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Lighting Up San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

Long a distant second to the Golden Gate Bridge when it comes to glamour and beauty, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is finally getting some time in the spotlight this year. The long-awaited new east span will likely open on Labor Day of this year, and in the meantime, the west span will debut its own temporary shine.

The Bay Lights will be the world's largest LED light sculpture. Through 2015, the 1.8-mile-wide, 500-foot-high installation along the San Francisco side of the Bay Bridge's west span will shine from dusk until 2 a.m. Visible from San Francisco's waterfront and various tall buildings downtown (check out this map for the best viewing spots), the 25,000 white lights will be individually programmed by artist Leo Villareal to "create a never-repeating, dazzling display."

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As a San Francisco Bay Area native, I'll cop to an attachment to the Bay Bridge. I love the angle at which the bridge meets the city, and still marvel at the way it appears simultaneously massive and weightless from the waterfront. It's a fantastic evening backdrop against which to take a stroll around the Ferry Building, savor a satisfying ceviche at Cebicheria La Mar, or sip a cocktail with a view at Epic Roasthouse. So I'm really looking forward to seeing it sparkle in the years to come.

Meanwhile, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., has its own news up in lights. Denmark's most innovative lighting designer, Jesper Kongshaug has "recreated the effect of Northern Lights on all four sides of the Kennedy Center." It will be visible during the month-long Nordic Cool 2013 festival (runs through March 17) featuring theater, dance, music, design, food, and more. Since Nordic really is cool this year, with its food, coffee, television, and fashions all setting trends, this seems like the perfect time to check it out if you're so inclined. Plus, as this is the best time in half a century to see the real Northern Lights, it's a perfect chance to, at the very least, experience an artist's rendering of them.

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(Photo: Lucas Saugen)

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