Ocean City is well-known for its holiday celebrations that begin in mid-November with Winterfest of Lights and end with a New Year’s Eve fireworks celebration, but a little to the west in Berlin, Maryland, small town living is elevated and ultra-festive. Local art and shopping, horse-driven carriage rides, lit-up trees and decorations, and a New Year’s ball drop of its own make Berlin the place to be this time of year. Consider taking some time out of your holiday in Ocean City to visit the charming town, or make the trip just for Berlin itself. In addition to the holiday festivities, America’s Coolest Small Town has plenty of lodging and dining options to make it well worth your visit any time of year.
2nd Friday Art Strolls – Nov. 9, Dec. 14
Berlin is a small town with a big artistic presence, housing art galleries, artists’ studios and museums, not to mention the inspiration its quaint, historic landscape provides. On the 2nd Friday of every month, from 6 – 8 p.m., Berlin’s art makes its way outside and local artists show off their paintings, sculptings, and the handmade items they have for sale. There’s a good chance you’ll even find the perfect holiday gifts for your art-loving loved ones (and if not, you can try again at Ocean City’s Holiday Shoppers Fair the weekend after Thanksgiving). Even if you don’t fall in love with any particular item at the Art Stroll, it’s at least a good excuse to wander Berlin’s picturesque downtown, which looks like it’s straight out of a Hallmark Christmas movie this time of year.
Tree Lighting and Holiday Open House – Nov. 23
The holiday season in Berlin will officially start the day after Thanksgiving (because we’re totally not already listening to Christmas music now… That would be weird…) with the annual tree lighting ceremony outside the Atlantic Hotel at 6 p.m. Berlin Mayor Gee Williams will light the tree, local sculptor Eric Cantine will turn a block of ice into a piece of art, and the shops will be open late with special holiday deals. But if you hope to turn in early that night, you can always come back the next morning and shop your heart out at…
Small Business Saturday – Nov. 24
…Small Business Saturday, celebrated at independent shops and boutiques around the country the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Because who needs Black Friday when you can shop small and support your friends, neighbors, and the local economy? Small Business Saturday is a relatively recent tradition, originating in 2010 to encourage shoppers to support mom-and-pop shops across the country, and has grown steadily every year since. See if any of these locally-owned and wide-ranging shops appeal to you, and spend your Saturday shopping in Berlin.
Free Christmas Carriage Rides – Dec. 1, 2, 15, 16, 22, 23
If you hear the trotting of hooves and the jingling of bells in Berlin anytime near Christmas, you can be sure there’s a horse-driven carriage making its way around the corner. There’s no more festive way to take in all the scenery and the decorated homes and storefronts downtown than on a Christmas carriage ride, and what’s more, the rides are completely free. Check the corner of Pitts and Main Street for your Christmas carriage.
New Year’s Eve Celebration and Ball Drop – Dec. 31
Even at this point, I think we can all admit that 2018 has been an exceptionally long year. Whether it’s one that requires celebrating or lamenting is up to you, but regardless, we could all probably use an end-of-the-year blowout party and several glasses of champagne. Berlin’s annual New Year’s Eve Celebration starts at 6 p.m. with a mini ball drop for the kids, and at 10 p.m. for adults with an outdoor bar and entertainment followed by the big ball drop and fireworks at midnight.