Light City Baltimore, an illuminating experience

By RENEE SCAVONE | April 12, 2018

B2_Light City Harbor View

MARYLAND GOV PICS/CC BY-SA 2.0

A photo of the Harbor from the inaugural Light City; there are sure to be more great photo ops this weekend.

As we look forward to a high of 80 degrees this Friday, I can finally say that the springtime I’ve been preaching as just around the corner for the last 40 articles is actually here.

One of the beacons of spring in Baltimore for me, regardless of the weather, is Light City. 

Light City is a festival dedicated to light, music and innovation. It has a number of music acts and talks you can attend, but, of course, the main focus is on the many light installations throughout all of Charm City.

It takes place mostly in the Inner Harbor, and I can say without exaggeration that it’s absolutely wild. To paraphrase an oft-parodied SNL skit, it has everything: glowing Ferris wheels, people wearing hula hoops, a 10-foot-tall light-up octopus with moving tentacles...

There are 21 light installations in total, and a really cool light-up bridge walk that I take roughly 300 photos on every year.

The festival starts off officially on Saturday April 14 with its 8 p.m. Opening Night Parade. Throughout the parade there are pieces of art that use light, as well as dancers, neighborhood groups, stilt walkers and local marching bands. 

The parade also features Fireflies, 27 pedicabs (those bicycle drawn carriages) designed and hand-crafted by Cai Guo-Qiang. If you want to explore Light City but worry about its accessibility, definitely check these for-use carts out.

You may also bump into performers of Alien Nation II, dressed in costumes befitting extraterrestrials. Their glowing attire tells a story of the struggles of impending climate immigrants around the world. 

Less serious is the Baltimore Drone Prix, a series of races wherein drones navigate illuminated obstacles on a course at Rash Field. Championship rounds will take place on April 15, and the event is free to the public.

And don’t miss Feel, an exhibit within the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower. With multiple live-in artists, the Tower is a great place to visit all year round, but resident Sean Michael Kenny specially designed three installations that incorporate light, lenses and reflective materials to make art in otherwise empty spaces.

For something a little more weird and quintessentially Baltimore, you can check out the Nevermore Haunt in Old Town. This haunted house is billed as “locally inspired, historically themed, and scary as hell” and has the added bonus of having Evolution Craft Brewing on tap. 

To sweeten the pot more: There’s a complimentary shuttle to the Nevermore Haunt from the Baltimore Visitor’s Center, which means not having to deal with pricey Saturday night Ubers.

Speaking of priciness, if there’s one thing you’re really trying to spend mad money on (read: more than $15), make it the Light City Cruises. At $27 it’s definitely an investment, but you can see all of the lights displayed in the Harbor and enjoy light-up beverages. 

How do the drinks light up? Unknown. Probably worth finding out.

Though they are definitely not the stars of the show, you should still check out the music and other parts of the festival. 

One neat aspect is the Labs@LightCity talk series. Starting next Wednesday, there will be a number of presentations on innovation in education, the fight against climate change, creativity on a social level and more. 

Tickets are supposedly valued at $250 but are being offered as pay-what-you-can; definitely take advantage of this great opportunity. 

There are also tons of concerts and DJ events. One of the biggest surprises for me on the performances itinerary was legendary hip-hop artist and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Grandmaster Flash. You can check him out at 10 p.m. on Saturday.

I’m also always excited to see the end of the festival fireworks display. The fireworks go off at 11:45 p.m. next Saturday night, and you can watch them with the peace of mind that comes from knowing that they weren’t bought using your tuition dollars.

(Hopkins Parents Fund, I kid! Please don’t come after me on Facebook!)

You will also probably encounter dozens of Happy Hours, dance parties and outdoor neighborhood festivals. 

This weekend in particular I am looking forward to Fell’s Point Light Festival. From 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday there will be live music, drinks and snacks, and light displays from local artists. You can also check out their storefront decorating contest.

And yes, I had to dig through a lot of events promising to be “lit” for this article. I’m neither proud nor happy.

Light City began in 2016 and this year over 500,000 visitors are expected to come visit. Whether this is your last spring in Charm City or your first, celebrate this wonderful tradition and let Baltimore light up your life.

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