Holiday shopping in Baltimore

Visit Baltimore research is showing that 30% of Baltimore area suburbanites are decreasing their trips into Baltimore City.  Amazon and the rainiest year on record are not helping. Baltimore retailers need you to come.

There a lot great things about Baltimore this holiday season and I will just point to a few. This article focuses a bit on downtown, but don’t miss out on unique neighborhood shopping, eating, and drinking experiences all over town.

The Light City Festival is great, but the winter holiday shows us maybe we should be Light City all year round.  Has anybody thought of making the wheel permanent? It is a great light display all by itself. What about making sure the Bromo Seltzer Tower and other select Baltimore landmarks always shine brightly in the night.  Lights make the city a festive place, lets do even more of it.

Christmas promenade

The Christmas Market has Germanic food, brews, and wine to go along with about 50 seasonal retailers. You can knock out your shopping while raising your stein of beer from the Hofbrau Munchen Brewery.

In the market


Shop at the places that are in bricks and mortar stores and are here year round. Reward the retailers that do fantastic holiday displays in their windows. Cafe Poupon should do clinics on window displays. Stop here on Charles Street for something sweet, a sandwich, or a coffee. Consider a night or two in a Baltimore hotel or Air BnB as a gift. Being a home town tourist in Baltimore comes with no airline delays or lost luggage.

Cafe Poupon

Check out Made in Baltimore, which showcases Baltimore makers. MIB  now has a pop up shop at 20 W. North Avenue. Down the street is Joe Squared, where you can always have a delicious risotto or pizza pie.

Made in Baltimore store

I have a bit of a bone to pick with the Inner Harbor Barnes & Noble, which barely looked open last Saturday as we made our way in the rain. The B&N window displays could take a lesson from the Cafe Poupon.  However, after arriving, I am always reminded what a treasure this store is.  It is housed in the iconic Baltimore Power Plant building and has so many books that can teach us so much about life, places, people, fantasy, sports, travel, architecture, art, health, business……They also have a good selection of kids and teen books to choose from.  You can always get a warm drink while you are doing it and we had excellent service to help us find some specific present targets. To top it off, we had our presents nicely wrapped for free by friendly ladies raising money from donations for the Chrohns and Colitus Foundation.

Barnes and Noble

Downtown Baltimore and its neighborhood shopping areas should be on your list.  The city and the retailers need your patronage.  There is also a fun new way to get from place to place without moving your car should you choose.  They are the Lime or Bird Scooters that are just one dollar and fifteen cents a minute there after. Pair your shopping with a meal and a nice beverage.  You can knock out your holiday present list and turn it into a lot of fun!



How a Few LED Lights Can Change Your Whole City

The Ravens’ journey to the 2013 Super Bowl has cast a purple glow on Baltimore.  Building owners and facilities personnel have found creative ways to illuminate facades, windows, and trees in shades of purple. Regular playoff trips and this year’s Super Bowl compete with Christmas for festive supremacy.

Baltimore harbor

Baltimore harbor glowing in purple preceding the 2013 Superbowl

Photograph source: Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore

In 1828, Paris lit the Champs-Elysees with gas lamps becoming the first European city to widely adopt street lamps. In addition to being the center of education and ideas, the lighting of Parisian streets helped give Paris the nickname “La Ville-Lumiere.”  In describing the lighting of Paris, Nicholas Green in the Spectacle of Nature writes “what a magnificent spectacle this boulevard presents when at dusk the café waiters light the gas lamps and torrents of light instantly flood forth, pure and white as the moon.” Gas lights allowed socialization and the economy out into the open and into the night.

Victorian paris-at-night

Photo source: Victorian Paris

Hundreds of years later, cities are again using lighting in new strategic ways.    Light displays are credited for a big reason in downtown Philadelphia’s resurgence, particularly their “Avenue of the Arts.”  Even in non-playoff times, Baltimore uplights City Hall, The Bromo Seltzer Tower, Penn Station, the 37 story art deco Bank of America Tower and others. Should Baltimore and other cities do more?  When attending an art gallery or museum, lighting will be carefully directed to highlight each piece. Shouldn’t lighting do the same for our best buildings or their architectural details?  Modern buildings can highlight their geometries whereas historic buildings can focus on domes, spires, columns, or façade details. Street trees also add festivity when illuminated.

lighting historic buildings

Historic building features illuminated
Church in Bath, England Photograph source: Enlightened Lighting Ltd

Why let our best buildings be enshrouded in darkness when the sun goes down?  Lighting is more than design. It is about vibrancy. Light is energy and provides energy.  It can help to resuscitate places that may be tired and disinvested.  It can highlight craftsmanship and prideful work. More people might invest, spend money, and appreciate buildings that are newly energized with light. High tech illumination can help invigorate older beautiful churches, traditional downtowns, and main streets.

Kelley Bell, a graphic designer and professor at UMBC, uses a projector to showcase her art by beaming projections onto buildings in Baltimore. Recently, she has created an exhibit that illuminates blue bubbles onto the clock faces of the iconic Bromo Seltzer Tower.

Can lighting be overdone? Yes.  In an age when the world should be reducing our carbon footprints, lighting takes energy. However, LED lighting is significantly more efficient than earlier types of lighting. If lighting helps to “reuse and recycle” the embedded energy of our existing cities, its trade-off is worthwhile.

Do you have an urban feature or building that is a good candidate for illumination?  or have a picture of a strategically lighted building? If yes, send a jpeg less than 1MB to  Please include an address for the building.


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