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For other places with the same name, see Baltimore (disambiguation).

Baltimore is a popular tourist destination in Maryland, in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States of America, near Washington, D.C. It is perhaps most famously known as the city where Francis Scott Key wrote the lyrics for the Star Spangled Banner, and today has become a major center for tourism and travel.

It lies on the juncture of the Chesapeake Bay. With continuous nightlife, temperate climate, and plenty of hospitality, any time of the year is a great time to visit.

Districts

Baltimore has an absolutely staggering number of officially designated neighborhoods, some just several blocks large, and each with its own character. They are administratively separated into nine larger regions. The following list is further simplified for the traveler and contains some of the neighborhoods you are most likely to visit.

Baltimore districts map.png
  Inner Harbor
If you are a tourist, you come here. Most of Baltimore's excellent museums are here, as are most of its major hotels and the magnificent National Aquarium. The harbor views are nice too. But watch out for the tourist trap bars and restaurants!
  Fells Point (Little Italy, Corned Beef Row)
Fells Point could not be more complementary to the Inner Harbor—historic, with great pubs, nightlife, and restaurants, especially in tiny but very authentic Little Italy.
  Downtown (UMB, Lexington Market)
An incongruous mix of Baltimore's central business district, the University of Maryland-Baltimore, the awe inspiring Lexington Market, the infamously seedy "Block," a host of jewelry shops specializing in grillz, and charming Seton Hill, an area rich in religious, architectural and African-American history.
  Midtown (Mount Vernon, Station North Arts, Charles St, Bolton Hill)
One of the nicest sections of the city, home to the performing arts district, Penn Station, and a host of other attractions (Walters Art Museum, the original Washington Monument, dining and wining on Charles St, etc.) that most visitors foolishly pass over.
  South Baltimore (Federal Hill, Locust Point, Pigtown, Fort McHenry)
Industrial blue-collar South Baltimore is dying, and is quickly being replaced with upscale gentrified neighborhoods like Federal Hill. That's not so bad from a traveler's perspective—some of the city's best restaurants and bars have sprung forth in the booming areas.
  North Baltimore (Station North Arts District, Hampden, Johns Hopkins, Mount Washington)
Most visitors to the area know only Johns Hopkins University and the always interesting commercial strip along Charles St nearby. But it is unfortunate that they overlook the quirkiest of quirky neighborhoods, Hampden.
  Southeast Baltimore (Canton, Patterson Park, Highlandtown, Greektown)
A heavily industrialized section of the city, home to several very enjoyable Polish, Irish, and Greek ethnic enclaves, and other surprises. Cantonites will place their neighborhood up against Federal Hill in the gentrification derby.
  West Baltimore (Druid Hill Park, Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park, Pimlico)
Infamous West Baltimore. If you have watched the Wire, this was where the crime was taking place! But don't be fooled. There are some major tourist draws here, like the Maryland Zoo in Druid Hill Park, Pimlico Racecourse, and Edgar Allen Poe's House. And the endless old Baltimore rowhouses, no matter how rundown, remain beautiful throughout.
  East Baltimore (Johns Hopkins Hospital, Clifton Park Golf Course, Herring Run Park)
Baltimore's great rivalry between east and west is certainly an example of the narcissism of small differences. Attractions in the east are very few and far between, but things are changing fast as booming Johns Hopkins Medical Campus expands and demolishes in its wake.

Understand

The symbol of working-class Baltimore, the Domino Sugars Factory at night across the harbor

History

Baltimore has a very long and rich history. It is perhaps most well known for being the site of the historic Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812. Over the course of the battle, British invaders bombed Fort McHenry with rockets as Francis Scott Key wrote what would become the American national anthem. Baltimore was also the site of the first casualty of the American Civil War.

It also has a large African-American population that has played an important role in its history. African Americans have had a major presence in Baltimore since the Revolutionary War. During that time they were brought to Baltimore as slaves from Africa. Baltimore was also one of the hotbeds during the American Civil Rights movement and famous African-Americans such as Thurgood Marshall and Kweisi Mfume have made Baltimore their hometown. R&B artists such as Tupac, Dru Hill and Mario have also emerged from Baltimore. Currently, African-Americans form a majority (within the city limits) at 64%.

Geography

Baltimore lies in an arm of the Chesapeake Bay, the third largest estuary in the world. The eastern two-thirds of the metropolitan area lie on the Atlantic Coastal Plain, between 15 and 50 feet above sea level, and contain many peninsulas jutting out into the bay. The western third of the city slowly rises into rolling hills, and leads to the piedmont region. It is located about 40 miles from Washington, D.C., and approximately 100 miles from Philadelphia. The Atlantic Ocean lies about 2 hours to the southeast.

8 inch guns at Fort McHenry

Climate

Baltimore
Climate chart (explanation)
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See Baltimore's 7 day forecast
Metric conversion
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Baltimore lies within the humid subtropical climate zone, and weather is primarily affected by three factors: its proximity to a warm marine estuary, its low elevation, and the wall of mountains to the west and northwest. These factors make the area's climate milder and less extreme than other U.S. cities at this latitude. Summers are humid and hot, but not extremely so, with highs reaching the high 80s to low 90s Fahrenheit and lows in the 60s to low 70s. Winters are cold to mild and moist, with highs in the upper 40s to low 50s, and lows in the 30s and 40s. It is almost never below 10°F in the city proper. Light snow can sometimes fall in winter, although some years there is no significant accumulation and once every few years a coastal storm can dump 8 inches to a foot of snow on the city. Spring and fall bring pleasant temperatures in the 50s-70s(°F), and southern breezes.

While weather in the region can vary, Baltimore does not experience the extremes of weather change that occur further north and inland. Visitors will be able to venture outdoors without a jacket from approximately mid-March to late November. The hot humid summers invite the wearing of shorts on many days. The Baltimore area experiences pleasant fall foliage, usually beginning in mid October and ending in early December. The long warm weather season means that swimming pools are very popular for much of the year as well.

Film

Baltimore boasts a surprisingly influential, albeit small-scale, film industry. Self-dubbed the "grandfather of filth" native John Waters is the Baltimore equivalent of New York's Woody Allen—he has directed movie after movie, set and filmed on location in Baltimore, drawing heavily for inspiration from Baltimore's most bizarre subcultures and its strangest neighborhoods. He became famous for his "gore" flicks in the 1970s, which combine the single-minded purpose of grossing-out (or perhaps scarring-for-life) the viewers along with intensely bad acting, outrageous Baltimore accents, subversive humor, general trashy perversion and violence, and one enormous Baltimore drag queen named Divine. Of this era, Pink Flamingos achieved a certain cult-classic status, although it is absolutely not for the faint of heart (or the pure of spirit).

Pink Flamingo over Cafe Hon in Hampden

Waters' films post-1970s mellowed out dramatically, albeit still maintaining his signature interest in subversive campiness, culminating in his most famous work, Hairspray, a 1962-fabulous story of a plus-size girl with plus-size hair who wanted to bring a black boy to the locally-televised dance show against the forces of racial segregation and bigotry. He has gained considerable success within the Manhattan art world for his more recent work across all sorts of mediums—but he rails against that same art world in Pecker, a movie soaked in the local colors of Baltimore's Hampden neighborhood. His dogged loyalty to his city has earned him a lot of goodwill here. A recent mayor proposed creating a local John Waters holiday, and the Hampden neighborhood erected a giant pink flamingo statue up on the main street. But don't let all this lull you into a sense of complacency—unless it's Hairspray or perhaps Crybaby and maybe Serial Mom, don't show his films to your kids!

Barry Levinson, is perhaps the most well-known film maker to come out of and make films about Baltimore. His directing career began with Diner, a movie set in the Baltimore of his youth, and a movie that would begin the famous four-movie series of "Baltimore films" along with Tin Men, Avalon, and Liberty Heights.

Another big name in Baltimore film-making is undoubtedly David Simon, famous for his Baltimore-centric crime dramas Homicide: Life on the Street (which he co-produced with Barry Levinson), and, of course, The Wire, which has been called by nearly every major journalistic publication in the English language "the best show on television"—although several have contended this doesn't go far enough, calling it the best TV series of all time. The Wire is set principally in the most blighted neighborhoods of West Baltimore, dealing with startlingly realistic, cliché-less portrayals of the life of the city's (and America's) underclass and the drug crime that pervades the neighborhoods and housing projects that underclass lives in. A veteran reporter for the Baltimore Sun and a novelist in his own right, Simon also turns his camera on the city government, the police department, and the public schools, and never in too favorable of a light. (If you are a fan of the series, check out The Wire Tour!) For an even starker portrayal of life and drugs in Baltimore's most blighted neighborhoods, check out his documentary-style miniseries, The Corner.

Don't let these crime dramas get you down, though, most city visitors are unlikely to have any encounters with the drug trade or really much anything to do with Baltimore culture for that matter. All the more reason why The Wire is practically required reading for a serious visitor—the show is filmed on location throughout the whole city, and nowhere else will you be so quickly and delightfully introduced to Baltimore in all its local character and sense of place: Baltimore club music, beautiful and dilapidated old row houses with marble stoops, the legendary horse-cart fruit vendor, coddies and pit beef, bottles of rye by the docks, the East-West rivalry, all sorts of local hip hop, a few good corrupt Polish cops, some angry young men in the projects, and above all that sense of restlessness that keeps this city alive.

Visitor information

Get in

By bus

Buses are an affordable way to get in to Baltimore if you are already in the Eastern Seaboard, especially if you are coming from New York or Philadelphia. There are also routes to Baltimore from outside the region on Greyhound and Megabus.

  • Greyhound offers connections to most major cities in North America. The terminal is in an industrial area a few blocks south of the stadium district, about a 30-minute walk to the Inner Harbor. Another option to get to downtown or Mt. Vernon is MTA's route 27, which serves the station directly; there are also usually cabs waiting.
  • Megabus picks up and drops off at a mall parking lot in suburban White Marsh, about a 25-minute drive or one-hour bus ride (MTA route 35) from the city center. Although the stop location is considerably less convenient than BoltBus, this is made up for by the much greater variety of destinations Megabus offers, including cities across the Northeast, upper South, and even Toronto.
  • NY-DC Express is a Chinatown bus service that offers buses from New York, with rates that are sometimes less than BoltBus and Megabus. You can find other Chinatown bus services between New York and Baltimore at GoToBus.

By car

Baltimore is served by several interstate freeways: I-83 from Harrisburg and points north; I-70 from Pittsburgh and points west; and I-95 from Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and other East Coast cities. If arriving from the south, the I-395 spur from I-95 will take you right into the harbor area. If arriving from the north on I-95, you will have to pay a $4 toll to take the Fort McHenry Tunnel under the harbor before you hit 395. You can avoid the toll and see more of the city by exiting I-95 at Eastern Avenue (exit 59), which will take you through the diverse neighborhoods of Southeast Baltimore before terminating in Harbor East.

Car parking is expensive in the inner city, roughly $5/hour around the harbor area. If you’re planning to stick to the central part of the city and don’t mind walking, you can save money and stress by parking for free at one of the suburban Light Rail or Metro stations and taking transit into the city.

Both of the freeways between Baltimore and Washington, DC (I-95 and MD-295, the Baltimore-Washington Parkway) can be extremely congested on weekdays: although the cities are just 40 miles apart, the drive can take up to two hours at peak times, roughly 6AM to 9:30AM and 3:30PM to 6:30PM The MARC commuter train can be a better option.

By train

The Male Female Statue in front of Penn Station

Amtrak offers frequent, fast, and comfortable services into Baltimore along its Northeast Corridor route; the city is also served by several long-distance trains to cities in the South, with connections to trains headed west in New York and Washington. Taking the train to Baltimore from New York, Boston, or Philadelphia will be much more expensive than a bus, but seats on the long-distance trains are often comparable to bus fares. All Amtrak trains arrive and depart at Penn Station on Charles Street in Midtown, about two miles from the Inner Harbor. You can ride the Light Rail or the free Circulator bus to get to downtown and the Harbor. Some Amtrak trains also stop at the BWI Airport station, which is in a suburban area not convenient for tourists.

The MARC commuter train system runs trains between Baltimore and Washington, DC. At $7 each way, it's much cheaper than Amtrak, and considerably faster than driving. The Penn Line serves Penn Station, running throughout the day roughly once per hour on weekdays up until about 10:30 at night. On weekends, Penn Line service operates at much reduced frequencies. The Camden Line serves the Camden Yards station, adjacent to the Orioles stadium and three blocks from the harbor proper; however, it runs only during the morning and evening rush hours. Both routes depart from Union Station in Washington.

By plane

BWI Airport—or, in full, Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI IATA) is located about 10 miles from the city center and offers non-stop flights from just about every major airport in the country, with a handful of international flights. (More international flights are available at the two D.C. airports.).

Car rental facilities are located in a centralized facility located away from the airport. To get there, you must take a free airport shuttle bus between the facility and the terminals. Plan an extra 10 to 15 minutes to get out of the airport. Also, if heading to Washington D.C., the signage from the airport's car rental facility is very poor and confusing, especially to Route 495. However, all roads ultimately lead to highway access in either direction (north or south).

You have two options for getting into the city by transit. One is to take the free shuttle to the BWI Amtrak/MARC station, where you can take either an Amtrak ($11–28 one way) or MARC commuter train ($4, runs weekdays only) to Penn Station, a 15-minute ride. The other is to take the Light Rail, which departs directly from the terminal. The ride to the Inner Harbor is about 30 minutes and the fare is $1.60.

Get around

By MTA

The light rail by Camden Station

Public transportation in Baltimore is nothing spectacular. Fares to ride light rail, buses and subway are $1.70 each way, and $4.00 buys you a day pass that gets you unlimited rides on all three. You can buy the pass from any bus operator or vending machine at subway/light rail stations.

As a general rule, the light rail system is far more useful for getting into the city than getting around it. You may wish to park outside the city (for free!) and take the light rail in. The one useful section runs from Camden Yards up past Lexington Market to the Station North Arts District.

There is also a single line subway which runs from Johns Hopkins Hospital, through downtown, and out to the northwest suburbs of Pikesville and Owings Mills. The subway does not pass many tourist destinations and is mostly used by commuters.

To get around Baltimore on the cheap by public transport, especially outside of the harbor area, you will sacrifice convenience, but the MTA buses are the way to go. MTA puts out very handy interactive maps of the downtown and regional bus routes, so you can plan ahead. Buses, like all of Baltimore's public transit, are well patrolled and safe.

By Charm City Circulator

Unlike the MTA, the recently launched Charm City Circulator is a city-run service. And unlike the MTA, the Circulator is free.

Funded by parking taxes, several routes are now online. The Orange Route runs east to west from Hollins Market to Harbor East. The Purple Route runs north to south between Penn Station and Federal Hill.

A third route, The Green Route, runs mostly east of downtown, serving Power Plant Live, Fells Point, and the Johns Hopkins medical complex. The Banner Route, running from the Inner Harbor to Ft. McHenry hits the roads in June 2012. The buses, smaller and quieter than the MTA trains, but more stylish and fun to ride, are ideal for people staying downtown looking for a very economical way to get out towards Fells Point, Federal Hill, Mount Vernon and other areas underserved by the MTA.

If staying outside the city and taking Light Rail or Metro Subway in, the ?Circulator routes were thankfully designed to coordinate with key stops like Baltimore Street, North Howard Street (along which the Light Rail runs), Charles Center and the Convention Center.

By car

You don’t need a car to visit Baltimore, but it helps, especially if you’re planning to visit some of the more outlying areas of the city which are poorly served by public transit.

Baltimore has an incomplete freeway system: protests in the 1970s halted the construction of a proposed east-west freeway that would have destroyed neighborhoods including historic Fells’ Point, so I-83 (known within the city as the "Jones Falls Expressway") and I-395 both terminate downtown without connecting to each other. This accounts for heavy traffic downtown during rush hours and on game days. Pratt and Lombard streets can be particularly slow due to the confluence of car and pedestrian traffic around the harbor. If you’re headed east or west across downtown, it’s often quicker to drive a few blocks north to take U.S. Route 40, even if your destination is south of Route 40.

Streets in the central region of the city follow a grid pattern, with alternating one-way streets in many neighborhoods, particularly downtown and on the East Side. In the outer parts of the city, the street pattern becomes more suburban, centered around radial roads. Charles Street divides “East” streets from “West,” and Baltimore Street divides “North” from “South” (early city planners clearly had no idea of how far north the city would grow!). Streets that don’t cross Charles Street or Baltimore Street don’t have a directional label. Most Baltimore street signs have the block number on them, which helps with navigation.

It’s not hard to find paid parking garages and lots near all major sights in the city center, usually charging parking rates commensurate with proximity to the Inner Harbor. Beyond the central neighborhoods, on-street parking is widely available. You pay for street parking at electronic kiosks which take your money (they accept cash or credit cards) and issue a receipt stating the time at which your parking will expire, which you display on your dashboard. Parking enforcement in Baltimore is known to be ruthless.

If you don't have a car, Baltimore has several reliable taxi companies. Taxi fares start at $1.80 and increase by $.20 for each 1/11 mile ($2.20 per mile) or for 30 seconds of waiting time. It’s easy to hail a cab on the street downtown, in Fell’s Point and Mt. Vernon, but elsewhere you’ll have to call.

By water taxi

One of the most popular (and unique!) modes of transportation in Baltimore is the water taxi system +1 410 563-3901. Rarely a useful mode of transport for everyday life, it is an especially nice way of touring the city's main sights for a day (and admiring the skyline from the water). From May–September, it stops throughout the Inner Harbor, Fells Point, Fort McHenry, and even Canton, at intervals of about 15–20 minutes. Day passes, adults: $9.00, kids under 10: $4.00.

In cooperation with the Charm City Circulator system, some routes across the harbor are also free from 7AM to 7PM, including Maritime Park, Tide Point, and Canton Waterfront Park.

By bicycle

Biking is a fun way to explore Baltimore’s neighborhoods as well as an activity in itself. Scenic areas to explore by bike include the affluent neighborhoods of North Baltimore, the Gwynns Falls Trail and Druid Hill Park on the West Side, and East Baltimore’s Patterson Park. The city center is fairly flat, although the northern part of the city can get quite hilly.

Although Baltimore hasn’t achieved the bicycle-friendliness of its neighbor to the south, the city government is making an effort, slowly installing new bike lanes and marked bicycle routes. Drivers are generally tolerant, although some are liable to pass uncomfortably close (Maryland law requires drivers to allow at least 3 feet when passing a bicyclist, but it’s rarely enforced). The city publishes a handy Bicycle Map, available online and in print at bike shops.

You can bring bicycles on Metro and Light Rail (but not MARC) trains. All MTA buses (but not the Circulator) have a front-loading bike rack.

Three excellent bike shops are located in areas frequented by visitors: Light Street Cycles, located at 1124 Light Street in Federal Hill, less than a mile walk from the Inner Harbor; Baltimore Bicycle Works, at 1813 Falls Road near Penn Station; and Joe’s Bike Shop at 723 S. Broadway in Fells Point. Light Street Cycles and Baltimore Bicycle Works offer bike rentals by the day.

Baltimore’s bike scene has an irreverent side. Instead of a Critical Mass ride (where large groups of cyclists take over the street during rush hour to promote biking), Baltimore has the Baltimore Bike Party, a slow-paced, carousing mass ride replete with costumed riders, decorated bikes, and noisemakers. The Bike Party meets at 7PM at the Washington Monument in Mt. Vernon the last Friday of every month; there’s always an afterparty (and sometimes a pre-party) with food and beer.

Bicycle theft is a serious concern. You must have a strong, solid lock—a cable lock makes your bike easy prey. In 2010 and 2011 there were reports of gangs assaulting cyclists and stealing their bikes after dark in the area between Midtown and Charles Village, North Avenue to 25th Street. Although such reports have been less frequent in the past couple years, it’s safest to stick to well-lit, heavily-travelled streets after dark.

See

Lion at the Maryland Zoo

As Baltimore is a predominantly African American city, there are many opportunities to experience African American history in this town. The most prominent is the Great Blacks in Wax Museum located on East North Avenue in East Baltimore close to Johns Hopkins University. This museum showcases African American History through art. Another site of interest may be the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Black History located close to the Harbor Area.

The Baltimore Harbor is the busy center to the city, a major tourist attraction, a must-see, often featuring live music by jazz groups and crooners and plenty of eating and shopping. While locals scorn the Inner Harbor as a pre-fabricated tourist mecca devoid of true Baltimore culture, visitors should see the harbor, and especially should visit some of its excellent museums and other attractions. Highlights range from the Historic Ships in Baltimore (including the USS Constellation), the kid-mesmerizing Maryland Science Center, to the crowded and enormous National Aquarium, to the radically eccentric American Visionary Arts Museum.

The tourist district of the Inner Harbor is a great destination, where you will have a great time. But it is oddly ahistoric in one of America's most historic cities. The most prominent historical attraction is Fort McHenry across the harbor at the tip of Locust Point. It gained an iconic status in American history by successfully defending the Baltimore harbor from the British naval bombardment in the War of 1812, at which time Sir Francis Scott Key was inspired by the tattered but still waving American flag on the fort to write the poem that would later become the national anthem, the Star Spangled Banner.

The other very rewarding historical destination in Baltimore is just east of the Inner Harbor in Fells Point, once a separate town founded in 1730, which became wealthy throughout the 18th and 19th centuries on shipbuilding and the maritime trade (and anti-British privateering). Architecturally, little has changed for more than a century, and the cobblestone streets, old pubs, and quaint harbor area are more than enough to lure visitors.

While you won't run out of attractions to visit in the Inner Harbor, there are a bunch of big attractions throughout the city that you should not miss. Look especially for Westminster Hall and Burying Ground Downtown, the Maryland Zoo in Druid Hill Park, the original Washington Monument and the Walters Art Museum in Mount Vernon, and the Baltimore Museum of Art up by Johns Hopkins University.

Itineraries

  • The Wire Tour — a grand 3.5 hour driving tour of prominent filming locations for the highly acclaimed HBO series, The Wire.
  • Tour the Baltimore Basilica, at 409 Cathedral St. Benjamin Latrobe was the architect for this incredible cathedral, built in neo-classical style. Latrobe went on to redesign the US Capitol after it was burned by the British. The first Catholic Cathedral in the United States, the building has been completely restored. Docents are available to give free tours, or you may walk around on your own. The dome, whose design was influenced by Thomas Jefferson, is worth the visit, even if you don't have time for a tour. Be sure to check out the undercroft, where the large brick foundations that support the dome are clearly visible. Architectural and religious beauty... this place has it all... right in downtown Baltimore.

Do

  • Creative Alliance, 3134 Eastern Ave, +1 410-276-1651. The Creative Alliance is a vibrant arts center with over 200 events a year ranging from costume dance parties, to folk music performances, rap, world music, and indie film screenings. The space holds two art galleries, a theater, classroom, media lab, live/work studios for 8 artists, and a bar/restaurant.

Sports

Pimlico Racetrack, home of the Preakness

Baltimore has several professional sports teams and events.

Teams

Professional Sports Teams

  • Baltimore Blast. The city's Major Indoor Soccer League team. They play their home games at 1st Mariner Arena.
  • Baltimore Bombers. The city's North American Lacrosse League team. They play their home games at Clarence H. "Du" Burns Arena.

Notable College Teams

  • Johns Hopkins Blue Jays Lacrosse. Are one of the most successful, oldest, and well known men's college lacrosse teams in the United States. Currently they have 9 NCAA Division I championships.
  • Loyola Greyhounds Lacrosse. Are a team that found a lot of their success in the late 1980s and 1990's, but finally won their first NCAA men's Division I in 2012.

Sporting Events

  • Baltimore Marathon. Is the flagship race of several races collectively known as the Baltimore Running Festival.
  • Preakness Stakes. Is an American flat Thoroughbred horse race held on the third Saturday in May each year at Pimlico Race Course

Festivals

Downtown Baltimore.
  • Baltimore Pride. A two-day weekend festival in June of each year celebrating Baltimore's LGBT community. There is a parade through the city, a festival in Druid Park, and a block party in Mt. Vernon, as well as other events.
  • Maryland Deathfest. For those who enjoy a good headbang, an annual metal festival is held at the city's SONAR venue at the end of May.
  • Artscape: This festival to showcase the arts is held every July in Mt Vernon. This festival features opportunities to experience and purchase arts and craft produced by Baltimore artisans and tailors. It also features concerts of both local and national talent. Past performers have included Common, India Irie, The Temptation and Patty Labelle
  • Afram: This festival to celebrate African American culture is held every June downtown. It feature vendor selling seafood, soulfood and other American favorites. It also has concerts by African American artists and carnival rides.
  • Otakon. One of the largest and longest-running anime conventions in the United States, held over a three-day weekend in July or August (varies depending on the year). Even if you are not into anime, you'll get to see throngs of Japanese cartoon-inspired costumed attendees (cosplayers) take over the Baltimore Convention Center and Inner Harbor during the convention.
  • StoneSoul Picnic: This festival is held every August in Druid Hill Park to celebrate African American heritage. It usually appeals to youth but has vendors, clothing and other items for sale that can be purchased by all ages. There is also usually a concert by a younger hip hop artists. Past performers have included J Holiday, Tiffany Evans and Mario.
  • Baltimore Book Festival. 3 day book festival with over 100 exhibitors/booksellers, author signings, cooking demos and other events and activities held in late September at the Inner Harbor in downtown Baltimore (it used to in Mt Vernon) to celebrate reading. Free admission.

Learn

Buy

You will find that the Inner Harbor area has most of the stores. There are often souvenir shops in many of the interesting attractions, providing expensive, but unique, items. However, many of these are tourist traps. There are some interesting stores in the suburbs, for those of you who are touring the surrounding area. A drive to the nearby Wegmans or IKEA may be well worth it.

Eat

Strange food on offer in Lexington Market

A wide variety of dining options can be found in Baltimore, but no visit to Maryland is complete without a sampling of the local favorite: steamed crabs! During the summer harvest season (May to September), picking crabs is a popular way to spend the afternoon with family and friends at a crab feast. However, crab may be imported from as far away as Texas during the off-season. Often crabs are accompanied by steamed shrimp, corn on the cob, and beer.

If steamed crabs are too adventurous, you should at least sample a crab cake, crab bisque, or vegetable crab soup.

Then again, if crabs aren't adventurous enough, there is an impressive range of strange local foods that most visitors never hear about. The preeminent among which is the Baltimore pit beef sandwich. An odd tradition born of the meeting of the American barbecue world with the culinary tastes of Baltimore's Polish immigrants, the pit beef is slowly barbecued all day and night in a deep pit, then put on a kaiser roll, plus onions and horseradish to your liking (don't wuss out on the horseradish—it's an integral part of the experience). It's best served very rare. Unfortunately, pit beef can be hard to come by within the city limits. The favorite pit beefery is probably Chaps, located next to an industrial area on the extreme east of the city.

Vying for local fast food preeminence is Baltimore Lake Trout. It's not trout (rather, whitefish), and it doesn't come from a lake. But it is impressively fresh, lightly breaded, surprisingly not so greasy, and just all around finger-licking good. It is sort-of served in a sandwich, but you get such a huge quantity of fish in there (for chicken-feed), it's not possible to eat it like a sandwich. Lake Trout takes you far from East Baltimore's pit beef into the west side, but where to get the best fish is a matter of contention. The most accessible, and visitor friendly, is a regular contender for the crown—The Roost.

Coddies represent the final major player in local fast food lore. Nothing fancy here—it's a thick, satisfying codcake served in a sandwich of two saltine crackers, and the coddie should be topped with simple yellow mustard. They can be hard to find, but you'll get great ones at Faidley's for absurdly low prices.

The market place, near the harbor, is full of fresh seafood and food bars. But for a more local experience, head to the neighborhoods surrounding it: Little Italy, Fells Point, Federal Hill, Canton, Mount Washington, etc. all feature both local and international cuisine.

Lexington Market is an especially popular lunchtime destination, with countless vendors selling all kinds of food imaginable. There are standing tables in an open area on the ground floor, as well as a large seating area on the upper level above that. If you are looking for a deep Baltimore culinary experience, head to standing room only Faidley's, where you can get your coddies, some of the world's most acclaimed jumbo lump crab cakes, and even local artifacts like terrapin, raccoon, and muskrat! (Those artifacts are available only seasonally, and only to take home to cook.)

Canton Square offers a diverse selection of good restaurants, but one of the standouts is Nacho Mama's (2907 O'Donnell St). Fun atmosphere, good Mexican food, and many "priceless artifacts" representing everything Baltimore. There also the must-see Greektown, which hosts a wealth of authentic Greek restaurants and coffeehouses.

Vaccaro's in Baltimore's Little Italy is a place to die for when it comes to desserts. This intimate Italian bakery is a little on the high side but features a wide variety of traditional Italian pastries. Located two blocks from the inner harbor area at the corner of Albemarle and Stiles street. They also have a location in Canton Square.

Here's a local meal! A jumbo lump, two coddies, and washed down with a Natty Boh.

Don't miss the Helmand Restaurant in Mt. Vernon. Owned by Mahmood Karzai, brother of Afghan president Hamid Karzai, the cuisine here is from Afghanistan and delicious! The prices are inexpensive (around $15.00 for an entree), and they boast 4 star quality service. Try the pumpkin appetizer.

In Hampden, there are several (quirky) dining options, including Suzie's Soba (Asian fusion), Cafe Hon (featuring kitschy retro decor and a blue plate special menu), Holy Frijoles (a dark, hip margarita-and-burritos place), Rocket To Venus (eclectic rock-n-roll bar/restaurant) and Golden West (featuring eclectic Southwestern cuisine in equally eclectic surroundings, known for excellent food, a laid-back bar scene, and family-friendly seating. Be warned: it's nicknamed "Golden Wait" by locals for the lackadaisical service.) If you wish for a more formal (and expensive), dinner, try the business district. Also of note is the local dinner theatre, Toby's, which for a sizeable price will give you a fancy three-course buffet dinner and a roughly two hour theatre production. Baltimore recently passed a smoke-free ordinance, so be aware that all restaurants and bars are completely non-smoking.

Drink

The two neighborhoods with the largest concentrations of drinking establishments and clubs are Fells Point and Powerplant Live!. Other fine wining (or boozing) and dining neighborhoods include Canton Square, Mt. Vernon, Federal Hill, Hampden, and the Station North Arts and Entertainment District. Baltimore is also the home of the oldest Irish pub in the United States, Patrick's of Pratt Street, established in 1847.

Fells Point is the city's most popular district for both eating and drinking, it is located about a 15 min walk from downtown, or a short cab ride. Many bars in this area feature live music and most have excellent selections of Maryland and imported craft beers. The Full Moon Saloon on Aliceanna Street brings outstanding blues artists to the stage, while the Cat's Eye pub on Thames (pronounced as it is spelled, not like the river in London) has jazz and blues. Also be sure to visit Bertha's on Broadway, John Steven Ltd. on Thames, and Max's Taphouse for the widest beer and shooter selection plus Quiz-a-ma-jig trivia every Thursday night.

Max's on Broadway is Baltimore's veritable beer museum, with a long list of hard-to-find beers from around the world.

Powerplant Live! is an area just off of the Inner Harbor that has two blocks of nothing but bars, clubs and restaurants. It has an outdoor area that has music and other events during good weather. Drinks and food are low quality and overpriced (since there is an unending stream of tourists unfamiliar with the city strolling in), but even the most hip Baltimore hipsters will find themselves here every now and then for the free live performances.

Brewer's Art on Charles St specializes in Belgian ales. Cross Street Market in bar-saturated Federal Hill has a fine sushi and raw bar, and an excellent happy hour on Friday.

National Bohemian (affectionately known as 'Natty Boh') is the popular local cheap beer. They are generally no more than $2–3 anywhere in Baltimore, and most places serve them in cans.

Please note that all bars in Baltimore (and the state of Maryland) are completely non-smoking.

Sleep

This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget Under $100
Mid-range $100-$200
Splurge $200 and up

The vast majority of visitors stay in the Inner Harbor, right by the main attractions. Few cities have such a well-defined tourist district, and it is therefore no surprise that nearly all the major hotels in the city are located there.

Business travelers can certainly stay in the Inner Harbor and remain close to the central business district, and this way get better views from their rooms. But the most convenient business hotels, chain hotels all, are located Downtown. Bear in mind that Downtown is not a very good location if you are looking for nightlife—you would always wind up going somewhere else, and the empty streets in the business district can be creepy after dark.

Now if you prefer to stay in a quieter area, with more local character, and better dining and nightlife options, you should look to Fells Point as the natural option, but even further off the beaten path you can find lovely bed and breakfasts and other small hotels in Federal Hill, Midtown, or Canton. The Midtown hotels particularly benefit from good public transportation (a rarity in the city) to Downtown and the Inner Harbor.

For those on a tighter budget, Baltimore is the home to a Backpacker Hostel and several inexpensive B&Bs.

Stay safe

Sharks—not the only safety hazard in Baltimore

Baltimore's reputation as a dangerous city was cemented internationally by the HBO series The Wire, and this is not far from the truth. Its nickname, the "Charm City", has been updated by local cynics as the "Harm City," and you can probably find an I *heart* Baltimore t-shirt for sale in which the heart is made of guns and knives. An even less inviting nickname of recent years is the grisly "Bodymore." This reputation is in no small part due to its very high murder rate and its status as a major transit point for drugs. The reputation is warranted, but the average traveler should not get overly concerned. Most crime occurs between individuals that know each other, or in high crime-ridden areas of the city, in which tourists will have little reason to go to. Few if any travelers will have any experience with that isolated culture of drug and gang-related activity, where the murders are occurring. Muggings are the crime for tourists to be concerned with, however.

The areas of Baltimore that attract tourists are safe. You shouldn't worry when going to the opera, museums, aquarium, etc. The popular Inner Harbor area in particular is saturated with police day and night, as the city government relies heavily on this area to bring in locals and tourists and generate tax revenue. Some areas just north of the waterfront (downtown above the Inner Harbor around Lexington Market, and around the big public housing projects just northeast of Little Italy) can get a little dodgy after dark, and even during the day sometimes. If you're parking your car on street in the Charles Street entertainment district or even in Fells Point, don't leave anything -even trash- visible in your car, in order to deter smash-and-grab robberies. Generally, the worst annoyance for tourists and residents around downtown are the homeless and/or drug addicts, who ask for money. Most will leave you alone if they do or don't receive anything from you. But if one follows you asking for money, it's best to ignore them and keep walking, as they almost always give up after a few seconds. Avoid confrontations or yelling back.

Above all, though, just exercise the usual precautions for any large city in the world: know where you are going and how you are getting there. At night, walk in groups if possible and on well-lit streets, and do not carry large amounts of money. Call a cab if the trip back at night seems beyond your comfort zone.

Connect

Some restaurants and many libraries have WiFi in Baltimore. There is free City WiFi in parts of the Inner Harbour, and it's available in other areas of Baltimore by subscription.

Cope

  • Baltimore Sun is Baltimore's daily newspaper
  • CityPaper is Baltimore's weekly alternative newspaper. Lists a full schedule of weekly events every issue, so it's the preferred guide for out-of-towners looking for fun things to do.
  • The Bohemian is a bi-monthly alternative Baltimore magazine.
  • Baltimore Afro American has served Baltimore's black community since 1892.

Consulates

LGBT

Go next

Routes through Baltimore (by long-distance rail)
Washington, D.C.Baltimore-Washington International Airport  SW Amtrak Acela Express icon.png NE  WilmingtonNew York City
CharlestonWashington, D.C.  W Amtrak Cardinal icon.png E  WilmingtonPhiladelphia
PhiladelphiaWilmington  N Amtrak Crescent icon.png S  Washington, D.C.Lynchburg
Washington, D.C.Baltimore-Washington International Airport  SW Amtrak Northeast Regional.png NE  AberdeenPhiladelphia
PhiladelphiaWilmington  N Amtrak Palmetto icon.pngAmtrak Silver Meteor icon.png S  Washington, D.C.Fayetteville
PhiladelphiaWilmington  N Amtrak Silver Star icon.png S  Washington, D.C.Raleigh
Washington, D.C.Baltimore-Washington International Airport  SW Amtrak Vermonter icon.png NE  WilmingtonPhiladelphia


Routes through Baltimore (by car)
FrederickWoodlawn  W I-70.svg E  END
HarrisburgTowson  N I-83.svg S  END
PhiladelphiaWhite Marsh Template:Ltarrow Jct W I-695.svg E  N I-95.svg S  ArbutusWashington, D.C.
END  N I-97.svg S  Glen BurnieAnnapolis
PhiladelphiaBel Air  N US 1.svg S  ArbutusWashington, D.C.
FrederickWoodlawn  W US 40.svg E  → Jct W I-695.svg E Template:Rtarrow White MarshNew Castle
END  N MD Route 295.svg S  LinthicumWashington, D.C.


Routes through Baltimore (by commuter rail)
Washington, D.C.Arbutus  SW MARC Camden Icon.png NE  END
Washington, D.C.Baltimore-Washington International Airport  SW MARC Penn Icon.png NE  EdgewoodPerryville


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