Summer of Go: Baltimore
ABOUT OUR “SUMMER OF GO”
In true Tommy Bahama fashion, we're celebrating the season of sun in style from coast to coast. Over the years, we've made friends in all the right places: Boston, Baltimore, Tampa, Chicago, New Orleans, Seattle, San Francisco and Kona, to name a few. During this “Summer of Go,” we'll share our favorite things to see, do and experience in each of those locales.
WE WANT BALTI-MORE
Baltimore, we love you. How can such a great city get such a bad rap? In popular culture, Baltimore is The Wire and Edgar Allen Poe goth gloominess. But when we see the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, our eyes light up. When we walk through the city’s diverse and distinctive neighborhoods, we’re charmed. And when we hear the most famous song ever written about Baltimore, our chests swell with pride.
Yes, that song. It’s a rousing pub ditty from 1814 called “Defence of Fort M’Henry” — though you likely know it better as “The Star-Spangled Banner.” So when you visit, o say can you be sure to see these places in one of the country’s great historic cities.
BALTIMORE'S BEST: THINGS TO DO
Explore the Inner Harbor
Fodors.com says “visiting Baltimore without seeing the Inner Harbor is like touring New York City and skipping Manhattan,” and we agree. It’s where you’ll find much of the city’s most popular attractions, including the National Aquarium. You can also find harbor cruises and rentals if you want to get out in the Chesapeake.
Take in the History
Baltimore is for history lovers. In addition to Fort McHenry, there are several historic ships in the Inner Harbor, including the 19th century wooden sloop USS Constellation and the USCGC Taney (the last surviving vessel from the attack on Pearl Harbor). And hallowed Antietam — the sight of the Civil War’s bloodiest day — is just over an hour away, as is Washington D.C.
Catch a Game
Baseball fans will recognize Oriole Park at Camden Yards as a must-visit destination. It’s the ballpark that launched the modern renaissance in stadium design — and 25 years later it’s still a lovely place to be on a summer day. Plus the O’s are in the race this year too! If minor league ball is more your thing, the Bowie Baysox play 30 minutes south of town.
Have the Unusual
Baltimore has an enduring love affair for strangeness — it’s the hometown of legendary trash film director John Waters after all. So if you have a taste for the odd, head to the American Visionary Art Museum, the country’s leading center for “outsider” art. There’s also a Ripley’s Believe It or Not! But our favorite unexpected collection would be the National Cryptologic Museum. Basically, it’s the official museum of the National Security Agency. (What, you didn’t know the NSA even had a museum? If you don’t visit it, you can be sure they’ll know.)
Strokes for Different Folks
If you believe it’s not a vacation unless there’s a golf course nearby, there are a number of courses both within the city and in the surrounding county. Tennis is also popular in Baltimore though oddly the best known clubs are indoor facilities, like Cross Keys and Barehills. Frankly, during the summer we’d rather be outside, possibly hiking the Gwynns Falls Trail.
Speaking of being outside, if you’re in Baltimore during the weekend of July 18-20 then Artscape is a must-do. It bills itself as “America’s largest free arts festival, attracting 350,000+ attendees over three days” with more than 150 fine artists and fashion designers, live music, and great food.
Baltimore is a city of many charming neighborhoods, but we love shopping in Hampden — there are so many boutiques and small shops to explore. (By the way, the “p” in Hampden is silent.) If you’re staying near the Inner Harbor, head to Harborplace. The Baltimore Summer Antiques Show runs August 21-24 this year. Oh, and there’s also a Tommy Bahama store in nearby Towson, 20 minutes north of Baltimore.
BALTIMORE'S BEST: PLACES TO EAT
1000 Lancaster St / 410.332.7373 / charlestonrestaurant.com
Why we love it: Chef Cindy Wolf’s legendary restaurant is one of the finest in the country. If you have the time and pocketbook for a truly spectacular dinner, this is the place to go.
Thames Street Oyster House
1728 Thames St / 443.449.7726 / thamesstreetoysterhouse.com
Why we love it: In this Chesapeake Bay city where you can find crab everywhere, this is the place to go if you want your seafood more on the New England side — oysters, clams and fluke.
The Prime Rib
1101 N Calvert St / 410.539.1804 / theprimerib.com
Why we love it: This swanky steakhouse is a Baltimore institution, now nearly a half-century old. The ambiance and piano music make for a great night of romance.
2010 Clipper Park Rd / 410.464.8000 / woodberrykitchen.com
Why we love it: The emphasis on locally sourced, farm-to-table food makes us feel good. And the setting is spectacular — it’s a 19th-century mill converted into a 21st-century high-end restaurant.
3123 Elliott St / 410.878.6542 / jacksbistro.net
Why we love it: The place itself is small, but the imagination behind chef Ted Stelzenmuller’s menu is enormous. Favorite items include chocolate mac ‘n’ cheese, but there’s always something new.
806 N Charles St / 410.752.0311 / helmand.com
Why we love it: For connoisseurs of global fare, there may be no better place in the world for Afghan cuisine this side of Kabul. Get the kaddo borwani.
Di Pasquale’s Italian Marketplace
3700 Gough St / 410.276.6787 / dipasquales.com
Why we love it: For those times when we want our food to go, a sandwich from this charming, century-old deli is just the ticket.
BALTIMORE'S BEST: PLACES TO DRINK
1724 N Charles St / 410.727.8815 / clubcharles.us
Why we love it: With its Art Deco style, red walls and dark booths, it’s the kind of dive bar Bogart would have loved. The drinks are cheap and the service is great.
807 S Broadway / 443.438.3296 / ryebaltimore.com
Why we love it: If you’re looking for a place with a little more sophistication, Rye is your destination. It’s a place with a loving respect for the classic, well-crafted cocktail.
Of Love and Regret
1028 S Conkling St / 410.327.0760 / ofloveandregret.com
Why we love it: This poetically named pub/restaurant has an amazing selection of craft brews and a fine menu. Visit the bottle shop upstairs and take some gifts back home.
737 S Broadway / 410.675.6297 / maxs.com
Why we love it: Simply put, this is a beer lover’s paradise, with more than 100 taps of craft brews from around the world. Also a great place to catch a sports game on the TV.
1928 Fleet St / 410.979.5161 / makeabaddecision.com
Why we love it: While it would make our list for the name alone, this Fells Point dive bar also has Thursday Bacon Nights and a kick-butt cocktail menu.
The Brewer’s Art
1106 N Charles St / 410.547.9310 / thebrewersart.com
Why we love it: It’s three places in one: a fine restaurant for date nights, a swellerific upstairs lounge for carousing and a dark basement bar for clandestine rendezvous. Great beers, too.
Cat’s Eye Pub
1730 Thames St / 410.276.9866 / catseyepub.com
Why we love it: This is the spot in Baltimore for those of you who like live music with your libations. The bands tend toward the blues, but you’ll also hear rock, jazz, zydeco and alternative.