Outsiders may know Baltimore for the Harbor, the Orioles, or The Wire, but anybody who spends more than a weekend—or an episode—here knows that this city is a jackpot of unique and varied treasures. We've compiled 101 things that give Baltimore its charm, from Lenny's House of Naturals (No. 94) and the American Visionary Art Museum's Kinetic Sculpture Race (No. 23) to An die Musik (No. 92)—things anybody who considers themselves a true Baltimorean must experience.
Cheap Ethnic Eats
1. The massive "STOP" sign on the awning out front of Kabab Stop (5719 Falls Rd., 410-323-6060) screams "fast food," but the delicate Indian dishes at this Mt. Washington outlet are anything but. At $8.95, the lunch buffet is an unbeatable value. Chicken tikka masala, vegetable dal, and saag paneer are all delicious, but the tandoori chicken is the show-stopper: While the reddish barbecued chicken—cooked traditionally in a clay oven—is often dry elsewhere, it is blessedly moist and tender here.
2. The restaurant part of Europe (4147 Labyrinth Rd., 410-764-0722), just off lower Reisterstown Road in Northwest Baltimore, opens at 8:30 p.m. and is notoriously filled with revelers from the area's Russian community until the wee hours. But you can sample the delectable goods at the adjoining market during daylight hours. Unless you speak the language, don't bother trying to order any of the hulking, heavy entrees by name, just point. A spiral of fish fillets with vegetable stuffing and pork- and veal-stuffed dumplings are dynamite, and $3 or $4 a pound. For $20, a couple could sample half a dozen dishes and leave very satisfied.
3. We've always loved sweet little La Cazuela (La Cazuela, 1718 Eastern Ave., 410-522-9485), with its sun-yellow dining room and friendly service, and now that the economy has tanked, its rock-bottom prices (entrees hover around $12-15) and huge portions are more welcome than ever. The solid, hearty Ecuadoran food bears similarities to both Central and South American cuisine—lots of corn, plantains, and queso fresco from the former; the grilled meats of the latter—and a killer platter of camarones (that's shrimp to you, gringo) dubbed "la Ecuatoriano," which is straight from the shores of owner Marina Tapia's home country. It's one of the best of the Latino community's many restaurants in Fells Point.
4. The clean, well-lit, and spacious (albeit no frills) space at Nak Won (12 W. 20th St., 410-244-5501) in Little Korea is as welcoming as the waitstaff, who will immediately start you off with glasses of warm tea, quickly followed by an array of fiery sauces and excellent panchan—those little dishes of kimchi and other marinated and pickled vegetables that could comprise a meal in themselves. But you won't want to stop there, especially when Nak Won's versions of Korean classics, like the Frisbee-sized seafood pancake, tabletop barbecue, and bibimbap, are so rich, comforting, and cheap. Count on a $30 tab for two if you want more than you could possibly eat, and add beers to put out the fire of Nak Won's incendiary condiments.
5. Tiny, storefront eatery Tortilleria Sinaloa (1716 Eastern Ave., 410-276-3741) in the heart of Baltimore's Latino land delivers quality, authentic Mexican food for just a few pesos. The tamales, above, are among the best in town, but our favorite indulgence is the fish taco ($4.75), a moist, seared tilapia on soft tortillas (made fresh daily). Condiments, like red- and green-chile sauces, add a pleasant kick, while fresh guacamole and salsa soothe the zing. This pleasant space has a counter if you want to stay and soak up the culture. Frida Kahlo-like art, El Tiempo Latino newspapers, and colorful pottery add to the charm.
6. Okay, with entrees in the $20 range, spectacularly popular Greek gem Samos (600 Oldham St., 410-675-5292) pushes the "cheap" label, but platters of homemade Greek spreads (like the killer taramasolata) or warm mezedes like haloumi with grilled shrimp or spinach pie, are among the best values in the city. Or take "The Tour of Samos," a massive 11-item meal for two priced at $45; you'll be dining for days on this fabulous feast. Just remember to bring cash and the libation of your choice (Samos is BYOB), and come early. No reservations, and the place fills up fast. One taste and you'll know why.
7. We would frequent tiny carryout spot Trinidad Gourmet (418 E. 31st St., 410-243-0072) just to experience the gentle ministrations of owner Mr. Chuck, who takes pride in guiding you through the ins and outs of his home-cooked Trini delights—a wonderful fusion of Afro-Caribbean and Southeast Asian flavors. But no matter who's minding the store, you won't want to miss some of the absolute best comfort food in the city—try the curried chicken roti or the ambrosial oxtail stew, or pretty much anything it's offering, including the homemade cakes. Heaping platters of greatness at low, low prices—entrees, priced from $7-12, are big enough for two people or two days of eating.
8. Famous Yakitori One (2101 Maryland Ave., 410-332-1100) is an underground gem, truly—step down into the unassuming storefront and magically materialize where the cool kids might eat in Seoul. A range of the namesake grilled/skewered offerings are lightly seasoned and well-charred, often filling the space with sweet smoke—bacon/enoki mushroom (moist, earthy) and chicken gizzard (resilient) are excellent—and all are under $3. Tempura is stunningly well-executed, adorned in crispy nubs. Curry ramen, a favorite of Asian college students, is comforting awesomeness, and, before 7 p.m. on weekdays, get a tall bottle of sake with your meal for a penny.
Places To Watch A Game
9. O's fans shouldn't knock the new Hilton Hotel (401 W. Pratt St., 443-573-8700) until they try watching a game from one of their "ballpark view" rooms. With 330 rooms with a view of Camden Yards (including 10 VIP suites with balconies overlooking the park), the rooms are ideal for a weekend stay or one-night party. If you're afraid you won't notice the details of the games, Matthew Dykstra, director of sales and marketing at the Hilton, insists, "You can hear every crack of the bat."
10. If you want to pop into Slainte (1702 Thames St., 410-563-6600) for a quick bite or drink during a soccer match, you ought to be prepared. The bar gets packed from wall-to-wall with a boisterous crowd wearing jerseys, speaking in British and Irish accents, and never once being caught without a drink in hand. We can only imagine what it will be like when the world's number-one soccer show, World Soccer Daily, broadcasts live from Slainte during the Chelsea vs. AC Milan game at M&T Bank Stadium on July 24. Pure chaos, we assume.
11. Lacrosse is to Baltimore as football is to Texas. That is never more evident than at a Hopkins lacrosse game at Homewood Field (3400 N. Charles St.)—especially one against rivals like University of Virginia or University of Maryland. The field's lights shine down on thousands of spectators as the student band peps everyone up. The fast-paced agility of the talented Blue Jays is exciting enough to keep every fan hooked, even when it's not exactly our year.
12. Roller derby bouts at Du Burns Arena (1301 S. Ellwood Ave., 443-573-2450) aren't for the faint of heart. The seven all-female teams that make up the Charm City Roller Girls league battle it out monthly at the arena, where broken bones are the norm. Tattooed roller girls speedily skate around the oval track, trying to block or score for their team, with bodies regularly falling and thudding on the rink's floor. But despite the trash talk and bruising, the players take the rules—and pride in their hometown—very seriously: When all-star players from the seven teams unite to take on New York's Gotham Girls or D.C. Rollergirls, the competitive spirit is kicked up even higher.
13. If you think you have to travel some place near the equator to see wild animals roaming free, think again: At Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo (13019 Catoctin Furnace Rd., 301-271-3180), you can take safaris around the 50-acre park on a retired, open-air army truck and actually reach out and pet Malachi the camel, above, along with bison, bears, boas, lions, lemurs, macaws, monkeys, and panthers—okay, you probably don't want to pet the lions, but it's nice to know you could if you wanted to.
14. David Hasselhoff and Christian Siriano aren't the only locals to have made it big on television: Margaret the Brazilian Hyacinth Macaw, a star at the National Aquarium (501 E. Pratt St., 410-576-3800, aqua.org) recently made her TV debut as a guest on The Martha Stewart Show for a segment on endangered species. One of only a handful of her species in captivity, Margaret dazzles guests with her gorgeous royal blue feathers and yellow face.
15. Babies are adorable—even if they weigh 1,100 pounds, like Samson the tot elephant at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore (Druid Hill Park, 410-396-7102, marylandzoo.org). Born just a year ago, this star attraction gains about 2.5 pounds a day. "His behavior is like the kid at the mall you don't notice," says his keeper. "Quiet and well mannered—but still social and not shy at all." His favorite moment? His daily bath. "He gets very excited," says the keeper. "He'll flop around in the soap suds."
Daytrips You Never Thought Of
16. Oft-overlooked historic North East, MD, (northeastchamber.org) only 50 miles from Baltimore, is an amazing discovery for many locals. Located on the Northeast River at the head of the Chesapeake Bay in Cecil County, its quaint Main Street beckons with shops like Saffron Creek (home accents and gifts) and The Silver Buckle, whose colorful porch lures visitors inside to see the baubles. No visit would be complete without a stop at Woody's Crab House, where you'll find one of the best crab cakes in the state. Walk off your meal at the 13-acre North East Community Park on the water. The Upper Bay Museum is there with a collection of artifacts that reflects the upper bay's fishing and hunting heritage.
17. Tiny, riverfront Delaware City, DE, (visitthefort.com; delawarecity.delaware.gov) about 1 1/2 hours from Charm City, may not be as developed as Wilmington or Philadelphia, but it boasts history-drenched Fort Delaware, a Union fortress dating to 1859. The hulking granite structure on Pea Patch Island once housed Confederate prisoners of war. Visitors take a half-mile ferry ride ($11 for adults; kids are free) from Delaware City. Once there, costumed reenactors take you back to the summer of 1864, complete with period language and politics: Woe to anyone who shows Southern sympathies! Return to the mainland for the town's quaint stores and a smattering of restaurants. Baltimoreans will be familiar with Crabby Dick's, which used to be in Fells Point. Grab a seat on the narrow, outdoor porch overlooking the Delaware River and enjoy a shrimp salad "sammich."
18. Pennsylvania's Longwood Gardens is world-famous for its horticulture, but a few minutes' detour lands you in Historic Kennett Square, PA, (historickennettsquare.com) where shops, galleries, bookstores, and gourmet restaurants (definitely check out Talula's Table, a boutique gourmet market) line the streets. It's a walkable community that also offers a peek into one of Southern Chester County, PA's, chief crops—mushrooms: 51 percent of the nation's mushroom crop is grown here! The farms may be several miles away, but The Mushroom Cap on West State Street is all about the fungi. Besides mushroom-decorated gifts, cookbooks, and artwork, it offers fresh-picked mushrooms, including white, portobello, shiitake, and oyster varieties.
19. See where Maryland's first citizens lived and explore what life was like at the state's original capital, St. Mary's City, MD (stmaryscity.org). Costumed interpreters turn back the clock to the 17th century and share the workings of the Colonial town. Outdoor exhibits include the reconstructed State House, a tobacco plantation, Indian hamlet, and a replica of The Maryland Dove, the ship that brought intrepid settlers to the New World. Visitors also can take part in many hands-on activities on special-event weekends from working with archaeologists and churning butter to shooting bows and arrows and watching a militia drill. Snacks are available at the gift shop. If you want heartier grub, there are the usual chains, like Chipotle and Damon's, in nearby Lexington Park. Nothing like blending the old with the new.
20. Ever wonder what President Obama sees when he stays at Camp David? Visit Cunningham Falls State Park near Thurmont, MD, (thurmont.net) and you'll view the same verdant scenery. At this 5,000-acre preserve in the Catoctin Mountains, there are miles of trails to hike as well as a picturesque 78-foot cascading waterfall. Of course, Camp David is off limits to most of us, but if you visit the Cozy Restaurant in downtown Thurmont, you'll probably bump into lots of media folks, who hang out there when the President is mulling over matters of state at his retreat. The popular eatery—known for its sumptuous country buffets—has been around since 1929 and even has a Camp David Museum. After you've filled your tummy, head to the nearby Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo (see No. 13).
21. At three-plus-hours drive from the city, Tangier Island, VA, (tangierisland-va.com) is a bit far for a day trip, but worth seeking out for its rustic beauty, dramatic sunsets, and local dialect that's been likened to Elizabethan English. Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant and Jimmy Page have been known to visit the idyllic spot, where bikes are the primary mode of transportation. (There are three cars on the island: a taxi, a delivery truck, and one curious vehicle that belongs to an elderly resident.) Take a boat to the island from Crisfield, stay at Shirley's Bay View Inn B&B or any of the lovely accommodations on the island, and enjoy the plentiful seafood and anything else that the tide brings you.
Places to Break a Sweat
22. Though this could be the spookiest way to break a sweat, Gwynn Falls Trail offers campfire hikes from 6-8 p.m. Families (ages 6 and up) can hike the trails, spot owls and bats, roast s'mores, and tell scary stories by the campfire. Of course, Gwynn Falls also offers more traditional activities, like bike treks, afternoon hikes, and gardening classes.
23. If you think you have what it takes to conceive, build, and race a giant pink people-powered poodle up Boston Street, you might be ready for theBaltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race (hosted, of course, by the American Visionary Art Museum, kineticbaltimore.com)—which pits amphibious, all-terrain, human-run works of art against each other. The eight-hour race covers 15 miles and includes an obstacle course, a dip into the Chesapeake Bay, and awards for finishing next to last and breaking down.
24. Mt. Washington's The Studio Edge (1425 Clarkview Rd., No. 500, 410-296-4955) is not your typical gym. In hula-hooping classes, the childhood pastime is a full-body workout: You exercise abdominal and back muscles, improve posture, slim the waist, and flatten the stomach. They also have classes that use ballet barre work, sexually inspired movements (ahem!), and belly dancing to shed pounds.
25. The name is kind of deceiving. Canton Kayak Club actually has docks throughout the city, including Dundalk, Locust Point, and Harbor East. The club's 400-plus members—who pay $150 dues for May-October—get a training course and have unlimited use of the kayaks for the entire season. No reservations are necessary, making this exercise probably the most stress free one in town.
26. Out-of-towners look at those squat pins and tiny balls and think, "This is bowling?" Heck, yeah, Hon! Duckpin bowling, which, according to legend, was created around 1900 in Charm City and counts Babe Ruth among its fans, is an institution here, beloved to locals, bizarre to almost everybody else. For the Baltimore experience, pick up a sixer of Natty Boh and go to the all-duckpin Patterson Bowling Center (2105 Eastern Ave. 410-675-1011) in Canton, which dates to 1927: Two hours of bowling, including shoes, is $13. At dem prices, you could even pick up some Berger cookies and Utz crab chips, too!
27. Worth the drive to Frederick, downtown shop The Muse (19 N. Market St., 301-663-3632) offers an ever-changing assortment of handcrafted goodies and accessories. Owner Whitney Bingham finds both local and national artists (some well known, others up and coming) and displays them in her light-filled shop. Favorites include Hardwear by Renee, an Oregon artist who creates bags from recycled materials (like race car vinyl and cables) and locals like Rebekah with a K (who weaves leather scraps into funky cuffs), Chrissy Gemmill Jewels, and Courtney Prahl's mixed media collages. There are also wine, cheese, and craft parties and artist receptions.
28. Love Allie Boutique (1201 Light St., 410-685-LOVE) owner Carolyn Strong—inspired by past designers and hip style makers like Twiggy, Mary Quant, André Courrèges, Josephine Baker, Anne Lowe, and Naomi Simms—launched her Federal Hill boutique about a year ago. The little corner shop, open only Thursday-Saturday, houses labels you've probably never heard of before: Hazel Nuts, Bezemymailan, Frenzii, Sally Tseng, and Dittos—all very feminine and flirty. Sort of like the store's grandma-chic interior—vintage chandelier and wallpaper, Victorian curtains—if granny was some French hottie in a former life.
29. Part gallery space, part marketplace, The Magnificent: An Art Salon (1615 Shakespeare St., 410-563-2709) houses the jewelry, paintings, sculptures, textiles, and other stuff of several artists in the ground floor of a Fells Point row home. Just off Broadway, it's easy to wander past or come at the wrong time (they're open Wednesday-Sunday 12-7 p.m.). But it's worth being persistent. It's an ever-revolving door of fresh, new artists (many local, many not) and their often one-of-a-kind merchandise like Melissa Finelli's jewelry, Amy Steven's kooky art, Nick Meyer's photographs, and Zvezdana Rogic's clothing.
30. The Book Thing of Baltimore Inc. (3001 Vineyard Ln., bookthing.org) is a sort of biblio pay-it-forward. A weekend only (9 a.m.-6 p.m.) book free-for-all where those no longer wanting books can donate and those needing books can take. The volume of volumes is staggering, and while there's no Dewey Decimal System or online search engine, there's also no time limit. One can wander, and volunteers are often on hand to point people in the right direction or offer suggestions. And unlike the library (which, yes, is free, too), there's no late fee or book limit, only as many as you can carry.
31. Mt. Vernon's Gentei (1010 Morton St., 410-244-8961) has a cool factor worthy of Brooklyn or Boston's South End. Among the merchandise: exclusive Japanese imports like Garni and Calee, hard to find Nike SB and Vans Syndicate, and their own Oakley Frogskin sunglasses (only 100 pairs worldwide). Like a secret location, the shop is hidden on a downtown side street and gets a complete overhaul twice a year—now it's a motorcycle garage theme. A more mainstream location in Towson (22 W. Allegheny Ave., No. 102, 410-339-3446) focuses on skate goods.
32. Ellicott City's Mumbles & Squeaks Toy Shoppe (8133 Main St., 410-750-2803) is not for the claustrophobic or mega strollered. Packed to the brim, this independent toy store doesn't (always) require batteries. Owner Frank DiPietro has been in the toy business for more than 15 years and knows classic from common. There are toys your kids will recognize (and beg for) like Playmobil, Thomas the Tank Engine, Calico Critters, and Melissa & Doug, but also lots of use-your-imagination puppets, puzzles, and blocks. The kind of stuff that makes a parent wistful for childhood.
Cool Things to Do with Your Kids
33. Especially in the summer, Harborplace can be oppressively crowded. Skip it: Bring a picnic and take a water taxi to Tide Point's waterfront park on the site of the former Proctor & Gamble soap factory in Locust Point. Enjoy the boardwalk, sculpture garden, hammocks and deck chairs, and the sweeping view of the harbor—without getting trampled.
34. Toddlers' lives are filled with things they can't touch, places they can't go, and things they can't do until they're older. Enter Storyville (6105 Kenwood Ave., 410-887-0512). This giant play area in the Rosedale public library, specifically designed for children under 5, is a hands-on play town, complete with supermarket, library, construction site, theater, a house, and other kid-sized venues to explore. Best of all, it's totally free.
35. The Walters's Chamber of Wonders (600 N. Charles St., 410-547-9000) packs artworks, scientific relics, and intriguing knickknacks, into a busy, kid-friendly room that evokes a 17th century collection of curiosities. Trays of exotic insects, a stuffed alligator, and cabinets of oddities vie for attention. And it's close to the Knights Hall, where you can play a game of checkers or chess.
36. There's a place for families to hang out at BWI that doesn't require making empty pocket potluck at the security checkpoint. Located between Concourses B and C is the two-story BWI Observation Gallery. On the first level is the children's playground, complete with miniature plane, luggage cart, and fuel truck. Upstairs are control panels like the ones used by pilots and air traffic controllers. But the main attraction is the 147-foot-long window overlooking the runways. Grab a seat in one of the 25 rocking chairs, and watch the 737s pierce the cumulonimbus.
Perches To People Watch
37. Those that miss old-school Baltimore need only go to Santoni's Super Market (3800 E. Lombard St.) in Highlandtown to see that it's alive and well and browsing the aisles for five-pound jars of pig knuckles and cocktail onions.
38. The classy Owl Bar (1 E. Chase St.) on The Belvedere's ground floor attracts a polished, elegant clientele, from politicians (O'Malley, Dixon) and theater patrons to students.
39. Club Charles (1724 N. Charles St.): Ever see Twin Peaks? Do you remember the Red Room? It's kind of like that.
40. Dark, dingy, and strictly cash-only, Mount Royal Tavern (1204 W. Mt. Royal Ave.) appeals to broke, ironic MICA students, and non-ironic . . . let's call them dedicated drinkers—not that the two are mutually exclusive.
41. Lexington Market (400 W. Lexington St.), Baltimore's most famous marketplace, crosses generational, racial, and class divides, attracting a melting pot of the city.
42. The parishioners at glorious Union Baptist Church (1219 Druid Hill Ave.) take "Sunday best" to a new level: The hats alone will blow your mind.
43. On The Avenue (W. 36th St.) in Hampden, you might see bikers on souped-up hogs. You might see hipsters in "how-can-they-breath-in-those?" skinny jeans. Most likely, you'll see both, possibly making out with each other.
44. No event except Artscape blends Baltimore's diverse demographics so well: artists and eccentrics, suburban families, yuppies, hipsters, black, white, old, and young.
45. Stop by Skateland (8019 Belair Rd.) in Putty Hill, a classic roller-skating rink, and spy everyone from punky roller derby girls to hip-hop kids performing tricks under the disco ball.
46. Go to Sullivan's Steakhouse (1 E. Pratt St.) to see Baltimore's athletic elite, from Michael Phelps and Cal Ripken Jr., to Nick Markakis. Even Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez stopped by when the Yanks were in town.
Unheralded Historic Spots
47. "I wish I could drink like a lady / I can take one or two at the most / Three and I'm under the table / Four and I'm under the host." These are the words of Dorothy Parker—writer, poet, and founding member of the Algonquin Round Table. Parker died in 1967 and bequeathed her estate to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. foundation. Following Dr. King's assassination the next year, her estate passed on to the NAACP. Two decades after her death, including more than 15 undignified years in her lawyer's filing cabinet, Parker's ashes were finally entombed behind the NAACP headquarters in Northwest Baltimore (4805 Mount Hope Dr., 410-580-5795). Pay your respects anytime, but it's especially quiet on the weekends. Bring a flask to toast the old girl.
48. Towson's Hampton Mansion (535 Hampton Ln., 410-823-1309), a stunning example of 18th century Georgian architecture, was home to seven generations of Baltimore County's powerful and aristocratic Ridgley family. Upon completion in 1790, Hampton stood alone as the largest private home in America. At its apex in the 1820s, the estate covered 25,000 acres, including half of what is present-day Baltimore. In 1948, following numerous land sales, the house and remaining 43 acres was the first National Historic Site selected by the National Park Service for architectural significance. In 2007, a three-year, $3 million renovation project was completed. The money was well spent. Come walk the grounds (for free!) and see how the other half lived.
49. The Mt. Washington Octagon, located on The Johns Hopkins University's Mt. Washington Conference Center campus (5801 Smith Ave.), was built in the 1850s as a finishing school, turning out proper Southern ladies, including Belle Boyd, a notorious Confederate spy who scratched her name into a first-floor windowpane with a diamond ring. The pane is still there, but the school is long gone, driven out of business by the Civil War. Later, the Octagon became Mount St. Agnes College, which merged with Loyola in 1971. Hopkins bought it in 2003 and uses it as a hotel, meaning the public can finally get a peak inside.
50. In 1926, an 11-year-old Billie Holiday lived at 217 and 219 S. Durham Street in Fells Point. Durham was an alley reserved for the city's lowliest poor. It was a rough and grueling existence that scarred her soul, but informed the music of a woman who could arguably be considered the greatest jazz vocalist of all time. Park in the 1800 block of E. Pratt Street and approach from the north, or the 1800 block of Gough Street and approach from the south. You'll walk where Holiday once walked, and in her songs like "God Bless the Child" and "Gloomy Sunday," you'll hear the pain of her youth.
51. Turn down a quiet side street in the heart of Fells Point, and you'll find the expected row of red, brick façades interrupted by a most unexpected site: a family burial ground. Inside a small, walled-off chamber at 1607 Shakespeare Street, under the fragrant boughs of a magnolia tree, the waterfront neighborhood's founding fathers rest in peace. There's shipbuilder William Fell, who originally purchased the 1,000-acre tract containing present-day Fells Point; his son Colonel Edward, who laid out the community's streets in 1763; and his son, William, a sheriff and house delegate. A ghostly apparition—assumed to be one of the Fells—has been reported by late-night bar patrons. No word on if the specter was astride a pink elephant.
52. It turns out we have Roland Park to blame for the blight of suburban strip malls. When the planned garden suburb—itself listed on the National Register of Historic Places—took off in the late 1890s, it became apparent that the new denizens were going to need more local businesses and services. Rather than intersperse businesses among the community's stately homes, why not group them together in one plaza? Thus, in 1896, at the corner of Roland Avenue and Upland Road, the country's first planned shopping center was built. The English Tudor-style structure still serves the community today housing banks, offices, and Petit Louis Bistro.
53. Anyone who has ever stepped foot in Bolton Hill knows it's a charming, historic neighborhood. But do you know just how historic it actually is? Turns out luminaries in the fields of politics, art, education, science, and literature have been calling Bolton Hill home since the mid-19th century. Notable residents include F. Scott Fitzgerald (1307 Park Ave.), art collectors and BMA benefactors Dr. Claribel and Etta Cone (1711 Eutaw Pl.), alleged Cold War spy Alger Hiss (1427 Linden Ave.), civil rights leader Lillie Carroll Jackson (1320 Eutaw Pl.), and President Woodrow Wilson, when he was a Ph.D. student at The Johns Hopkins University (1210 Eutaw Pl.). An effort to affix blue plaques to more than 30 hallowed residences is underway with some already up, making self-guided walking tours an easy option for history buffs.
54. Bright, stylishly-designed recording facility Mobtown Studios (2603 N. Charles St., 410-235-0898) hosts monthly micro-shows. Husband-and-wife duo Matthew and Emily Leffler Schulman curate the series, featuring indie-alternative types such as Eureka Birds and Ellen Cherry amid vintage keyboards and state of the art gear. With room for just 30 people and, perhaps, three performers onstage, these free shows are cozy and adventurous.
55. The loft space on the sixth floor of the H&H building at 405 W. Franklin Street, called The Floristree, has incubated many of the indie-rock and electronica musicians that have earned Baltimore a national reputation, including Dan Deacon, Beach House, and Double Dagger. The venue—a warehouse space where six guys actually live—doesn't serve alcohol but still occupies a zoning gray area. For a long time, Floristree's unpublished location was a secret cherished by those in the know, but hosting the recent Transmodern Festival (featuring Deacon), and posting the address on the fest's website seems to signal a new openness and, perhaps, a détente with The Man. Let's hope so.
56. One of the area's best jazz venues is tucked inside an elegant house at 6004 Hollins Avenue near Lake Roland. Jazzway 6004 hosts the likes of Carl Grubbs, Lafayette Gilchrist, Gary Thomas, Jay Clayton, Joel Holmes, and George Colligan in an intimate setting (capacity 60-65) that, in addition to the amazing music, also features home-cooked meals. Tickets must be bought in advance through Jazzway's website, jazzway6004.org.
57. The Baltimore Tattoo Museum (1534 Eastern Ave., 410-522-5800, baltimoretattoomuseum.net) tracks ink's history from a badge of sailors and bikers to must-have for Hollywood stars and twentysomethings. Tour the exhibits, then get a paste-on tat from the gift shop—or a real one from one of seven in-house artists.
58. D.C. can keep Air and Space, we'll go to the Smithsonian's National Museum of Dentistry downtown (31 S. Greene St., 410-706-0600,dentalmuseum.org) to see George Washington's choppers (not made of wood, after all) and sing along to vintage toothpaste ads.
59. See the icons of the black experience at the National Great Blacks In Wax Museum (1601 E. North Ave., 410-563-3404), which uses life-like wax figures to bring history alive. Witness the horrors of slave ships and hold one-sided conversations with underground railroad heroine Harriet Tubman, crooner Billie Holiday, and, the latest addition, Mr. President.
60. and 61. The best two-fer in town starts at the Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards (301 W. Camden St., 410-727-1539, baberuthmuseum.com), a 22,000-square-foot homage to local sports heroes from Johnny Unitas to the stars of Baltimore's Negro Leagues. Go upstairs to Geppi's Entertainment Museum (410-625-7060, geppismuseum.com), owned by Baltimore publisher Steve Geppi, to explore American pop culture, including the original Action Comics book No. 1 with Superman's debut, the 1963 GI Joe prototype, and the first Barbie.
Hot Neighborhood Blocks
62. Station North
The once gritty zone bordered by Penn Station and MICA has bloomed into a flourishing arts district.
Joe Squared (133 W. North Ave.) Joe not only makes great pizza but he founded the Station North Spring Music Festival. Station North Arts Cafe Gallery (1816 N. Charles St.) is one of many new music, art and performance hubs, along with Metro Gallery (1700 N. Charles St.), and Windup Space (12 W. North Ave.). Charles Theatre (1711 N. Charles St.) is the city's best—and only—place for art-house movies.
Also: Load of Fun (120 W. North Ave.), Tapas Teatro (1711 N. Charles St.)
63. Harbor East
The onetime industrial wasteland between the Harbor and Fells Point has become the city's premier dining and shopping district.
Charleston (1000 Lancaster St.) is the flagship of Cindy Wolf's dining empire, and the city's best restaurant. Her Italian gem Cinghiale (822 Lancaster St.) is across the street. Glarus Chocolatier (644 S. Exeter St.) offers high-end decadent delights, while South Moon Under(815 Aliceanna St.) has terrific handbags and clothes and Benjamin Lovell Shoes (618 S. Exeter St.) carries great men's and women's shoes.
Also: Maryland Athletic Club (655 President St.), Bin 604 (604 S. Exeter St.)
The stretch of great restaurants, bars, and shops on Harford Road spans Lauraville and Hamilton and keeps getting longer—and better.
Hamilton Tavern (5517 Harford Rd.) is a warm setting for a beer and one of the best burgers in town. Among the many prime breakfast outposts areClementine (5402 Harford Rd.) and the brand new themed diner Lost in the '50s (5512 Harford Rd.). For possibly the city's best barbecue, try Big Bad Wolf(5713 Harford Rd.), then stroll it off on the way toStudio 55 Art Gallery (5529 Harford Rd.).
Also: Red Canoe Bookstore Cafe (4337 Harford Rd.),Chameleon Cafe (4341 Harford Rd.)
65. Highlandtown/Patterson Park
Highlandtown is the focal point for a development boom that now surrounds much of glorious Patterson Park.
Creative Alliance (3134 Eastern Ave.) has created a thriving cultural center at the former Patterson Theater. What goes better with culture than Matthew's Pizzeria (3131 Eastern Ave.), a perennial contender for city's best. Get fresh roasted coffee and some literature at High Grounds Books (3201 Eastern Ave.) before heading to the glorious Highlandtown Farmers' Market (Bank & Conkling Sts.).
Also: Laughing Pint (3531 Gough St.), DiPasquale's (3700 Gough St.)
66. George "Doc" Manning digs deeply through the crates, playing jazz heavyweights like Coltrane and Miles alongside local luminaries such as Lafayette Gilchrist and Gary Bartz every Monday night on WEAA. Manning possesses a rich voice, thorough knowledge of the material, and an unpretentious manner, making In the Tradition the quintessential jazz show.
67. Aaron Henkin and Lisa Morgan deftly mix keen observation and timely programming to cover the region's cultural community onWYPR's The Signal. And they do it with smarts and a sense of adventure that richly underscores their mission.
68. Ravens' receiver Derrick Mason isn't your average jock, and The Derrick Mason Show on WBAL radio reflects that: Unlike athletes prone to ego-driven diatribes (the Terrell Owens types) or mind-numbing cliches (almost everyone else), Mason offers candid opinions and insightful analysis that don't always follow the company line.
69. Every Tuesday night, Sam Sessa welcomes a local band to WTMD's Baltimore Unsigned, which highlights a wide-ranging array of the area's best artists, from jazz singer Felicia Carter to indie rockers Wye Oak. The show gets extra credit for posting in-studio performances on its website and facilitating last year's cross-genre collaboration between local folkie Caleb Stine and hip-hop emcee Saleem.
Hidden Green Spaces
70. The Northwest Baltimore Park Golf Driving Range (2101 W. Rogers Ave., 410-664-2824) is perfect for those who want to work on their swing without committing to a full day on the links. Tucked away in leafy Mt. Washington, the driving range is open seven days a week, offering buckets of balls for $5 to $9. You can even get a lesson from former LPGA player Jamie Watson if you feel like you've got more slices than an Italian deli (goals4golf.com). As an extra bonus, there are adjacent playing fields with soccer and lacrosse nets, ideal for hosting the pickup games summer evenings seem to inspire.
71. Often overshadowed by Patterson Park and Druid Hill, Herring Run Park, below, seems to have developed something of an inferiority complex. Check out this description from the park's official Myspace page: "Yeah other trails might be longer and other parks have more amenities, but this park is for everyday people." We say: Don't sell yourself short, Herring Run! With a super committed Watershed Association, numerous playing fields, hiking and biking trails, and excellent bird watching, the Belair-Edison park has enough to tempt any outdoor enthusiast.
72. Running on asphalt is notoriously hard on the joints and sucking in car exhaust adds to the already arduous task of exercising. Thankfully, Stony Run Park offers an alternative to pounding the pavement in the city. More a trail than a "park," Stony Run parallels Roland Avenue from Northern Parkway to West University Parkway. The dirt path (some sections of the trail have a cushy woodchip footing) follows a restored streambed, which can offer a nice breeze on those hazy, hot, and humid Baltimore summer evenings and is a favorite for joggers and pet owners out for morning and evening strolls.
73. You don't expect to find an outdoor amphitheater surrounded by rare tree specimans at your local high school, but that's exactly what the residents of Catonsville have in theLurman Woodland Theatre (421 Bloomsbury Ave., lurman.com). Located on the grounds of Catonsville High, the theater is named after German immigrant Gustav W. Lurman Sr., who owned the former farmland in 1848. Through the generations, the family land holdings dwindled until Gustav's granddaughter, Frances D. Lurman, sold the remaining 65 acres to the Baltimore County Board of Education in 1948. An outdoor amphitheater was opened in 1965 but fell dormant throughout the '70s and '80s. In 1992, the bowl-shaped glen once again began hosting free evening concerts in warm weather, a tradition it continues this summer with everything from bluegrass to barbershop chorales.
74. It's amazing what you can find in Baltimore when you look. Case in point: Holt Park and Holt Center for the Arts (34 Elmont Ave.). Down a dead-end street in Overlea-Fullerton, Holt Park is 13 acres of woodland, wetlands, and meadows, boasting nature trails, gardens, a lily pond, an outdoor amphitheater with a gazebo, an arboretum, several log houses, and a labyrinth with a meditation garden path. Next door, housed in the former home of the park's namesake, painter and educator Lillian McCormick Holt, is the Holt Center for the Arts, which offers a full schedule of visual and performing arts activities for kids and adults.
75. Haven't heard of Maryland Sunrise Farm (100 Dairy Ln., Gambrills, 410-923-0726)? Maybe you'll recognize its former identity: the United States Naval Academy Dairy Farm, which provided milk for the Naval Academy from 1917 to 1998. Now in its second life as the state's largest certified organic farm, producing eggs, beef, corn, soybeans, and hay for local markets, the farm is periodically open to the public for special events, including an 11-acre corn maze and a haunted barn in the fall. Year-round, the farm offers horseback riding lessons, because, as the Woody Guthrie lyric that adorns the farm's high, white, perimeter fence says, "This land is your land."
Places To Go at 3 a.m.
76. Nestled in the tiny but refreshingly authentic Korean corner of Station North is one of the city's best after-hours spots. The ragtag awning along Maryland Avenue near 21st Street with Korean characters and little rainbows marks Rainbow Music Studios (2126 Maryland Ave., 410-783-0229), the only truly authentic karaoke bar in Baltimore. In the tradition of outlets in Korea and Japan, Rainbow (open Mon.-Sat. from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m.), rents out small rooms where friends can bring their own booze and belt out "Sister Christian" to their hearts' content. If you've never experienced this brand of karaoke, you're missing out. As an added bonus, the fantastic Korean BBQ spot upstairs, Nam Kang (410-685-6237), is also open until 4 a.m. and will gladly deliver samsung jampong (spicy seafood noodle soup)—or anything else—directly to your room.
77. There is a moment, after a night of high-energy drinking, dancing, and/or carousing, when it would be nice to extend a night with friends, while drastically reducing the energy level. Enter hookah bar Zeeba Lounge (916 Light St., 410-539-7900), the perfect nightcap after spending a raucous evening at the various bars in Federal Hill. While sitting on ottomans, you can casually smoke sweet shisha (or not), nibble on a hummus plate, sip alcohol you brought in, and enjoy the lounge's otherworldly feel.
78. There are plenty of local diners for late-night revelers with the munchies: Canton's Sip & Bite, Fells Point's Blue Moon (which actually opens at 11 p.m. on weekends), and the Food-Network-championed Broadway Diner in Highlandtown are all excellent options. But for the sheer camp and warmth that only Charm City can provide, we prefer Valentino's (6627 Harford Rd., 410-254-4700), where the uber-friendly waitstaff wears tuxedos right up until the 5 a.m. closing time (open 24 hours on weekends) and the walls are plastered with black-and-white posters of the joint's patron saint, silent film star Rudolph Valentino.
Baltimore-centric Corners of the Web
79. Local foodies appreciate Baltimore Snacker (baltimoresnacker.blogspot.com), a humorous, often-updated look at food and drink around the city. Also worth a mention are Mango & Ginger and Dining Dish.
80. The Baltimore Examiner is gone and The Sun is cutting resources, but watchdog journalism is alive and well at Investigative Voice (investigativevoice.com), a site run by ex-Examiner reporters.
81. Baltimore has lots of great music sites, like Beatbots and Government Names, but Aural States (auralstates.com) takes the cake with passionate album and show reviews and the rocking festival they put on in February.
82. If the more than 100,000 sellers on craft site etsy.com seem overwhelming, check out the wondrous wares of the Baltimore Etsy Street Team (baltimore-etsy.blogspot.com), so you can buy handmade and local.
83. Gerald Neilly, the infrastructure-obsessed proprietor of Baltimore Innerspace (baltimoreinnerspace.blogspot.com) is among the deeply knowledgeable contributors giving context to local news at Baltimore Brew (baltimorebrew.com).
84. The Loss Column (thelosscolumn.com) covers all things Orioles and Ravens, plus local college teams and more, with intelligence, energy, wit, and a particular respect for the history of sports in Baltimore.
Vestiges of Old Baltimore
85. The Maryland State Fair is referred to as "The 11 Best Days of Summer," and for seven of those days, you can watch the ponies run the 5/8 mile oval in the glorious setting locals have enjoyed for decades. Paid admission to the fair allows entry to the track, so give the kids some ride tickets and sneak over to the grandstand. Nothing beats Maryland State Fair Thoroughbred Racing in Timonium for the sheer joy of standing in the summer sun sipping a beer, hearing the merry-go-round music, and watching the horses race for home.
86. At some point in your life, you deserve to drink a grown-up cocktail in a place where a grown-up would drink a cocktail. Ride the elevator to the 13th Floor at the Belvedere Hotel (1 E. Chase St., 410-347-0888) and step back in time. Years ago, there was a jacket-and-tie requirement here. Those days are over, but the leopard-print carpet speaks to a bygone era. The bar opens at 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Show up as early as possible, before it gets too hectic, and order a martini, Manhattan, or something along those lines. Take a seat by the big window and watch the day come to an end in a most civilized fashion.
87. Every summer, thousands flock to Hampden for HonFest, a celebration of a purely Baltimore phenomenon: The Hon. No description is necessary, you'll know her when you see her: She'll be wearing spandex pants, bright-blue eye shadow, and coiffed with a beehive hairdo. At Phyllis' Hair Design(528 S. Conkling St.. 410-675-6715), serving East Baltimore for 60 years, Carol Pressman and her band of beauticians still do beehives the old-fashioned way—lots of hairspray and curlers.
88. Ask 20 Baltimoreans what the best crab house is and you'll get 20 answers. We take the subject very seriously. In the past, names like Connolly's, Gordon's, Bud's, and Glenmore Gardens would have been among those given to the aforementioned query. Today they're all gone. Only Obrycki's (1727 E. Pratt St., 410-732-6399), a Baltimore landmark since 1944, remains. For that reason alone it's worth the trip—literally the last of a dying breed.
89. Like a blue blazer, The Valley Inn (10501 Falls Rd., 410-828-8080) is neither in style nor out of style—it is style. The Falls Road landmark predates the Civil War, its wooden floors worn by the hushed passage of time. It's the kind of place where you can ask for a mint julep with a straight face and it will be made properly. Bourbon on the rocks is presented in the correct glass. Veal oscar and lobster Newburg are still on the menu, served by waitresses like Mary Ryan and Helen Nolan—almost five decades of experience between them.
90. Old St. Paul's Cemetery, hidden behind high walls and bounded by W. Lombard Street, MLK Jr. Boulevard, and W. Redwood Street, is remarkable for its star power. Formerly an enormous burying ground, its size was reduced as the city grew up around it. The nearby Westminster Hall and Burying Ground boasts Edgar Allan Poe's grave site, but what's he done lately? Rick Tomlinson, the verger of Old St. Paul's (410-243-0407) will unlock the gates. Commune with the spirits of Revolutionary War hero John Eager Howard, defender of Fort McHenry George Armistead, and the only signer of the Declaration of Independence to be buried in Baltimore, Samuel Chase.
91. Tavern on Key (1400 Key Hwy., 410-685-6668), a taproom in the basement of a row house at the corner of Key Highway and Webster Street, is the sole survivor of an era when the Inner Harbor waterfront was lined with bars. Gentrification picked them off one at a time, but the tavern held fast. Deta Agresott works behind the bar serving beer and shots. "It's not Federal Hill, Hon. This is South Baltimore." Her mother Joyce sits nearby and remembers the place from her childhood in the late '50s. "It was called Wroten's back then," she says with a smile. "The faces change. The name changes. But the bar stays the same."
92. At An die Musik (409 N. Charles St., 410-385-2638), you can talk to music geeks working at the CD shop downstairs and hear amazing live music in the upstairs concert space, which is intimate and comfy. Jazz giants Marilyn Crispell and David Murray, classical sensation Simone Dinnerstein, and Latin superstar Eddie Palmieri have all gigged at the venue. Check the calendar and you'll also find monthly screenings of jazz films and recitals by Peabody students.
93. "Worker-owned and collectively managed" Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse (800 St. Paul St., 410-230-0450) is named after fierce anarchist, feminist, and intellectual Emma Goldman and lives up to her legacy, hosting an array of far-left-leaning lectures and talks at its Mt. Vernon location and additional festivals, summits, and shows at St. John's Church (2640 St. Paul St.) in Charles Village. With world markets convulsing, it's an excellent place to consider the history and future of various economic and political issues.
94. Lenny's House of Naturals (1099 W. Fayette St., 410-727-9123) has been described as a "black empowerment center." On any given day, you might find the likes of Eddie Brown or Kurt Schmoke in owner Lenny Clay's barber chair, talking politics and solving the world's problems. An adviser to kings and mentor to kids, Clay has been facilitating lively debates and working to improve his Poppleton neighborhood and the surrounding city for more than four decades.
95. The main branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library (400 Cathedral St., 410-396-5430) is the mother of all intellectual temples. Where else could you attend a reading by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Diaz, pore over historic documents in the Maryland Room, check out (as in take home with you) a 16-mm film by Samuel Beckett starring Buster Keaton and a DVD of Slumdog Millionaire, borrow a framed art print for up to six months, and surf the Internet—all for free!
96. Soaking up the intellectual vibe at Normal's (425 E. 31st St., 410-243-6888), left, is downright enjoyable. At the Waverly book and record shop, you might run into John Waters or Madison Smartt Bell browsing the stacks, hear some of the city's most adventurous musicians (at the adjoining Red Room), or join a conversation on various aspects of geekdom and culture (both high and low). Ringleader Rupert Wondolowski also publishes the Shattered Wig Review, a long-running literary journal that's sold at the shop.
97. Relive the 19th century ritual of the Church of England at Old St. Paul's Church (233 N. Charles St., 410-685-3404, osp1692.org), the oldest congregation in Baltimore: It was established in 1692, has been on this site since 1731, and is in the only surviving Baltimore building by renowned architect Richard Upjohn. They've got a nationally recognized boys choir, trumpets, powerful organs, ornate stained glass, and they really pull out all the stops on major holidays like Christmas and Easter.
98. Bask in the new beauty of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, (409 Cathedral St., 410-727-3565, baltimorebasilica.org), America's first cathedral. Built from 1806-1821, it recently underwent a 2 1/2-year renovation to return the church to its original design, as envisioned by America's first bishop, John Carroll, and planned by renowned architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe. There are educational tours, concerts, and lectures.
99. Take the architectural styles of Mayan, Pallava, Vijaynagara, Kerala, and South Canara, mix 'em up, and you've got the Taj Mahal-meets-over-the-top-sand-castle result of Sri Siva Vishnu Temple (6905 Cipriano Rd., Lanham, 301-552-3335, ssvt.org), one of the largest Hindu temples in the Western Hemisphere. And to think: It all started as a "what-if" discussion in the living rooms of a few local devotees in the 1970s.
100. Admire Baltimore's Jewish roots at the Lloyd Street Synagogue (11 Lloyd St., 410-732-6400, jhsm.org), Maryland's first synagogue. Built in 1845, the Greek Revival building with its Doric columns offered a permanent home to the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, founded in 1830. A few doors down is the nearly-as-old Hebrew Chizuk Amuno Congregation (27 Lloyd St., 410-732-5454), formed in 1871 by congregants who protested changes to the traditional services. The Lloyd Street Synagogue is now part of the Jewish Museum of Maryland and B'nai Israel Congegation now occupies Chizuk Amuno (and still conducts services there). Both sites are open to the public.
101. In 1987, members of a local Ukrainian Catholic church aimed to recreate one of the baroque Cossack-style churches from back home, with stunning results. Congregational women sold traditional pyrohy (pierogi) from the hall of the church's previous location, on Wolfe Street, to finance the five gold-topped towers of St. Michael the Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church (2401 Eastern Ave., 410-675-7557), left, which looms over Patterson Park, and a Ukrainian artist was brought in to paint the glorious iconostas—a traditional screen separating the altar from the congregation—with images of St. Nicholas, St. Demetri, St. Michael, the Blessed Mother, and Christ.