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Best Tips for Checking out Light City With Young Kids

You know you are intrigued. You’ve seen the ads pop up in your Facebook feed, and you just know Light City in Baltimore will be awesome. In earlier years you would have immediately planned dinner and some lights with your friends. Or, maybe a date night. However, now you have a preschooler. Do you dare venture into the city at night? Is there anything worth seeing if your kids are in tow? Isn’t it past their bedtime? Well, guess what? Light City is definitely a great ‘Fun Thing to Do With Kids.’ I should know, we checked it out on opening night. Here is what you need to know if you want to take your young kids to see this amazingly cool lights festival!

light city with young children

Light City With Young Kids


  • Don’t go alone. Bring another responsible adult or older kid with you. Many of the activities and light displays are along the edge of the water. Even if your child holds your hand the entire time, someone might want to take some pictures at some point. You will need two responsible people in order for this to happen.
  • Bring cash! There are many vendors that are setting up downtown for this event. I am sure most of them take credit cards (who doesn’t, right?). But it is always a good idea to carry some extra cash when you go to a major event.
  • Dress warmly. On the day we went, it was in the 60’s during the daytime, so I thought a light jacket would be fine for Sweet Pea. Nope. Most of the festival is along the edge of the water in the Inner Harbor, and it is really breezy. Plus, the lights don’t come on until it is dark outside. It will be colder than you think.

light city with kids

  • Manage Expectations about what you will be able to see with your kids. Like many 3-year old, Sweet Pea’s bedtime is typically 730pm. That means I could probably stretch her to about 830pm, tops. The exhibits aren’t really open until 7pm, so you can do the math. There is so much to see and you will not be able to see it all unless you come back multiple days. Pick one area and decide to concentrate on the light city attractions in that area only. To make the drive into the city more worth it, check out these tips too:
    • Eat dinner in the city (see below). If you arrive around 530/6pm, you can have a nice dinner before you head over to check out the festivities.
    • Mini Light City opens at 7pm. If you have a preschooler or toddler with you, you will want to check this out. It is not light (or dark) dependent. So, head over there first and see the lighted attractions after the sun goes down.
    • Park near the area of the festival you want to see.
    • If you have any doubts, bring the stroller.


There are plenty of food options that are young kid friendly in the Inner Harbor. You really don’t need to buy food from a vendor unless you just want to. Some of the available restaurants are:

  • Bubba Gump’s
  • Chipotle
  • Panera Bread
  • Shake Shack
  • Chicken Rico (Peruvian Chicken that is super delicious and kid friendly)

light city with kids

We actually tried out a ‘new to us’ pizza place, Joe Squared. We really enjoyed their coal fire pizza and it was located just across the street from our parking garage.


Knowing where I am going to park is one of my cardinal Family Adventure rules. Not only does it save us the irritation of winging it, but I like plugging exact directions into GPS. To ensure there will be a space for us, I almost always reserve a spot with Parking Panda. For Light City, we chose the Harbor Park Garage at 55 Market Place. This is the garage that is next to Port Discovery. It also happens to be very close to the location for Mini Light City.

Top Kid-Friendly Festival Areas (click here for a map of the festival attractions)

There are really a stunning array of light displays to see and fun things to do. We concentrated on Mini Light City and the Light Art near it. However, many of the Light Art displays or activities would be kid-friendly.

Mini Light City at Pierce’s Park

If you aren’t familiar with the Inner Harbor this could be hard to find. Behind the National Aquarium and Barnes and Noble, is a dock with a US Coast Guard Cutter. You can’t miss it. Mini Light City is right next to the Cutter. Here are some of the kid-friendly activities here:

light city with kids

  • Free face painting! Tip: If your kids want to get their faces painted, grab a number right away before they do anything else. The line could get long.
light city with kids

photo courtesy of futuremakers


  • Create your own light sword and then get your picture taken with a long exposure camera. This cool STEM activity is courtesy of Future Makers.
  • Make some music at the Homophone sound garden… lit up for the festivities.

light city with kids

  • Take a whirl on a spacey blue light slide.

light city with kids

  • Make some crafts in the Maker’s Tent.

light city with kids

light city with kids

light city with kids

  • See a kid-friendly show!

light city with kidsLight Art Near Mini Light City:

  • Pixel Promenade

light city with kids

  •  Gateway
  • Lightwave– projected on the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse
  •  Peacock
  • Voyage (my favorite)

light city with kids

  • Plaza (near the World Trade Center)

light city with kidsNear the MD Science Center:

  • The Big Wheel (Ferris Wheel)
  • Charm City Carousel
  • Take To Ro- Bridge of Lights
  • Digital Skin Live (paint on your friends with light!)
  • Lumen (draw on a light mural)
  • Stad Amsterdam (lighted ship only in the Harbor until the 31st)

Kind of off by itself but maybe worth the walk:

  • The Pool– this is an interactive exhibit where the light responds to participants walking on little circles.
  • Giant Lite Brite– in Fell’s Point, your kids (and you) can play with a giant Lite Brite.

So, don’t let this week go by without checking out Light City Baltimore! I hope you do go with your kids.. and have an illuminating time!

Thanks for reading,

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10 Fall Family Events in Maryland That Aren't Fall Festivals

Sunday 6th of February 2022

[…] Light City is a free festival of light, music and innovation. We visited the first two years (the exhibits change every year). You can read my Light City Review here.  […]


Wednesday 30th of March 2016

I went tonight and did have a nice time but was under impressed. My expectations may have been too high, I thought there would be more lights around the harbor and some in the water. My 7 year old enjoyed the kids area and there were a few light sculptures nearby. The performers we saw weren't much different than the daily harbor performers; kids storyteller, acrobatics/knife throwing, hula hoop and were all difficult to see in the dark! We do frequent the harbor often and have parking available so we didn't need to put much effort into going. Overall I would say go and set your expectations accordingly. If it is a hassle for you to get into the city or you think your kids will be cranky I would skip this event.


Thursday 31st of March 2016

I am glad you had a nice time! We did too.. but I definitely 'managed expectations.' We don't go into the Inner Harbor as much so a few of the things were still novel for us.. well, and we have a 3 year old vs. a 7 year old. I think the manage the expectations part is the biggest. A young kid (under 5) will not be able to hang with trying to see everything. I am so glad your 7 year old liked the mini light city! Thanks so much for providing additional insight for parents trying to decide if this is something they want to attend!


Wednesday 30th of March 2016

The restaurant is Shake Shack, not Steak n' Shake. We also plan on going tonight and eating at Chicken Rico, also kid friendly and near the lights!


Wednesday 30th of March 2016

Oh yeah, I knew I was going to mess that up! lol. Thanks for the correction. I will update the post. I also love Chicken Rico.. I will add that one too! I hope you enjoy the lights!


Wednesday 30th of March 2016

Thank you so much for this! I was debating if I should bring the 5 y.o. down, but this has convinced me it's worth it.


Wednesday 30th of March 2016

Oh, it is definitely worth it! I hope you have fun!

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