If you’ve followed me long enough, you’ve probably seen me claim both Baltimore and D.C. as my hometown. Confusing, right? Let me explain.
I was born in Baltimore and lived there until I was five, then I moved to Northern Virginia (aka the D.C. suburbs) with my mother. My dad and his entire side of the family still lived in Baltimore, and since the two cities aren’t that far from each other, I was always bouncing back and forth. My dad has worked at Baltimore City Hall for a couple of decades, so it was fun getting to visit him at work and experience the city. Baltimore has a lot more culture than the D.C. ‘burbs does, and I love that half of my family still lives there!
If you’re in the Mid-Atlantic and are looking for a fun weekend trip, Baltimore should be on your radar. I had the opportunity to work with Visit Baltimore to put together a full weekend trip for you guys — and now I’m counting down the days until my next Charm City visit!
How to Get There
Baltimore is only a 45-minute drive from D.C., and about an hour and a half drive from Philly. However, I do not own a car, and parking is pricey in Baltimore, so I prefer to take public transit to get to Charm City. On Amtrak, you can get from D.C. to Baltimore in 40 minutes, and from Philly to Baltimore in an hour. You can also opt for the MARC train if you’re coming from D.C. as well!
Where to Stay
I would highly recommend staying close to the Inner Harbor if you’re visiting Baltimore. We stayed at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco which was within walking distance to the Harbor, and couldn’t be happier with both our hotel and the location. It was named the Best Hotel in Maryland by Southern Living Magazine, and it was well worth the hype! We stayed in their Mediterranean Spa Suite which had a private bedroom, a spacious living room that had a pullout couch, and the most luxurious Fuji tub — I definitely hopped in to take a bath after a long day of exploring!
The Kimpton Hotel Monaco also has a wine happy hour from 5-6pm daily, a delicious restaurant just in case you don’t want to leave the property, and pretty modern amenities, such as a yoga mat in every room, a 24-hour business center for us workaholics, and their own Kimpton-branded bikes so you can get around downtown with ease. I had the best experience at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Baltimore, and I cannot wait for my next visit!
History and Sightseeing
National Aquarium: Okay, this is the most popular attraction in Baltimore, for a good reason. This is *the* National Aquarium of the United States, and you can see over 20,000 aquatic animals and some of the most stunning exhibits in the country. I haven’t been to the Aquarium in about 15 years, but trust me: it’s a fun trip no matter what age you are. And yes, I’m still super pumped that I got to touch a jellyfish during my visit!
Baltimore Museum of Art: The BMA is free and open from Wednesday-Sunday from 10am-5pm. They have an internationally renowned collection of historic, modern and contemporary art from all over the world, and two landscaped sculpture gardens. Head over to Gertrude’s after you’re done enjoying all of the art the museum has to offer for a bite to eat afterward — they have one of the best brunches in town!
Monumental City Tour: Mount Vernon began as a country estate for Revolutionary War hero John Eager Howard and grew to be the place to live for Baltimore’s rich and famous in the mid-nineteenth century. Join us on a tour to hear the stories behind the Washington Monument and see the landmarks of Baltimore’s grandest historic neighborhood. If your legs are strong, climb the Monument’s stairs for a birds-eye view of central Baltimore!
Harbor East: Harbor East somehow has all of my favorite stores, and this is terrible news for my wallet. They’ve got a great mix of larger retailers such as South Moon Under, Free People, Madewell and more, and they also have some of the cutest local boutiques like Urban Chic and Sassanova. I could spend hours shopping at Harbor East, and every time I go to Baltimore I make it a point to stop by.
Fell’s Point: Fell’s Point is packed with dozens upon dozens of locally-owned shops, bars, and restaurants. Some of the shops I loved popping into the most were Su Casa for furniture, Hats in the Belfry (Preakness hat, anyone?) and the Natty Boh Store if you really want to pick up something to show off your Maryland pride!
The Avenue: Hop an Uber over to the super quirky, charming neighborhood of Hampden for a super authentic Baltimore experience. One of my favorite eclectic shops to visit on The Avenue was Atomic Books — it’s an independent bookstore full of objects made of paper, vinyl, plastic and various other actual materials at the edge of time. Another favorite was Trohv, an independently-owned shop featuring home goods and gifts. I’d also recommend Ma Petite Shoe, a one-of-a-kind boutique specializing in shoes by the newest designers and artisan chocolate from around the globe.
The Sandlot: I saw this bar on one of my friend’s Instagram pages, and I knew I had to visit! The Sandlot is a massive bar that’s right on the Harbor that sits on a manmade beach. It’s open from 4-11pm daily, and you can relax with friends, play volleyball or bocce, and enjoy delicious cocktails.
Union Craft Brewery: Union Craft is a must see if you’re in Baltimore! We happened to visit during a special summer pool party, so it was pretty hoppin’ when we made our way over. It was founded in 2011 and has been thriving ever since. Their Old Pro Gose has to be one of the best beers I’ve ever had, and I’d also recommend trying out their most popular beer, Double Duckpin. They come out with a ton of delicious seasonal beers as well, so it looks like I’ll have to swing a trip to Baltimore every few months so I can taste them myself!
Charm City Pedal Tour: This was a much-needed workout during our visit! Hop on a pedal tour and to roll, not crawl, from bar to bar in Fell’s Point. We stopped at three spots during our tour and each bar had pretty amazing drink specials. The tours last for 2 hours, and it’s a great way to spend the afternoon.
What to Eat
Big Bean Theory: This was hands down one of my favorite culinary experiences I had on the trip! I had the chance to chat with the owner of Big Bean Theory, Eula McDowell, and she reminded me so much of the family I have in Baltimore. She incorporates beans into most of the dishes on the menu because of their incredible health benefits. They have an endless array of vegetarian dishes including Black Bean Burgers, Falafel Burgers, Veggie Lasagna, Black Eye Pea Gumbo, Mama’s Rock’n Moroccan Stew and more. And yes, the Big Bean Theory has one of the best crabcakes I’ve ever had — and as a Baltimore native, I don’t give out that honor lightly!
R.House: R. House was created as an incubator for chefs to explore new concepts, there are ten permanent stalls, including a craft cocktail bar, plus space for pop-ups. I wish we could have tried every stall at R. House because the food we sampled was incredible! I’d highly recommend the fried chicken at BRD and the tacos at Amano Taco.
Miss Shirley’s: Miss Shirley’s is a Baltimore staple, and somewhere you should stop by if you’re in the Inner Harbor. Their specialties are rooted in Southern fundamentals and the abundance of fresh ingredients from the Chesapeake Bay region of Maryland.
Twist Fell’s Point: Twist is a Mediterranean BYOB restaurant in Fell’s Point serving breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, and dessert. Executive chef and owner Jose Molina has more than 15 years of experience in the industry. That, along with his time living in Greece and his Hispanic influences informs the unique flavor of the menu.
Fork & Wrench: If you’re looking for an intimate spot for dinner, this is the place for you! Fork & Wrench features creative, locally sourced New American fare & unique cocktails served amid vintage fixtures & tools.
The Charmery: The husband and wife owners of this ice creams hop handcraft super-premium ice cream that focuses on the fun flavors, such as Old Bay Caramel and Berger Cookies and Cream, that make Baltimore so delicious, supporting local farmers and producers whenever possible.