Candy Lane is new holiday season attraction in Downtown Baltimore.

Don’t tell the not-quite-autumn leaves, but 24-foot-tall ice cream cones, a forest of candy canes and thousands of festive lights are on display in downtown Baltimore.

Candy Lane is a larger-than-life experience from the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, a nonprofit management group that is boosting Baltimore’s central business district, which is also home to some of the city’s fastest growing neighborhoods.

From Nov. 20 to Dec. 23, on Wednesdays through Sundays from 5 to 9 p.m., Candy Lane — at Center Plaza, or 100 N. Charles Street — will provide families and furry friends with hot chocolate and holiday cheer — as well as the perfect selfie backdrop.

Each day will feature different programming and rotating food vendors — including Selina’s Mobile Delights Sweet & Treats, Deddle’s Mini Donuts, Flash Crabcake Company, Lattimore’s Funnel Cakes, Boss Burger, DelMarVa Popcorn and Taco Loco. On Thursdays, visitors will be able to enjoy wine, canned cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages.

At a media preview on Wednesday night, Downtown Partnership President Shelonda Stokes said the inspiration for Candy Lane comes from the similarly named game designed by schoolteacher Eleanor Abbott. While recovering from polio in 1948, Abbott made Candy Land for children in her hospital ward, who recommended she submit it to the Milton Bradley Company.

“The game Candy Land originated in a time similar to now,” Stokes said, referring to the ongoing pandemic. Abbott “created that gameboard to help give inspiration and fun. All of us these past 18 months have been out here, and so what we’re looking to do with this experience is help create that same magical feeling for families.”

Council President Nick Mosby, Downtown Partnership President Shelonda Stokes and other officials cut the ribbon on Candy Lane.

While Candy Lane is mostly a free family attraction, there will be a ticketed 21+ Not-So Silent Night dance party from 7 to 11 p.m. on Dec. 16. An open bar is provided, and themed outfits are encouraged.

In an interview with the Baltimore Fishbowl, Stokes said that Candy Lane speaks to the Partnership’s larger goal of “creating a sense of place” through economic development initiatives, beautification projects and events like the annual lighting of the Washington Monument in Mount Vernon Place.

Last month, the Partnership launched an initiative to keep existing companies in the region, as well as attract new ones. Even pre-pandemic, many businesses had left downtown for newer or cheaper neighborhoods. This shift has been exacerbated by COVID-19, with foot traffic and employment falling and remote work and office vacancies rising.

“COVID-19 has really impacted the core of Baltimore, and our goal is to make downtown a destination of choice for residents, businesses and tourists,” said Stokes, who has also led the Partnership’s BOOST program, which helps Black-owned businesses renovate vacant storefronts downtown. “We need to do that by making sure that we make it clean, that we make it safe and that we create vibrant experiences.”

Candy Lane is sponsored by Artemis Properties, The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company, Southern Management Properties and Baltimore Gas and Electric.

Stokes described the experience as an ever-expanding tradition that “will get bigger, better and brighter each year.”

“Candy Lane is part of a myriad of things that are happening downtown,” she said. “We look forward to this being one of the staples and continuing to grow.”

Last month, at the Partnership’s first in-person annual meeting in two years, Mayor Brandon Scott announced that he’d signed legislation to create a signage district downtown called NoHa, for North Harbor.

Under the Partnership’s plan, a portion of the advertising revenue generated by the signs will be shared with Baltimore’s four state-designated arts and entertainment districts. Baltimore is the only city in the nation to use revenue from signage districts in this way, according to Stokes.

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