Good morning Baltimore!
June 14, 2018 12:26 PM   Subscribe

Hi MeFi! I'm traveling to a new city for most of a week, and I would like help enjoying it when I am not working. Snowflakes inside.

I am going to be staying somewhere fancy on the waterfront. I will not have a car. I am very comfortable with public transportation and taxis. Uber gives me the creeps as a company so I do not use them.

Transportation: what should I know about public transportation, or taxi services? I do walk with a cane and have some limitations to mobility, like no extensive stairs, no hiking.

Tea: I like tea. Where are good places to get tea? I'm happy to hike across the city for a good tea room.

How about LGBT hangouts, especially of the coffee shop variety? I'll totally drink tea at a queer hangout, especially if they have gluten-free baked goods.

Food: no gluten, no soy, no fish. I love Indian, Ethiopian, Central and South American food, food made by hippies, and pretty much anything I can ask questions about. Vegetarian options are good, but the food allergies are controlling. What's good in Baltimore? Are there areas with food trucks? How about a good gluten free bakery? I know I'm staying in a tourist area, but would like to avoid tourist restaurants if possible.

Museums and culture: I love museums, and especially weird little spots. What's good? Edgar Allen Poe? Creepy dolls? What about John Waters? Zines?

Finally, what should I know about staying safe in Baltimore?

Thanks so much everyone!
posted by bile and syntax to Travel & Transportation around Baltimore, MD (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: A visit to the American Visionary Art Museum is non-negotiable.
posted by telegraph at 12:29 PM on June 14, 2018 [16 favorites]

Best answer: It will be a bit of a hike from where you are, but Emma's Tea Spot in Hamilton is lovely. I'm biased because it's my old neighborhood, but you will also find Silver Queen Café, Hamilton Tavern, Red Canoe Bookstore Café and Donut Alliance (home of delicious vegan donuts!) nearby. All are amazing.

In terms of museums, I agree that American Visionary Arts is a must see. I'd also put in a plug for the National Great Blacks in Wax and Reginald F. Lewis museums as must sees for amazing African American history.

For Ethiopian, Dukem is probably your best bet.

Public transportation is not great; poorly designed and not super reliable. You're probably better off with cabs or Lyft. There is a free circulator bus that focuses on the Inner Harbor/Downtown area where you'll be staying, so might be useful for that.

In terms of safety, it's a city with a crime problem, there are no two ways around it. That being said, I lived there for 10 years, traveling all around the city and the worst I encountered was someone rifling through my glove box when we accidentally left the car door unlocked. Be observant, keep your wits about you and you will most likely be ok. As is often the case, crime disproportionately affects people of color and those at economic disadvantage, which sucks.

I'll probably be back with more suggestions, but just want to say that I love Baltimore to pieces and there are so many cool things to see and do. I hope you love it too.
posted by goggie at 12:56 PM on June 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Transport: For downtown and environs, enjoy the free Charm City Circulator, covering the major downtown neighborhoods and tourist attractions (e.g., the AVAM referenced above, Fort McHenry, the Walters museum, etc). They even have a "Harbor Connector" that takes you across the Inner Harbor by water!

Food: You won't have any trouble finding what you want. I would particularly recommend Teavolve, on the east side of the harbor, and the Dukem Ethiopian restaurant up by the Symphony Center. (There are closer Ethiopian restaurants, but I haven't tried them, and Dukem is very highly rated. Also, it's in an interesting part of town to walk around in). I also like Nepal House in that part of town. You can get good Afghan food nearby at The Helmand, owned by the brother of Hamid Karzai (he is a much better restaurateur than his brother was a politician).

Attractions: The Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters are both free, and excellent. Definitely take a look at the Washington Monument, built by the same person who designed the one in DC, but earlier, and the War Memorial. Fort McHenry, a battle over which inspired the Star Spangled Banner, is a National Historic Park on the south side of the harbor (accessible by the free bus I mentioned, but not free itself). Lots of parts of town, such as Federal Hill and Fells Point, are just fun to walk around in.

Feel free to memail me if you want more info. I love Baltimore, and am happy to provide more info.
posted by ubiquity at 1:06 PM on June 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I'm on the light rail right now headed to the airport afternoon spending a week in Baltimore for a conference. I got a Charm Card (the transit smart fare card) and it's made it really easy to ride the trains and buses.

The Poe Museum is small and takes maybe 30 minutes, but it was fun. I recommend checking out Hampden - Golden West Cafe has bunch of gluten free options. The whole neighborhood is fun. Atomic Books is rad. I wish I spent more time there. It's an easy bus ride from the waterfront.
posted by kendrak at 1:10 PM on June 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I forgot to mention:

Safety: Sigh. You do have to be careful where you walk, particularly after dark, particularly if you're by yourself. The touristy areas are reasonably safe though, including all the things I mentioned above.
posted by ubiquity at 1:14 PM on June 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I know I'm staying in a tourist area, but would like to avoid tourist restaurants if possible.

One thing that struck me on my limited trips to Baltimore is how small the inner harbor area is. Yes, plenty of people don't get beyond the sight of the water, seeing the aquarium (which is great) and eating at the couple of dozen of tourist trap chain restaurants. But if you walk just a few blocks, you'll be away from all of that.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:18 PM on June 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Nthing the American Visionary Art Museum.

There's a place called the Papermoon Diner which looks like John Waters designed the place. Their menu does specify gluten free and vegan options.

Hampden Village may also have some interesting places to explore; it's the most "Brooklyn" of sites I saw in Baltimore, for lack of a better word.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:55 PM on June 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

Best answer: It's definitely not a particularly weird or little spot, but if you are up for a bigger art museum, I have really enjoyed visiting The Walters Art Museum when I've been in the area during the last couple of years. They have incredible collections of medieval European art and Islamic art, among other areas. Admission is free, it's easy to reach via transit, and there's a grand (re)opening celebration for part of the building this weekend that looks like it will draw some food trucks and other arts organizations to the area.
posted by Anita Bath at 2:03 PM on June 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: what should I know about staying safe in Baltimore?

It's probably not an issue with where you're likely to go, but in many of the row home areas, visibility for drivers is bad and encourages driving in ways that are dangerous to people in the crosswalks, so use caution.

If you drink mead, check out Charm City Meadworks.

Nthing the Visionary Art Museum.

The Horse You Came In On claims to be the last destination of Poe and has live music - check the schedule to see if an of it matches your tastes.
posted by Candleman at 2:18 PM on June 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

Best answer: One of the things I miss most about Baltimore was being able to see a movie at the Charles Theater followed by grabbing a bite and a cocktail at Tapas Teatro next door. There were also many nights that ended at Club Charles across the street, which John Waters has been known to frequent.
posted by singinginmychains at 3:35 PM on June 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For around $20 you can visit the ships docked in the harbor - very cool.

Camden Yards is the prettiest ballpark I’ve ever been in, and O’s tix are cheap. It’s worth it just to walk around and see the architecture.
posted by sara is disenchanted at 5:02 PM on June 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Baltimore Museum of Industry is another good museum.

You may like the Book Thing which gives away free used books as long as you agree to not resell them.

If you plan to take public transit, Google Maps will go a good job of finding good routes and schedules. The Transit app is also very helpful.
posted by nalyd at 8:03 PM on June 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you like used bookstores, Normals is one of the best I've ever visited.

If you have enough lead time to make a request and are into this kind of thing, the State of Maryland Medical Examiners' Office houses the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death. We sent them an email as Irish tourists and got a quick, friendly response, so it was pretty painless to arrange, and they are truly phenomenally beautiful and weird.

I really loved Baltimore but spent my few days there trailing after the friend we stayed with in Charles Village, so I never fully had to navigate transport by myself, and kept being introduced to awesome things and people. The inner harbour area looked like it had all the ambience of an airport, so I think you will be very rewarded for your plans to explore more.
posted by carbide at 12:07 AM on June 20, 2018

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