Baltimore is a fascinating mixture of old and new. Its buildings, its businesses, its people, and its image run the gamut from progressive to old-fashioned—sometimes all in the same block. This chapter provides a general overview of some of these people and places and directs you to other chapters in which you’ll find more information about these subjects.
Baltimoreans are good neighbors. We’re the kind of folks who will stop to give you directions or will help you find your lost cat. We might not agree with your politics, but that won’t stop us from watching your house while you’re away on vacation.
We like to get together. In addition to all the citywide festivals that are held every year, neighborhood bazaars, flea markets, bingo nights, crab feasts, ham and oyster suppers, and dances abound. Even though we’re a big city, we gather like small-town folks at our houses of worship and our schools and we love to linger over dinner at our local restaurants.
We get together for group yard sales, block parties, and just talking over the backyard fence (real or virtual). Baltimore is not a place where people walk by with their heads down and their eyes averted, fearing to speak. We are congenial. Philosophical dissertations with a stranger while standing in line at the grocery store are not uncommon. We come in all colors, shapes, and sizes. Overall, we’re a good group.
As you should know by now, Baltimore has a full range of attractions. Regardless of your age and interests, you can see something you’ve never seen before or see something new as you view it for the 20th time. As each attraction is fighting for your time, money, and attention, each is reaching to entice as large an audience as possible. So, the Baltimore Museum of Art may seem like an “adult” attraction, but it has put forth a serious effort to entertain and educate children.
Several years ago, an eight-year-old boy and I spent a wonderful hour at an exhibit of French paintings. I asked him to adopt the pose of the person in the painting. OK, that was fun because they were not necessarily in your normal pose position. And, yes, he did behave a little silly after a while (which amused the guards and docents) but less so than if we’d looked at the paintings as French portraits. In other words, what’s good for some children isn’t necessarily good for adults. I’ve tried to list where there’s something particularly interesting for children. That’s not saying one has to be pre-pubescent or younger to be a child.
As one of the nation’s oldest cities, Baltimore has an edge when people are looking for museums, historical sites, and attractions to visit. We have some museums that are one-of-a-kind. Some places cost a little bit, some a lot, and two—the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters Art Museum—ceased charging an entry fee in 2007. Whatever it is, you’re pretty sure to find it in Baltimore.
Keep in mind that exhibits, operating hours, and admission fees change. It is always wise to check personally with an attraction you plan to visit. One great change in admission fees took place over the first weekend of December 2009 when more than a dozen museums and attractions participated in a Dollar or Less Days event sponsored by Downtown Baltimore. Among those participating were the American Visionary Art Museum ($1 Sunday), Babe Ruth Birthplace ($1 both days), Baltimore Maritime Museum ($1 admission per vessel on Sunday), Baltimore Museum of Industry ($1 both days), and Maryland Science Center ($1 admission both days excluding IMAX and traveling exhibit). When you’re looking for a bargain and you don’t want to mess with holiday-shopping crowds, keep the Dollar or Less Days event in mind.
Maryland is called America in Miniature because the state goes from sea level at the Atlantic Ocean to the 3,360’ Backbone Mountain in the Allegheny Mountains. Yes, you can snow ski in the morning and water ski in the afternoon, or vice versa.
At the approximate center of all this lies Baltimore. Depending on the traffic, of course, in three hours you can be in Ocean City to the east, or the Cumberland Gap to the west. In a little more than an hour, you can find the Mason-Dixon Line to the north and the Virginia border to the south, Baltimore makes an excellent jumping-off point for day trips and weekend getaways in the mid-Atlantic.
If you’d rather not hit the highways, just head a little east or west to find the original older roads that will take you to the same place and more often than not offer a more scenic drive. Interstate 83, for instance, runs almost parallel to York Road—actually in sight of it for most of the ride. If you’d rather go through small towns, drive more slowly, and stop when you feel like it, these roads are an attractive alternative.
All of the trips noted in this chapter can be taken in a day, although you may want to stay longer. Two take you into Pennsylvania. Maryland, as the 42nd largest state, is relatively small. The destinations offer history, shopping, relaxation, sporting activities, culture, and I’m sure you’ll find other attractions beyond what’s listed.