern Parkway. Make a left-hand turn and drive over to Falls Road and turn right. Make a left off Falls Road to a little street called Elmwood Road. There are some beautiful homes in Roland Park to enjoy. Curve around to the right on Longwood until Midvale Road. The home on the corner is 1 Midvale Road. This grand, old house makes us think of the holiday season during Victorian times. It looks as if Charles Dickens himself is going to pop out of the door at any second. It is surrounded by old, mature trees with "weeping" branches and some small ones that are showing the Christmas spirit with their sparkling lights. Instead of Dickens, a huge Santa Claus is on the front porch.

3. Go back to Falls Road, because no Christmas lights story in Baltimore can be written without including the now legendary 700 block of 34th Street in Hampden. However, make a left on 36th Street to get there. Make a right on Keswick and enjoy the view. The home at 3455 Keswick looks like it's trying to give the 700 block a run for its money. But there is strength in numbers, and the 700 block of 34th Street has the numbers. Someone fairly new to Baltimore heard about this street and asked, "Are those Christmas lights in Hampden really all that?" Yes! Those Christmas lights in Hampden really are all that and then some. It is really much more than lights. It's lights, every imaginable Christmas decoration one can possibly think of (and some you hadn't) and a grand display of neighborhood cooperation. When we were there one recent afternoon, a truck from BGE was parked in the street. No wonder. The folks on the 700 block 34th Street need an extra boost from the utility company this time of year.

4. Go back to Falls Road, but only as far as Cold Spring Lane. Head east on Cold Spring Lane and then make a left, heading north on The Alameda. Take The Alameda to Walker Avenue and look for the home at 1433 Walker Ave. Its small yard is exploding with candy canes and red bows. The door is wrapped in gold. A tiny, real plant is decorated, and there is a snowman along with plenty of poinsettias.

5. Leithwalk is right around the corner. Look for the home at 6207 Leithwalk. Now that looks like a real Christmas tree done up in the front yard. A nice Santa Claus fills the doorway.

Southwest

1. If you live in Howard County, a wonderful place to start your tour is at Way Cross Road and Valley Road. You can get to Valley Road from Frederick Road on the west side of the Columbia Pike. Valley Road is the next street after St. John's Lane. Turn left on Valley Road heading south. The home on the corner of Way Cross Road and Valley Road is spectacular! There are gorgeous flower arrangements, window snowflakes and a lighted Santa Claus. Adorable reindeer sure to please the little ones are in the front yard.

2. Turn right and go west on Way Cross Road until you arrive at MacAlpine Road and make a left. Keep going south until you get to the intersection of MacAlpine Road and MacAlpine Court. The home on the corner, on your left, is just about covered with wreaths and lights. The black shutters make a nice statement with the red poinsettias on the porch.

3. As long as you are in the neighborhood, some homes on Chatham Road are beautifully dressed for the holidays and worth the drive over. One way to get there is to head back north on MacAlpine Road. Make a left on Dunloggin and then a right on Chatham Road. The homes that caught our eye are at 4022 Chatham Road and 4033 Chatham Road. At 4033, Santa and Mrs. Claus are in the front waving a cheery hello to Christmas visitors. The two front posts are gift-wrapped in garland. The house at 4037 Chatham Road is done up with wreaths on the fence, and red bows brightening the porch are a reminder that there is much you can do when your home is blessed with one.

4. Get back over to Old Columbia Pike and head toward Main Street in Ellicott City. On your way to Main Street, which is always a nice Christmas drive, you will pass a home at the intersection of Overlook Drive and Old Columbia Pike. The address is 3965 Old Columbia Pike. You can't miss it; it's the home with the long white fence that is lighted for the holidays. The wreaths in the window are a nice touch, but the long, decorated fence is the show-stopper. Heading north, you can take Old Columbia Pike to Frederick Road. Make a right, then a left onto Old Frederick Road. The home on the corner of Stonewall Road and Old Frederick has the front and side decorated with figures in the yard. There are at least 16 windows in the home, all with Christmas decorations on them.

Northwest

1. Your northwest route can start on Courtleigh Drive, which is off Liberty Road in Randallstown. There are a few nicely decorated homes on this street, but be sure to catch the one at the intersection of Courtleigh Road and Valley Hill. There's a nice sleigh and Santa Claus decorating the single family home. But as nice as this home and others are on the block, they are merely a warm-up for the next one.

2. A short distance away -- you probably already spotted the glow -- is the home at 3719 Courtleigh Drive. Lights, decorations, a cute reindeer on the fence and candy canes are everywhere. They are in the front, side and probably the back of the home. This family can give the people in Hampden a run for their money.

3. Go back to Liberty Road and make a right, heading toward Carroll County. When you get to Marriottsville Woods, hang to your left and go to the intersection of Marriottsville and Granite roads. This home is a nice example of what can be done when you have a lot of house, a lot of yard and a good location for viewing. It's worth a look.

4. Reisterstown is the next location. One way to get there is to go back the way you came on Marriottsville. This time keep going past Liberty Road and make a left at Lyons Mill and a right at Deer Park. You will wind your way through the Soldiers Delight area, where there are plenty of homes decorated for the holidays. There will be a sign leading you to Reisterstown Road. When you reach Reisterstown Road, make a left. Make a right at Chartley and a left at Shirley Manor Road. A quick right, and you are on High Meadow Road. The home at 212 is a delight with its toy houses, decorated tree, train and more. Santa and his reindeer look as if they are suspended in the air while on their way to the rooftop chimney.

Northeast

1. If many of the houses in East Towson, Parkville, Carney and Perry Hall are modestly sized, their Christmas displays are anything but modest. Starting this trip eastbound on Joppa Road in East Towson, turn right onto Oakleigh Road (just before the Beltway overpass). Make a quick right at Yakona Road, which is easy to spot thanks to a sign there for the neighborhood of Ridgeleigh. Already you'll see some nicely decorated little houses, but make a fast left onto Oak Road and proceed to number 8619. It's a tidy brick rowhouse capped by a Santa and sleigh on the roof. The small yard is brimming with candy canes, a nativity scene and more. A few of the immediate neighbors also have gotten into the decorative overkill spirit.

2. Return to Joppa Road and turn right, proceeding eastward until you pass the Perring Plaza Shopping Center to your right and the North Mall to your left. Just past the latter, turn left onto Waltham Woods Road. The mall is to your left, a garden apartment complex to your right. Take a right onto Townhill Road, then a quick right onto Cidermill Road, a right onto Stilepost Lane, and a quick right onto Lampost Lane. At the intersection of Lampost and Carriage Lamp Court you'll encounter a different sort of illumination. Although the Christmas decorations aren't as intensive as some other sites, the red ribbons in the windows are appealing and it's cute to see how a donkey cart lawn ornament has been put to a new use as a sleigh of sorts for Santa and his presents. Continue down Lampost Lane and take a left turn onto Perring Park Road. Take a right onto Old Harford Road and take it south to where it intersects with Joppa Road.

3. Take a left turn onto Joppa Road and resume your eastward trek. Remain on Joppa Road through its intersection with Harford Road and then drive patiently for another two traffic lights, at the second of which you'll turn right onto Walther Boulevard. Almost immediately you'll see Oak Crest Village, at 8800 Walther Boulevard, to your right. The grounds of this recently opened retirement community have been strung up with lights. Easily visible from the public road running past the place is an impressive hilltop display of star-topped "trees" of lights that rise like beacons of the season. Double back and return to Joppa.

4. Take a right on Joppa Road and continue eastward until you reach Belair Road. After taking a left turn on Belair, make sure you look to your right and see the attractive seasonal figures and a sleigh arrayed across the ample lawn of the Perry Hall Elementary School.

5. Continue north on Belair Road, although roadwork makes this a less than joyous ride. Take a left on Pinedale Drive, then a quick right onto Dawn Drive. The house at that corner has lights nicely worked through a white front porch, and it also has a healthy sprinkling of seasonal lawn ornaments. Remain on Dawn, turn right at Walter Avenue, then a right onto Belair Road. Return to the intersection with Joppa Road, turn right on Joppa and head westward until you return to its intersection with Harford Road.

6. Turn left on Harford Road and proceed south. Take a right onto Richmond Avenue, an easy-to-miss residential street just before ramps leading to the Beltway. Once you're on this small side street, Richmond Circle will be to your left. It's a one-way circle, so pass by the first sign you see for it and then turn left at the second Richmond Circle sign. You'll be rewarded with one of the wonders of Western civilization. The Santa-and-sled-topped rancher at 8608 Richmond Circle has a dizzying assortment of Christmas-related stuff on its front, side and back lawn. The candy cane fencing will satisfy any sweet tooth, the toy soldiers lining a sidewalk qualify as a small army, and we could go on and on -- as these decorators clearly did. Indeed, the "Santa Stops Here" sign in the yard merits a "How could he not?" response from the many folks who cruise by here every year. And directly across the street, the house at 8603 has a lot of Christmas things around it, too. If it seems a tad more subdued, remember we're talking in relative terms. The great touch at this house is a real yellow school bus in the driveway, with Santa at the wheel. Once you've calmed down, turn right on Richmond Avenue and return to Harford Road.

7. Turn right on Harford Road and proceed south. Immediately after passing over the Beltway, take a left turn onto another easy-to-miss street, California Avenue. Take a quick left onto Balder Avenue and a quick right onto Arizona Avenue. The house at 3047 has a white fence with greenery neatly worked through it and Santas and snowmen topping it. This house's compact lawn is fully populated with a manger scene, angelic choir and other figures. Several of the neighboring houses also have pretty displays to light up these quiet little side streets. Double back and return to Harford Road.

8. Take a left and continue south on Harford Road and into the heart of Parkville. Make a left turn on Taylor Avenue (just before the Parkville Shopping Center). Proceed a few blocks. Because the street you want, Bagley Avenue, is a one-way street emptying into Taylor, go to the next street, Daniels Avenue, and make a left. Make a left onto Linwood Avenue, then a quick left onto Bagley Avenue. The house at 7734 has transformed a wishing well so that Santa and his reindeer are perched atop it, and the well itself is fittingly filled with presents. And the greenery and red ribbon-festooned house at 7708 features a toy-filled train perched beneath the front bow window. Drive a few more yards and you're back at Taylor Avenue.

South

1. Start your southern expedition at the intersection of Hanover Street and Patapsco Avenue. Head east on Patapsco until you reach West Bay Avenue, where you'll turn right. Go past Benjamin Franklin Middle School, then immediately take a left onto Monroe Circle. Follow its circular route until you reach 1154 Monroe, whose literal highlight is Santa strung up a flag pole. Follow the circle around until you turn right on Everett Street and then right on Inner Circle to get you back to West Bay Avenue. Because West Bay is one-way southbound coming off Patapsco Avenue, turn left on Washburn Avenue, then right on St. Margaret Street to get you back to Patapsco Avenue.

2. Turn left on Patapsco Avenue and head west until you've returned to the intersection of Patapsco Avenue and Hanover Street. Turn left and head south on Hanover Street, which becomes Ritchie Highway. Proceed until you've passed Arundel Plaza Village to your left, then turn left onto Church Street. Keep going until you reach Patrick Henry Drive. A house at that corner not only has red bows handsomely trimming the white siding, but also has a lawn boasting a sign that reads "Merry Christmas," which amounts to an announcement you've entered the compact community of Arundel Village, which, for the uninitiated, is north of the beltway. Cruise down the streets and you'll see plenty of holiday cheer, including a house at 5305 Patrick Henry Drive with a cutout Santa climbing up a front awning as a dog snaps at his red coat.

3. Double back and return to Ritchie Highway. Arundel Village, Brooklyn Park and adjacent neighborhoods offer their share of brightly lighted houses, so feel free to explore them using Ritchie Highway as your directional spine. If you want to head south with a definite destination in mind, keep going south on Ritchie Highway, past the MVA and into Glen Burnie proper, and take a left onto Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard. You'll cross Marley Creek; at the flashing firehouse signal, turn left onto Summit Avenue. Look to your right for the house at 208. It's hard to miss. Every inch of the compact lawn and roof is covered with lights, blinking and otherwise, and there are holiday figures of all types, including a manger scene, carolers and trees real and constructed.

4. Head back to Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard and turn right; when you get back to Ritchie Highway, turn left and continue south. At the light for Aquahart Road, turn right, then make an immediate right onto West Way. Look for Castle Road on your left and enter the one-way loop. This is a small, narrow street, but full of nicely decorated houses, and it's a quiet detour from the madness of Ritchie Highway.

5. Turn right on West Way, then left on Aquahart, then right on Ritchie Highway. Continue going south until you pass Marley Station mall on your right and then Southdale Shopping Center on your left. Immediately take a left turn onto Mountain Road and drive another three miles until you reach Catherine Avenue, where you'll make a right and then a fast right onto 228th Street. The house at 2407 lives up to its North Pole sign. Not content with one Santa on the roof, this place has several. The fully inhabited lawn is especially notable for cottony snow, making the snowmen feel at home; plenty of straw around a manger scene; and an angel perched atop a pole. Turn right onto Outing Avenue to return to Mountain Road.

6. Return to the intersection with Catherine Avenue, this time turning left at Catherine and casually cruising through a neighborhood where many blocks have nicely done up houses. Among those that might catch your eye are 764 220th Street, where Santa and Mrs. Claus flank the front door; and 752 218th Street, where the surrounding big trees make some reindeer on the lawn look like they're in a natural setting. Throughout Pasadena and adjacent communities, people really get into the spirit of the season.

East

1. Eastern and Southeastern Baltimore County light up for the holiday season with enough wattage to put a smile on the face of a utility company executive. Start your tour where Philadelphia Road meets Pulaski Highway in Rosedale. Travel in a northeasterly direction on Philadelphia Road until you reach Chesaco Avenue, where you'll turn right. Just before St. Clement Roman Catholic Church, take a left onto Old Philadelphia Road and you'll soon come upon a house at 8031 whose holiday trimmings include a long procession of reindeer across the front lawn. The house next door has gotten into the spirit of things, too. Options for returning to Pulaski Highway include doubling back to Chesaco Avenue and taking it over to the highway or continuing on Old Philadelphia Road until it eventually meets up with the highway.

2. Head in a northeasterly direction on Pulaski Highway until you reach Rossville Boulevard. Take a right and remain on Rossville as it becomes Stemmers Run Road. When you see Kenwood Senior High School to your right, take a left turn onto Middlesex Road and follow its curving path through an Edgewater neighborhood with many fine displays. The lawns may be small here, but that only means they're positively crammed with Christmas stuff. Many of these rowhouses also do a nice job with red ribbons on their front porches. And 652 Middlesex Road also has a nifty Santa on its roof. Middlesex Road becomes Orville Road and empties into Eastern Boulevard.

3. But regardless of how far your Edgewater wanderings have brought you down to Eastern Boulevard, when you get to it you should head east on Eastern Boulevard until you reach Hawthorne Road and make a right. The house at 29 Hawthorne Road with the "Happy Birthday Jesus" sign is a sign of the holiday values in a Middle River neighborhood where enough of the tidy rowhouses are gussied up for the season. Meander a bit, then exit the neighborhood on Kingston Road, turning left onto Eastern Boulevard.

4. Drive in a westward direction on Eastern Boulevard for about three miles into the commercial heart of Essex. Take a left on Taylor Avenue and proceed three blocks before turning right on Delaware Avenue. It has several brightly lighted houses, with a real knockout at 414. The large manger scene on its front porch certainly brings this sacred story home, but it's the lawn that will have you pointing and opining. The usual population explosion of Santa, Frosty the Snowman, elf colony and other holiday-themed cut-out figures has been supplemented with both the Peanuts gang and Mickey Mouse and his Disney cartoon kinfolk. This multicultural kitsch celebration is capped by the strangest dating couple of the year: Mr. Peanut standing next to Betty Boop. When you've managed to pull away, take a right on Riverside Drive and return to Eastern Boulevard. Turn left on Eastern and continue your westward trek.

5. Driving another two miles, you'll cross over Back River and eventually reach Eastpoint Mall. Just past the mall, take a left on North Point Boulevard and drive south until you approach North Point Village. Turn right onto Old Battle Grove Road and then freely wander through a compact network of streets named for saints. This blessed community hugs the Bear Creek shoreline, which translates to some pretty maritime scenes of festive lights twinkling against a watery backdrop. Some of the decorated houses to look for are 7647 Old Battle Grove Road, with its small yard filled with Christmas paraphernalia; 7858 St. Bridget Lane, with its really big Santa standing on a porch roof; 7850 St. Claire Lane, with its strands of lights extending from the front walkway up to a second-floor window; and several houses in the 7800 block of St. Boniface Lane, in which the greenery and red ribbons are so carefully and similarly wrapped around porch rails and posts that you know these folks are determined to keep up with the Joneses. Gradually working your way south through the neighborhood, exit it by taking New Battle Grove Avenue to North Point Boulevard and taking a right turn.

6. Drive south on North Point Boulevard for nearly two miles, bearing to your right at a fork in the road and continuing on Sparrows Point Boulevard as it heads toward the massive Bethlehem Steel plant. No, that's not your destination. Turn left onto Snyder Avenue (a food market called Micky's sits at this intersection), then continue for a few blocks on Snyder until taking a right onto North Marine Avenue and have a gander at 2611. The manger scene and other figures in front of this rancher brighten up the block. Double back and drive north on Sparrows Point Boulevard until it becomes North Point Boulevard.

7. Drive north on North Point Boulevard until reaching Wise Avenue, where smart drivers will know to take a left and proceed in a westward direction for about five miles. After crossing the intersection with Merritt Boulevard, Wise remains as straight as ever but changes its name to Holabird Avenue. From Holabird, make a quick right turn onto Searles Road and then a quick right turn onto Westfield Road. Several nice houses along here include 7526, which has some make-believe snow on the lawn. This fake snow seems much easier to manage than the real thing. You may want to wander a bit in other side streets before returning to Holabird Avenue and making a right.

8. Continue in a westward direction on Holabird Avenue until reaching its intersection with Dundalk Avenue, where you take a left turn and drive for one mile in a southerly direction until reaching Pine Avenue (St. Timothy's Lutheran Church is on the corner). Make a right onto Willow Spring Road, which also feeds into this complicated little intersection. Head down Willow Spring until making a right onto Cleveland Avenue, which has some well-decorated houses in its 6500 block. Then take a left turn onto Chesapeake Avenue and then a quick left turn onto Colgate Avenue. The big green wreath on the front wall of 6522 Colgate makes an impression, as does the bow window framed by a tightly intertwined fabric concoction that somebody should tell Martha Stewart about. A cautionary note concerning this neighborhood, which is partly in Dundalk and partly in Baltimore: The block numbering system undergoes dramatic changes, and narrow one-way streets will make you wonder how Santa Claus manages to find these houses.

Pub Date: 12/19/96

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