Exploring Charm City’s pleasures
Aptly nicknamed Charm City, Baltimore has evolved from a thriving port city to an even more vibrant urban hotspot overflowing with appealing brick buildings and cobblestone streets. These streets are home to fresh eateries, waterfront seafood mainstays, modern art, one of the nation’s best ballparks, and, foremost, that ineffable Baltimore spirit, evident in the street festival inspired by the local habit of punctuating speech with the endearment “hon.”
An imposing brick edifice embedded in the city, the nostalgic allure of Camden Yards (333 W Camden St) has been oft-imitated but never equaled. With baseball season going strong, a day rooting on the Orioles is in order. Beer giant and Maryland favorite (even though it hasn’t been brewed in-state since 1996) Natural Bohemian, or Natty Boh, was ousted from the stadium last season, and while it’s unclear whether it will return this year, there’s no lack of local craft brews to slake your thirst, from Flying Dog to Heavy Seas.
Mansions transformed to museums, restaurants, and shops make up this historical and cultural center. Check out the Washington Monument (699 Washington Pl) in Mount Vernon Place, the first major monument started to honor George Washington. And, with a dizzying display of levels upon levels of bookshelves, the George Peabody Library will fulfill any bookworm fantasy. For some refreshment, grab some fries and a Resurrection beer at Brewer’s Art (1106 N Charles St), or appetizers and cocktails at The Owl Bar (1 E Chase St).
Streets lined by brick-front buildings and covered in cobblestones characterize this quaint-yet-hip neighborhood. While strolling through, make sure to stop at Homeslyce (1741 Light St), where pizzas are served in a boat shape (as good as it sounds) for a casual dinner. Then, head to Ryleigh’s Oyster (36 E Cross St) for some crab dip and an oyster shooter or one of their fresh fruit crushes, two distinctive drink options. If you have one too many oyster shooters, brunch at Spoons (24 E Cross St) will cure any hangover with everything from cinnamon roll pancakes to four different kinds of eggs benedict.
Coming this July, America’s largest free arts festival hits Baltimore. Over 150 artists ranging from fashion designers to visual artists to sculptors show their work, while performing arts are represented with live music, dance, opera, and more, including the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. An event that’s worth planning a trip around, this will be Artscape’s 36th year, and it’s maintaining its tradition as a festival equally appealing to all ages. It’s a feast for all senses — including taste, with plenty of local grub to go around.
Marked by the striking multi-story Pagoda, Patterson Park (27 S Patterson Park Ave) is an urban treasure: over 300 years old, the park offers acres of recreation. Fish or observe the wildlife at the Boat Lake, enjoy the marble fountain designed by the same architect who designed City Hall, or picnic in a pavilion. Then, stroll around Broadway Square, a charming cobblestone meeting area lined by shops and restaurants in brick buildings. Get some oysters with a view of the harbor at Thames Street Oyster House (1728 Thames St), or check out the quirky diner Blue Moon Cafe (1621 Aliceanna St), widely acclaimed for specialties like Captain Crunch French Toast.
Off to the races
Famously home to the Preakness Stakes, Pimlico Race Course (5201 Park Heights Ave) is the place to be in May. Multiple races occur throughout the month, and when there aren’t horses on the Pimlico track, you can watch simulcasts of more races from the Sports Palace. For the big day itself, there’s nothing quite like being this close to the action as the steeds jockey (get it?) for the crowning glory.
Home to Honfest, a June celebration of the working women who defined Baltimore, the Hampden neighborhood is famous for its role in John Waters movies such as Hairspray. If you can’t make it for the street festival in June, grab a bite to eat at Cafe Hon (1002 W 36th St) all year round, a local institution dishing up diner fare and a true taste of Baltimore. Or, visit the acclaimed Woodberry Kitchen (2010 Clipper Park Rd), a farm-to-table, rustic-chic restaurant serving the taste of Baltimore in a slightly more elevated fashion.
Take advantage of Baltimore’s history as a port city by taking in the waterfront region on the seven-mile Harbor Promenade. Restaurants with beautiful views abound, and you can’t visit Baltimore without sampling the local crabs. Captain James Landing (2121 Aliceanna St), a waterfront restaurant shaped like a boat, is one such hot spot for steamed crabs. Or, check out Bo Brooks Restaurant (2780 Lighthouse Point E), another venerable seafood restaurant, this one resembling a lighthouse.
A glittering homage to self-taught or atypical artists, the American Visionary Art Museum (800 Key Hwy) is populated by both a permanent collection and artwork applicable to the rotating themes — the current exhibition is entitled “YUMMM! The History, Fantasy, and Future of Food.” Over the years, noteworthy figures from Archbishop Desmond Tutu to Matt Groenig have participated. For a somewhat more traditional iteration of art museum, check out the expansive collection at the Baltimore Museum of Art (10 Art Museum Dr), a stately, columned building in stark contrast to the AVAM’s sparkling exterior, housing a staggering collection of Matisse’s (the largest in the world) and Picasso’s artworks, among many others.
Edgar Allan Poe House
As the place where Poe met his demise, Baltimore is one of several cities with some claim to the author. As such, the home where he wrote some of his early stories and poems has been kept in tribute to him as the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum (203 N Amity St), holding some objects belonging to the Poe family as well as photos and reproductions of his work. The house itself is a small, three-story brick duplex once in the countryside, now notable for the way the city has grown up around it.