Baltimore, the largest city in the state of Maryland, lies on the beautiful Chesapeake Bay of the United States’ east coast. Also known as “Charm City”, Baltimore can be broken up into neighborhoods giving it a small town feel. History enthusiasts will find that Baltimore warrants more time than a quick day trip from Washington DC, with important events from both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars having taken place in this city by the sea.
In addition, you can visit other historically significant locations, such as the B & O Railroad Museum, famous American author Edgar Allen Poe’s house and the birthplace of legendary baseball ball player, Babe Ruth.
While the above-mentioned features of Baltimore are interesting points for visitors, they are not what I personally love and miss about the city where I grew up and lived for over 20 years. Of course, much of what I miss is wrapped up in memories and Baltimore has changed since I left in 1999. Every time I return for a visit, however, I make sure to enjoy the following:
Beginning at Federal Hill and traveling north all the way to the beltway (Highway 695), Charles Street (Route 139) runs through some of my favorite parts of Baltimore. You can make a day of it, just walking up the street: perusing the latest exhibit at Walter’s Art Gallery; taking in a classical concert at the Peabody Conservatory; getting pictures of the Washington Monument; and eating dinner at my favorite restaurant in all of Baltimore, the Helmand, featuring authentic Afghan cuisine. After dinner, you can stroll across the cobblestone streets of Mt. Vernon and window shop the quaint independently-owned stores selling art and hand-made wares.
Charles Street also runs through the very small, but alive, gay scene just south of the historic Belvedere hotel. I have spent many nights at the Hippo (bar and dance club) as well as the bars and night clubs across the street that were constantly changing management.
The Homewood Friends Meetinghouse, just across from the famous John’s Hopkins University, saw me grow up and my mother and I used to frequent the Baltimore Museum of Art for their latest exhibitions, film festivals and classes. Any part of Charles Street feels like home and even now, writing about it insights pangs of homesickness.
Arguably one of the best baseball stadiums in the entire country, I always try to catch a Baltimore Orioles game whenever I am in town. There is something very special about walking out with a big salted pretzel in hand to see the bright, green turf.
The atmosphere at Camden Yards is friendly, often cheering for good plays no matter which team made it. All of this goes out the window, however, when playing against the Yankees so watch out if you are an obnoxious Yankees fan who comes to our ball park to loudly cheer for your Bronx Bombers.
The Abundance of Black People
This may seem like a strange thing to make my list, but it wasn’t until I left Baltimore that I realized how much I enjoy being in a city full of African Americans. Much of this is wrapped up in the language that, because I grew up in Baltimore, sounds so familiar and I dare say comforting to me. Once while on the subway in Berlin, for example, I overheard two African American women talking to each other and I immediately became homesick.
Since leaving Baltimore I have learned that the language so dear to my heart actually has the official name of African American Vernacular English (AAVE). I was surprised to meet people during my travels, who had just rented The Wire for example, who could not understand it. I feel like I know a secret language or something. So when back in Baltimore I make sure to soak up the music to my ears that is AAVE.
Additionally, the African American History Museum has very comprehensive, well laid out exhibitions, including a collection of slave ship artifacts, accounts of the Civil Rights Movement, stepping (a kind of dance) and so much more. I highly recommend a visit if you find yourself in Baltimore.
Many meals throughout my childhood and young adult life were spent in Baltimore’s Little Italy. Not far from the African American History Museum, Chiapparelli’s Restaurant hosted me often for numerous birthdays, graduation celebrations and even my prom night.
And everyone knows not to order dessert with their dinner and instead to head over to Vaccaro’s Bakery, only steps away from any restaurant in the neighborhood. A meal in Little Italy is the perfect way to begin an evening on the town.
Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is full of numerous, historically significant events, most notably being the battles against the British during the Revolutionary War. Francis Scott Key wrote the United States’ national anthem overlooking such a navy battle in the Inner Harbor. However, I never really cared for the violent history of our lovely harbor; instead I enjoyed the “life” of the place, with street performers, fireworks on New Year’s Eve and Independence Day, visiting the Visionary Art Museum or catching a water taxi to Fell’s Point to go dancing.
My favorite Inner Harbor spot, however, is Federal Hill. I have always enjoyed getting away from the hustle of the shoppers, to climb Federal Hill and swing on the swings there, overlooking the harbor, which is especially beautiful at night.