If you’re headed to Charm City, tuck this guide in your virtual pocket for local insight on food, culture, and getting around. If The Wire and Hairspray have you confused, you’ll find this thoughtful city actually marries the environmental, social, and financial pillars to sustainability quite nicely.
You’ll find one of the most sought-after destinations in Baltimore just a 10-minute walk from the hostel: The Inner Harbor. Enjoy a full day’s worth of nature, culture, and art inspired activities at your fingertips, including the acclaimed National Aquarium set along the harbor’s boardwalk. Nearby is also the American Visionary Art Museum, where you’ll find innovative creations of self-expression that will make you look at art in a whole new way. When you’re ready for a bite, check out the Cross Street Market and grab your favorite nibbles for a picnic at Federal Hill just a few blocks away. If you’re looking for an authentic Maryland experience, check out L.P. Steamers for some local crabs – don’t worry, the staff is ready to teach visitors how to crack and eat them! After you fill your belly, continue your exploration on the water. Day passes are available for the Water Taxi, which brings you to all the major sites along the harbor, including the historic Fells Point neighborhood and Fort McHenry, home of America’s national anthem.
Pro Tip: Tickets to the Aquarium can be pricey but are half-price every Friday after 5 p.m. As a bonus, you’ll be able to avoid the busloads of school children who are frequently there during the day.
Green Fact: The Great Baltimore Oyster Partnership is part of the Healthy Harbor Initiative, with a goal to grow 165,000 oysters along the reef to increase swimability and fishability of the harbor. Check them out as you walk along the harbor!
Hidden architectural masterpieces are right outside HI Baltimore’s door, providing the ultimate cultural, and carbon neutral, experience! Best explored by foot, the hostel’s Mt. Vernon neighborhood is filled with beautiful historic buildings. HI Baltimore leads walking tours on Friday and Saturday mornings, or you can take on a self-guided exploration. Directly across the street from the hostel lies the Basilica of the National Shrine, America’s first cathedral. Continue walking a few blocks to the original Washington Monument in Mount Vernon Park. It’s free to enter, or splurge on a $6 to climb to the top for a bird’s eye view of the striking Gothic-style United Methodist Church. Across the roundabout is George Peabody Library, Baltimore’s oldest library with a stunning steel structure that begs to be Instagrammed. When all this walking makes you hungry, check out the nearby Mount Vernon Marketplace for a variety of local food stalls and vendors. Whether you’re craving crepes or Korean, there’s something for everyone. If you’re headed back to the hostel, the world famous Lexington Market is close by and features nearly 100 local vendors.
Pro tip: If you’re in town on a Saturday, check out the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower, an incredible 15-story tower filled with hundreds of open-house artist studios. It’s free, but only open one day a week!
Green Fact: The Charm City Circulator, also known as the EcoSaver IV, is a free bus service that also supports the environment. This hybrid bus utilizes an electric motor, reducing fuel emissions by half.
Founded in 1763, Fells Point is one of Baltimore’s oldest neighborhoods. It features historic homes, cobblestone streets, and endless shopping and dining options – and it’s where locals go to have fun. Before you head out, check HI Baltimore’s event board to see if they’re leading pub crawl to this area, which they often do! If you’re on your own, get there by taking the free Charm City Circulator Purple Line and then transfer to Orange Line, or you can walk there along the boardwalk. Sink your teeth into one of Baltimore top-rated crab crakes at Duda’s Tavern. Maryland Blue Crabs are a key part of Baltimore’s cultural identity, and crab cakes are a tasty alternative to cracking them apart yourself with a mallet. Caught within the Chesapeake Bay, blue crab populations are closely monitored and protected by Maryland. Kick up your evening with live music every day of the week, at Cat’s Eye Pub, a local favorite. You can also grab a locally-made, craft brew at a number of different breweries in the neighborhood, including Union Craft, Heavy Seas, Dogfish Head, and Brewer’s Art. When you’re ready to head back, give one of the city’s new Baltimore Bike Share bikes a try.
Pro tip: The summer is the best time for local crabs. Eating them out of season likely means higher prices and not locally sourced.
Green Fact: Fells Point was almost lost to the construction of a highway, but local activists helped protect the neighborhood by getting it added to the National Register of Historic Places. Thanks to that effort, today it is one of Baltimore’s most popular neighborhoods.
One of Baltimore’s best-kept secrets is the little neighborhood of Hampden, also known as “Baltimore’s Brooklyn.” With a hip nightlife, local restaurants, thrift shops, and fabulous street festivals such as HonFest, Hampden is funky and reminiscent of a quirky John Waters’ film. Start your visit with a cup of locally-sourced coffee and a seasonal bite from Artifact Coffee. In the heart of Hampden, you’ll find a bunch of locally-owned shops lining 36th. There are tons of great locally-owned restaurants lining the street as well that feature local produce, like Corner Bar, Food Market, and Hon Café. And foodies love Aromes, which serves new American and French cuisine that changes seasonally and is farm-to-table sourced in Maryland. After you’ve explored Hampden, swing over to the Rawlings Conservatory to explore the seasonal botanical garden greenhouses, which first opened in 1888.
Pro tip: Take the light rail from Center Street (3 blocks from HI Baltimore) to Woodberry Station to get into the Hampden neighborhood.
Green Fact: Baltimore has multiple free food rescue programs, where imperfect produce is donated to locals in need.
This is part of the HI USA Responsible Travel Guide series, offering fun, unique ideas for sustainable travel. Click here for more Responsible Travel destinations.
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