This waterfront city has never lost its Colonial charm and historic atmosphere. During the holidays, that means the buildings along the cobblestone streets are festooned with greens and period decorations, with not an inflatable snowman in sight.

You can get into the mood with a lantern-light stroll every evening. Traditions, history, legends and lore are brought alive by costumed guides. The 90-minute walk through the historic area around the city dock, State House and Church Circle ends with a guided tour of the Hammond-Harwood House, one of the Colonial mansions that’s seen over 200 Christmases. Local garden clubs decorate the interior of the mansion in a holiday theme.

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Cruise with Santa aboard the Jolly Express. The evening ride, in an enclosed small workboat with Santa at the helm, chugs up quiet Spa Creek. The boat is Santa’s water “sleigh” and is decorated “reindeer-style,” complete with a red nose at the bow (Annapolistours.com for both tours).

Many cities have Christmas parades, but given that Annapolis is on the Chesapeake Bay, it’s no wonder that its parade floats. On Dec. 12, come for the annual Eastport Yacht Club Lights Parade. Starting at 6 p.m., dozens of decorated and lit boats sail along the shore. In the darkness, all you’ll see are the displays as they float past.

If you want more lights, head for Sandy Point State Park, at the foot of the Bay Bridge, and the Lights on the Bay. Nearly 60 displays glow along the beach and reflect off the water. Along with the usual snowmen and reindeer, there are some local favorites, like animated midshipmen tossing their hats in the air (a graduation tradition at the Naval Academy).

Holiday music is part of the celebrations, of course. The Ballet Theatre of Maryland (Balletmaryland.org) stages the Nutcracker on Dec. 19 and 20. Historic St. Anne’s Church, the first church in Annapolis, is a fitting venue for Handel’s “Messiah.” On Dec. 18, 19, and 20, the Annapolis Chorale Chamber Chorus, Annapolis Chamber Orchestra (Liveartsmaryland.org) and soloists perform the oratorio in the candlelit church.

The holiday season ends with a bang — literally. The family-friendly New Year’s Eve celebration has two fireworks displays planned on Dec. 31. Keeping kids in mind, the early show is at 7:30 p.m., with another display at midnight. The party begins mid-afternoon at the City Dock with lots of kids activities. There are street performers, dancing, music and food vendors. Shops and restaurants plan special events and menus.

For more information about the holiday schedule and suggestions for accommodations and logistics, check out Visitannapolis.org.

For more travel tips, go to Insightguides.com.

- by Fran Severn