The holiday season is a great time for families to explore the Mid-Atlantic. From free concerts in Washington, D.C. to a boat parade on the Chesapeake Bay, these events deliver a month of magic.
1) Baltimore's largest collection of toy and model trains are on display at the B&O Railroad Museum through the end of December for the Holiday Festival of Trains & Toys. There's also an indoor train carousel and a hands-on craft's table at Santa's workshop.
2) Visit Lights on the Bay, a drive-through holiday light show that weaves along the Chesapeake Bay. Show up after sundown for a vivid display of holiday (think Santa) and Maryland (think crab) icons. Until January 1. $14 per car. Proceeds benefit Anne Arundel Medical Center. 410-481-3161.
3) There's still time to sneak in a holiday candlelight walk along the historic streets of Annapolis, Maryland. The annual Holiday Candlelight Stroll will take place on December 20th and 21st from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Guides will point out buildings with architectural and historic importance, as well as explain the origins of many holiday traditions, like yule logs, evergreens and even Santa Claus. Admission: $16 for adults and $10 for children
4) Gather along the dock at the Annapolis harbor to watch thousands of colored lights emerge from the darkness during the Eastport Yacht Club Lights Parade. Boats, crewed by jolly revelers, are decked out in holiday finery as they sail into port. December 14 at 6 p.m.
5) Throughout the month of December, the historic Willard InterContinental Hotel will host free holiday concerts in its opulent lobby. The program features choral and musical ensembles from around the Washington, D.C. area. From 5:30 until 6:30 p.m.
6) The Clifton Inn, a Relâis & Chateaux property tucked at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, is ushering in Christmas this year with an epicurean- inspired Twelve Days of Christmas classes running through December 24. A few highlights include: hor d'ouevres cooking demo and tasting ($25 per person), a festive cocktail demo and tasting ($25 per person) and a kid-friendly ornament workshop ($35 per person).
7) This year, the Gaylord National Resort's ICE! installation along the Potomac features life-sized sculptures of scenes from 'Twas the Night Before Christmas that have been created by skilled Chinese artists using more than two million pounds of ice. The event includes train rides, indoor snow, holiday lights, encounters with the cast of Madagascar. Through January 5. Admission starts at $27.50 for adults and $19 for kids three and up.
8) The National Zoo in Washington comes alive at night for the holidays with ZooLights. Thousands of sparkling lights outline dramatic animal sculptures from the cute -- pandas-- to the creepy --a Komodo dragon. A nighttime visit also means that kids get to see nocturnal animals in action. Plus, the zoo has set up craft stations for kids, along with ice sculpting demonstrations and choral concerts. Admission is free. ZooLights runs until January 1 from 5 to 9 p.m. (The zoo is closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day).