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CityTips Guide to Baltimore

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Crabcakes, baseball, the National Aquarium, the Inner Harbor, great museums and lively bars, all waiting for you. Whether you're here on business or on a day trip up the Chesapeake Bay, enjoy your visit to many people's favorite East Coast city.

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Local Overview

Economically, geographically and culturally, Baltimore is an amalgam. One of early America's busiest seaports, it was also home to the country's first important railroad terminal and was a leading manufacturing center, renowned for shipbuilding as well as airplane production.

Baltimore's air of acceptance inspired waves of Polish, German, Irish, Italian, Greek and other immigrants. The various enclaves these newcomers established made Baltimore a collection of diverse neighborhoods.

Inner Harbor

Any tour of Baltimore should start with the Inner Harbor. For years the area was at the heart of Baltimore's port facilities. As the city's shipping business declined in the post-war years, the Inner Harbor did too. By the mid-1970s, it was a long stretch of dilapidated docks and abandoned warehouses, but the end of the 1970s saw the start of a concerted effort to revitalize Baltimore. A key part of the plan was the creation of Harborplace, a three-acre retail and entertainment complex that anchors the Inner Harbor. Today, the Inner Harbor's attractions include the Maryland Science Center, the National Aquarium, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the U.S.S. Constellation, and the Pier Six Concert Pavilion. In addition, there are a number of excellent hotels, including the four-star Harbor Court, many fine restaurants, such as Obrycki's crab house, and two very busy marinas. The Inner Harbor's renovation was vital to Baltimore's renaissance, and it remains the key draw of the city's approximately $625 million-a-year tourist industry.

Downtown

In 1729, about 60 years after the first colonists settled in the area, Charles and Baltimore streets were built. Today, the intersection of these two roads is at the heart of Baltimore's business district, where you'll find the city's financial and banking institutions, international trade organizations, medical research companies, as well as law, engineering and architectural firms. A grid of roughly 25 blocks, the business district is easy to navigate and is within walking distance of most of the downtown hotels.

To the North

Walk up Charles Street about 10 blocks and you'll find Mount Vernon, one of the city's loveliest neighborhoods. Its chief feature is a park of shrub-lined lawns and flowerbeds, laid out in the form of a cross. The 178-foot tall monument to George Washington stands at the park's center. Mount Vernon is also home to the Peabody Institute, the Walters Art Gallery, the Enoch Pratt Free Library and several excellent restaurants, including The Brass Elephant and Tio Pepe.

Just above Mount Vernon is Bolton Hill. Known as the "Gin Belt" during the 1920s, this area was home to the city's Jazz Age bohemian community. F. Scott Fitzgerald made his home here for a while, and Tender is the Night was published during his stay. Today, the area is home to the Maryland Institute College of Art, Meyerhoff Symphony Hall and the University of Baltimore.

Still farther up Charles Street lies well-groomed Charles Village, home of Johns Hopkins University. Just next door is Hampden, a funky blue-collar/WIDlternative district made famous by independent film director John Waters. Continue north, and you'll find Guilford, which features Mount Washington, a quiet, tree-lined neighborhood with lots of great restaurants, like The Desert Café.

To the South

Just south of downtown is Federal Hill. One of the most popular residential areas in the city, its streets are lined with stately 19th century row homes, and peppered with great restaurants like The One World Café. The neighborhood is also home to the Cross Street Market, where a variety of vendors sell a vast array of fresh and prepared food items, and the American Visionary Art Museum.

To the East

Immediately east of downtown is Little Italy, one of the city's most cherished neighborhoods. Settled in the 1840s by Italian immigrants seeking work on the city's railroads, the area is now known for its many restaurants. At last count, the 12 square blocks of Little Italy had 20 restaurants, from old favorites like Sabatino's to newcomers like Aldo's.

Just past Little Italy is Fells Point. This was once the chief Colonial shipbuilding center, where frigates known as Baltimore Clippers were launched. Today Fells Point is known for its craft and antique shops, restaurants, bars and coffeehouses. During the weekend the neighborhood is jammed with college-age revelers who flock to the many party-oriented dance clubs. Young urban professionals enjoy dining at restaurants Bertha's and Ding How, and listening to live music at places like The Full Moon Saloon.

Just above Fells Point is Butcher's Hill, an area once home to dozens of butchers who sold their wares at Fells Point's Broadway Market, and farther north is Old Town, a neighborhood settled by German and Irish immigrants in the early 1800s.

Just to the east lies Canton. Originally an industrial area populated by Welsh, German, Polish and Irish immigrants, Canton today is a lively residential area known for its friendly eateries like Nacho Mama's and upscale bars like The Gin Mill. To the north of Canton is Greek Town, a quiet residential neighborhood famous for its restaurants, Ikaros foremost among them.

To the West

A quick trip west from the Inner Harbor will take you into Pigtown, originally an area of stockyards manned by German and Irish immigrants. It's now a residential neighborhood, filled with classic Baltimore-style rowhomes with marble steps and formstone facades. Pigtown is now home to the B & O Railroad Museum, and the area's most famous son is memorialized at the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum.

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