Please tell me good things about Baltimore
January 23, 2017 7:39 AM   Subscribe

Ok, well, you can tell me the not so good things too. Wanted to get more perspectives there before a probable move. Also how does one make the best out of a new, unknown city?

Offered a dream job in Baltimore. Never been to Baltimore besides the interview, but I am at the point in my life (young, right outta school) that I am willing to move for the job experience (and then Years down the road I will probably settle in Atlanta where my family lives.)

Things I am/am looking for:
-mid twenties
- art and local food and local, liberal political movements/volunteer opportunities with other young people
-a studio or 1 bedroom under $1000
-diversity (hopefully integrated, but that's hard to come by outside of NYC and what not, I know...)
-seasonal weather (I have survived the Midwest winter and the southern summer)
-neighborhoods that are walkable to coffee shops, stores. Not very into bar life being around me. Preferably diverse, relatively young/mixed age. Hopefully not tons of crime.
-sadly, the most I know about Baltimore is The Wire, and what my 3 Uber drivers told me which was "people here are crabby and segregated. I'm trying to escape myself." Which is about what people say in my hometown down south.

also this post is about "how do you move to a brand new city as a single, young person and make the best out of it?"

Because while I know cities are all different, sometimes I find them to be essentially the same--where you have to really put yourself out there and invest in it to find any sort of happiness. It also helps when there are friendly people (but I hope there are friendly people in Baltimore, just like any city!) I'll be away from friends and family, but I do have a couple connections in DC and Philly. (Which I'm told is not a bad drive from there.)

Any tips about that or Baltimore in general would be greatly appreciated! :)
posted by socky bottoms to Travel & Transportation around Baltimore, MD (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Baltimore is a great city with a great food scene! I don't live there, my sister does, so I'm not a person to offer point by point advice into your queries, but I definitely think that based on what you said, you'll be able to find an apartment in an artsy neighborhood for your budget. As for food, be sure to try the Italian Market area. It's a really diverse place so you'll be able to eat just about anything there. Good luck!
posted by erattacorrige at 8:03 AM on January 23, 2017

We just moved from Baltimore this summer and I miss it every single day. I spent a decade there and look on those years as some of the happiest, most challenging, most growth inducing years I will probably ever have.

To get to your questions. Baltimore is affectionately referred to as "Smalltimore" for very good reason. Once you get a toe-hold somewhere, you find you are quickly related by a step or two to just about everyone else in the city.

If you are interested in the arts or in politics, there are deep, thriving communities for both. Maryland Institute College of the Arts (MICA) is located in the north center of the city and an arts district has taken root in the area around there. Station North, Remington, Bolton Hill and Mt. Vernon are the surrounding neighborhoods and all are walkable with galleries, food, coffee, etc. Hampden has taken on a more hipster vibe in recent years, but would fill your wishlist too. We lived in Remington when we first moved and loved it, but there is some recent development there that is raising rents. Not all bad, but gentrification is something that is a challenge as it is anywhere. Hamilton Lauraville is super diverse, mostly small groups of row homes and single family houses with yards, but it has some wonderful restaurants, one of the best coffee places you'll ever hope to find (Zeke's) and one of the most diverse populations anywhere in the city. It's in the very north east corner of the city, which can make getting other places challenging on public transportation, but it's definitely possible. The center of the city from north to south tends to be less diverse (read more white) and more affluent. Lots of political, financial, resource, education, etc. lines fall along this "White L and Black Butterfly." Learning more about that before you hit the ground may guide some of your thinking.

There is a thriving experimental music scene. The High Zero festival is an epicenter. Lots of opportunities to get involved performing, volunteering, etc. And they're all around good eggs. The True Vine record store in Hampden is a nice spot to meet some of those folks. There are also world class museums, any kind of art you can imagine. It's still affordable (so to answer your question about rent, depending on neighborhood, you should be able to find something in that budget) and many artists from NYC and other places they've been priced out have moved there.

In terms of politics and volunteering, it is a city with so many needs. Unlike anywhere I lived before, you are faced daily with the effects of manufacturing decline, institutionalized racism, poverty, trauma. You name it and it is there in front of you. That can be really, really hard. It's also really, really easy to get involved and to effect small changes that you can see right away. There are wonderful mentoring programs in the schools and otherwise, active, engaged social justice work, politics, anti-violence groups that do anything from actively walking neighborhoods to peacefully disrupt violence, to those that research causes and advocate for political change. Just basically living my life got me actively involved in groups for educational advocacy, violence interruption, the campaign for my local city council seat, etc., etc. etc.

Overall, it's unlike anywhere else you will ever live. It has a deep, rich history and lots of that history is challenging and those challenges will walk the streets with you. But it is filled with incredible diversity, amazingly engaged human beings who are actively working to make things better, delicious food, incredible art. Like I said, I miss it every day. I'm happy to connect you with people or answer other questions. Feel free to MeMail me.
posted by goggie at 8:55 AM on January 23, 2017 [7 favorites]

Baltimore is becoming a great food and drink town in the contemporary sense (always has been in the old-school sense). Lovely neighborhoods abound. BIG sports town.

Much, much more Southern in flavor than you might think -- someone from Atlanta or Memphis is a lot more likely to get Baltimore than someone from Philly or Chicago. That has good elements of course, but also challenging ones -- the social scene even among young people is very much old school / long-time families; you need an angle to break in. If you are taking a private sector job or aren't strictly selecting your extracurriculars for political content, you will find your milieu MUCH less politically liberal than the Baltimore City voting numbers imply -- much less liberal than pretty much any other Northeast City I know of.

Baltimore isn't so much integrated as it is a checkerboard -- mostly white neighborhoods, middle class African American neighborhoods, and poor African American neighborhoods can be small and alternating. Property crime is an issue in most places, but the VAST majority of the violent crime is pretty much intramural for the criminal element. (Which doesn't mean horrifying things don't happen, just that their statistical significance isn't much to speak of.)
posted by MattD at 9:01 AM on January 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

I had a friend who did a postdoc year at Johns Hopkins, and she ended up liking Baltimore so much that not only is she staying there permanently, her retiring mother is moving there as well. My personal experience is limited to the airport (better than average) and a gas station restroom during a drive from DC to Philly, but I've never really heard anything bad about the city.

There's really only one trick to thriving in a new city, and that's people. If you meet and befriend them, you will enjoy your new home. If you don't, you will hate it. (Incidentally, this is true of the city you currently live in as well; you just don't think about it that way because you already have friends there.) So get out and make friends. You'll have a built-in advantage from work friends, but that only goes so far. Go to meetups, join clubs, take adult-ed classes, participate in Facebook groups or whatever. Become a regular at a coffee shop, a bar, and a couple of restaurants, to where you feel comfortable talking to the baristas or bartenders or waiters. It's a gradual process, but over time, you'll find people you like being around. And even if you don't find close, BFF-forever friends, you still will have people you can smile at if you see them in the grocery store, and that's just about as good.

I would NOT suggest making too much of your connections in Washington or Philadelphia, for the simple fact that they're not in Baltimore. The time you spend hanging out with them in their town is time you aren't spending meeting people in your town. If you do get lonely and want to hang out with them, ask them to come to Baltimore to see you.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:16 AM on January 23, 2017

To answer your second question about getting the most out of a new city, in addition to the volunteering suggested above, join Meetup or a similar site and get out and meet people.
posted by ellieBOA at 10:01 AM on January 23, 2017

here's my narrow perspective... I lived there from 2013-2016, in my late-twenties (turning-thirties), and my partner was there for about eight years in about the same age bracket. we were living around Charles Village and later Midtown, near the Amtrak station, very central, and close to several universities, so that's what I saw on regular days, though I did make a point to hit each neighborhood during my time there.

I *loved* living in Baltimore, overall. but I ended up doing the MARC train commute for a job in DC, so most of my Bmore time was weekend chill and occasional weeknight bar/cinema/show activity. if I hadn't had to follow work up to NYC, I would still be there.

I'd say that if your dream job is already there and it works out, you're in a great position. work can be hard to come by, per anecdotal experience. a lot of recent graduates who stay end up doing part-time work in retail, food, or temp stuff, etc., and I think people really try to hang on to what jobs they can patch together. it can be very bleak otherwise.

Baltimore is a city of contradictions and weird conflicts between old ways and new developments, lifers and struggle and systemic poverty and gentrification and art. it's also a small town in lots of ways; it was easy to recognize the same person near the train station, then way out at the DMV, then walking around some other random neighborhood. it's not so transient; feels like people who are not students are there their whole lives, or are in for the long haul. (otherwise, people would move to DC, Philly, or NYC.) it skews liberal but there's all sorts of conservatives or jumbled-up views -- which makes sense, because there's many infrastructure problems and complicated history, and it's laid bare in front of you. change takes a long time.

but, everything feels local -- perhaps due in part to limited public transportation options -- and it was one of the friendliest places (or easiest to talk to people, nod "hello" etc) I've lived. aside from occasional rando shouts, I was never bothered or threatened here on the street, including walking deeper in the west or east sides (whereas I was jumped in DC). my partner felt like people were really tired, and in-group-y to a fault because the scenes could be really small, but then again a lot of his initial Bmore friends had left after a couple years.

learning the history is very, very interesting and worthwhile.
plus the accent, when you really hear it, is so particular, a Southern drawly / upturned "ouuu" atop quick syllables. I miss it a lot.

to your points:

- if you're near a few colleges, art schools, grad schools, you'll automatically be around mid-twenties people and their older professors too. even as an introvert and outsider, I found it pretty easy in these neighborhoods to get plugged into political/social justice volunteering through bulletin boards (cafes like Red Emma's, the Book Thing free book exchange before it burned down), reading the City Paper, a little online research, walking around, talking to people. lots of schools, education-related and homeless-help programs, and volunteers are appreciated.

- the city seems to put some money into arts funding (or, did so in the recent past). I dunno, it may or may not be funneled entirely through MICA (the art school), but regardless, there are murals, graffiti walls, random artworks, and unique artists living in many parts of the city. when business prospects are dubious, what else are you gonna do?

- there's froufrou local food type restaurants and cafes that have been steadily opening up in certain pockets of the city, not hard to find since most of the new ones will have web presence. but yeah, some tasty places to try. you might be more concerned about where grocery stores and closest food co-ops (if any) are...

- oof I really hope that decent studios/1brs are not more than $1000 (when I was searching, rentals in CV/Midtown were between 600~900, and shared apartments cheaper).

- Baltimore is a black city (including political representation). it's wonderful. it's *very* neighborhood-y and segregated thusly. since it's an old midatlantic/northeast city, perhaps it's similar to pre-2000s Brooklyn in some demographic ways, except there's much much fewer people spread out over a large area so it sometimes seems starker to me, block to block.

- the central/central-north areas I walked in had lots of mix with white (and some Asian) people, some super-rich-white blocks, plus extra gentrification with property/rowhouse foreclosures after the crash. (see above re froufrou restaurants etc.) I'm Asian-American, and most people thought I was Korean as many properties especially in Charles Village were owned by Koreans -- and the governor's wife is Korean, as I was reminded many times by a guy who would always greet me as I walked home from work. (it seemed to me like a lot of the K-community were decamping to surrounding suburbs or Ellicott City.) in other areas that happened to be majority white, there was a fair amount of closed-minded people, I found... but, they would at least give cursory acknowledgement of what was happening around them, which is more nuanced than what can happen in closed-minded bubbles in other cities or counties.

- weather is similar to DC and northeast. got a lot of snow last year, but didn't feel as cold as other years (?). summer can be hot but not Atlanta hot. it was nice to seek nature refuge in green spaces like Druid Hill Park (there's a jogging track where I often saw families and regulars).

you might be interested in listening to a few podcasts previously recommended on the green: The Rise of Charm City (for historical/context/local institutions), and Out of the Blocks (neighborhoods by the block, people's experiences). they're both great.

also, if you're interested in club music, the doc Baltimore Where You At (fully viewable here on Vimeo) is a nice intro to the scene and sound that you can regularly hear on Bmore radio (ugggggh I miss it).
posted by cluebucket at 10:05 AM on January 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Assuming you're a lady, some friends of mine recently started the Society of Excellent Women with the specific purpose of enabling friend-making. It's pretty new, but I think they're trying to have about one event a month. It's explicitly an atmosphere where it's cool to show up alone and introduce yourself to strangers.
posted by mchorn at 12:01 PM on January 23, 2017

The /r/baltimore sub reddit has a lot of great information, and links to common questions about neighborhoods on the site bad. There is also this link to images and information from a local blogger: that should show you some of the many things to get excited about.
posted by nalyd at 6:39 PM on January 23, 2017

I am only in Baltimore a few times a year, but I enjoy the food, weirdo decor and milkshakes at the Paper Moon Diner

Also the ice cream at the Charmery is consistently excellent, I like the salted caramel
posted by tangaroo at 7:28 PM on January 23, 2017

I met one of my best friends in Baltimore and met them through MeFi after I moved here. So, there's that.
posted by josher71 at 10:00 AM on January 24, 2017

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