One creative's (totally honest) review of Light City Baltimore

Published: April 7, 2016

written by Kendall Ludwig, president and principal designer, CurlyRed

Disclaimer: I know, and have long had great respect for, Brooke Hall and Justin Allen. They are the founders of What Works Studio, What Weekly, and the the ones who first imagined Light City. I've been hearing them talk about this event for several years, and have been very excited to see it come to fruition. But they did not ask me, or compensate me in any way, to write this review. I simply wanted to share my experience.

Light City Experience #1: BGE Light Walk

Described as: "Light City transforms Baltimore’s waterfront into an amazing spectacle of light, music and innovation. From the south shore of the Inner Harbor to Harbor East, festival -goers can explore 1.5 miles of world-class installations – all free, accessible and open to the public."

On Wednesday night, March 30th, I packed up my two girls, grabbed the hubby and headed downtown to see the light show. Thanks to, we reserved very inexpensive and convenient parking, right across from the Maryland Science Center.
We spent the next hour and a half walking around and interacting with the light exhibits. We didn't get a chance to make it all of the way around (my girls were pretty beat by the time we got to the Aquarium), which is a shame because apparently some of the coolest lights were around the piers and Harbor East.

What was awesome:

  • all of the installations were free, and many were very beautiful
  • the event felt very family-friendly. There were lots of children, interacting with the art and generally in a state of light-induced awe
  • the live music and performances that we saw were top-notch
  • so. many. people! (seriously, for a chilly Wednesday night, I couldn't get over how many people were there to take place in this festival)

What needs improvement:

  • my overall takeaway of the BGE Light Walk was a little underwhelming. I think the imagery/website/media hype leading up to the event made it seem like there would be...I don't know... more to see. I think there a few reasons for that, including...
    too much ambient light. Many of the installations would have been more remarkable if, for example, the streetlights that line the inner harbor were either dimmed, or replaced with colored bulbs.
  • I wish the surrounding skyscapers have been more involved as well, in some way, like with projected imagery, etc. I'm hoping that will be the case with future festivals.
  • I also wish there had been more in the harbor on all of the nights, not just the night of the parade. A few lit-up ships, stationed in the middle of the inner harbor, would have made a huge visual impact.
  • I wish there had been more signage, and better indications for public restrooms. We found both hard to find, which isn't the best when you're dealing with a 3-year-old's unpredictable bladder.

Light City Experience #2:

Light City U Creative Innovation Conference< Described as: "In an age when what we create is literally only limited to our imaginations, Light City U will convene a gathering of some of the most inventive designers, makers, artists, entrepreneurs, futurists, storytellers and thinkers to explore how emerging creative practices will shape our world and to share ideas and tools to create change." Honestly, I was on the fence about attending this event. The line-up and topics looked terrific, but the ticket price was really steep for a first-year conference. My business development budget is small, so I applied (and was awarded) a scholarship to attend for free! And I'm ever so grateful, because this is one of the best conferences I've ever attended (and I've attended a LOT of conferences). I was only able to attend on Friday, but will definitely try to make it back next year...

What was awesome:

  • the overall theme I heard: let’s make Baltimore a better city through inclusive creativity and innovation (amen!)
  • every single speaker I saw, and the topics he or she chose to speak on
  • great venue, with free, ample parking
  • met very interesting fellow attendees (and was surprised to see so many new faces)
  • the very yummy free happy hour following the event on Friday (Rouge Catering and OrderUp both rock my socks)
  • the musical guest, 5-minute yoga session, the Mindgrub technology playground (seriously, such a cool conference!)

What needs improvement:

  • the cost. I saw some promotions leading up to the conference, dropping the ticket price to $99. In my opinion, that's a fair price. Any more than that makes it difficult for a lot of us non-corporates to attend.
  • if it is going to be more than that, lunch should be included
  • both the breakroom with water, sodas and snacks, and the women's restroom, ran out of supplies about halfway through the day
  • some live music during lunch would be a nice touch

Light City Experience #3:

Illuminate Light City 90s Dance Party
My friends and I were already planning on going out Friday night to dance, so when this event came up on my Facebook feed, I didn't hesitate to tell my ladies that THIS was the plan.
I can't even make a pros and cons list, because the entire night was a BLAST. A cheap $10 cover, inexpensive drinks, cool venue, and my favorite, favorite type of music ever was playing all night.
OK, maybe one con: can super-high waisted pants please not be a thing anymore? PSA time: those don't look good on ANYONE (sorry, no, I didn't take any pictures).


Overall, I would give Light City Baltimore a solid A-.

There is certainly lots of room for improvement, but for a first-year festival of this scale, I was seriously impressed by the wide range of offerings, the organization, and the innovation that went into the entire thing.< Brooke and Justin, our entire city should be thankful for your vision. I'm proud of you, Baltimore. Even if your pants waistline is far too high.

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