Holiday shopping in Baltimore

Visit Baltimore research is showing that 30% of Baltimore area suburbanites are decreasing their trips into Baltimore City.  Amazon and the rainiest year on record are not helping. Baltimore retailers need you to come.

There a lot great things about Baltimore this holiday season and I will just point to a few. This article focuses a bit on downtown, but don’t miss out on unique neighborhood shopping, eating, and drinking experiences all over town.

The Light City Festival is great, but the winter holiday shows us maybe we should be Light City all year round.  Has anybody thought of making the wheel permanent? It is a great light display all by itself. What about making sure the Bromo Seltzer Tower and other select Baltimore landmarks always shine brightly in the night.  Lights make the city a festive place, lets do even more of it.

Christmas promenade

The Christmas Market has Germanic food, brews, and wine to go along with about 50 seasonal retailers. You can knock out your shopping while raising your stein of beer from the Hofbrau Munchen Brewery.

In the market


Shop at the places that are in bricks and mortar stores and are here year round. Reward the retailers that do fantastic holiday displays in their windows. Cafe Poupon should do clinics on window displays. Stop here on Charles Street for something sweet, a sandwich, or a coffee. Consider a night or two in a Baltimore hotel or Air BnB as a gift. Being a home town tourist in Baltimore comes with no airline delays or lost luggage.

Cafe Poupon

Check out Made in Baltimore, which showcases Baltimore makers. MIB  now has a pop up shop at 20 W. North Avenue. Down the street is Joe Squared, where you can always have a delicious risotto or pizza pie.

Made in Baltimore store

I have a bit of a bone to pick with the Inner Harbor Barnes & Noble, which barely looked open last Saturday as we made our way in the rain. The B&N window displays could take a lesson from the Cafe Poupon.  However, after arriving, I am always reminded what a treasure this store is.  It is housed in the iconic Baltimore Power Plant building and has so many books that can teach us so much about life, places, people, fantasy, sports, travel, architecture, art, health, business……They also have a good selection of kids and teen books to choose from.  You can always get a warm drink while you are doing it and we had excellent service to help us find some specific present targets. To top it off, we had our presents nicely wrapped for free by friendly ladies raising money from donations for the Chrohns and Colitus Foundation.

Barnes and Noble

Downtown Baltimore and its neighborhood shopping areas should be on your list.  The city and the retailers need your patronage.  There is also a fun new way to get from place to place without moving your car should you choose.  They are the Lime or Bird Scooters that are just one dollar and fifteen cents a minute there after. Pair your shopping with a meal and a nice beverage.  You can knock out your holiday present list and turn it into a lot of fun!



Six New Trail Projects for the Next 10 Years: Making Baltimore Competitive to other Northeast Metros

Quality bicycling trails help define a region’s quality of life. They provide health and transportation benefits.  They’re fun and becoming a major tourism draw for the places with compelling facilities. Trails appeal to teenagers, millennials, families, and retirees.  Unfortunately, the Baltimore region’s combination of trails is far inferior to Washington’s, Philadelphia’s, New York’s, Boston’s, and we are falling behind Pittsburgh.  These other northeastern metros have invested far more and have developed networks and high profile trails. Our region should at least try to be in the same league.  The good news is–the six projects identified below, collectively, would cost less than one basic highway interchange and help Baltimore take a giant leap forward.

Other Northeastern Metros are investing in their trail systems.  Here are a few of their investments.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Right now, Baltimore has a handful of average to good trails, but mostly they are one-offs, with little relation to one another.  Imagine if I-95 didn’t connect to the 695 Beltway and 695 didn’t connect to I-83 or 795.  These highways by themselves would be useful, but the connected network is exponentially more beneficial. Over the next decade, the Baltimore region should connect its primary trails. It should also develop a few marquis trails that show off the beauty of our city, watershed, and region. Here are six projects that would create the backbone of a connected regional trail network reflective of our affluent region.


Project 1 (Orange), Project 4 (Yellow), Project 6 (Dark Yellow), Existing Trails (Brown)

Project 1 (orange), Project 4 (yellow), Project 6 (dark yellow), Existing Trails (brown)

Project 1–Gwynns Falls/Middle Branch Trail to BWI/B&A Trail.  (Shown in orange)

Estimated cost and length: $10 million, 10 miles  (7 miles shared with project 6)

Sister trail: Guadalupe River Trail, San Jose, CA

Project 1, from the Middle Branch Trail’s end in Baltimore’s Cherry Hill Park, to the BWI trailhead-at the BWI rail station, is approximately 10 miles.  By completing this missing link, the trail network could continuously reach from Mt. Washington in Northern Baltimore City to Greater Annapolis, a roughly forty mile spine.

There is good news. It’s feasible.  The Patapsco River and Stony Run tributary valleys provide virtually continuous right-of-way, which would make the trail relatively free of street crossings, with little need for property acquisition or easements.

There are more reasons to like this project.  The river valleys provide great scenery of Baltimore’s most significant river. There are marshes, riverscapes, forests and lots of  other features that make for a scenic recreational trail.  If project 1 is completed, the trail will connect job centers, neighborhoods, and the rail transit system.


Baltimore Trail "Beltway"-concept by Jim Brown, Rails to Trails Conservancy

Baltimore Trail “Beltway”-concept by Jim Brown, Rails to Trails Conservancy

Project 2–Baltimore Trail “Beltway” 

Estimated cost and length: $10-20 million, 15 miles of new trail to make 35 mile loop

Sister trail: Beltline, Atlanta

This project is the urban trail version of I-695.  It fills in the gaps that would enable a continuous 35 mile loop in Baltimore City.  To complete the loop a little over 10 miles of trails would need to be constructed and some additional upkeep on existing trails would improve the experience.  This project is being spearheaded by the Rails to Trails organization, headquartered in Washington DC.

This project may not be as logistically easy as Project 1 because it loops through neighborhoods and requires cooperation with CSX and BGE in a few places. However, a theoretical right-of-way has been established and with a little cooperation, this project is feasible.

There are lots of reasons to like this project.  It has many of the benefits of Atlanta’s Beltline, but with a fraction of its price.  The Baltimore Trail “Beltway” is a home run waiting to be hit because it covers so many bases. Tourism, health, better transportation, recreation, and economic development are expected benefits of its completion.

Project 3 (Blue), Project 5 (Red), Existing trails (Brown)

Project 3 (blue), Project 5 (red), Existing trails (brown)

Project 3–Jones Falls Trail to Torrey C. Brown Trail (Shown in red (Towson Run Trail) and then blue)

Estimated cost and length: $15-20 million, 14 miles  (This includes Towson Run Trail Project)

Sister Trail: Rock Creek Trail, Washington DC and Montgomery County, MD

Project 3 connects a trail gap between Mt. Washington in Baltimore City and Hunt Valley, Baltimore’s most northern suburb.  The completion of the project would also fill in the missing vertebrae in a trail spine and create a continuous link from Baltimore’s Inner Harbor to York, Pennsylvania.

The Torrey C. Brown trail is, arguably, the Baltimore region’s most popular paved trail. It is heavily used and is part of the Rails to Trails Hall of Fame, but it is isolated.

This connecting project would have to bisect suburban neighborhoods and would likely contain some street routes in spots (with buffered lanes). The bad news is there is no obvious path north of Towson, but the good news is there are many possible routes the trail could take.   This project could be challenged by NIMBYism and crossing over the 695 Beltway may be a challenge depending on the course.

There are many reasons this is a good project.  We will start with the East Coast Greenway (ECG). The ECG plan is a continuous trail from Maine to Florida.  Project 3 fills a key gap in the ECG.  Another good reason is access. By extending the mostly rural Torrey C. Brown Trail into the inner suburbs and ultimately the city, far more people will be within reach of a super trail.

Middle Branch Loop Master Plan from Turner Development

Middle Branch Loop Master Plan from Turner Development

Project 4–Middle Branch Loop Trail (Shown in yellow of the Project 1 map)

Estimated cost and length: $4-10 million, 3 new trail miles, 4 total miles  (If a trail right-of-way can be constructed on the Hanover Street Bridge replacement, the trail cost will be on the lower end)

Sister Trail: Lake Union Loop, Seattle

The Middle Branch Trail Loop, if completed, will hug the water and help connect Baltimoreans and visitors to the city’s waterfront.  The Middle Branch is destined to be the new home for Under Armour. A premier waterfront recreational amenity would be a great cultural compliment between the company, the city, and the water.

The challenge is adding a trail facility on a little-used century-old CSX owned swing bridge and the heavily used Hanover Street Bridge. Furthermore, Under Armour would need to be supportive of a public facility and not seek to privatize the space to the water’s edge.

An urban waterfront loop that utilizes two large bridges may be a big attraction because it’s a unique design that’s rarely implemented.  Also, a trail running across a former train bridge adds historical value.

Towson Run Trail would mostly follow the creek between Lake Roland and Towson.

Towson Run Trail would mostly follow the creek between Lake Roland and Towson.

Project 5–The Towson Run Trail (shown in red)

Estimated cost and length: $6-8 million, 5 miles of new trail

Sister Trail: Capital Crescent Trail, Washington DC and Montgomery County

This project would connect the Jones Falls Trail (Shown in brown), the Falls Road Light Rail station, and Lake Roland with Towson University and Downtown Towson and its “bike beltway.”

Building a trail adjacent to the Towson Run stream into the center of the university and to the business district appears to be feasible, but might face some NIMBY opposition in the area between Lake Roland and Charles Street. The trail may need a bridge to cross Lake Roland.

This is a good project because Towson, the Baltimore County government seat and home to over 55,000 people, has few recreational bicycle facilities.  Linking Towson via the valley of the Towson Run Creek into the Jones Falls Trail would help solve that problem, while tying Towson into the regional trail network.  This project could fill a gap in the East Coast Greenway Project and share the first five miles of Project 3.

The 2.5 mile Grist Mill Trail along the Patapsco River

The 2.5 mile Grist Mill Trail along the Patapsco River

Project 6–The Patapsco Trail (shown in dark yellow on the Project 1 map)

Estimated cost and length: $15-20 million, 16 miles of new trail and 18 total (7 miles shared with Project 1)

Sister Trail: Schuylkill River Trail, Philadelphia

This project is identical to Project 1 for about the first seven miles, sharing the Patapsco River Valley at its source in the Middle Branch.  Project 1 makes a southerly turn to connect with the BWI Trail. Project 6 continues northwest along the Patapsco Valley paralleling the river. It will feed into the Grist Mill Trail and then extend into historic Ellicott City.

This project appears logistically easy because of existing public right-of-way next to the river. There are a few places the trail will likely have to go underneath major roads. There will be some wetlands the trail may pass through.

Project 6 is a trail with tourist and transportation benefits. It would connect charming historic Ellicott City with downtown Baltimore, while taking a scenic, flat, and relatively direct path along the river. It would provide a great day trip in either direction.

Regions in the Northeast and across the US are investing in their trail networks and marquis trails.  They know that quality of life amenities are a major component to region attractiveness and competitiveness.  The Baltimore region’s trails are inferior to many of our competitors and the gap is widening. It may be a leap to propose more trails when some of our major existing trails are not well designed and are in poor repair. However, the workforce of the future and tourists will want quality trails. The state, counties, corporations, or even wealthy individuals should help fund it.

It is time for Baltimore to develop a regional trail plan and invest.

Jeff La Noue

Edited by Laura Melamed



Bicycling Events in Baltimore this summer

Bicycling can provide you a great reason to come to Baltimore this summer. Charm City would love to have you visit. If you like pedals and wheels, come enjoy these events this summer.

Kinetic Sculpture Race: Sunday, June 14

I am not sure Kinetic Sculptures are bicycles, but they are human and often pedal powered. It is too late to build your own land, water, and mud traversing sculpture and enter the race this year, but you can come watch this spectator-friendly event and get ideas for joining the race yourself next year. Bring the kids, or not.

Baltimore’s kinetic sculptures are amphibious, human-powered works of art custom built for the multi-terrain race course. The American Visionary Art Museum is the proud host of the Kinetic Sculpture Race.

Be sure to check out the spectator’s guide and dress code before you come.

By land, sea, and mud...Image from

By land, sea, and mud…Image from

Tour Dem Parks: Sunday, June 14

If you prefer to be riding your own bicycle, try Tour Dem Parks,  also on June 14. There are three routes (14, 25, or 35 miles) that pass through Baltimore parks and neighborhoods. It is a great chance to interface with many charming parts of Baltimore you would not otherwise see. The ride is fully supported with multiple rest stops and ends with a barbeque lunch and live jazz.

The ride starts in Druid Hill Park. Proceeds for the ride benefit parks and recreational activities in Baltimore City. Register here.

TDP is great chance to tour Baltimore on your bike-Image from Tour Dem parks website

TDP is great chance to tour Baltimore on your bike-Image from Tour Dem parks website

Bikes and Beers: Saturday, June 20

The 15 miles, Bikes and Beers ride, passes sites such as Penn Station, City Hall, Inner Harbor, Fells Point, Shot Tower, the Baltimore Museum of Art, and the Maryland Zoo.  The ride begins and ends at the Union Craft Brewing Company at 1700 Union Avenue. Departure times are (9:30, 10, 10:30, and 11am) The start is about three miles from Penn Station for anyone coming by MARC train.

Your registration includes:

Official Bikes and Beers Baltimore event pint glass
Two 5 oz samples at Heavy Seas Alehouse and One pint of your choice at Union Craft Brewing
Post-event festival with live music, food trucks, and games.

Part of the proceeds are being donated to Bike Maryland and Bikemore.

Enjoy and be safe

Enjoy and be safe

Baltimore Bike Party: Friday, June 26, July 31, and August 29…

The Baltimore Bike Party is a fun, social themed ride on the last Friday night of every month. May’s theme was “prom.” It is a mass (meaning hundreds if not a thousand cyclists in close quarters) on a slow paced ride following a different route every month. Meet up is at 6:30pm with a 7pm departure.

Confirm the departure site, but it typically begins at St. Mary’s park in Seton Hill at 600 N. Paca Street.

The ride is free, however donations are appreciated.

Baltimore Bike Party heads through town  Image from

Baltimore Bike Party heads through town Image from

Tour Du Port: Sunday, September 27

This great ride is part of Indian summer. Tour du Port boasts four bicycle route choices, including one mountain bike option. Pick among these route choices: The Harbor Loop, The Port to Peninsula, The Raven Challenge, or the mountain bike Urban Challenge route and see parts of Baltimore and experience the harbor in a new way.

The ride starts at the Canton Waterfront Park at 3001 Boston Street. Families often do the shorter loop. Proceeds benefit the Maryland statewide bicycling non-profit Bike Maryland.

Resting by the water at the 2014 Tour Du Port. Image by David Choy

Resting by the water at the 2014 Tour Du Port. Image by David Choy

Baltimore would love to have you. These events provide five additional reasons to come!

Connecting Baltimore’s Trails

Loch Raven Reservoir

Image: Loch Raven Reservoir

Part I: Could the Jones Falls Trail and the Torrey Brown Trail connect?

Part II:  Connecting the Gwynns Falls Trail to the BWI Trail/B&A Trail-(The Patapsco Valley link)

One of the goals of the update of Maryland’s Bicycle & Pedestrian Master Plan (originally adopted in 2002) is to connect missing pieces in the infrastructure, but specific projects are not on the table for discussion now. This article intends to get a head start when the time comes. It is time to build the Baltimore Region’s “Super Trail.”

First, regional trails should not come at the expense of a micro-network of bicycle connections in our communities. Trail links to schools, shopping centers, main streets, transit stops, downtowns, and employment centers are the most useful bicycle investments.

With that being said, thoughtfully planned regional trails can complement the above while also providing opportunities for trail tourism, economic development, commuting, recreation, and a regional amenity that helps us compete with other regions in the quality of life category. There are many aspirational comparisons by  Towson’s business and political leaders to Bethesda. One of Bethesda’s gems is the Capital Crescent Trail that weaves through Downtown Bethesda before connecting to the Potomac River, C&O towpath, and on to Georgetown.

Proposed here is a new trail connection between the *Jones Falls Trail and the **Torrey C. Brown (NCR Trail)/York County Heritage Trail and filling a missing link in the East Coast Greenway. There are several options, but we also have a general route in mind.

Jones Falls Trail extension large

Jones Falls Trail extension small

Here’s why we think it is a good idea:

  • A much longer connected trail (approximately 70 miles) is better than two shorter disconnected pieces
  • Added beautiful scenery and recreational amenities (Lake Roland, Loch Raven Reservoir)
  • Useful for commuting and transportation to and between: light rail stations, Towson University/Goucher College, downtown Towson, GBMC, Shepherd Pratt Hospital and residential areas
  • Connects a densely populated area with recreational amenities
  • Will generate economic development and hotel visits. (Overnight trail users could stay in Hunt Valley, Towson, or Downtown Baltimore hotels)
  • Light rail can complement the trail for those who do not want to do the “whole thing”

Trails are not free to build.  The Jones Falls Trail costs are approximately $850,000 per mile.  Accordingly, this project would cost between 15-20 million to construct. The author thinks it is worth it.

Well-designed and utilized urban/suburban trails are multi-purposed investments because they can boost community health and provide new transportation options. This trail could also attract serious bicycle tourism.  Museums, the zoo, festivals, sports events, fishing, water sports, fine dining, historic sites, shopping,  hotels, can all be incorporated into a trail visit package.  Maryland can see a multi-faceted return on its investment by thoughtfully constructing the missing piece.

JL (Full disclosure – the author lives next to the Jones Falls Trail)

*The Jones Falls Trail (six miles) is a relatively new trail extending from the Baltimore Visitors Center (Gwynns Falls Trail) to the Cylburn arboretum with an extension planned to Mt. Washington. The trail goes through urban and natural settings. The trail passes historic sites and monuments, the Maryland Zoo, Druid Hill Park, and views of  Jones Falls River along its path.

**The Torrey C. Brown Trail (20 miles)/York County Heritage Trail (also 20 Miles) connect York, Pennsylvania with Ashland, MD. The trail has beautiful rural scenery, is very popular, and provides a large economic boost to the communities along the trail, York, Pa and New Freedom, Pa in particular.

Photos of a few of the places adjacent to the proposed trail connection

Major League Baseball: Why Not More Rival City Games?

Camden Yards empty and full

Image sources: and the

Part I, Part II, Part III

Major League Baseball (MLB) is scheduling too many boring match-ups. Worse, MLB is blowing the opportunity to make more money, improve fan interest, and increase the economic impact of the games for cities.

What is MLB doing wrong?  MLB is not scheduling enough games between interleague rival cities.  Whatever baseball city you are in and whichever team you care about, this impacts you.  As a Baltimore fan, east coaster, and supporter of local vendors, I don’t want the Orioles to play the likes of Oakland and Seattle when they could be playing Philadelphia and Washington. Conversely, the A’s and Mariner’s fans probably prefer games against San Francisco and the Dodgers.  MLB can give us both what we want. The 2013 Orioles play teams in states bordering the Pacific Ocean 28 times. The Orioles play Texas, Houston, Arizona, Colorado 18 times, while the Orioles do not play Philadelphia, the NY Mets and only play the Washington Nationals four times.

Cities have natural rivalries… Just google KC vs.St. Louis, Cleveland vs.  Pittsburgh, or Houston vs. Dallas……These rivalries take many forms and can be fun and intense.  Baltimore and DC’s newest rivalry is an annual “Food Truck Battle Royale.” When rival cities compete, more people show up and adrenaline rises.  MLB should schedule accordingly.

Rust belt battleImage Source: Bike

Baltimore vs DC - FoodtrucksImage Source: InTheCapital

This is not just about stoking intraregional passions. It is about economics.  The National League Philadelphia Phillies were in Baltimore for a rare three game weekend series in June 2012. Baltimore’s downtown was awash in red.  Philly fans were coming out of restaurants, public transportation, water taxis, ice cream stands, museums, hotels, etc. The pleasant citizens of greater Philadelphia were spending money, and also building energy for a baseball rivalry that did not get renewed in 2013. The more frequent Oakland, Seattle, and other western franchise visits do not generate  this kind of economic impact.  “Regular” games between franchises thousands of miles apart with little cultural relevance don’t bring the fans, the energy, or the spending that games between teams in rival cities and closer proximity.


Phillies fans enjoying themselves in Baltimore Image source: Comeback City

Philly fans 4 - Baltimore

Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is packed when a team from the Bos/Wash corridor is in town, Image source: Comeback City

MLB stadiums and game day operations are often subsidized by the taxpaying public. Accordingly, cities should get the biggest economic benefit possible. Attendance and sales of everything from hotel bookings to ice cream cones skyrocket when the intraregional Yankees and Red Sox (or Phillies) visit Camden Yards. Retailers and vendors circle these weekends on the calendar.

Surely, MLB has done a study about maximizing revenues through scheduling. Frankly, it’s time to give it another look, because there are currently not enough exciting match-ups. A good scheduling fix for 2014 will add thousands to attendance while yielding millions in associated spending. Phillies and Nationals, I am hoping to see a little more of you in 2014.  Go O’s!

What do you think? Should MLB schedule more rival city games or has MLB got the scheduling mix right?




A Rustwirian Travel Guide: Baltimore in a Few Days

Baltimore skyline

Sunset in Baltimore

By: Jeff La Noue of Comeback City

Baltimore-Charm City, Mobtown, Monument City, Birdland, Crabalot, Land of Pleasant Living,  is a town:

  • whose people repelled a British invasion by land and sea just days after these royal forces left our nation’s capital smoldering in glowing embers
  • whose rise came from the trade made possible by the US National Road and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad
  • that required federal occupation during the Civil War to make sure it stayed on the Union side
  • where 70 blocks burned in the span of 30 hours in 1904
  • that rioted in 1835 (bank riot), rioted in 1861 (southern sympathizers), rioted in 1873 (railroad strikes), rioted in 1968 (assassination of MLK), and did not riot in 2013 (Ravens super bowl victory)
  • was once the 2nd largest port of entry for immigrants
  • that is 63% African-American
  • where people lay newspaper down on their patio table, listen to dem O’s on the radio, and spend hot summer afternoons dissecting and devouring Maryland’s famed Old Bay covered crustacean

Just 38 miles to the south of the City on the Bay, is another city, exploding with new growth and local ambition reflecting its national and global power. My city is connected by a rickety 52 minute train that still passes over wooden cross ties, but functions mostly oblivious to the action to the south.  My city is a very different colorful textured kind of place. Welcome to Baltimore. This is not the Visit Baltimore tour or the Wire tour.

Where to Stay?

While I do not regularly book nights in my hometown, but here’s where my list would start.  The Admiral Fell Inn, with architectural features that date to the 1780’s, certainly has ghosts. It’s provided lodging for over 50,000 seamen over its long history, and today it’s evolved into a well-reviewed hotel, sporting a great location at that.

You could also step into the grandeur of the 1906 Baltimore & Ohio Railroad headquarters, built from the ashes of the Great Fire of 1904, and stay at the new Hotel Monaco. The building is a testament to the power of the Era of the Railroad, with sculptural adornments like the Roman god Mercury, a mythological symbol of commerce. You may desire cheaper places than these two, but try and stay in Fells Point, downtown/Inner Harbor East, or Mt. Vernon.

What to do?

Baltimore is a city of 200+ neighborhoods. These eight are the most visitor friendly: Federal Hill, downtown/Inner Harbor/Harbor East, Little Italy, Fells Point, Canton, Mt. Vernon, Hampden, and Station North for the young and edgy.

Fells Point in snow

Fells Point in snow

Don’t be afraid to go into the Baltimore Visitors Center (BVC) to begin your search for the right museum, but be wary that their mandate is to hawk the goods, the hotels, and the restaurants of their subscribing members. The BVC can help you decide among 30+ museums spanning a range of topics from art, railroads, industry, dentistry, to Blacks in Wax. There are many good museum choices to meet the needs of the curious. I won’t completely punt on the museum options-here are a few specifics.

Visit Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine unless you absolutely hate history.  The nerdy rangers and the on-site film help interpret a very distressing couple of days for Baltimore and the country. When 5000 troops and an armada of naval ships attack your city with the intent of burning it to the ground, it makes for a quite a story.  But the outcome turns out in our favor and we are still patiently waiting for Hollywood to make a major motion picture out the very worthy narrative that is the Defense of Fort McHenry and the penning of the Star Spangled Banner. The fort sits at the end of a little peninsula in a park-like setting. It affords great views of different city neighborhoods and the outer harbor. From here, you can imagine naval ships tossing cannonballs your way, or watch the 21st century ocean-going vessels importing and exporting. You can get to Ft. McHenry either by the free Charm City Circulator (banner route) or the harbor taxi (in summer). If you need lunch in the neighborhood, go to Hull Street Blues or consider packing a picnic.

Baltimore Fort

Fort McHenry under siege

The American Visionary Art Museum features the works of “self-taught” artists. I saw an amazing emotional exhibit featuring the art of Esther Nisenthal Krinitz. Esther, at the age of 15 had evaded Nazi occupiers in Poland with her 13 year old sister,  pretending to be Catholic farm girls. Esther tells her story of survival through works of fabric art.  More traditional art enthusiasts should go to the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters Art Museum.

Action Oriented

I wish our town had a well-marked sightseeing loop for bicyclists, but sadly we don’t.  Therefore, the best way to see Baltimore by bicycle and not get lost is to time your visit with Tour Dem Parks or Tour Du Port, two well-organized rides that show off a lot of the city. The new Baltimore Bike Party offers riders a short dusk/night-time ride and takes places the last Friday night of the month. It departs from the Washington Monument and generally ends at a brew pub.  Check ahead to see what the theme for the ride is. Bicycles can be rented at Light Street Cycles and Race Pace Bicycles, both in Federal Hill or Twenty20 Cycling in Hampden.

Baltimore Bike Party (Last Friday of every month)

Baltimore Bike Party (Last Friday of every month)

For runners, there are many events that can give you the flavor of the city-from the rigorous marathon down to much easier choices.  Every Monday evening, you can join a friendly group, called the Federal Hill Runners for a nice six-miler covering some interesting parts of town that sometimes ends with a beer at a local tavern. If running or walking on your own, I suggest the Baltimore waterfront promenade or the perimeter of Patterson Park: each offer panoramic city views.

It should be easy to rent kayaks in our harbor city, but our old infrastructure can’t keep the sewage out of the water, so this dream will have to wait.


To quickly jump into Baltimore’s creative scene, (one area in which Baltimore may claim to one-up D.C.), touch base with Station North Arts & Entertainment near the train station or the Creative Alliance in Highlandtown.  More formal options are the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (Mt. Vernon) and the performances at the beautifully restored Hippodrome (downtown). Baltimore has festivals on most weekends in the warmer months.  Artscape, Honfest, Maryland Film Festival, and the Fells Point Fun Festival are some of the larger ones.


You’ve got to eat. I won’t leave you stranded.  Breakfast-(the most important meal of the day) Go to the Blue Moon (Fells Point) and get there before 9:15 on weekends to get a table.  The place is cozy and food is tasty.  Other options are Miss Shirley’s (downtown), Golden West (Hampden), Gertrude’s at the BMA (Charles Village), Spoons (Federal Hill), or on Sunday morning, the Baltimore Farmers Market (downtown).

For lunch, try Mama’s on the Half Shell on O’Donnell Square (Canton). You can eat Maryland seafood while enjoying an outside table and watching the natives. If downtown, get a great crab cake at Faidley’s in the lively 225 year old Lexington Market.

Faidleys Seafood at Lexington Market

Faidleys Seafood at Lexington Market

If you had crab in your omelet and a crab cake for lunch you are off to a good start. But for dinner I’ll offer something different.  The Helmand is a fantastic Afghan restaurant (Mt. Vernon). Order their Kaddo Borwani (baked pumpkin) appetizer. Crème Restaurant Lounge is teetering on my list, but I have a soft spot for it. I love the southern-style food and the cool architectural space, but be wary of the quality of service.   If you are looking to treat yourself to a special farm-to-table restaurant, hop on the light rail for an interesting panoramic ride of the eclectic Baltimore Jones Falls valley, get off at the Woodberry stop, and head to Woodberry Kitchen (be sure to make a reservation). This well-deserved high-ranking restaurant is part of the old Clipper Mill, a former machine shop, iron foundry, and cotton duck mill. Be patient with light rail; it should come every fifteen minutes, but pay attention to the schedule. Other good choices are: Geckos (Southwestern/Canton), Jasa Kabob (Pakistani/Canton), Samos (Greek/Greektown), Café Gia (Italian/Little Italy), and Joe Squared (American/Station North).

For a beer, stop in at the Brewer’s Art. The restaurant and bar sprawl across the first floor and the basement of a grand 19th century Victorian mansion.  Fair warning: their beers are potent. In Fells Point, Max’s Taphouse taps 140 rotating drafts. Draft Magazine agrees with my choices. The harbor neighborhoods have a local watering hole on almost every block, a vestige of Baltimore’s working class past where corner bars functioned as today’s living rooms.

Getting around (w/o a car)

Charm City Circulator

Charm City Circulator

The free Charm City Circulator will get you 2/3 of where you need to go. Use it! The Water taxi is a good way to and from harbor neighborhoods, but can get hot, crowded and sticky during peak tourist season. Unfortunately, our subway is useless for visitors. Light rail is a north/south option from the airport to downtown or further north to Woodberry Kitchen. You can also get to the Avenue in Hampden, by taking a half mile walk from the Woodberry stop.  If you must go to or come from Washington, MARC or Amtrak trains are usually the best bet.

Baltimore is a big enough and interesting enough place, so much so that this post does not cover it all. Charm city is pretty charming. Come to Baltimore and have a great time-just don’t go in the water.

Also Recommended:

Pre-gaming at Pickles Pub before Orioles Game at Camden Yards

The Avenue in Hampden

The Jones Falls and Gwynns Falls Trail

Morgan State marching band

Charles Street 12

Patterson Park

Greenmount Cemetery

O'sd pre-game scene

Orioles and Pickles

%d bloggers like this: