Set on the Chesapeake Bay and full of diverse neighborhoods, Baltimore lives up to its nickname: Charm City. Friendly, hard-working people and a thriving arts scene make this city a easy to warm up to. It won’t take you long to feel at home here, but if you’re brand new to Baltimore, these tips will help you fit in as soon as you arrive.
1. Old Bay makes everything better.
— OLD BAY (@OLDBAYSeasoning) October 27, 2017
You’ll find Baltimore’s signature spice on french fries, popcorn, shrimp, wings, the rims of bloody marys, and — of course — crabs.
2. You must love crabs.
Baltimoreans look forward to spending summer days eating steamed crabs surrounded by friends and family. To pick crabs properly, the only utensils you should need are a seafood mallet and a butter knife. If dissecting your dinner seems a bit overwhelming, crab also comes in soup, dip, and cake form.
3. It’s a city of neighborhoods.
Baltimore is dissected into more than 200 neighborhoods, and where you choose will be key to your experience here. Because there are so many neighborhoods, it is not uncommon for locals to divide the city simply by East or West Baltimore, using Charles Street or I-83 as a dividing line, or into North and South using Baltimore Street as a dividing line.
4. We have more rowhouses than any other U.S. city.
As you explore the city, you’ll notice how many different styles these rowhomes can take on. Be on the lookout for scenes painted on window screens, a Baltimore tradition that allows homeowners to see out while passersby are unable to see in.
5. This is Birdland.
Baltimore calls itself Birdland because of our major sports teams, the Orioles (baseball) and the Ravens (football). But our love of sports goes beyond that. The Preakness, the second leg of the Triple Crown, also takes place here, and lacrosse is another common sport.
6. We bowl Duckpin-style.
Thought to originate in Baltimore in the early 1900s by two Baltimore Orioles players, Duckpin bowling looks a lot like the game you might be used to, but it has a few key differences. The game uses shorter and squatter pins and a significantly smaller bowling ball with no holes for your fingers, making it more difficult to achieve a strike.
7. Edgar Allan Poe is still one of our hometown heroes.
Influential writers like H.L. Mencken, Emily Post, W. E. B. Du Bois, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Ogden Nash, and Frederick Douglass all called Baltimore home. However, our most famous literary connection is to Edgar Allan Poe, who mysteriously died in Baltimore after being found delirious and incoherent. You can visit the author’s grave or his house-turned-museum, and you’ll regularly see drinks and dishes named after him on menus around the city.
8. Our summers are hot and sticky.
From late spring through the entire summer, the humidity might make your hair frizzy and will definitely make you sweat. Luckily, Baltimore also has snowballs, a cup full of shaved ice covered in sweet syrup in the flavor of your choice. Top is with marshmallow cream for a traditional treat.
9. When it snows, the city shuts down.
Our winters tend to be mild — but when the flakes do fall, the city completely shuts down. Schools have been known to shut down just because there’s a chance of snow.
10. Around the holidays, Baltimore gets lit.
Baltimore is often listed among the top places to catch holiday light displays. From a parade of lighted boats in the Inner Harbor to a block of over-the-top rowhomes on 34th Street in Hampden, there are many displays of holiday cheer to enjoy.
11. We have a star-spangled history.
Baltimore is the birthplace of the U.S. national anthem, which was written by Francis Scott Key after witnessing American soldiers hold off the British during the Battle of Baltimore at Fort McHenry. The Star-Spangled Banner Flag House — once the home and business of Mary Pickersgill, who sewed the flag Key witnessed flying over Fort McHenry — is where you can learn about that history.
12. Baltimore loves its craft brews.
The bottle cap was patented In Baltimore, and it’s also where beer was first canned. Although beer production waned here like it did on many other places during the 20th century, craft beer is making a comeback. There are many taprooms and brewpubs worth checking out, including Waverly Brewing and Union Craft Brewery in Hampden, and Diamondback Brewing Company in Locust Point.
13. But for many, Natty Boh is the go-to beer — even though it’s no longer brewed here.
— Happenstance Theater (@HStancetheater) November 7, 2017
National Bohemian has been a Baltimore favorite since it was first brewed in Baltimore in 1885. Today, it’s owned by Pabst Brewing Company, and is easily recognizable by it’s one-eyed, handlebar-mustachioed mascot, Mr. Boh.
14. There are tons of free things to do.
Having fun in Baltimore doesn’t need to be hard on your wallet. Our calendar is full of free events and festivals. In the summer, there are free movie screenings and musical performances throughout the city, and every October, Free Fall Baltimore is a month of free arts and culture activities.
15. We built the first Washington Monument.
The nation’s first civic memorial to George Washington is a 178-foot neoclassical-style monument in Mount Vernon. It was built 25 years before construction began on the Washington, D.C. version, which was also designed by the same architect, Robert Mills. Each year, there is a lighting ceremony followed by a fireworks show on the first Thursday in December.
16. We host the country’s largest free arts festival.
Each summer, more than 350,000 people come to Artscape, where you’ll find exhibitions, live concerts, performing arts, and street theater, as well as arts and crafts for sale.
17. Our public markets are the real deal.
Baltimore boasts the world’s largest continuously running market, Lexington Market, which has been open since 1782. There are several other neighborhood markets and farmers markets where you can get fresh and local foods; the biggest is the Baltimore Farmers’ Market and Bazaar, which takes place every Sunday from 7 a.m. to noon.
18. We have a quirky side.
Pink flamingos in front yards, a wacky Kinetic Sculpture Race with pedal-powered sculptures, and women dressed in beehive hairdos, cat-eyed glasses, and feather boas at HonFest. You can thank Baltimore-born director John Waters for helping us keep the kitsch alive.
19. Water, water everywhere.
The Inner Harbor is Baltimore’s historic seaport-turned-sightseeing hub. Hop aboard some of the historic ships docked there or check out some museums, including the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Don’t miss the googly eyed Mr. Trash Wheel, a water- and solar-powered water wheel, removes trash from the water.
20. You can get anywhere from here.
Baltimore is a short drive or train ride to other major cities like Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and New York. We also have a popular cruise terminal and three international airports nearby, including Baltimore-Washington International.