Looking for an ideal spot for driving lessons...!
December 14, 2010 4:42 PM   Subscribe

Where can I find an ideal and expansive place in or around Baltimore to teach someone how to drive manual transmission safely?

I'm located within the city but can't think of places that would be perfect (such as large mall parking lots) that would be relatively deserted. Can anyone help me find a location within 40 miles or so that we would be able to travel to for the first few driving/shifting lessons with few physical obstacles? Thanks!
posted by Asherah to Travel & Transportation around Baltimore, MD (18 answers total)
I'm not that familiar with the Baltimore area, but when I taught my friend how to drive a manual car, I took her to one of those huge corporate complexes (the kind where a bunch of companies are located within a few square miles). On Sundays, the parking lots are usually empty and desolate, and they are a good place to practice driving a stick shift without hitting anything major.
posted by HeyAllie at 4:54 PM on December 14, 2010

Generally speaking, church parking lots on weekdays are good, as are school parking lots on weekends and stadium parking lots (I taught a friend to drive in the parking lot of the school district's football stadium on weekday afternoons).
I'm in Texas, where everything is big, but I assume around Baltimore you'd have to drive out to the suburbs to get a parking lot of decent size. Just a quick search reveals Centennial High School in Ellicott City, for instance, which appears to have a good-sized parking lot.
posted by katemonster at 4:56 PM on December 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Within forty miles? Of Baltimore? Seriously?

More like "Within three miles of my current address." Unless you live in the Inner Harbor, there are going to be dozens of likely locations within a few minutes. I'd recommend a high school parking lot on a Sunday morning. Churches (other than Adventist) would work well on Saturday mornings.
posted by valkyryn at 4:58 PM on December 14, 2010

Within forty miles? Of Baltimore? Seriously?

Yes, seriously, which is why I'm asking because I can't think of any that aren't crowded much of the time I pass them. I was thinking of something like White Marsh mall but clearly holiday crowds are upon us. To clarify, perhaps something larger than a church parking lot to accommodate the learning driver while he gets his bearings with the transmission.
posted by Asherah at 5:02 PM on December 14, 2010

I learned to drive in the Baltimore City Sam's Club parking lot. We went in the evening when it wasn't too crowded.
posted by schroedinger at 5:10 PM on December 14, 2010

Owings Mills Mall is mostly empty stores now, so the parking lots are empty. I don't know if there's any kind of security presence there that would give you a hard time, but might be worth scouting out. wikipedia on Owings Mills Mall
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:14 PM on December 14, 2010

I learned in Patapsco state park, head west out on Route 40, towards Ellicott City or there's another, larger area out near Randallstown.

The Liberty Dam area, out in Carroll County is good too, but might be too far for you, but it's what I'd recommend. Here's a map. There's a nice long winding road and a large parking area near the dam for practice, with a few small hills through in.
posted by nomadicink at 5:25 PM on December 14, 2010

In New York, my dad took us to the Shea Stadium parking lot, which isn't really being used during the day. Maybe you can try a similar trick at Camden Yards or M&T Stadium on non-game days.
posted by chengjih at 5:28 PM on December 14, 2010

from a lurker friend:

The guy on metafilter who is looking for a place to drive stick shift - recommend either the parking lot for Poly high school on falls road or the SSA/HCFA complex in Woodlawn. Both places are great and open and perfect for learning to drive stick shift on the weekend/after hours. Also any of the CCBCs would work, especially during winter break. Just my .02!!
posted by k8t at 6:01 PM on December 14, 2010

When I was teaching my wife how to drive a stick one of the things that was really helpful was driving/engaging the clutch on a gentle slope. We worked at a hotel at the time and there was a workshop in the back on a small hill. We'd inch the car until it wouldn't go up the hill and then practice engaging the clutch/gas slowly so that it would catch and start us up the hill. Push the in the clutch to stop moving and slowly drift back. Rinse and repeat. As for where in Baltimore, while I'm not there currently, I'd imagine that Security Mall parking lot would be a pretty good place too.
posted by TuxHeDoh at 6:08 PM on December 14, 2010

Most movie theaters don't start showing movies until noon or so; go in the morning. My first few driving lessons were in a movie theater parking lot. (My mom and I got some confused looks when the first employees started showing up, though.)
posted by madcaptenor at 7:30 PM on December 14, 2010

Aside from parking lots, I learned in the cemetery (great because you have lots of winding roads and intersections -- crucial when you're learning stick!). Weekends might not be the best times for this, but if you go to an older, larger cemetery you might have a more quiet time.
posted by Madamina at 8:14 PM on December 14, 2010

The Western / Poly High parking lot at Cold Spring and Falls Rd. is perfect for this and pretty much empty when school isn't in session. I see lots of student drivers over there.
posted by youcancallmeal at 9:44 PM on December 14, 2010

Second the suggestion of the huge parking lots at Western High/Poly on Cold Spring at Falls/83. My husband (hasn't driven in many years) practices there on occasional Saturdays. No security hassles.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 9:48 PM on December 14, 2010

Just popping in to say that my aforementioned high school has a perfectly good-sized parking lot, but I'm sure you can find someplace much closer to Baltimore.
posted by deludingmyself at 10:10 PM on December 14, 2010

(By which I mean, Centennial in Ellicott City.)
posted by deludingmyself at 10:10 PM on December 14, 2010

There are a bunch of office parks on either side of 95 near the White Marsh Mall that would be ideal. Look for Sandpiper Circle or Corporate Drive off Honeygo Drive. On the other side of 95, there are a number of big parking lots that are empty on the weekends on Franklin Square Drive, off Campbell.
posted by mchorn at 4:05 AM on December 15, 2010

If you don't mind driving up to Harford County, try the Riverside Business Park in Belcamp (I95 Exit 81) during the weekends. There's a complex of interconnected roads, big parking lots and very little traffic. Several of the businesses on the west side of Brass Mill Rd (the main drag) are at a slightly higher elevation than the rest of the park - good for learning to shift on hills.

Google directions using: 1 Mercedes Drive Belcamp, MD 21017.
posted by jaimystery at 8:40 AM on December 15, 2010

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