This year, Forbes Magazine voted Baltimore one of the US’s top ten coolest cities. To find out why, read on for the top ten reasons to visit Charm City – aka Baltimore.
1. The Inner Harbor
This area used to be as run down as a port could be (they used to export sugar, fish and tobacco from here). Now it’s full of shops, restaurants and museums as well as four historic ships (well, one is a submarine) that you can visit. I recommend the USS Constellation, a sloop-of-war built in 1854 that stages a daily live cannon exercise.
2. Water taxis
There are many ways of getting around Baltimore but, on a sunny day, there’s nothing better than the water taxi service. It criss-crosses the vast bay (there are several routes and you can travel as many times as you want for $16).
3. Fort McHenry
The furthest point on the water taxi route is Fort McHenry. This was the place where in 1812 the locals held out against the dastardly Brits’ bombardment of their base. Seeing the flag still waving in the dawn the next day above the devastation moved Francis Scott Key to write The Star Spangled Banner. It was hugely popular, spread across the country like wild fire and became the national anthem.
4. Fell’s Point
Just east of the harbour, you’ll find the Victorian cobbled streets of Fell’s Point named after a Lancashire ship builder who started the industry here because of the natural deepwater harbour. (It was the birthplace, of course, of the Baltimore schooner.) It’s a far cry, though, from when Billie Holiday grew up here in her father’s ‘low smoking lounge’. Now this is where you’ll find the top designer shops, bars and best restaurants. Try Bar Vasquez on Aliceanna Street (Charm City’s coolest address) for perfect Argentine beef, local softshell crabs and poached shrimp salad.
5. Mount Vernon
This is Baltimore’s cultural heart and once home to F. Scott Fitzgerald – and Wallis Simpson. Must-sees include the Washington Monument (built before DC’s), Walters Art Museum and the awe-inspiring Peabody Library.
Baltimore loves sport. At M&T Bank Stadium you can cheer for the only NFL team named after a poem (the Ravens – this is where Edgar Allen Poe lived too). The Orioles play at Camden Yards, recognised as the most beautiful ballpark stadium in the country. And in the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum on Emory Street, you’ll find the national shrine to baseball’s greatest star. So famous, even I have heard of him!
7. Charm city circulator
Baltimore’s tag line is ‘charm city’ and it certainly does have some. One great way of sampling its charms is on the Charm City Circulator – a free bus with four routes to take you all over town. They use hybrid electric vehicles (the first place in the US to do this) as part of their ‘cleaner, greener Baltimore’ initiative. It’s free and one comes every 10 minutes. What’s not to like?
Local brewing is big in Baltimore. It all started with German immigrants who set up breweries and beer gardens in the appropriately named Brewers Hill neighbourhood. Now the craft beer world is thriving and you can visit micro-breweries across the city from The Brewer’s Art in a grand Mount Vernon townhouse to Heavy Seas – this one specialises in pirate-themed beers!
Baltimore is full of them. There’s the Science Museum, the Baltimore Museum of Industry, Maryland Historical Society, Maritime Park Museum, Baltimore Museum of Art and the unique American Visionary Art Museum. This has emblazoned above the entrance “O say can you see” – a nod to the national anthem but a very different take on the word ‘seeing’. I saw ‘The Great Mystery Show’ featuring the mysteries of the moon, the human heart, near-death experiences, murmurations of starlings and a life-size sculpture of local author Edgar Allan Poe made entirely of Peeps marshmallow candies. Go in sceptical and come out entranced.
Baltimore is the state’s biggest town and gateway to the Chesapeake. It’s an area that seems mostly wood and water, forests, estuaries, islands, inlets and super-long bridges. You take the Chesapeake Bay Bridge (four miles long) to St Michael’s, a town that’s all East Coast charm with galleries, craft and antique shops. There are some very fine restaurants too featuring the local crabs, lobsters and scallops that you can eat in the sophisticated way (linen napkins and champagne at Restaurant 208) or the messy way (paper tablecloths and a bucket for the shells at the Crab Claw). Irresistible either way.
For more information visit www.capitalregionusa.co.uk
For more information, visit American Sky.
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