5 Reasons Why Baltimore Should Be Your Next Getaway
If everything you know about Baltimore comes from “The Wire,” it’s time to put aside tired stereotypes and give the city a chance. Though it’s often overshadowed by nearby D.C., Baltimore has a quirky character all its own—just ask its denizens, who will tell you just how great Charm City is without engaging in a show of one-uppmanship. Here are five compelling reasons why you should go now—and the best things to do once you're there.
An avid Italophile, Laura is always on the hunt for the next great travel trends, luxury hotels, best places to eat and drink, and hidden gems. Her writing has appeared in dozens of publications. She also co-wrote "New York: Hidden Bars and Restaurants," an award-winning guide to the city's speakeasy scene.
You’ll find charm in spades
Baltimore often plays second fiddle to historic cities like D.C., Boston, and Philadelphia, but it’s played its own integral part in American history—with plenty of monuments to prove it. Founded in 1729, Baltimore was a major port city and the site of an important War of 1812 victory so affecting that it inspired Francis Scott Key to pen “The Star Spangled Banner.”
Wandering around the charming cobblestoned neighborhood of Fells Point by the Harbor will give you a sense of Baltimore’s seafaring past, while historic Mount Vernon, with its posh brick townhouses, is home to Baltimore’s own Washington Monument (a marble Doric column honoring America’s first president), which you can climb for great views of the city. Just east of the monument, you’ll also find the 19th-century George Peabody Library—widely considered one of the world’s most beautiful libraries. While it’s technically part of Johns Hopkins University, if you ask nicely, the guards might let you in for a peek.
The city’s new boutique hotels are true social scenes
Baltimore has long been home to big (if expected) luxury brands like the Ritz-Carlton and the Four Seasons, but three new boutique hotels are upping the ante on the city’s hospitality scene. The first was Mount Vernon’s Ivy Hotel, a member of Relais & Châteaux set inside a beautifully restored Gilded Age mansion that opened in 2015. When not admiring the hotel’s collection of vintage books, 19th-century pool table, and restored Tiffany glass windows, guests can enjoy afternoon tea and complimentary happy hour cocktails in the parlor, which is decorated with murals and plush furniture. Whatever you do, don’t skip breakfast at Magdalena—but if you’re in the mood to explore, a house car is available for drop-offs anywhere within three miles. Come summer, the Sagamore Pendry Baltimore (which opened in 2017 in the historic Recreation Pier overlooking the harbor in Fell’s Point) is the place to be, thanks to its scene-stealing pool deck and bar built from shipping containers—but there are plenty of all-seasons activities to enjoy, too, including drinks at the Cannon Room and meals at the Rec Pier Chophouse by New York chef Andrew Carmellini. Hotel Revival, the city’s latest addition, features an enclosed rooftop bar with fantastic views of the city, private karaoke rooms downstairs, and a playful modern design heavy on art and antiques.
The art scene is irresistibly quirky
Baltimore is a city full of eccentric artists. This is, after all, the home of filmmaker John Waters, who gave us cult films like “Hairspray,” “Pink Flamingos,” and “Mondo Trasho.” Though his retrospective at the Baltimore Museum of Art just ended, the museum is still worth a visit for the permanent collection and temporary exhibits like “Mark Bradford: Tomorrow Is Another Day,” which spotlights one of America’s most expensive artists and his frenetic use of mixed media.
Also worth a look: the American Visionary Art Museum, which showcases talents outside the mainstream art world, either because they’re self-taught or creators of “outsider” art. Beyond the walls of the city’s museums, Graffiti Alley is a must-visit spot for fans of street art. The little L-shaped alley in Station North is completely covered in a riot of color (including the pavement) that depicts everything from tags to portraits of celebrities like Billie Holiday and Brad Pitt.
There’s an incredible array of indie and vintage shops
Calling all shoppers: if you’re a fan of vintage clothing, furniture, or home décor, Baltimore is the right place for you. The funky neighborhood of Hampden is especially known for its quirky shops selling everything from shoes to antique rugs. Start your boutique hopping on 36th Street, where you’ll find Ma Petite Shoe selling shoes and chocolate (an odd combination, but it works); the Parisian Flea, which peddles vintage jewelry and chandeliers; Trohv, a veritable treasure trove of home décor, furniture, and lighting; and Doubledutch indie clothing boutique.
Turn right on Falls Road and you’ll come to Atomic Books, where John Waters receives his fan mail; Hunting Ground, a hip boutique selling indie clothes and accessories in a former church; and Wishbone Reserve, a vintage shop with some amazing furniture finds. Anyone with a curiosity for the weird and occult should stop by Bazaar, which sells animal taxidermy, medical antiques, vintage prints, and other curios.
RELATED: The Best Vintage Stores in the U.S.
Mid-Atlantic cuisine is where it’s at
It may not be as prestigious as Californian cuisine or as beloved as Southern homestyle cooking, but that doesn’t make Mid-Atlantic flavors any less appealing. While Marylanders don’t boast about much, they will tell you that Maryland crabs are the best in the country. Be sure to get your fix at Gertrude’s Chesapeake Kitchen in the Baltimore Museum of Art by ordering the cream of crab soup followed by crab cakes. For a taste of the Chesapeake area’s local bounty, make a reservation at Woodberry Kitchen, a cozy farm-to-table restaurant helmed by Spike Gjerde, who was the first chef in Baltimore to win a James Beard Award.
When you need a break from Mid-Atlantic food, head to La Cuchara, where Chef Ben Lefenfeld draws inspiration from Basque pinxtos bars and the wine list runs deep. For a quicker, more casual meal, drop by R.House, a new food hall where you’ll find everything from po’ boys to poke. Wherever your food choices take you, don’t miss popping by the Bluebird Cocktail Room, which deserves to be either your first or last stop of the evening for great cocktails in a cozy space.
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