Off Duty: Baltimore

David Orkin suggests an extended stay in one of North America’s prettiest harbour cities
Click to follow
The Independent Travel

Why?

Around 40 miles from Washington DC, Baltimore is too often overshadowed by the USA's capital.

Yet with its harbour setting and its variety of appealing neighbourhoods it very much lives up to its nickname "Charm City". What's more, within an easy walk of Baltimore's downtown Business District there are some lively new developments. On the Inner Harbor waterfront, Power Plant Live! ( www.powerplantlive.com) is a collection of bars, restaurants and clubs completed in 2003. Camden Yards, once a run-down industrial area, is now a lively place with bars, restaurants and boutiques. It is also home to Oriole Park ( www.orioles.mlb.com), one of the country's favourite baseball stadiums.

Meanwhile, the photogenic waterfront buildings, cobbled stone streets and bohemian shops of Fells Point are of course worth a wander. In the Mount Vernon district the Washington Monument towers over large Victorian town houses. But perhaps best of all, Little Italy is a great place to go for a cappuccino or ice cream, and on Friday nights in July and August, see a movie outdoors during the Little Italy Open-Air Film Festival ( www.littleitalyrestaurants.com).

What?

Edgar Allan Poe had strong connections with the city, and died there in 1849. You can visit the Baltimore Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum. (+ 1 410 396 7932; www.eapoe.org/balt/poehse.htm) and, a few blocks away, the writer's grave. Lovers of traditional art will delight in the collections at both the Baltimore Museum of Art (+ 1 410 396 1700; www.artbma.org) and the Walters Art Museum (+ 1 410 547 9000, www.thewalters.org) - and the fact that both galleries withdrew entry charges last autumn. Those who prefer the wacky should check out the American Visionary Art Museum (+ 1 410 244 1900; www.avam.org). There's good news for fans of ecclesiastical architecture – the Baltimore Basilica cathedral (+ 1 410 737 3565; www.baltimorebasilica.org), built between 1806 and 1821, reopened a few months ago after a two-year restoration project. Or for a close examination of all things toothy, there's the National Museum of Dentistry (+ 1 410 706 0600; www.dentalmuseum.org), an affiliate of Washington DC's world-renowned Smithsonian Institute.

Where?

Baltimore is renowned for its Chesapeake Bay seafood, and, in particular, its crab cakes. For some of the best in an informal atmosphere make for Faidley's (+ 1 410 727 4898; www.faidleyscrabcakes.com) in the huge, buzzing, centrally located Lexington Market (closed Sunday), or the G& amp;M Restaurant (+ 1 410 636 1777; www.gandmcrabcakes.com), a frequent "Best Crab Cakes" award-winner, which is a taxi ride away in Linthicum Heights. To dine in more sophisticated surroundings, try Pisces (+ 1 410 605 2835; www.baltimore.hyatt.com) at the Hyatt Regency, offering not only stunning Inner Harbor views, but seafood to match. Carnivores should head to the classy, old-school Prime Rib (+ 1 410 539 1804; www.theprimerib.com). Choose a succulent steak or the signature dish, a hunk of succulent roast prime rib. Coffee lovers and those with a sweet tooth (and a huge appetite) will be drawn to Vaccaro's Italian Pastry Shop in Little Italy (+ 1 410 685 4905; www.vaccarospastry.com). If you'd rather unwind with a drink and some live music, try the Full Moon Saloon (+ 1 410 276 6388; www.fullmoon-saloon.com) for Blues, or North Baltimore's New Haven Lounge (+ 1 410 366 7416) – ignore the strip-mall location and uninspiring exterior and once inside you'll understand why this attracts jazz aficionados.

Wow!

Head to the harbour. Baltimore's connections with the water are as strong as ever: once second only to New York as the major entry port for immigrants to the US, the city is still a major seaport. Zip across the harbour on one of Ed Kane's Water Taxis (+ 1 410 563 3901; www.thewatertaxi.com) or take a leisurely sail on a tall ship (+ 1 410 837 6700; www.clippercity.com). Then join the 1.6 million annual visitors to the National Aquarium (+ 1 410 576 3800; www.aqua.org) housing more than 560 species.

Comments