The Triple Crown races to Baltimore: Preakness 101

Saturday, the second “jewel” of the Triple Crown races in to Baltimore with the Preakness Stakes at the historic Pimlico race track. Decidedly more casual than the Kentucky Derby, Preakness is best known for its raucous infield revelers and fun-laid back atmosphere.

Planning a trip to see Animal Kingdom compete for his next win, or simply looking for a reason to spend the weekend in Baltimore? We’ve got some ideas. Of course, our friends over at AOL Travel have an extensive city guide as well.Planning to attend the race? Here’s the 101:
Grandstand attendees still dress up, but don’t bother with the over-the-top hats of the Kentucky Derby. A pretty sundress and hat will do just fine. Dress for comfort in the infield, where traditions generally have included too much drinking, and yes, port-a-potty races. Legal crackdowns have seen significantly mellower crowds in years past, and this year’s race is no exception. Preakness InfieldFest 2011 ($50) will include performances by Bruno Mars, Train and Hotspur on the main stage and the Beer Garden Jägermeister Stage will also feature concerts by Mr Greengenes, Phil Vassar and Puddle of Mudd. Unlimited beer will run you $70 with a wristband, although you can BYO food. No beverages are permitted inside the gates.

Want to skip the race but still see the track?
Try a sunrise tour of “Old Hilltop” at Pimlico. The 20 minute tours run from 6 AM – 9 AM Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of Preakness week. After enjoying sunrise on the Grandstand Apron, you will get an insider’s perspective on racing during an escorted tour of the Preakness Stakes Barn. You will have an opportunity to shop for Preakness Souvenirs, stop by the Pimlico Museum and maybe even peek into the jockey’s quarters, then head back outside to watch the horses go through their morning workouts. Reservations are not taken, tours are on a first come, first serve basis. For more information, email Diana Harbaugh.

While you’re in Charm City … be sure to visit:
We know, you’ve seen The Wire and are terrified to visit the drug war-ravaged city that is Baltimore. Don’t be. This scenic and historic town is full of vibrant attractions and great restaurants. Check out the Babe Ruth Museum before catching a baseball game at Orioles Park. Love sea creatures? The Baltimore Aquarium is one of the East Coast’s finest, as is the Walters Art Museum. Afterwards, stroll the Inner Harbor, while a bit touristy, is packed with old sailing ships, restaurants, and shops. Foodies will want to dine at the James Beard-nominated Charleston restaurant. Speaking of shopping, drive to the trendy Hampden neighborhood for cute boutiques and fun restaurants, or hit up Fells Point for an evening of bar-hopping. Day trips include scenic Annapolis, home of the U.S. Naval Academy, about a 20-minute drive. Washington, DC is approximately an hour by car.

[Flickr via tomsaint]