If scenes from “The Wire” are the only images that come to mind when you think of Baltimore, it’s time to reevaluate. The city is a hodgepodge of distinct neighborhoods, including historic Fells Point, where you can take your pick from more than 120 pubs, and quirky Hampden, where you still might be able to spot a beehive hairdo straight out of a John Waters film. Although Baltimore is only a stone’s throw away from Washington, D.C., and a short drive from Philadelphia and New York, it’s a charming, comfortable city with its own culture and a lively arts scene. Plus, the city has several events happening this summer that are worth a trip.This summer, Baltimore will ring in a three-year celebration commemorating the bicentennial of the War of 1812 with the Star-Spangled Sailabration, a maritime festival that will bring dozens of tall ships and warships to the city’s bustling Inner Harbor from June 13-19. The Inner Harbor is a pretty public space filled with shops, museums, ships and restaurants. It is overlooked by Federal Hill, a park that sits on a prominent hill that was a lookout during the Civil War and the War of 1812. Don’t miss the American Visionary Art Museum, just to the west of Federal Hill, which is filled with oddball outsider art. On Thursday nights during the summer, the museum plays movies on the side of the building facing Federal Hill, which turns into a makeshift amphitheater.
From August 31 to September 3, IndyCars will race around a 2.04-mile temporary circuit set up around the Inner Harbor for the Baltimore Grand Prix. The circuit passes many Baltimore landmarks – including Oriole Park at Camden Yards – and contains 12 turns, one of which is an adrenaline-pumping hairpin turn. Race fans from around the world are expected to descend on the city and the crowds are expected to surpass 150,000 people.
Also in the Inner Harbor, Phillips Seafood – known for creating the first ever crab shack in Ocean City – recently moved to a new space in a restored power plant along the water. When doing so, Phillips opened up a huge new crab deck that juts out in the water. Visitors shouldn’t miss the true Chesapeake Bay experience of ordering up a bucket of clams and cracking them open in the sunshine. Wash the crabs down with Baltimore’s most famous beer, National Bohemian (better known as “Natty Boh” to Baltimoreans – just look for the can or bottle with the mustachioed man), and you have a true Baltimore experience.
Don’t forget that there is a lot to do in Baltimore beyond the Inner Harbor, including Artscape, the largest free arts festival in the country that features funky art cars, musical performances and plenty of neat art to peruse.
[flickr image via sneakerdog]