Although it's not unusual for a single building to have an Open House, can an entire downtown put out the welcome mat?
Baltimore finds out this weekend as some 100 downtown stores, restaurants and assorted cultural attractions call attention to themselves on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 8 p.m.
If this lengthy list includes universally known places like the National Aquarium, it also features arcane wonders like the Mount Vernon Museum of Incandescent Lighting. Even many lifelong Baltimoreans are still in the dark about that mini-musuem's collection of 10,000 light bulbs.
"It's a way to attract local residents who may not have been downtown recently," says Laurie Schwartz, president of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, of this weekend designed to re-introduce Baltimore to Baltimoreans.
The joint public-private promotional campaign also includes the just-launched "The Downtown Baltimore Show," which uses a talk-show format and local host to encourage people to visit downtown.
This ambitious civic marketing campaign already has been profiled in a recent article in the New York Times, so other cities will no doubt be watching to see how the Baltimore effort fares.
For the present -- as in, what are we gonna do this weekend? -- one highlight of the downtown Open House should be "Glow Downtown," in which eight or so hot air balloons congregate at the Inner Harbor's Rash Field on Saturday from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. The nocturnal "glow" will come from the flames that would send these balloons flying high if it were daytime and they weren't tethered to the ground for your close inspection.
And while you're checking out the balloons, Rash Field also is the site for country line dancing Saturday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
These country moves are part of "Dancin' in the Streets" programs slated for six sites on Saturday and Sunday. You also can do the Electric Slide with musical prompting from Bill Cummings and the Coppin State Show Choir on Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. at the Nations Bank Plaza (formerly the Brokerage); gyrate to the sounds of the Caribbean, Africa and New Orleans as played by Mama Jama on Saturday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Harborplace and the Gallery; swing to big-band music on Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. at Hopkins Plaza; snap your fingers to the Peabody Ragtime Ensemble on Sunday from noon to 2 p.m. at Mount Vernon Place; and really boogie to the Rhumba Club playing on Sunday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Broadway Market Square in Fells Point.
Some of the other events -- many free, some with an admission price -- include face painting and other kids' activities at the National Aquarium, living history re-enactments at the Baltimore Maritime Museum, everything from an Ask-a-Doctor booth to a visit from Edgar Allan Poe at Westminster Hall, tours of Old St. Paul's Church, the 14th annual street performers auditions at the Harborplace Amphitheatre, and Maryland Science Center demonstrations.
Also, a brewery tour and beer tasting at the Wharf Rat Camden Yards (the Orioles are playing at Camden Yards itself this weekend), the Billie Holiday vocal competition at the Walters Art Gallery, several exhibits at Maryland Art Place, international crafts displayed at the Top of the World observation level of the World Trade Center, and the Maryland on Display Tour & Travel Showcase at the Baltimore Convention Center.
And there's more! There's the brass quintet TowerBrass performing in the St. Paul Plaza building. There's country music stars Reba McEntire, Faith Hill and John Michael Montgomery at the Baltimore Arena. There's concerts by the Peabody Symphony Orchestra and the Peabody Jazz Ensemble.
For more information about downtown Open House events, call (410) 342-7469.