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I moved to Baltimore in 2006, but I’ve had a long history with the city, visiting regularly when I was a partial season ticket holder for the Baltimore Orioles. Those not in the know about Baltimore previously saw it in one of two ways: as the poor cousin of Washington, DC or as that city you pass on your way to New York and Philadelphia.
But Charm City has a rich history, a vibrant sports scene, two world-class art museums, a touch of Hollywood — shows like House of Cards, Veep and The Wire have been filmed here — and a respected restaurant scene. It’s also home to dozens of unique neighborhoods, including Fells Point, Hampden, Waverly, Canton and Federal Hill.
Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) offers more flights than Reagan National (DCA) or Washington Dulles (IAD) and thanks to international carriers Air Canada and British Airways, has one-stop flights around the globe. Here are seven ways to make the most of your time here.
1. It’s Easy to Get Around
Like many large cities, Baltimore has Lyft and Uber, along with cabs, shuttles, public buses, subways and light rail to get you around the city. If you’re planning to head an hour or so south for a DC day trip, a free airport shuttle can take you to the Amtrak and MARC commuter trains, while a DC Metrobus at BWI Airport will take you to the Greenbelt station on the Green Line will also get you to the nation’s capital.
2. There’s So More Than Just Crab Cakes
If you must have crab cakes, the best ones in Baltimore are at Faidley’s in Lexington Market, a historic place that’s been open since 1782 and is worth a visit in itself. For a taste of the city’s iconic Maryland blue crabs, head to Capt. James Crab House in the city’s popular Fells Point neighborhood. If you missed out while in the city, you can enjoy crabs and crab cakes at Obrycki’s at BWI Airport — which also ships!
Beyond crabs, fans of Afghan cuisine can indulge at Helmand, an eatery owned by the brother of former Afghan president Hamid Karzai. You can also find southern Italian food and homemade pasta at Aldo’s Ristorante Italiano in Little Italy, authentic Spanish food at Tio Pepe or great farm-to-table eats at Woodberry Kitchen, the brainchild of James Beard Award winner Spike Gjerde. Or go to Pete’s Grille — a favorite of multiple-gold-medal Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps — for one of the best breakfasts in the city.
3. The Baltimore Aquarium Is Cheaper on Fridays
Baltimore’s National Aquarium offers half-price admission every Friday after 5:00pm. Check out the Dolphin Discovery exhibit or the circular Shark Alley, home to different species that swim around you as you walk through. The Upland Tropical Rain Forest exhibit features plants and animals ranging from two-toed sloths to blue poison dart frogs.
4. You Can Walk in the Steps of Jimmy McNulty
Although the HBO series ended in 2008, fans of The Wire still travel from around the world to do self-guided tours of its filming locations. Places in Baltimore made famous by the television show include Bethel Church, the Brewer’s Art restaurant, Greenmount Cemetery and the red-light district known as The Block, home to several strip clubs.
5. See the World’s Largest Collection of Matisse Art
Back in 1949, the Baltimore Museum of Art beat out New York’s Museum of Modern Art for the collection donated by Baltimore sisters Claribel and Etta Cone, which includes more than 3,000 pieces from artists Pablo Picasso, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh. It’s also home to 500 works by Henri Matisse, making it the largest collection of his art in the world.
6. Catch a Movie in a Classic Baltimore Building
The historic Senator Theatre, an Art Deco landmark added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989, has hosted movie premieres for the films of directors John Waters and Barry Levinson, both Baltimore natives. It’s also premiered other Baltimore-based films including The Accidental Tourist, Ladder 49 and Enemy of the State, which starred Will Smith, husband of actress and Baltimore native Jada Pinkett Smith. Built in 1939, it was restored and enlarged in 2012 and is known for selling fresh popcorn topped with real butter.
7. You’ll Open Wide and Say “Wow!”
In 1840, the University of Maryland, Baltimore, opened the first dental school in the world. In 1996, it opened the National Museum of Dentistry, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, where you can come see George Washington’s teeth — no, they weren’t made of wood — dental instruments used on Queen Victoria of England and learn about how human teeth compare to those of different animals.
What are some of your favorite things to do in Baltimore? Tell us about them, below.
Featured image by Joe Sohm/Visions of America/UIG/Getty Images.
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