Let me begin by stating clearly: I do not watch football. If I attended a Super Bowl and Grey Cup party, I just went for the food and conversation. But having grown up in Maryland and lived in Baltimore, I’m compelled to root – dare I say even watch – the Baltimore Ravens take on the San Francisco 49ers this Sunday. (Don’t laugh, I had to look it up who else was playing.)
Baltimore holds a special place in my heart. They don’t call it Charm City for nothing. Much like Toronto, where I now reside, it’s a city of neighborhoods – Fells Point, Little Italy, Federal Hill, Mount Vernon and so on. Perhaps that’s why Toronto felt so familiar to me – it’s also a city of neighborhoods. (Ironically, both cities have a major sugar factory dominating their waterfront.) Baltimore was a great place to live in my mid-20’s, but I left in search of bigger cities like New York.
Yet every time I go home, I hit the town. Here are my top picks for Baltimore visitors:
|Photo from it-bodes.blogspot.ca|
Inner Harbor – History buffs will recall it was here, from a ship during the War of 1812, where Francis Scott Key penned the poem that ultimately became the country’s national anthem. I expect a few extra tears in Baltimore when Alicia Keys belts out the “Star Spangled Banner” on Sunday.
The Inner Harbor is the city’s tourist destination with the typical commercial traps — The Cheesecake Factory, Hooters, ESPN Zone, Hard Rock Cafe, etc . Before that, as a child and a teenager it was THE place to go, but over the years the restaurant and shopping options have ebbed and flowed with the economy. It’s still a beautiful area with so much to see and do. A Four Seasons hotel recently opened in the east end of the harbor. Little Italy is nearby too.
Don’t miss: the stunning Baltimore Aquarium, American Visionary Art Museum
|Posing on a tall ship in Baltimore Inner Harbor|
Camden Yards – I may not like football, but I love watching a live baseball game. When I was 12 years old – ahem, long before Oriole Park at Camden Yards was built – I delivered my town’s weekly newspaper and won two tickets to an Orioles game. Side note: my dad dropped my best friend and I off at the entrance of Memorial Stadium and picked us up afterwards. Oh, how times have changed!
Chowing down on popcorn and hot dogs under the sun, my love of the game was born. (Again, food and sports!) These days Camden Yards offers an exceptional baseball experience. And I don’t have to sit in the nosebleeds. Go O’s!
Don’t miss: An evening game in late spring/early summer
The Brewer’s Art – Restaurants and bars dot Charles Street from north to south, but the Brewer’s Art is A+ for those who like happy hour at any hour. True to its name, they brew beers on premises and offer a fantastic selection of beers and fine wines from around the world, as well as one of Baltimore’s best selections of scotches and spirits. Stay for dinner, their menu is top notch.
|Photo from eattoblog.com|
The Charles – Movie buffs will adore The Charles. Tucked up at the north end of Charles Street, it shows first-run specialty films in addition to Hollywood movies, foreign films and cinema classics. Afterwards head across the street to Club Charles with your movie pals for a killer cocktail and a spin through their incredible jukebox. So retro!
Fells Point – My old ‘hood will look familiar to fans of The Wire, as much of the show was shot in and around here. These cobblestone streets used to be home to the most bars per square mile in the country – or so Baltimore legend had it. I could concur. (Remember, I was here in my 20’s.) While the area has gone through a downturn, it still has its charms. You’ll find cute shops, galleries and great seafood at just about any price.
Don’t miss: the endless seafood! Mussels, oysters, crab cakes, shrimp – you name it!
This post is an unusual twist for me – it’s first time I haven’t written about fashion! It was so much fun to write. What do you think? Shall I continue to expand my blogging repertoire?