Baltimore in 3 words: seaport, Afro-American culture, jazz

Why Baltimore?
To see how a 220 year-old market could be, to have a delicious meal in the Cheesecake Factory, which is situated in the Inner Harbor, to experience the cultural harmony, to visit the National Aquarium, to see the Afro-American heritage…

How many days are ideal for the trip?
Just one day will be enough for Baltimore. The ideal season of Baltimore is May and June. At the end of June, the weather becomes warmer and at the end of the summer Baltimore becomes hot enough to burn a polar bear’s butt.

How do you go to Baltimore?
As I went to Baltimore by car, I haven’t got much information about other means of transport. If you go to Baltimore by car, your hotel will probably arrange you a car park; otherwise, the many car parks (that are just like buildings) placed in the city will provide you a great convenience. Moreover, the tariffs of the independent parks can be more convenient: provided that you parked your car between 16:00-06:00, the tariff is about $6. Except for that, you pay about $10-$15 per day. As you can imagine the pricing goes up when you get closer to the harbor.

Where to go/things to do in Baltimore?
Being the second leading port of entry for immigrants after New York, Baltimore is the 20th largest city in the world. The first state university of the United States is also founded in this city: Maryland University was established in 1807. The famous John’s Hopkins University is also here. Yes, as you can understand, the city is very rich in places to see. When you look from the street which is parallel to the coast, the city gives the impression of a business city, but of course the tourists don’t come here in vain. I came across mostly domestic tourists in Baltimore whose leading places to see are the Walters Art Museum, Maryland Science Center, American Visionary Art Museum, Civil War Museum, Railroad Museum, Lexington Market, Oriole Park and jazz clubs. It is possible to find activities that can be classified under the headings like sports, music, art and museums. If you want to see a bit of everything, you should definitely go to the Inner Harbor. In the Baltimore Harbor, which is considered as the summary of the all city, you can find anything that you want; restaurants, museums, the famous Aquarium, bookstores, street performers… During our 5 day long road trip from Boston to Washington DC, we had chosen Baltimore as our main stop. So, I couldn’t explore the city, street by street, I’m just sharing my general impressions with you. My last suggestion will be concerning Baltimore and jazz. Considered as the hometown of artists like Eubie Blake, Billie Holiday, John Kirby and Don Ewell, be aware of the cultural heritage of Baltimore while you’re getting around in the city.

What about transportation? Developed / Expensive?
When you think of the Harbor as the city center, providing that you’re within 5 minutes walking distance, you can go most of the places on foot. It’s very pleasant to see the local life here. The city is mostly populated by African Americans: while you’re marching in the street you’ll find yourself in another culture.

Let me share one of my interesting observations. I stayed in the Mount Vernon Hotel located at Franklin Street. There are 2 main streets that are parallel to each other, Park Avenue and N. Charles Street. While I was descending to the coast I used Park Avenue and I had promised myself to get back to my hotel by 9 p.m. The environment resembles the neighborhood in the movies where the middle class African Americans live. In front of shops, old men sitting on their chairs and watching the people passing by, youngsters hanging out in the streets, specific costumes and different hair styles… If you put on your headphones and listen to Love and Happiness from Al Green, it’ll be easier to arrive at ‘the heart’ of the city (port/Harbor).

Furthermore, the light rail systems, metro and sea taxis also exist in the city. But most probably you don’t need to use any of these while you’re visiting touristic places.

What do you recommend to eat in Baltimore, Alper?
All restaurant chains that you can find in the United States are also available here. If you haven’t gone to the Cheesecake Factory or you have just been there to eat a cheesecake, this time I recommend you to drop in for a meal. But if you’re fond of Hard Rock Café, it’s different. It isn’t possible to overlook the logo on Hard Rock Café located just east of the Aquarium. Provided that you’re in a crowded group, I recommend you to order nachos as the starter. As a main course, hamburger is my favorite, especially when I’m in a Hard Rock Café in the U.S. Just a tiny piece of information for the curious ones: Hard Rock Café was first established by two Americans in London in 1971 (still operated), and now it has 139 branches in 53 different countries.

Where to stay in Baltimore?
There are many cheap hotels at the port and within 5-10 minutes walking distance. If you don’t want to walk, you can prefer the hotels, placed in the downtown area near the harbor, like Sheraton, Marriott, Holiday Inn, or Royal Sonesta. Or you can stay in the midtown hotels, like me. They’re all clean and situated in a good neighborhood. I can recommend you Mount Vernon or Royal Sonesta where I stayed in another city.

Is there anything special to buy?
Except for small gifts, there is no special thing to buy. If you would like to go shopping, the Gallery located in the harbor is just for you. However it’s not big, you can find things at suitable prices during the discount period. In addition to this, it offers you an escape from the sun. If you have time, you can enjoy the harbor view on the upper floor while you’re drinking your beverage. If you’re looking for something particular to Baltimore, you can go to the antique shops in Vernon (midtown). Providing that you want to find a few original shops, I recommend you to go to Fells Point or Hampden. But, of course, these shops are not as original as the ones in New York.

All is okay, but what about the prices?
When it comes to the harbor, the prices (restaurants, shopping, transportation) are on the American average. But if you go to the places like Mount Vernon, Fells Point and Hampden, the prices are much more affordable.

Have time, what other places to visit?
If you have time, I recommend you to go to Annapolis, which is the capital of the U.S state of Maryland. Moreover, it’s 50 minutes from Baltimore. Don’t be deceived by its capital status: actually it’s a small coastal town. You’ll absolutely love the welcoming architecture of the city. It’s like an oasis in the desert. Until I came here I’d never thought about going to such a city, which has a great marina, since it was just like a simple summer resort. Be careful with the name: do not mix with Minneapolis or Indianapolis. For more info I advise you to read my Annapolis experience immediately.

Is there anything to watch out for?
Baltimore City has the highest homicide rates and the lowest high school graduates in the U.S. I’m talking about this not to frighten you but to warn you. It’s just a small advice for you, go to your hotel before 10 p.m. and do not search for an adventure going to the side streets. Just for security concerns. When you’re stuck, you can ask for help from the voluntary guides in the harbor. They’re helpful, local and free of charge.

Final tips:
If you’re interested in sea life, I suggest you to go to the Aquarium. I know, in each city there are zoos and aquariums. But the Aquarium in Baltimore is not just like the others: it’s totally different. Besides, it is a perfect escape to get out of the scorching heat of the sun. If you go to Baltimore in July or August, it’ll be quite difficult to walk around at noon; that is why the Aquarium is the best alternative.

Translated by Sevim Karaca
Edited by Joy Crow