Baltimore, the largest city in Maryland, is called “The Charm City” for a reason, and it will be evident once you walk the beautiful downtown avenues and the outlying streets lined with brownstones. This jewel on the Chesapeake is the hometown of many American luminaries, such as the avant-garde gay filmmaker John Waters; the esteemed lawyer and first black Supreme Court Justice, the late Thurgood Marshall; and the longtime gay ally and longest-serving female Senator currently in Congress, Barbara Mikulski. Let me give you a tour of the city and tell you all about the fun things to see and do in Baltimore.
HOW TO GET THERE
Baltimore’s main airport is Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, known better by its three-letter airport code, “BWI.” It’s located ten miles south of Baltimore’s city center, between the towns of Harmans and Linthicum. Taxis and Uber regularly serve travelers going from BWI to the Baltimore city center and vice versa. The Maryland Transit Authority (MTA) also has a light rail service connecting BWI and Baltimore proper.
Southwest Airlines, U.S. Airways, Spirit Airlines and AmericanAirlines all offer daily direct flights between Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport and BWI. AmericanAirlines, British Airways, and U.S. Airways fly direct daily flights from Miami International Airport to BWI. Southwest Airlines offers direct flights to BWI from a number of Florida airports, including West Palm Beach, Orlando and Tampa. Flights are routinely discounted and it is common to find one-way fares for as low as $109.
WHERE TO STAY
If you don’t mind a drive into the city, Gramercy Mansion (410-486-2405), located in nearby Stevenson, is one of the most opulent bed and breakfasts in the state. Each room features a whirlpool tub and a fireplace, and breakfast is served each morning featuring ingredients from their award-winning adjoining farm. If you want something in the city, try their sister property, the 1840s Carrollton Inn (410-385-1840), which is within walking distance of Little Italy and the Inner Harbor. Each of the 13 rooms has a large king bed, adjoining baths with whirlpool tubs, free WiFi, and marble and oak furnishings. It’s a great place to take your significant other.
The Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel (410-962-8300) offers 337 guest rooms, all of which feature pillow-top mattresses and fluffy featherweight duvets. Adjacent to the Inner Harbor and Camden Yards, this is a great place to stay if you want to be close to lots of fun sights. Hotel Indigo (410-625-6200) is located right in the gay Mount Vernon neighborhood, and offers beautifully renovated suites that are also pet-friendly. Ask about their “doggie package” deal! The INN at 2920 (410-342-4450) is a chic bed and breakfast that offers oversized plush beds, limestone-tiled bathrooms with jacuzzis, and a full breakfast served every morning free of charge.
WHERE TO PLAY
Much of Baltimore’s gay nightlife is centered around the Mount Vernon neighborhood, which is one of the city’s oldest and most stylish neighborhoods. Neighboring Mid-Town Belvedere is also popular; the two-day Baltimore Pride festival and parade will be held there on the last weekend of July.
Club Hippo (410-547-0069) is one of the most popular dance clubs in the city and one of the most historic, having been open since 1972. Sadly, this Baltimore gay staple will be closing in the coming months, so come experience their iconic dance parties and drag shows one last time. Grand Central (410-752-7133) is a large complex consisting of a chic loft, a neighborhood pub (complete with piano music on weekdays) and a high-energy disco featuring top DJs and great live entertainment. Mixers (410-483-6011) caters to a mixed crowd and features weekly events such as karaoke, dance nights with local DJs, as well as a monthly drag show. The Drinkery (410-225-3100) is a cozy hangout spot popular with the locals. Play some music on the jukebox, play some pool, and make some new friends!
You may miss Leon’s of Baltimore (410-539-4993) if you don’t know about it, so that’s why we’re telling you to visit right away. It’s a fun place that brags about having the best drink specials in the city, and the eye candy in the bar is an attraction in and of itself. The Rowan Tree (410-468-0550) is another bar popular with locals, so they’ll be able to tell you all about gay life in Baltimore and what you must see and experience. Say hi to hostess Shawnna Alexander! If you want to party after-hours, the place to be is Club 1722 (410-547-8423). Local and national DJs spin for your enjoyment every Friday and Saturday night.
WHERE TO GO
Baltimore has so many sights to see, allowing the tourist to soak up so much local history and culture. If you like museums, visit the state-of-the-art Maryland Science Center, and if you love beautiful collections of art, the Baltimore Museum of Art is for you. Learn about African-American history at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African-American History & Culture. Baltimore has one of the country’s largest and most vibrant Jewish communities, and you can learn all about the history of Jewish Americans in the city at the Jewish Museum of Maryland. You can learn about Revolutionary War history and even see re-enactments featuring actors in period clothing at the Clifton Mansion, less than 10 miles outside the city. If you love trains, you will find yourself completely engrossed in the exhibits offered at the B&O Railroad Museum. The sports fan you know and love will enjoy visiting the birthplace of the legendary Sultan of Swat himself, Babe Ruth, in Camden Yards.
You will probably find yourself walking the area around the Inner Harbor, and the area has quite a few sights of interest to the traveler. The National Aquarium attracts tourists from all over the world, who get to see over 17,000 aquatic animals all in one complex. Pier Six Pavilion is an open-air concert staging ground, where all the top international recording artists perform. If shopping and dining is what you’re after, you can’t go wrong if you go to the massive Power Plant, which features Hard Rock Café, the local favorite Luckie’s Tavern, and a five-story Barnes & Noble Booksellers. If your taste trends toward designers, shop at The Gallery. With stores such as Coach, Pandora, Banana Republic, and more, you will have many chances to leave with lots of goodies. The two-story Harborplace complex not only offers great shopping but some of the best seafood you’ll taste in Baltimore.
To learn more about Baltimore, visit their tourism website, Visit Baltimore, at baltimore.org.