Small-town Maryland holidays mean big fun across the state

Mary K. Tilghman

Tour some elaborately decorated homes in downtown Frederick on the Dec. 2 Candlelight House Tour. (Frederick Co. Tourism)

Ready for some holiday spirit? Communities from Hagerstown to National Harbor have scheduled all kinds of fun. 

In Washington County, the Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum brings Christmas past to life with model railroad layouts. O-scale trains operate on four levels of a winter wonderland. Christmas at the Roundhouse is open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through Feb. 4. 

The Dec. 2 Memorial Illumination at Antietam Battlefield features 23,000 luminarias recognizing soldiers killed, wounded, or missing at the battle. (Washington Co. Tourism)

One of the most solemn — and most beautiful — December commemorations is the Memorial Illumination at Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg. The Dec. 2 event features 23,000 luminarias set out for every soldier killed, wounded, or missing at the Battle of Antietam. This free, driving-only tour begins at 6:00pm, with cars traveling slowly along the 5-mile route through the candlelit battlefield.

Antietam Recreation’s “Christmas Experience” has a brand new show, with dinner and live music  reminiscent of a Radio City Spectacular-type production, according to the show’s Ryan Smetzer. The whole event, which lasts up to four hours, begins with family-friendly activities, such as a petting zoo and live nativity, a wagon ride to a re-created Bethlehem, pony rides, and a bonfire with marshmallows for roasting. A home-style dinner precedes the 90-minute song and dance show.

Christmas trees, evergreens, and nativity scenes make churches sparkle during the season. Nineteen downtown Hagerstown churches will participate in the Historic Houses of Worship Tour on Dec. 26, 3:00–7:00pm. The churches fall within a five-block radius of the Hagerstown City Square. Shuttle vans are available for those who prefer not to walk. The event is free; in case of inclement weather, the tour will take place Dec. 27.

The Charlie Brown Christmas at the Barn at Springfield Farm in Williamsport features 100 decorated trees, Santa, and model trains. (Washington Co. Tourism)

New York City may have its crystal ball dropping on Times Square, but Hagerstown has its “do-nut” to mark New Year’s Eve. The “Krumpe’s Do-nut Drop” has become a family-friendly tradition in Hagerstown. And, you don’t have to wait until midnight to witness the 6-foot goodie drop into a cup of AC&T coffee.

Crowds begin gathering late afternoon, when a kids’ zone, with crafts and games, opens at 5:00pm. Refreshments during the event are free, and Fred Krumpe estimates Krumpe’s Do-Nuts gave away more than 530 dozen glazed doughnuts last New Year’s Eve. Festivities culminate with the drop and fireworks at 7:00pm, and downtown restaurants and shops get in on the celebration with their own New Year’s Eve specials. 

Frederick by candlelight

In Frederick County, three different candlelight tours help to make the season bright.

The Candlelight Tour of Historic Houses of Worship takes place Dec. 26, 4:00–9:00pm. Take a free, self-guided tour of the 11 churches whose famous spires make the town’s skyline so memorable. There will be special programs, choir performances, and nativity scenes at each church, as well as performances at the Joseph Dill Baker Carillon in Baker Park. An information center is located at 19 E. Church St., and hospitality rooms with refreshments are set up at four of the churches. 

Peek inside some of Frederick’s houses of worship on a candlelight tour Dec. 26. (Frederick Co. Tourism)

The Museum by Candlelight Tour offers a look inside many of Frederick County’s historic sites and museums, with special programming and hands-on fun for visitors of all ages. This is a free, self-guided event, set for Dec. 9. Visit many locations, or just a few, in any order. 

Tour some of downtown Frederick’s elaborately decorated homes during the Candlelight House Tour, set for Dec. 2, 5:00–9:00pm, and Dec. 3, noon–4:00pm. Tickets are on sale at celebratefrederick.com or in the visitor center, 151 S. East St., which is open 9:00am–5:30 p.m. 

Howard County standbys 

Old Ellicott City continues to recover after the 2016 flood and the local businesses are celebrating with Small Business Saturday on Nov. 25. The Midnight Madness shopping event is back on Dec. 1.

The Ellicott City Station of the B&O Railroad Museum adds a holiday train garden to it’s usual display. The Washington, D.C. Metro Lego Train Club provides the layout and activities Nov. 24–Jan. 28.

At Savage Mill, they’ll be lighting the historic Bollman Bridge on Dec. 2 with thousands of LED lights and a huge bow. In a nod to tradition, they’ll also have Santa and a tree lighting as well.

And, over in Columbia’s Merriweather Park, you can enjoy the Symphony of Lights display Nov. 21–Jan. 1. ()

Outside Washington, D.C.

National Harbor has become more of a community in recent years, but at holiday time, all eyes turn to the Gaylord National Resort, where Christmas on the Potomac has become a tradition.

This year, “ICE!,” a fully immersive ice sculpture attraction, brings the 1964 TV classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to life. The nativity scene and ice slides will be back, too. Open through Jan. 1, its 2 million pounds of ice are kept at a cool 9 degrees. 

A 3,000-square-foot ice rink, dubbed Glacier Glide, has been added to the resort’s Christmas Village. Stay for family-friendly entertainment, including cookies with Mrs. Claus, a carousel, a miniature train ride, photos with Santa, and gingerbread decorating presented by Hallmark Channel’s “Countdown to Christmas.” 

In the always-magical Lower Atrium, a nightly tree lighting features a laser show and indoor snowfall, as well as a live music and dance show, Joy.

 

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