Baltimore is a pretty unique city. It’s the last real affordable city in America. It’s got a fantastic walkable downtown core, a bustling streetscape, solid transit connections, and great architecture. They call it charm city for a reason.
Except for when they don’t. Baltimore is a city divided, as anyone who’s watched the news will know. Hopefully as the city’s economy grows, it will grow for all of Baltimore’s residents and this divided city will come together.
Where to explore
Baltimore’s a small enough city that you can see quite a lot of the sights on foot. As soon as you leave the harbor you’ve left the other tourists behind.
Baltimore has a lot of weird, wonderful events. There’s tons to see and do on any day, but you might want to do a little intel before you buy your ticket so you don’t miss something.
The recovering ghost town of Station North is a land of murals, thanks to the Open Walls Project. This is where the city is trying to build a nest for its art community. See what’s on at the galleries and performance spaces before you go.
Mt Vernon is a neighborhood to fall in love with. Everything is historic. The neighborhood is thriving as the cobblestone streets draw in residents from the suburbs.
Otterbein is a super charming neighborhood with an unusual history. The neighborhood was going to be torn down for a highway, but when the path of Interstate 95 changed, it was saved. Of course, by that point most of the buildings were dilapidated and abandoned, so they were auctioned off for $1 in 1975.
Federal Hill Park has a great view of the harbor and downtown. It’s also home to the Maryland Science Center, American Visionary Arts Museum, and School 33.
The historic buildings in Harbor East have been polished to a high shine. This no-man’s-land between existing neighborhoods is a new urbanist mall.
Fells Point is all about the waterfront. You can really imagine Baltimore’s past here — it’s frozen in time in 1763. The bustling neighborhood continues up Broadway, leading up the hill to Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Canton is a hot spot for young professionals who want to be able to raise a family downtown while still having plenty of options for going out.
Baltimore is a city of markets. All of the markets have a fun mix of unique local shops and delicious food. Cross Street Market is the spot to get cheap foodie eats. Belvedere Square Market hails from the 1940s and has been spruced up more recently. Lexington Market is hailed as the ‘real’ Baltimore and is apparently the spot for crab cakes. Broadway Market is strictly prepared foods.
Where to eat and drink
Coming from New York City and Toronto, drinking in Baltimore is practically free. There are some gorgeous cocktail bars without the lines and attitude.
Everyone loves Wit & Wisdom. It gets super crowded. I have a soft spot for hotel bars (okay, I love hotel bars), but this is a little too touristy for me.
Usually I can’t roll my eyes hard enough for a speakeasy, but WC Harlan gets a pass. It’s sort of in the middle of nowhere and very dark. It’s weird and delightful.
The Brewer’s Art is an excellent cocktail bar with really good food. It’s close enough to the train station that you don’t have to worry about the potency of these local beers. Highly recommended.
LP Steamers is the spot to tear open a pile of crabs with your bare hands.
Max’s Taphouse is a dive bar for dude bros, but they have a killer beer selection and all the foods you’re required to eat while in Baltimore. We went before noon and it was everything I wanted. Something tells me I would hate this place at an hour when it’s respectable to drink.
What to do
I love science centers, so obviously I’m suggesting you see the Maryland Science Center. Teachers get in for free. It’s not the best science center ever, but the outdated exhibits have a certain charm to them. You know who doesn’t care if something’s outdated? Little kids. Older kids might not be impressed. They have a nice planetarium.
The Baltimore Museum of Industry is awesome. They have a movie theatre. Antique cars. A print shop. A metal smithing shop. All sorts of information about canning oysters. They have lots of hands on stuff and special activities. It’s a little out of the way if you’re walking from the train station, but it’s worth it.
The American Visionary Art Museum, displaying non-traditional art from untrained artists, and School 33, a renovated schoolhouse turned gallery for experimental work, are spots you absolutely have to see.
The Walters Art Museum is a world class art museum that’s surprisingly family friendly. And, of course, there’s the Baltimore Museum of Art, which is a little bit outside of downtown and separated from trendy Hamden by Johns Hopkins.
People kept mentioning the Charm City Roller Girls. They’re obsessed.
I hear there’s a great indie music scene, too — a reason to spend the night.
Baltimore is an easy day trip from New York City, Philadelphia, or Washington DC. We took Amtrak down, but you can just as easily catch a bus for a fraction of the price. If you’re coming from DC, you can even take the MARC.
There’s certainly plenty of things to keep you in Baltimore for a long weekend. You can rent an apartment in Baltimore with Flipkey.