** This Weekend in Baltimore travel guide was updated: 2/4/19
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!
Weekend in Baltimore:
How to Get To Baltimore
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 in Baltimore
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 & Sightseeing in Baltimore
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!
The American Visionary Art Museum: If you’re a fan of quirky, contemporary art, then the AVAM is the ideal place for you! The American Visionary Art Museum is a national museum and education center for outstanding original works of art created by intuitive, self-taught artists. I could have spent hours in this massive, three-story museum and sculpture garden!
In addition to their permanent gallery, they currently have a special exhibit titled ‘Parenting: An Art Without a Manual’ which features works from 36 original artists created out of every conceivable medium. This exhibit is open until September 1, 2019, and I’d highly recommend it: I might not be a parent, but I got a kick out of some of the pieces I spotted!
George Peabody Library: Located in the Mount Vernon neighborhood, The George Peabody Library is the 19th-century-focused research library of The Johns Hopkins University. It’s often regarded as one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. If you’re taking a stroll around the neighborhood, take a quick peek inside: there’s no admission fee, it is open to the public, and it’s one of the most stunning sights in the entire city.
Monumental City Tour: If you’re a history buff, this tour is a must. The Mount Vernon neighborhood of Baltimore 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. Head on this tour to hear the stories behind the Washington Monument and see the landmarks of Baltimore’s grandest historic neighborhood.
If you want a little workout during the ro: climb the Monument’s stairs for a birds-eye view of central Baltimore!
Shopping in 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?) if you 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.
A recent favorite of mine? Match Made Boutique. It’s a trendy women’s boutique that offers the latest styles at budget-friendly prices (most pieces I spotted were under $75!) If you can’t make it to Baltimore, you can browse their online website.
Play in Baltimore
Bluebird Cocktail Room: The Bluebird Cocktail Room was recently named one of “The South’s Best New Bars,” and for good reason. This literary-themed bar in Hampden features large communal tables, a cozy gas fireplace and a long bar for pub-style dining service. The cocktails are named after famous authors (ex. Ernest Hemingway and Virginia Woolf), and they also offer a menu of European bistro fare.
We loved the overall vibe at Bluebird: it was upscale and posh, without being pretentious. The service was spectacular, and the menu was innovative. Stop by in the winter to warm up next to the fireplace, or check out their happy hour when it’s warm out!
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, and we’ve made several trips to Baltimore over the past couple of years to check out what’s new on tap.
They recently debuted their new concept, Union Collective, in the Summer of 2018, and you will not be disappointed with the new digs. Union Collective is a hub for small innovative businesses that are local to Baltimore. I’d recommend visiting The Charmery and Baltimore Spirits Co. after your beer tasting!
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 fantastic drink specials. The tours last for 2 hours, and it’s a great way to spend the afternoon.
Where to Eat in Baltimore
The Food Market: Located in the hip Hampden neighborhood, The Food Market offers approachable, serious comfort food in a smartly designed industrial-modern space. In 2013, OpenTable named it one of their “Top 100 Hot Spot Restaurants in the United States,” and for good reason: the menu is incredibly approachable and high-quality, and the atmosphere is lively.
We stopped here for dinner, and really enjoyed the spicy, cheesy, herby, creamy, winey, garlicky, shrimp (pictured above) and steak frites with truffle parmesan fries and broccolini.
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 BYOB Mediterranean 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.
Big Bean Theory: UPDATE 2/4/19: This location is closed, but I’m keeping tabs on Eula and will let you know if she opens up any new spots!
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!