- Lifestyle & Sports
- 19 Feb 14
You may know it as the drug-cursed hellhole from The Wire. Actually, Baltimore is a vibrant city with a rich history and bucketfuls of entertainment
Where exactly is it?
Baltimore is the largest city of the state of Maryland, on America’s Atlantic seaboard. It has a population of 620,000. Ethnically diverse, its nicknames include ‘Charm City’.
How do I get there?
Baltimore requires at least one connecting flight within the US, typically from New York. Getting there takes approximately 13 hours, including stop-overs. Aer Lingus has plenty of options in regards to airports and Stateside flight providers if you want to make the journey.
What language do they speak?
The main language is English. As with much of the United States, however, there’s a distinct ‘Baltimorese’ slang. It may take a while for even native English speakers to fully grasp the shortened words and pronunciations!
What’s the local beer like?
Baltimore and Maryland have a strong brewing heritage and a burgeoning craft beer scene. The most prominent local grog is Natty Boh, a German-style lager using a tried and tested recipe from the 1800s. The Hot Travel vote goes though to Union Craft Brewers whose range includes the tangy 5.5% pale ale Duckpin and the 5.6% Balt Arbiter, which is darker and more bitter. There’s also Heavy Seas, which has range of beers suitable for year-round quaffing. With a pirate theme, the most popular is Loose Cannon, a fragrant 7.25% American IPA. Their own Heavy Seas Alehouse at 1300 Bank Street in the Little Italy district is a gem and always packed with hoppy customers (heavyseasalehouse.com).
Maryland has been synonymous with Rye Whiskey since the 1700s, with the Pikesville distillery a source of much local pride. A great place to sample their wares is the Birds Of A Feather Restaurant & Scotch Bar at 1712 Aliceanna Street (abs.net/~scotchjh). If it’s a caffeine fix you’re after, Spro on 851 West 36th Street offers a variety of ‘purist’ coffees from multiple roasters (sprocoffee.com). Their numerous brewing methods include vacuum pot, pour over, chemex, eva solo, aeropress, french press, clever and cold brew drip tower. One of my tastier learning experiences.
What’s the transport like?
The funny thing about Baltimore is that, although a large city, a lot of the main attractions are concentrated to the south, around the inner harbour. Thus, a lot can be achieved on foot. For other options public transport is handled by MTA Maryland. The bus service covers most of the urban area and is fairly inexpensive; there’s also a light railway travelling north to south, which can take you to the airport. If you’re adventurous, the Maryland Area Regional Commuter line links to Washington DC. It’s inexpensive and a relatively short journey. Even further afield is New Jersey, and New York. Both can be visited comfortably in a day.
What’s the food like?
Since Baltimore is on the coast, it’s no surprise that seafood is a specialty. You’ll find a lot of fresh fish and crab; most restaurants outside the major chains will have speciality fish dishes. One of the most famous is blue crab, which derives its name from its distinctive shell and is often served steamed, which makes the meat rich and tender. If you sniff around and ask some of the locals, they have their own little favourite spots. The Hot Travel nod goes to Linwood’s at 25 Crossroads Drive, Owings Mills, which does particularly wondrous things with lobster (linwoods.com).
What’s the nightlife like?
A university town, Baltimore doesn’t lack for pubs, bars and clubs. All offer drink deals and daily food specials, so shopping around is a good idea if you’re on a budget. A lot of the bars pay homage to the Baltimore Orioles, the city’s baseball team which is named after the birds that flock there every autumn. Notable boozers include the Power Plant, a massive bar and live music complex, which can be found at 34 Market Place just a block away from the Inner Harbour (powerplantlive.com).
Baltimore is also famous for its jazz heritage with Bovvy’s Jazz Bar at 1140 S Paca Street a good place to check out local talent
Why should I go?
Baltimore is full of history and vibrancy, especially by American standards. It’s become famous as the backdrop for gritty crime dramas such as Homicide: Life On The Street and The Wire, which has its key locations Google Mapped here. Granted, there are dangerous neighbourhoods but most of the city can be walked about freely during the day. At night, you’re probably best taking a taxi unless you’re staying smack bang in the centre.
What are the touristy things to do?
The majority of the tourist locations are around the Inner Harbour area. It’s the safest part of the city and received a recent revamp, bringing in lots of restaurants, bars and amusements. Around here you’ll also find the Power Plant and the Aquarium. As mentioned before, Baltimore is famous for baseball and was
the birthplace of one of the alltime greats, Babe Ruth. Hot Travel recommends a visit to Oriole Park at Camden Yards. It’s a beautiful ground, and with an average ticket price of $35 watching games is relatively cheap (baltimore.orioles.
mlb.com). Baltimore also has the Baltimore Ravens, last year’s Superbowl champions, who play a few miles away from the Orioles in the M&T Bank Stadium (baltimoreravens.com). A must-visit is the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African History & Culture at 830 E. Pratt Street, which is two miles from the inner harbour (rflewismuseum.org). On your way you’ll notice the USS Constellation, a sailing ship that was used from the American Civil War all the way to World War Two. They fire the cannon twice a day!
What should I bring home?
Well, as much as we’d love to say crab, there will probably be a few problems at airports. The local beers or whiskeys can be great last-minute gifts and there are plenty of local jazz groups offering their recordings in stores. For all the sporting fans in your family, a Baltimore Ravens NFL jersey or an Orioles baseball cap can never go awry.
When should I go?
Everybody would advise summer, since the east coast of the USA notoriously has worse weather than the west coast. However, prices can be high at peak season. So heading in spring would probably be a healthy balance as the days get lighter and warmer and the fares won’t be ridiculously expensive.
What’s my challenge?
Explore! It’s really easy to just get stuck in one place like the harbour, as there’s so much to do and see. Make sure to interact with the locals. They’re welcoming and will help you learn all you need to know about the city.
What’s the currency?
Local currency as always is the dollar. It’s not particularly strong at the moment which means exchange rates are relatively favourable. Bear in mind displayed prices don’t include sales tax - it’s added afterwards, so something retailing for $20 may in fact cost you $23.43.
Something to remember?
The first bloodshed of the Civil War, a clash between pro-South civilians and Union troops in Baltimore,happened in 1861. There was intense rioting around the Washington monument as most of Baltimore was for the Southern cause and the Northern troops were passing through.