Fun things to do in Baltimore?
September 8, 2013 10:26 AM   Subscribe

I'm surprising the boyfriend for his birthday in early October with an overnight stay in Baltimore. What should we do for the two days we're there?

I'm going to book a hotel near the inner Harbor area (suggestions are welcome if any are particularly awesome!) What I'm looking for is suggestions of fun things to do while there. We'll probably head up in the morning, and drive back the next evening, so I'm planning on two full days of fun. We will, of course, be going to the aquarium. But what else should we do? Boyfriend likes museums, history, sports, and sushi. But really, any suggestions are welcome. Hack my boyfriends birthday!
posted by bluloo to Travel & Transportation around Baltimore, MD (24 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
The American Visionary Art Museum is a one-of-a-kind collection of art by outsiders and amateurs, featuring the work of the incarcerated or the mentally ill. It is really fascinating, and I'd suggest you consider that. It's located near Federal Hill Park. Enjoy your time there!
posted by Philemon at 10:49 AM on September 8, 2013 [13 favorites]

If you're looking for one of the best crab cakes in town (and I think you should be) - I highly recommend Ethel and Ramone's in the Mount Washington neighborhood. Their crab bisque is also delicious.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:57 AM on September 8, 2013

I second the American Visionary Art Museum, and might also suggest Geppi's Entertainment Museum (pop culture and comics) in Little Italy.
posted by justonegirl at 11:04 AM on September 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Please go to the Walters Museum.

It's a hidden, forgotten gem and one of the best museum's in the country. The collection spans art, architecture, decorative objects. It's overwhelmingly good. It's not ginormous, but every piece is special and worth your attention. We only had 6 hours there and Mr. 26.2 missed the entire Asian Art wing.

Also the Walters is completely free including the audio tour which is well worth your time. (Donations appreciated, but there's no suggested donation to enter.)
posted by 26.2 at 11:22 AM on September 8, 2013 [7 favorites]

If the forces of good defeat the forces of evil, there could be playoff baseball in Baltimore in early October, and Camden Yards is generally considered one of the best ballparks in the country.
posted by escabeche at 11:24 AM on September 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

If he likes history you really should visit Fort McHenry.
posted by COD at 11:35 AM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: RA sushi is pretty darn good and their happy hour is fantastic as well.

Aside from the usual touristy stuff (Fort McHenry, museums), take a little time to explore Fells Point if you get the chance. There's a great assortment of bars/restaurants along with great harbor views and row houses. I'd recommend getting the sweet baby jesus at the Blue Moon Cafe if you get the chance (the wait outside might be long though).
posted by the artless dodger at 11:40 AM on September 8, 2013

Was just there for a weekend last month. To be honest i'd skip the aquarium, it was very overpriced and uncomfortably crowded despite the timed ticket system, and the contents were good but not great. i like aquariums but this wasn't even in my top five.

camden field is great though, and we loved the visionary art museum.
posted by pete_22 at 12:42 PM on September 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ale Mary's
posted by oflinkey at 1:09 PM on September 8, 2013

I must disagree. Bad Decisions across the street is far superior to Ale Mary's.
posted by josher71 at 1:36 PM on September 8, 2013

The Hotel Monaco (a Kimpton Hotel) is a lot of fun and easily walkable to everything. We got a fantastic deal on Hotwire.

If they're playing, definitely go to an O's game!

In October, the aquarium should be relatively uncrowded and I definitely recommend visiting. I also think it's worth it to go to the top of Baltimore's World Trade Center for the views and neat historical exhibits.

If you walk up Charles Street towards Mt. Vernon (and the Washington Monument) there are a lot of great restaurants, including an Afghan place (The Helmand) and a great northern-Indian / Nepalese restaurant called Kumari. The Walters is up there too. Further up Charles (best not to walk) is the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Johns Hopkins campus. There's a small museum on campus that's worth a gander (Homewood Museum) and the campus itself is fairly picturesque, though I admit that I am very biased.
posted by charmcityblues at 1:46 PM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you take your boyfriend to Baltimore and he leaves without ever tasting a Bergers Cookie then you will live in fear of the day that he learns of the existence of these fudgey slices of Heaven and will look at you askance for the rest of his days. While you can find them around the city, your best bet for an Awesome Experience is the Lexington Market.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 1:49 PM on September 8, 2013

Fourthing (or whatevering) the AVAM.

Our other must-do whenever we're over Baltimore way is a stop in at the Red Room. It's a good book and record store to poke around in, and also hosts lots of interesting music and art events, if there happens to be anyting during the time there that floats your boat.
posted by Stacey at 2:14 PM on September 8, 2013

Faidley's crabcakes, also at Lexington market.

If you're not familiar with Utz potato chips, buy some. They are the best.
posted by sevenstars at 2:37 PM on September 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Eat Bertha's Mussels!
posted by Gronk at 2:55 PM on September 8, 2013

Nthing AVAM, and check out the restaurant on the top floor too.

Edgar Allan Poe is buried in Baltimore, in an interesting tiny graveyard.
posted by Fig at 3:19 PM on September 8, 2013

Best answer: Having recently visited the Monterey Aquarium, I find the National Aquarium in Baltimore better designed and more interesting. I agree that it's rather expensive and can be crowded, so a weekday visit would be better.

AVAM is kitschy and weird and unique, but it can also be a little unsettling and leaves a lasting impression.

Seconding the Walters. It's either a longish walk or a short Light Rail ride from the harbor area.

If you guys are bookish at all, visit the nearby Peabody Library. It is a stunning place.

I actually really like the B&O Railroad Museum, which is also walkable from the harbor (and accessible via a free circulator shuttle — orange route). You sort of have to like industrial decay and poorly attended museums, but it's a really interesting place.

Another option for history up close and hands-on is the Museum of Industry, which is a 10-minute walk down Key Hwy from AVAM. Again, lots of evocative stuff, a nice view of the harbor, and pretty poorly attended.

There is a historic arboretum in Baltimore, which is secluded and pretty. It's about a mile walk from the Cold Spring stop on the Light Rail.

Finally, there is a museum of dentistry at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Baltimore is pretty great in the fall, I hope you guys like your visit.
posted by Nomyte at 3:38 PM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Duckin bowling! Totally fun Baltimore-only thing.

There's a place near the harbor that I make it a point to go to whenever I'm in Baltimore:

(Sorry, I'd have linked it but I'm on my iPhone)
posted by overhauser at 6:27 PM on September 8, 2013

My brother came to visit recently and it was hard to tear him away from the Sports Legends Museum, near Camden Yards.
posted by JannaK at 6:43 PM on September 8, 2013

Another AVAM vote. It should be obvious (though my brother was surprised after his umpteenth visit when he took me) but the museum has 2 buildings-- one of which (the Jim Rouse Visionary Center) contains kinetic art and (very) large exhibits that you don't want to miss.

If you're there on Friday or Saturday the Fell's Point Preservation Society Ghost tour is pretty entertaining and gives you some history of the area.

Also many restaurants in Baltimore are just plain awful and price and seeming popularity are not good indicators of quality. Ethnic places tend to be better and it's hard to screw up brewpub/bar food, though many places will try. Be sure to get a few good recommendations (here and elsewhere) to take with you (e.g. The Helmand--really good.)
posted by sevenless at 10:38 PM on September 8, 2013

I really wonder why I didn't ask MetaFilter this question before our weekend there...great suggestions! In any case, my favourites were the Visionary Art Museum, a ballgame at Camden Yards, and the view from the World Trade Centre. I found the aquarium disappointing but perhaps October is a better time to visit than August. It's pricey though and I don't believe it's worth the money. If you don't make it to the market for the Bergers cookies, there's an 'outlet bakery' one street north and a few blocks east from the Courtyard Marriott hotel (well past the Whole Foods) in the harbour. I couldn't find in any other store as the only supermarket that carried it had sold out. I also read just this morning that the Egdar Allen Poe museum and also his grave are 'in a mildly to moderately terrifying area' of the city. Use the free circulator busses and boats across the bay as well but stay away from the overpriced restaurants in the harbour. Have fun!!
posted by mrsh at 11:44 PM on September 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

There's also the Baltimore science museum across the harbor from the aquarium. If you're up for some theater, try Center Stage. For sushi, Manato Sushi is one of the best around. It's also down the street from the excellent Brewer's Art microbrewery/restaurant.
posted by RobotNinja at 5:33 AM on September 9, 2013

I'd do the Visionary Art Museum - it really is different. The Walters is great but not as unique.

Hotel Monaco has an aquarium package (other hotels may as well, I don't know) - it is not, however, the most inner harbor hotel. I'd look at the map and see where you're likely to be walking and then narrow down hotels from there, although in October it should be pleasant to walk from say Monaco to the Sports Legends museum (Babe Ruth's birthplace is a little farther and kind of out on its own but still walkable, not in the best area however).

Some people may disagree, but the area around lexington market can be sketchy. More of a keep your wits about you variety rather than a duck the bullets kind of way. I have only ever gone alone, so maybe with a bf it would seem less sketch. I don't know that I'd make a special trip there, but it can definitely be interesting.

Depending on what you find fun, the cheesy Block strip bars can be fun to drop in for a very quick stop. Again, watch your bag and your phone. They're not really by anything else though - it's not that far but also not like a quick detour from somewhere else around the corner.

Station North area is a little different, again rougher around the edges but not scary. I'd check to see if there's anything interesting going on the weekend you're coming.

Charles Theater is a fun place to see a movie.

Federal Hill/Fells Point/Canton - each has a slightly different vibe, you might enjoy one of them for a bar hopping type evening out. Expect all to be crowded on a Saturday night.

You could do Ft McHenry, AVAM, then drinks in Federal Hill (Cross Street Market is fun to swing through) - here's an idea of hotels nearer to Federal Hill.

You could honestly have a fun weekend staying pretty close to Harbor East, it might not be especially unique but there are good restaurants and shopping if you'd prefer to just chill instead of running around town.

Woodberry Kitchen really is good, especially brunch - make your reservations well in advance and call if you don't see what you want online, they hold a bunch back I guess so they don't have to pay Open Table. You could then spend the afternoon wandering around Hampden.
posted by KAS at 7:26 AM on September 9, 2013

If you don't go to Camden Yards to see an Orioles game, consider touring the park instead.
posted by OrangeDisk at 8:51 AM on September 9, 2013

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