As a DC resident, how can I get to know Baltimore better?
March 9, 2008 8:31 PM   Subscribe

As a DC resident, how can I get to know Baltimore better?

I live in DC, have a lot of family in the District, know the city's history, the layout, the streets, the vibe of most places in the city. I get up to Baltimore a lot, and have certain things here or there that I like to see.

Aside from moving to Baltimore itself, what suggestions do you have for knowing the city well? I pick up the Baltimore City Paper (and read it omline, when I can), but what else do you recommend? I can't even find a decent travel guide for the city.
posted by waylaid to Travel & Transportation (17 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Well The Wire just ended tonight. Its a show thats run for five years on HBO all about Baltimore. It's actually taught me all I need to know about Baltimore, as well as a thousand other things that go on in a postmodern city in America. Might well be the best insight anyone will ever get about a city without actually living there. Just a suggestion though, don't believe everything you read in the Baltimore Sun.
posted by pwally at 8:41 PM on March 9, 2008

Well The Wire just ended tonight. Its a show thats run for five years on HBO all about Baltimore. It's actually taught me all I need to know about Baltimore, as well as a thousand other things that go on in a postmodern city in America. Might well be the best insight anyone will ever get about a city without actually living there. Just a suggestion though, don't believe everything you read in the Baltimore Sun.

Bullshit. Despite its problems, things are really not as bleak for most of Baltimore as television likes to imagine. Yes, there are places in Baltimore I wouldn't walk around at night, but even on foot, walking east from Charles Village and into Greenpoint, there are lots of places you have to be there to enjoy. If you want to really experience Baltimore, just go for the weekend. On Friday night, go downtown and witness the oddness of Baltimore nightlife. The next morning, follow the locals up to Greenpoint and go to Peet's for breakfast. That is an experience in itself, I only hope you're not a vegetarian. And, get there early. If you stay on Greenpoint, be sure to score some drugs, because it seems every sixth person is trying to sell there. Then, head down through JHU's campus to Hamden, and just hang out. It's like the other side of the tracks. Very white, very lower class, hipster in some ways, but the Red Men really run the neighborhood. You'll see their hang-out. They might even have a barbecue.
posted by parmanparman at 8:48 PM on March 9, 2008

Response by poster: Yup, I have watched every episode of the Wire. Fantastic show.
posted by waylaid at 8:51 PM on March 9, 2008

Greenmount. And it's Pete's, not Peet's. And Hampden, not Hamden. As for the Red Men, they're about as powerful as your local Elks Lodge.
posted by electroboy at 8:53 PM on March 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: in regards to what parmanparman said - The Wire was a great show...however, evreywhere in the show was either the Inner Harbor or the hood, and there is plenty of inbetween.

I do walk a lot through Baltimore, and the one thing that always strikes me is how street life, even in very gentrified, safe neighborhoods seems to be far less than other cities ive been to or lived in.
posted by waylaid at 8:55 PM on March 9, 2008

Response by poster: er, by the above i mean that far fewer people are out and walking...even on nice days and during the day.
posted by waylaid at 8:58 PM on March 9, 2008

That's a good point, waylaid, I'm not sure why that is. I suppose one possibility is that Baltimore neighborhoods tend to be pockets of good areas with not so good surrounding areas, so people are less likely to walk places than drive. Also, the City doesn't exactly make it easy to get around on foot or bike. The sidewalks are not great and they just recently started putting in (woefully inadequate) bike lanes. Public transportation isn't great either.

One good way to get familiar with the city is to read the City Paper. It's full of snark and is geared at 20 and 30 somethings, but it's a good overview of what's going on in the city. Their Best of Baltimore issues are pretty good for discussions of Baltimore institutions and finding out where the good places to go are.

Baltimore Magazine is more an upper class publication, but also has some good information.

Urbanite has some decent articles, usually about art and culture. New urbanist type stuff.

The Afro-American is one of the oldest African American publications in the US and reports primarily on the Baltimore/DC area. The headquarters are over on Charles Street.

That's what I've got off the top of my head. I recommend reading up and then taking a trip up on the MARC train (Amtrak if it's the weekend). If you have any questions, feel free to email.
posted by electroboy at 9:18 PM on March 9, 2008

...As you can see, I also don't live in Baltimore.
posted by parmanparman at 9:28 PM on March 9, 2008

Response by poster: Yup, I have fridays off sometimes and take the MARC up. Weekends, I've either driven (and then transit once im there) when or the Green Line->B30->Light Rail combo. But that's only when I have a LOT of time.

Can't wait for MARC to extend service to the weekends this year...!
posted by waylaid at 9:31 PM on March 9, 2008

Best answer: You might want to clarify specifically what you want to get to know about the city, so we can help you a bit better. I'd recommend trying a day (or night) in each neighborhood -- after several day-trips you'll have a sense of where things are and what each neighborhood is all about. Here's an incomplete list based on some of the places I like (I don't have time to post links/directions, but many of these places have websites and can probably be googled).

-Fell's Point - fun quirky shopping during the day, but best for its nightlife -- lots of bars and fun stuff to do. Personally, I like the Wharf Rat, a funky little bar that feels a bit like a pirate hangout (not to be confused with the Inner Harbor Wharf Rat -- I'm sure they're affiliated but I've never been there). I think once a month they have a big antique/flea market, but I don't know much about it.

-Canton -- also has a nice night life, but I'm not as familiar with it

-Little Italy - Right around the corner from Fell's Point. During the summer they have an film festival, once a week (or once a month?) they show a film, for free, by projecting it onto the side of a building. Bring a lawnchair or some picnic gear, a snack, etc. and sit back and watch a movie outdoors with a friendly crowd. And of course Little Italy has some great dining -- I like Sabbatinos myself, and there's a famous italian dessert place whose name I can't remember

-Inner Harbor - Touristy area with some nice restaurants and shops -- I think you can rent a paddle boat or do random tourist stuff. Check out the Visionary Art Museum while you're down there -- some crazy stuff.

-Hampden -- trendy little residential neighborhood with "the avenue," a row of unique shops (from antiques to eastern/spirituality to home decor to vintage clothes to alternative books to strange gifts, etc.). Great breakfast/brunch/lunch at Cafe Hon, a very quirky celebration of Baltimore culture.

-Northern Baltimore (not sure what to call the neighborhood) -- Check out Belvedere Square and see a movie at the Senator, a big fancy historical movie theater. Excellent dining at Cafe Zen (best Chinese ever) and Ryan's Daughter (Irish restaurant/pub with a fine menu). Daedalus (used) bookstore, Belvedere market (daytime). Probably not a whole day's worth of activities here, but you could come up here for dinner and a movie after spending the day in Charles Village or Hampden.

-Mount Vernon - Check out a performance at the Peabody Conservatory or some good community theatre (Spotlighters theatre). Eat/drink at the Midtown Yacht Club (I think they do karaoke one night a week), Mick O'Shea's (Irish Pub), Mt. Vernon Stable, Brewer's Art (a really cool brewpub, interesting beers and cool ambience, especially the downstairs which feels sort of castle-like). During the daytime there are occasionally street fairs/festivals around Monument street. Also check out the Walters Art Gallery (excellent), and of course, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at the Meyerhoff. If you have an ear for the avant garde, come in September for the High Zero Festival, a multi-day festival of improvised/experimental music. Don't forget Tapas Teatro, one of my favorite restaurants (a Spanish-style Tapas Bar), and the attached Charles Theatre, a high-quality independent movie theater.

-Charles Village - Johns Hopkins area, recently developed into a more upscale residential neighborhood with some shops and dining. Check out the Paper Moon Diner, the weirdest diner you'll ever see. The Baltimore Museum of Art is a must-see in this area. Normal's book store is a neat used book store which also hosts an experimental-music venue. On Sunday mornings (I think), check out the "Book Thing" a *free* book store -- stop by and take as many books as you can carry, they'll beg you to take even more. Donate some old books if you have them. Once a week (month) there's the Waverly Market, where you can buy fresh produce straight from the farmers. The Otto Bar is a popular club that hosts a lot of punk and indie bands.

-Federal Hill - Another old-fashioned-but-hip-and-trendy little residential neighborhood with a lot of little shops, restaurants, bars, etc. I don't spend a lot of time here so I don't have a lot of recommendations, but I hear Lexington Market is a great (open air?) market.

Enjoy Theatre and the arts? Center Stage and Everyman are professional theatres in Baltimore, and there's an active community theatre scene -- information on baltimore community theatre and some other arts events can be found at The Baltimore Theatre Alliance, Creative Alliance, The Hole in the Wall Cabaret, the 14k Cabaret, the Hamilton Arts Collective.

The Baltimore Citypaper website has an event calendar that's searchable by date and event type -- worth checking out. I imagine the Baltimore Sun and Baltimore Examiner each has a similar resource.

Like Sports? -- of course we have the Orioles and the Ravens. Not sure about Hopkins sports but I think they're pretty well known for lacrosse.

This list is not exhaustive, it's just some things I'm familiar with, which crossed my mind while typing. But it should get you started in each neighborhood.
posted by Alabaster at 10:39 PM on March 9, 2008 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Alabaster,

Tha tlist is great! I have been to the Book Thing - i actually go to Baltimore JUST for that.

If you have more time, I"m really interested in historical stuff (been to the Maryland History museum), transportation related stuff (planning to go to the Baltimore Streetcar museum), and quirky museums, bookstores, or things to see like that.

Less interested in clubs, indy music and so on.
posted by waylaid at 4:45 AM on March 10, 2008

A note about The Book Thing: they're actively looking for monetary donations in order to make a very large payment on their mortgage. I've heard they may close if they can't raise the money, so if you really like it, consider donating.

And if you're a regular at The Book Thing, I'm sure you've been to Normal's right? If not, go.
posted by electroboy at 6:39 AM on March 10, 2008

Alabaster, what a wonderful list!
Park and take the water taxi. The taxi stops at all the water neighborhoods (Fells Point, Camden, Inner Harbor and Federal Hill).
If in Fells Point stop at Eat Breatha,s Mussels. On saturdays and sundays afternoons The Cat's Eye has live music--no cover fee and kids allowed until ?(I forget the time).

Lexington Market up from the Inner Harbor--only open in the day.

Outside of Baltimore over the Francis Scott Key Bridge is a lost in time penscala (even spell check cannot figure this one out--reason I don't post much is my spelling)
You'll find generations of the same families. Beautiful and protected water habitats, that is once you past the steel plant.
Go to Miller's Island and eat at a restaurant on a river beach ( I don't know if its reopened since hurricane 6? yrs)
Past Miller's Island to North Point Park on the water. This park is on my best list. It is historical. North Point Battle? Revolutionary War? The Park was a military base for years. It has hugh underground storage bunkers, old barracks, big guns to climb on--great place! And BEST bone chilling Halloween!!

Oh, there is a walkway almost the entire length of the harbor. Its a regular commuter route for a lot of city people.
For theatre Arena Stage.

Sorry, i didn't catch the quirky historical stuff till after i began. I loved Baltimore. Its more a big town.
posted by dsaelf at 7:25 AM on March 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

For Theatre, don't forget the Baltimore Theatre Project (Baltimore's Fringe Festival, all year round!). And you may also want to check out the Cross Street Market, south of the Inner Harbour. If you visit Belvedere Square, do check out Atwater's for excellent lunch fare.

I cannot recommmend the Visionary Art Museum enough. Quite spectaculat. You could combine that with the Baltimore Museum of Industry and dinning at Little Havana and just make a day of it.
posted by Verdant at 9:38 AM on March 10, 2008

Response by poster: This is amazing, guys- thanks so much.
posted by waylaid at 11:11 AM on March 10, 2008

there's a famous italian dessert place whose name I can't remember

! mmmm cannoli!
posted by Wet Spot at 3:36 PM on March 10, 2008

Seconding the recommendations for the Senator and Belvedere Square in the 212. But absolutely do not miss Swallow at the Hollow and Jerry's Belvedere (right across the street from each other) if you'd like a good old-timey drink in the neighborhood tavern.

I also heartily recommend the Mt. Washington Tavern, which is a great place for a drink and a bite after lacrosse at Hopkins. Even if you're not big into sports, watching a game at Homewood Field is fun and cheap. Do it.
posted by dhammond at 10:53 PM on March 11, 2008

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