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Electric Avenues Shining examples of houses alight for the holidays; Let there be lights; All aglow: Houses shine brightly for the holidays.

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The holidays. A season of joy and peace, of ho-ho-ho and mistletoe, of gifts under the tree and parking lots filled with trees just dying (literally!) to earn a spot in your living room.

And, judging by the efforts of Baltimore's more flamboyant residents, of electric bills larger than the gross national product of some countries.

Sure it's gaudy, thousands upon thousands of lights hanging from every nook and cranny. But it's also undeniably beautiful, and you've got to love the resourcefulness and perseverance of these exterior decorators, who must have spent more time designing their displays than Eisenhower spent planning the Normandy invasion.

But enough of these platitudes. Let's get down to brass tacks, a look at the most electrifying showplaces Baltimore has to offer this holiday season. We've done the real work; all you need do is make sure there's gas in the tank and a map in the glove compartment.

BALTIMORE CITY

1. The highlight: Hanukkah House - that's what it's known as this time of year - is at 6211 Park Heights Ave. It is spectacularly aglow in celebration of the Jewish holiday. There are lights lined along the yard. There is a fiddler on the roof and four additional musicians on the balcony, as well as a menorah, a candelabrum that holds nine candles for celebrating Hanukkah. The house will be lighted from Sunday through the Hanukkah holiday, up through Dec. 25.

2. As usual, it's hard to describe the 700 block of 34th St. in Hampden. People have called it "fantastic" and "phenomenal." A huge "Seasons Greetings" sign is strung across the street welcoming visitors to the block. One of the highlights, and there are many, is the Christmas tree fashioned from hubcaps, the snowflakes on the buildings and the Santas made from bicycle )) wheels. It appears as if the neighbors on this street haven't found a holiday decoration they didn't like.

3. Other people in the neighborhood have the holiday spirit too, such as the folks at 3634 Keswick Road. In the small yard, there is a Santa Claus, snowman, icicles and candy canes. Lights are on the fence.

4. At 3411 Keswick, there is a stuffed Santa sitting on a ledge, a Christmas tree in the yard and wreaths on the stair banisters.

5. Nearby at 846 W. 37th St., the yard is decorated with a manger. There is a rooftop Santa Claus who looks as if he is coming out of (or going down) the chimney.

6. At 3642 Elm St., there is a very nice porch arrangement with sleighs and reindeers.

EAST/NORTHEAST

1. The highlight: Like a huge neon sign in a field of fireflies, the house at 1307 Clayton Road in Joppa, south of the intersection with Maryland Route 7, is pretty much impossible not to notice. From the welcoming candy canes lining the driveway to the red and green lights spelling out "Merry Christmas" atop the roof, this is the sort of home BGE must pray for.

Be sure and observe the posted 5 mph speed limit, so as not to miss anything. There are the evergreens covered in multicolored lights (and not those tiny bulbs that are always getting lost in the grass), the large star above the carport, the 20-foot-tall pole tree crowned with a Moravian star, the plastic snowman family.

Ever wonder how people can afford these electric extravaganzas? Pay attention on your way out, and you might notice a clue: Many of the trees only have lights covering their front halves! No sense putting lights where no one's going to see them anyway.

2. 2977 Harrogate Way, off Abingdon Road, looks like nothing less than a runway for the estimable Mr. Claus to aim for, complete with roof lights that blink off and on.

3. 9 Urbanwood Court, in Essex off Eastern Avenue, is the standout from among a group of homes that were all decorated the weekend after Thanksgiving; be sure to notice the candy canes flanking the front door and the lighted Santa atop the porch roof. Sometimes, if the owners get around to throwing the switch, there's even music playing.

4. 414 Delaware Ave. in Essex, off Eastern Avenue, is a perennial favorite complete with the Peanuts gang, the Muppets, gingerbread men and other assorted critters. The neighboring houses are no slouches, either.

5. The home at the corner of Vulcan and Kimberly roads, off North Point Boulevard, includes a parking sign for reindeer. It's just the first in a series of fabulously lighted houses along both streets.

NORTHWEST

1. The highlight: The people in the house at 1625 Andylin Way in Eldersburg (behind the Carrolltowne Mall) in Carroll County don't hold back on the lights; the owner says there are close to 10,000 decorating the outside of the home. There's a six-foot angel, as well as a six-foot star on the side of the house, icicle lights around it. There is also a sled, Santa and his reindeer, and a Santa workshop, among other decorations.

"People just stop by, knock on our door and tell us how much they appreciate the lights," says homeowner Linda Kunkowski. "We feel as though it's a little bit of our input for people's happiness at Christmastime. It's something that we can share with everyone."

2. In Randallstown in Baltimore County, the home at 3719 Courtleigh Drive, off Liberty Road, lights up the entire block. There are about 25 soldiers in the front and side yards, large lights and candy canes. A Santa Claus and a sleigh are on the roof, with reindeer going over the edge. There are two manger scenes, and two large blue spruce trees are decorated and lighted.

3. The house at 8500 Fieldway Drive in Randallstown has a white picket fence that's decorated. Santa and his reindeer are in the yard, and there are plenty of red wreaths.

4. Nearby at 8324 Scotts Level Road, candy canes line the driveway, and the lights around the house make a nice holiday statement.

5. The large red house at 10209 Marriottsville has a manger out front with a sled. There are also angels, wreaths and a large, lighted star. Horses roam in the adjacent field.

WEST

1. The highlight: For what may be the metro area's best use of tiny Christmas lights, check out the houses at 3207-3209 Hammonds Ferry Road, just off Hollins Ferry Road and I-695. With green, white, red, gold and blue lights hanging just about everywhere, the yard looks like a tropical rain forest, or like one of those antebellum Louisiana plantations with Spanish moss hanging everywhere. The effect is quite striking, almost eerie.

2. In Lansdowne, don't miss the 300 block of Bigley Avenue, especially the display at 340 that resembles nothing so much as a theater marquee announcing St. Nick's arrival ("It's the best year I've done," homeowner Frank Smith insists).

3. & 4. Two homes on Rolling Road, between Route 40 and Security Boulevard, deserve your attention. At 1340, multicolored lights adorn two 25-foot evergreens standing sentinel on both sides of the front stairs. Very impressive. And at 1460, reindeer formed of blinking white lights graze contentedly in the front yard.

5. In Catonsville, 6630 Hunters Wood Circle (off Rolling Road) is nicely decorated with white lights. The trees are decorated with red and white lights.

SOUTHWEST

1. The highlight: In Columbia, at 6718 Bush Ranger Path, off Shaker Drive, there is a life-size snowman, a Santa Claus with his sleigh and three reindeer. The trees in front of the house are decorated. Both floors of the house are lighted up, and there are plenty of wreaths. There are also candles in the windows.

2. At 10608 Spotted Horse Lane in Columbia, there is a reindeer and Santa Claus. Icicle lights are strung around the home.

3. In Ellicott City, at 4122 Font Hill Drive, there is a spruce tree in front decorated with about 4,500 miniature multicolored lights, the owners estimate.

SOUTH/SOUTHEAST

1. The highlight: Don't miss the neighborhood favorite at 83 Lake Shore Drive in Pasadena, a bit south of Mountain Road (Maryland 177). You'll know you're at the right house not only because of the sheer wattage (more than 50,000 lights, we're told), but also because of the Santa and his reindeer flying across the front yard. Seemingly untethered (it's suspended between two signs on a practically invisible cord), the sleigh is being pulled by all nine reindeer, including Rudolph, the one with the blinking red nose.

But that's only one of the display's iridescent delights. The entire house is blanketed with multicolored lights; there must be 200 lighted fixtures scattered throughout the front yard; and there's a 30-foot evergreen tree festooned with lights from top to bottom. Pulsing lights jump out at you from the house's windows, a blinking Moravian star sits atop a lighted plastic manger scene, and a host of lighted toy soldiers lines the driveway.

Some details you might miss at first glance: Santa riding atop an old-style two-wheeled bike in the front yard; even the mailbox is outlined in blinking red lights; and watch atop the garage for yet another Santa, who pops up every few minutes.

2. 7842 Cheverly Lane in Sun Valley, off Baltimore & Annapolis Boulevard (Route 648), with Santa and reindeer planted atop the roof and flashing lights along the home's entrance railing.

3. 2 Normandy Drive, at the corner of Route 648, where even the backyard clothesline is outlined in lights.

4. 1026 Fairway Ave. in Glen Burnie, off Oakwood Road, where a single star above the front door stays lighted until midnight, long after the rest of the lights have been extinguished for the night.

5. 5618 Patrick Henry Drive, in the Arundel Village section of Brooklyn Park, which comes complete with a wooden sled and reindeer illuminated by floodlights. Actually, bountifully lighted homes are scattered throughout Arundel Village, all within two or three blocks; be sure to drive around while you're here and do a little exploring on your own.

OTHER HOLIDAY LIGHTS

Baltimore Zoo. "ZooLights" walk-through light show through Jan. 5:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. $2.50-$4.50. Call 410-366-LION.

"Fantasy of Lights." Fort Howard Park through Jan. 3, 5:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 5:30 p.m.-11:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday. $7 per car. Call 410-887-7161.

"Garden of Lights." Outdoor walk-through holiday show, through Jan. 3 at Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallan Ave., Wheaton. Closed Monday, Tuesday and Dec. 24-25 and Dec. 31. $10 per car or van. Call 301-962-1453.

"Lights on the Bay." At Sandy Point State Park near Annapolis through Jan. 3, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily. $12 per car; $50 buses. Call 410-974-2149.

"Symphony of Lights." Drive-through display of animated and stationary holiday light creations at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia through Jan. 3, 6 p.m.-11 p.m. nightly. $12 per car; $25 per commercial van or minibus. Call 410-740-7666.

Pub Date: 12/17/98

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