If you haven’t been to Baltimore in a while, it is high time you pay Charm City a visit. For many of us Southern Marylanders, we may still think of Baltimore as the college town we remember from years ago, and while it is home to more than its share of schools, it has really aged gracefully over the years.
Yes, of course there is plenty of what you may recall from years past – the live music and dive bars, wild and crazy college kids, but there is also a much more sophisticated side of this genuine city. Shopping, fine dining and world-class accommodations have added to Baltimore’s iconic museums and attractions to make it an interesting long-weekend destination.
I was lucky enough to visit Baltimore recently with my family and my, oh, my, I savored every moment of our first post-pandemic getaway. Maybe it was this new side of Baltimore I hadn’t noticed before or the fresh perspective I now see the world through – either way, I was totally charmed by the people and the place. My fellow visitors and native Baltimoreans alike were chatty, smiley and inviting. Was it because I have not seen so many new smiling faces in real life in more than a year? I’ll never know, but everyone seemed to be enjoying the perfect beginnings of a Baltimore summer (especially those on the Urban Pirates ship)!
The summer really is the ideal time to visit Baltimore, here are my recommendations for a trip to please the entire gang.
*As Americans get back to travel, many of us will be putting more time, thought, and research into our travel plans than ever before. Regenerative travel is all about leaving a destination better than it was before – many times, simply by supporting businesses that give back locally, and Baltimore is full of hotels, attractions, and cultural institutions that aim to succeed beyond profits by focusing on the betterment of the community. We highlight a few of our favorites so that you can experience something great while knowing your money is supporting a business that believes in giving back.
The historic Recreation Pier structure that houses the Sagamore Pendry Hotel dates back to 1914 and had in the past been an immigration hub and recreation center. Situated in the heart of Fells Point, the brick building was stripped down and revamped in 2017 as a trendy and tasteful 128-room hotel featuring local artwork, a steakhouse, a gleaming outdoor pool, bar and grill, and some of the Baltimore’s finest views of the Inner Harbor.
Located in the Mount Vernon neighborhood, Hotel Revival has consistently supported its community. When the pandemic hit, the Hotel Revival team spent their weekends handing out hundreds of free bagged lunches and fresh produce in partnership with organizations like Hungry Harvest and Coastal Sunbelt Produce. In addition to feeding those in need, Hotel Revival offered free rooms to first responders, health officials and the Maryland National Guard. They also made, and continue to make, their kitchen available to restaurants or chefs who lost a place to cook.
See & Do
The Science and Mystery of Sleep is on exhibit through Fall 2021 at the AVAM. Fantastical bedrooms created by three visionary artists, this exhibit explores the latest research behind sleep. This is your chance to view sleep through an artist’s eyes. Also on exhibit this summer, is the Secret Life of Earth. Earthlings, you are invited to an exhibition that is one-part visual Earth love fest and two parts environmental crash course on the wonders and fragility of life on our planet.
The original Chessie Dragon paddle boats have become a fixture in Baltimore’s waterfront landscape and have served hundreds of thousands of visitors since the attraction opened in 1975. The nonprofit Living Classrooms Foundation operates the boats as an employment venue for youth and young adults as part of its job training programs. Proceeds from ticket sales support Living Classrooms’ hands-on education and job training programs.
With so many aquatic animals and award-winning exhibits, the dolphins, sharks, and jellyfish at the Baltimore Aquarium just begin to scratch the surface. Learn about animals from all over our blue planet, from the depths of the ocean to the canopy of the rain forest – and discover the connection they all share with water. Reserve tickets online prior to your visit.
Calling all animal-lovers. Baltimore has a zoo, too! Tucked into the Druid Hill Park neighborhood, you’ll meet birds (penguins!), mammals, amphibians, and reptiles! The Zoo is home to 130 different species including a farm exhibit. Reservations required.
While Visiting Baltimore, support the conservation and rehabilitation of wildlife. The National Aquarium in Baltimore and The Maryland Zoo have long been considered East Coast treasures, but these organizations do more than just house animals and welcome visitors. National Aquarium Animal Rescue is federally permitted by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to respond to sick and injured marine mammals. Since 1991, they have returned hundreds of rehabilitated animals to their natural habitats including seals, sea turtles, a harbor porpoise, a pygmy sperm whale, and a manatee. The Maryland Zoo is committed to saving wildlife and wild places through its conservation and sustainability efforts. Dedicated conservation staff conduct research, participate in fieldwork projects, and support the work of partner organizations around the world. The Zoo’s six Signature Animal Programs (SAPs) tie exceptional in-house husbandry, medical care, research, and education programs to conservation action in the field.
Local and family-owned, this Baltimore classic located in the Inner Harbor (and Roland Park if you want to explore this historic residential neighborhood) is the perfect spot for the family. Go for breakfast, brunch or lunch at one of Maryland’s favorite restaurants featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives episodes.
Opened in the newly renovated 200-plus-year-old Broadway Market, The Choptank is a classic fish and crab house, located in the heart of historic Fells Point, serving Maryland’s famous cuisine, highlighted by steamed hard-shell blue crabs. Enjoy a cocktail, crush or one of 20 draft beer selections while listening to live local music on their indoor stage. The Choptank’s spacious patio features an outdoor bar, gas lanterns, a pool table, foosball, and plenty of seating so you can watch the bustling neighborhood that surrounds you.
This impressive Greek restaurant situated on the inner harbor offers an authentic Mediterranean menu, meticulous service and a super cool atmosphere. Pop over to the waterfront villa-inspired bar and lounge Ouzo Beach after dinner for a cocktail and live beats.
Dine at a restaurant invested in keeping Baltimore fed. Alma Cocina Latina has been a local favorite since its opening in 2015, offering Baltimore a taste of Venezuela. The restaurant has a longstanding partnership with Mera Kitchen Collective, a local cooperative focused on empowering chefs from around the world. During the pandemic, Alma and the collective took their collaboration to the next level by developing Alkimiah, a partnership that holistically addresses food apartheid. They use Alma’s kitchen daily to create free, healthy meals for Baltimore City residents in need.
Whether you want to pick up a gift, or something for your own abode, this home and design store located on Bond Street in Fells Point is a true gem. Their owners work to provide a curated marketplace for handmade products from skilled artisans, many being local in Maryland, with three more locations – Bethany Beach, Ocean View, and Ellicott City –this shop reminds us why we love to support our small businesses.
Pick up a book or two from this local bookshop. Ask about a novel or nonfiction book by an author with Baltimore roots. Perhaps Hummingbird in the Trenches by Kondwani Fidel – Baltimore’s unofficial poet laureate writes a moving eye-opening work about the young Black experience in America. Or, The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates – about his father, siblings and his youth growing up in Baltimore.