You might as well call it Times Square on the Patapsco, because that's what Baltimore's Inner Harbor feels like every New Year's Eve as thousands of people converge on its hotels, restaurants, clubs and waterfront promenade.
And several thousand people -- for whom a non-alcoholic party is not an oxymoron -- are also expected at the annual city-sponsored Party With A Pop! being held at the Baltimore Convention Center Tuesday from 8:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Entertainment includes a Top 40 dance floor ruled by DJ "Dan the Man" Gladding; oldies played by the Mahoney Brothers, who impersonate the likes of Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly (funny how the spirit of the latter also inhabits the Mechanic Theatre these days); comedian Jeff Charlebois; the a cappella group Part Harmony; sing-along Karaoke; and the jazz band Moon August.
Admission to the Convention Center is $10, with children 12 and under admitted for $6. Although the adult charge is up from $7 last year, the usual munchies have been supplemented in the City That Chows Down by real -- and really free -- food like subs, chicken tacos and sausage. Call (410) 837-4636.
There will not be a live band playing at the Inner Harbor this year -- it was, alas, a victim of the city budget cuts -- but otherwise the midnight countdown led by Mayor Kurt Schmoke should be pretty much the same, with the fireworks still bursting as brightly. Rain date for fireworks is Jan. 1 at 7 p.m.
If the prospect of the post-fireworks traffic jam gives you the willies, you may want to consider taking the Metro, which will stay open until 2 a.m.
Of all the vantage points for watching the Inner Harbor fireworks, few get you as close to the action as being on the water itself -- well, actually as a passenger in a big boat, the Bay Lady ( 727-3113), which provides an open bar, dinner, continental breakfast and dancing for $92.92 per person.
Whatever the venue you choose for New Year's revelry, whether boat or landlocked hotel ballroom, remember the "R" word -- no, not recession, reservations. It's never a bad idea to plan ahead to ensure that somebody is saving a glass of champagne just for you. Also check into overnight room rates offered by many hotels, especially if you have more than one glass of champagne. Here's a sampling of the New Year's Eve action, by region:
The Baltimore Museum of Industry will host a party to benefit the South Baltimore Homeless Shelter. Music will be provided by the Shameless Mooks and trolley service will be available from the museum, at 1415 Key Highway, to the South Baltimore business district. Tickets are $35 in advance, $50 at the door. Call (410) 727-5512.
Around the Inner Harbor itself, hotel options include the Hyatt Regency (410) 528-1234), which for $40 per person provides the Ed Williams Big Band, Motown sounds from Confection, and Top 40 from the Klassics. Food is extra.
The Baltimore Marriott Inner Harbor ( 962-0202) has an "International Cocktail Party" at $55.95 per person featuring open bar, international food selections, and music by the show band Saturday. There is a Mardi Gras theme at the Stouffer Harborplace Hotel ( 547-1200), where a four-course dinner and the New York City Swing Band can be had for $250 per couple or $125 per person.
At the Radisson Plaza Lord Baltimore ( 539-8400), you have your choice of a Ballroom Gala at $275 per couple which includes Michael Hoover and the Sweet Water band playing oldies, an open bar, buffet dinner, overnight room and breakfast; or a "Versailles" package for $95 per couple featuring open bar, hors d'oeuvre buffet, DJ and Top 40 dancing.
The Omni Inner Harbor Hotel ( 783-7347) also has two packages: open bar, dinner, live entertainment by oldies-oriented Bobby Vee and an overnight stay for $259 per couple; or an hors d'oeuvre buffet, cash bar and DJ for $30 a person.
Another harbor address to consider is the banquet facility at Scarlett Place ( 668-6060), which offers open bar, buffet dinner and live big band music for $42.50 a person.
Of the clubs near the Inner Harbor, a rocking good value promises to be at Fat Tuesday ( 727-4822), where the Rattlecats perform for only $3. And insistent blues will be provided by the Nighthawks and Rev. Billy C. Wirtz at 8x10 ( 625-2000), where the $25 ticket includes food, favors (as in party favors) and champagne. And those who want to rock in '92 with black leather rather than black tie will be roaring towards the Hammerjacks concert hall ( 659-ROCK), where Kix plays for a $15 cover.