Our totally unofficial, unranked, and from-the-heart list of the people, places, and things that make Baltimore the best city on Earth (to us, at least).

Courtesy of Christopher Myers


We have the only female maestra of a major symphony orchestra in the country.

Courtesy of Royal Farms


We know what RoFo is and that they have the best fried chicken in town.



High-school football still matters.



We have tons of women in very high-ranking positions all over the city. With due respect to D’Alesandro and Schaefer—and the Calverts and Carrolls, for that matter—our male-dominated culture has taken a gender shift. Not only have we elected female mayors back-to-back, women lead many of the city’s institutions, including the Pratt Library, the BMA, and the Walters. The chief judge of the state’s highest court and a certain feisty former-social-worker-turned- U.S.-Senator are also Baltimore women.

Courtesy of People


We have our own Doogie Howser. Crownsville native Jack Andraka, 17, developed a rapid and inexpensive method of detecting pancreatic, ovarian, and lung cancer during the early stages when there is a better survival rate. The innovation got him $75,000 from Intel as well as a nod as one of the top influential LGBT personalities in Out magazine. (Andraka has been openly gay since he was 13.)

Ryan Snook


You can still buy your honeydew from a horse-drawn cart. As far we know, we’re the last U.S. city with working “arabbers”—the vendors who lead colorful horse-drawn wagons through our streets, hustling fresh fruit and vegetables. A pre-Civil War-era tradition, arabbers have long faced obstacles and now have to comply with the city’s microchip tracking of their horses. But they also have a renovated stable in West Baltimore and a support network in the street-art community.

Courtesy of Edwin Remsberg


Edwin Remsberg Photography.



Our Riviera is in Dundalk (and our Miami Beach is in Middle River).

Courtesy of Consequence of Sound


We turned a White Stripes song into an NFL anthem.

Courtesy of Netflix


You can bump into Kevin Spacey at Rye and Julia Louis-Dreyfus at Whole Foods.

Ryan Snook


We have a whole street dedicated to Corned Beef.

Ryan Snook


We invented our own more fun style of bowling.



If you must get sick, this is the best place to do it. Says who? Your search engine, for one: Type in “best hospital” and assorted national (and world) rankings all point you to The Johns Hopkins Hospital. Fact is, though, a gaggle of other local hospitals also get top marks in numerous specialties, including the University of Maryland, GBMC, Mercy Medical Center, Sinai Hospital, and Union Memorial. But try to stay well, all the same.

Courtesy of Dan Deacon


Dan Deacon has an app. Deacon’s videos, like his concerts, lean toward the euphoric and inclusive. “True Thrush” and “Konono Ripoff No. 1” practically burst with reckless abandon and feature a veritable “who’s who” of local scenesters (from Double Dagger’s Nolen Strals to the BMA’s Doreen Bolger). Our favorite part? A crazy “Konono” app lets you direct the video imagery on your smartphone. Can Daft Punk do that?

Courtesy of Charm City Circulator


The best way to get around town is free. Sheila Dixon made mistakes, but the Charm City Circulator wasn’t one. Part of the former mayor’s vision for a “cleaner, greener Baltimore,” the innovative fleet of hybrid-electric buses delivers almost 400,000 riders a month across ever-expanding routes, linking downtown neighborhoods as well as Amtrak, MARC, Light Rail, and Metro Subway. And you now can track arrival times via the mobile app. This is what actual progress looks like.

Courtesy of Reddit


Even at 67, John Waters continues to be the most interesting weirdo alive. Our most famous filmmaker hasn’t made a movie in years, yet still manages to solidify his iconic outsider status. Whether he’s shaking up the contemporary-art world, bringing down the house with his stand-up show, giving advice to teen girls (check out his Rookie interviews!), or hitchhiking across the country for a book project, Waters never ceases to shock and amaze.

Courtesy of Mark Dennis/Office of the Mayor


40 years later, The Dome is still the place to earn your basketball rep. In the 1980s, “Muggsy” Bogues, the pint-sized projects kid who made it to the NBA, first made his name here. So did Dunbar teammates and future pros Reggie Williams and Reggie Lewis, part of possibly the greatest high-school squad ever. Later, came Sam Cassell and Carmelo Anthony. With the help of Under Armour and the NBA, the tin-roofed outdoor court looks better than ever and remains the proving ground for hoop dreams.



We use our parks. If Baltimore is truly experiencing a resurgence—and we think it is—the best evidence might not be Harbor East, but the comeback of our parks, thanks to groups like the Friends of Druid Hill Park. The city’s magnificent 745-acre crown jewel of green space is thriving, as is Patterson Park, once again the neighborhood hub of southeastern Baltimore. Riverside, Carroll, and Roosevelt parks—and the Gwynns Falls Trail—are all on the upswing.

Baltimore Magazine


Adam Jones’s Twitter feed. #StayHungry

Courtesy of squarebooks


Laura Lippman cranks out a book a year.

Courtesy of Live Baltimore


You won’t find a Gap on The Avenue.

Courtesy of Crossfit Federal Hill


Gather Baltimore started out in the back of Arthur Morgan’s pickup truck. Arthur Morgan is Baltimore’s man with a plan. The founder of several urban-farming initiatives is making perhaps his greatest impact with his latest venture, Gather Baltimore. The nonprofit collects unused foodstuffs from farmers’ markets, restaurants, cafeterias, and wholesalers and distributes the bounty to needy individuals and families in Baltimore. Though expanding now, the operation was started with little more than Morgan himself, his pickup truck, and a whole lot of gumption.



The city’s best dance party takes place in a Lithuanian recreation center. The first Friday of every month, hipsters from around the city (and state) flock to Hollins Street for the “Save Your Soul” dance party, which features ’60s jams from Otis Redding and Little Richard—and the occasional John Waters sighting. But, our favorite aspect is the venue itself: a 1917 Lithuanian recreation center, private club, and meeting hall that is so low-maintenance it doesn’t even have a website. (Bonus points for the dirt-cheap honey liqueur shots.)

Courtesy of Under Armour


Under Armour creates the freakiest uniforms known to man. Ever since Under Armour debuted its flashy Maryland football uniforms in 2011, all eyes have been on the Baltimore sports-apparel company. UA has continued to shock with its superhero-like unis (there was even a controversy at Northwestern where people mistook a distressed flag for blood splatter), and is always trying to up the ante. Watch out for its innovative Olympic uniforms in February—rumor has it that the Canadian snowboard suit they’ve designed has infrared technology inspired by military stealth bombers. No big deal.

Courtesy of Jevan Joseph


People with rooftop decks get awfully popular on July 4.



We’ve got the only state flag based on an Elizabethan family coats of arms.



You can buy a really nice three-bedroom house in the city for the price of a parking space in D.C.

O’Doherty Photography


The last Friday of the month, you can bike around town with 1,000 of your closest friends. Launched a year and a half ago, the Baltimore Bike Party is a moving mash-up of public theater, community activism, and kick-ass soirée. Frustrated that otherwise active bicyclists generally skipped the former Critical Mass rides, founder Tim Barnett said he “wanted this ride to be the thing people did on their Friday nights.” It is. Come for the group pedaling, stay for the after-party.

Ryan Snook


The Dutch ain’t got nothing on our tulips. Every spring, 80,000 tulips turn Guilford’s six-acre Sherwood Gardens into a riot of color. More than 25 tulip varieties plus azaleas, dogwoods, magnolias, and cherry trees leave the park awash in enough pastels to rival any Impressionist landscape. Best of all, the park is totally free and open to the public, who can score the used bulbs for 30 cents each at the annual Tulip Dig at the end of the blooming season.



We’re “on a break” from the Grand Prix. The event locked down the Harbor for the Labor Day weekend, snarled traffic for weeks, and, thanks to all its reinforced concrete and wire fencing, gave downtown the look of a sprawling penitentiary. Throw in the red ink, downed trees, and godawful noise, and the upcoming hiatus is welcome. And, unlike Ross and Rachel, we may not get back together.

Courtesy of Center Stage


Because Kwame Kwei-Armah is forcing us to have an intelligent discussion about race. It took a transplanted Londoner to engage Baltimoreans in a real conversation about race. Since Kwei-Armah took over as artistic director at Center Stage, he has smartly addressed the issue through compelling work that initiates community dialogue. It’s up to us to sustain it.



Our street art is world class. A drive through Station North is now the equivalent of a quality gallery visit, thanks largely to street artist Gaia’s Open Walls project that matched international talents like Jaz and Vhils to high-profile walls. Throw in Graffiti Alley behind Load of Fun and stellar murals by the likes of Lyle Kissack and Pontella Mason and you have a fantastic open-air art scene.



We give away half a million books every year. Since former bartender Russell Wattenberg quit his job 14 years ago to start The Book Thing of Baltimore, the no-frills Waverly warehouse/free library has become a destination for book lovers, giving away roughly 10,000 books every weekend. It works like this: Take as many paperbacks and hardcovers as you like. According to the website, the limit is 150,000 per day, per person.



There’s no Tex in Our Mex. Hold the chili con carne. Our growing Spanish-speaking population has brought delicious across-the-border flavors to our city. Upper Fells Point is a Mexican culinary oasis with finds like Arcos on S. Broadway and the unassuming storefront Tortilleria Sinaloa on Eastern Avenue. Other eateries abound, including La Sirenita in Highlandtown with its beef-tongue tacos and beef-tripe soup. ¡Viva México!

Courtesy of John Phillips


Station North gives hope to the Westside. Fifteen years ago, who would have imagined that North Avenue/Greenmount West would become an incubator for new performance venues, school facilities like MICA’s Graduate Studio Center and the Baltimore Design School, and a smattering of cafes and restaurants, including an Irish pub? The Station North arts district designation sure helped, and, hopefully, the Bromo Tower Arts & Entertainment district can similarly jumpstart the Westside.

Courtesy of Daniel Bedell


The Baltimore Arena continues to overachieve. City planners and developers have been predicting its demise for decades, but General Manager Frank Remesch continues attracting the likes of Springsteen, Pearl Jam, and Kanye to a venue that was a stop on The Beatles’ first major U.S. tour nearly 50 years ago. Throw in bookings for mixed martial arts, Ringling Bros., monster trucks, and Disney on Ice and you have one of the highest-grossing arenas of its size in the U.S.



Beach House stayed put. After releasing best-selling albums and playing just about every major music festival in the world, the dream-pop duo could live anywhere. But when we asked Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally if they’ve considered relocating to another city, they seemed downright perplexed by the question. As if we could love them any more.



Sometimes you can play golf in December. Or go sailing on the Chesapeake over Thanksgiving. Or put the top down on your convertible on New Year’s Day. Charm City’s moderate clime has achieved such unwintery high temperatures as 77 degrees on Dec. 7, 1998; 75 degrees on Jan. 29, 1975; and 79 degrees on Feb. 24, 1985. And scientists say it’s going to get even warmer. Let’s just hope it happens on a weekend.



Our shrubs look like poodles. Or is it the other way around? Either way, enjoy the creatures and ornate designs at the sculptured gardens and paths of Monkton’s historic Ladew Topiary Gardens. And that’s not the only public garden that amazes: Head next to Cylburn Arboretum in the city or Historic London Town and Gardens on the South River.

Courtesy of Familyfrugalfun


Everybody goes to Lexington Market. Well, maybe not everybody, but the market continues to draw the most diverse lunch crowd in town. It’s a lively mix of business types, city workers, tourists, and hustlers of all kinds noshing on Faidley’s crab cakes, fried chicken, and even fried Oreos. Let’s hope a proposed $20-25 million renovation doesn’t give it a food court vibe. And let’s hope it also preserves Bob Hieronimus’s sprawling “E Pluribus Unum” mural.

Courtesy of Ratczar


We even champion our rats. Along with the ubiquitous Orioles and Ravens magnets, “I Love City Life” stickers, and commands to “Eat Bertha’s Mussels,” there’s another prominent logo you’ll see plastered on Baltimore bumpers—the four letters “BALT” inside the silhouette of a rat. Sold at Atomic Books, these bumper stickers declare to all that, here in Mobtown, we don’t mind a little grit and dirt, and even the feline-sized rats are part of our charm.

Courtesy of WTMD


Our best radio station is a college radio station. The Internet may have changed this for some, but we still believe every city needs a cool local radio station. WTMD, Towson University-owned and 89.7 FM on your dial, plays unsigned Baltimore artists, hosts bands in studio, produces First Thursdays Concerts in the Park—and has one of the largest public radio listening audiences around. (Their slogan: “Radio for music people.”) Maybe it’s not coincidence our music scene is booming.

Courtesy of Bengies


You can still watch a movie and steam up the windows at Bengies, one of the last drive-ins in the country—and America’s biggest screen.

Courtesy of National Great Blacks in Wax Museum


Any town can have Madame Tussauds. We have the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum.



We invented the lacrosse mullet. And no, we’re not sorry.

Courtesy of H&S Bakery, Inc.


Fells Point smells like yummy bread. Factory emissions usually get a justifiably bad rap, but the aroma of freshly baked bread—sometimes white bread, sometimes cinnamon-raisin—regularly wafting from the H&S bakery on South Bond Street is the mouth-watering exception to the rule.

Courtesy of Jack Hoffberger


You can enjoy AVAM even when it’s closed. Vollis Simpson’s “Giant WhirliGig” makes us smile, as does the mosaic egg, mirror tree, whimsical art bus, “O say can you see” neon, bird’s nest balcony, and golden hand that holds the screen for Flicks From the Hill movies—all of it on view 24/7.



We’re a great place to procreate. Really. We have a zillion great kid-friendly museums, farmers’ markets, parades, festivals, outdoor fountains, green spaces, and, yes, even dragon paddle boats. Get to it.



We will wait in line 25 minutes for good pickles. Barely awake, shoppers at the seasonal, open-air Baltimore Farmers’ Market grab their Zeke’s Coffee and head to the barrels—or In a Pickle, if you want to get formal. They know the lines will grow if they wait too long to pick up the popular kosher dills, Ol’ Bay pickles, and “pickles pops,” or pickles on a stick. Owner Jason Gallant doesn’t stop at pickling cucumbers either. You’ll find a variety of pickled products to pucker up to.

Courtesy of David Colwell


We never waste an old theater. We love how the renovated Hippodrome and Lyric lend some back-in-the-day sparkle to touring Broadway hits, while the repurposed Empire and The Patterson theaters make great homes for bustling organizations like Everyman Theatre and the Creative Alliance. Next up: the old Centre Theater on North Avenue, which is being refurbished and revamped by MICA and the Jubilee Baltimore foundation.



We’re not winos. We just like to drink for free. On almost every Saturday, cars jostle for parking spaces at Total Wine in Towson—a mega wine-beer-and-spirits store. A draw, besides the inventory, is the multiple stations set up in the aisles, starting at noon, offering complimentary libations. A Rioja here, a Malbec there. The bottoms-up scene is repeated all around town, from wine boutiques like Quarry Wine and Spirits in Greenspring to The Wine Source in Hampden. All you need is a designated driver.



We put Old Bay in our ice cream and Berger Cookies in our beer. No matter the season, we have an “Only in Baltimore” recipe for you. Like, when The Charmery ice cream shop opened in Hampden in July, there were some pretty whacky flavors (Lemon Stick ice cream for one), but the absolute best was the Old Bay Caramel—a salty-sweet concoction with just the right kick of Chesapeake spice. Then local brewery Full Tilt got in on the action in November, working with DeBaufre Bakeries to create a Berger Cookie beer, aka a chocolate stout infused with vanilla.

Ryan Snook


If you spend a long weekend in Ocean City, you BETTER bring Fisher’s caramel corn back to the office. There’s no pressure when you’re vacationing in Maryland’s only ocean resort town—except when it’s time to leave. Don’t even think about escaping without a big tub of crunchy caramel corn to share with the folks at home. Baltimoreans can practically smell the sweet scent of brown sugar and corn syrup wafting from the Talbot Street store in their dreams. (You don’t have to tell them about the Thrasher’s fries and Dumser’s Dairyland ice-cream cone you gorged on.)



Camden Yards isn’t the only place to bird watch. Head for the shores of Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River and you’ll discover one of busiest places in the Mid-Atlantic for cool birds. You’ll see bald eagles (dozens in a single day), great cormorants, and osprey (the Chesapeake Bay watershed boasts the largest breeding population of the latter in the world), plus the amazing peregrine falcons, who hold the animal kingdom’s speed record, reaching more than 200 mph in their high-speed dives for dinner. (National Geographic clocked one at 242 mph!)

Courtesy of University of Baltimore


UB could write the book on smart expansion. Sometimes when a college expands, it tends to swallow a town (ahem, Towson). But during the University of Baltimore’s recent growth spurt—31 new academic programs, nearly 33 percent enrollment increase, and a shiny new law school center—it seamlessly blended into Mt. Vernon. It helps that students live in apartments, not dorms, and take public transportation, not shuttle buses, to get around. UB seems to have put the urban back in urban campus.

Courtesy of Cromwell Valley Park


You can live out your Jane Austen fantasies at Cromwell Valley Park. Less than five minutes from the Beltway, but seemingly a world away, Cromwell Valley Park’s 371 verdant acres are the perfect setting for your romantic daydreams. Walk the undulating pastures of the Meadow Trail at sunrise or sunset and imagine your very own Darcy striding brusquely toward you. We haven’t seen Colin Firth yet, but hope springs eternal.

Ryan Snook


We may not have a Panda Cam, but we do have the giant tree slide. Panda schmanda. Our Baltimore—excuse us, Maryland—Zoo has something even better: The Children’s Zoo. Our kids can’t get enough of the lily pads, the giant bird nest, the bat cave, and, of course, sliding out of that big ol’ tree. (Did we mention the zoo offers camel rides? Pretty sure you can’t ride Bao Bao.)



It’s okay to play with fire. Under supervision, of course. We’ve all probably received some sort of ceramic or glass thingamajig for our birthday from a friend who’s just taken a class at Corradetti Glassblowing Studio or Baltimore Clayworks. Which then prompts us to make a visit to one of those studios and “clay it forward.” (See what we did there?)



The Maryland Film Festival is the envy of New York. Truly. The New Yorker magazine’s Richard Brody is such a fan of the annual festival—a true cinephile’s paradise with smartly curated films, passionate discussion, and damn good after-parties—that he attends every May. Then he comes back to New York to sing the praises of the festival and tell his readers not to feel too bad—New York has lots of nice things, too.



We turned a grain elevator into high-end condos. And this wasn’t just any grain silo: When it was built in 1923, it was the largest in the world, boasting 360-degree views of greater Baltimore from nearly 300 feet up. Reinvented as the 24-story Silo Point condo tower, it offers high-end units and stunning views from the Bay Bridge to the beltway.



This “America in miniature” thing is real. From a dead stop on Pratt Street, you can be on a country lane in Baltimore County in 20 minutes, fly-fishing on the Gunpowder in 30 minutes, hiking in Catoctin Mountain Park in Western Maryland in under two hours, or getting sunburned on the Atlantic beaches in three.



Our NFL team is a literary reference, not a racial epithet. Our team plays smash-mouth football and takes its name from a kick-ass poem. We even named our mascot, Poe, and his two original sidekicks, Edgar and Allan, after its iconic author. We’ll take literature over hate-speech any day.



Our ships are taller than yours. Hey, we’ve got more than debris floating in our Harbor. More than 500 ships—many of them tall, majestic, and Facebook-photo-worthy—have sailed through Baltimore over the past 39 years.



Our streets are made for walking. For the first time, we’ve cracked the top 10 list of Most Walkable U.S. Cities. The algorithmically minded folks at Walk Score, who measure such things, highlighted our many great neighborhoods like Mt. Vernon, Hollins Market, and Little Italy. If you’re feeling super ambitious you can even hoof the Inner Harbor’s seven-mile promenade from Fort McHenry to Canton Waterfront Park—but you might want to drop a few bucks on a water taxi instead.



Our streetlights are environmentally friendly. When it was announced that the city was replacing all 46,000 of its sodium vapor streetlights with new energy-saving LED models, most just shrugged. But the new lights will save the city an estimated $1.9 million in electricity and $2.5 million in maintenance annually, lessen glare for drivers, and decrease light pollution, which obscures the stars and interferes with ecosystems. Now that’s a bright idea.

Courtesy of Eric Chen


The George Peabody Library is so beautiful, some people don’t realize it’s an actual working library. Yes, we see The Peabody Library mostly as a backdrop for weddings these days, which is understandable, considering its five tiers of cast-iron balconies, gold-scalloped columns, and latticed skylight 61 feet overhead. But it’s actual contents are just as impressive: more than 300,000 volumes, including one of the world’s foremost collections of Don Quixote editions.

Courtesy of Monument City Flickr


Our jail looks like a medieval castle. If you’ve ever heard a tourist ask how to get into “the castle” on E. Madison Street, you understand how this gothic gem looks to outsiders—though we tend to take it for granted. Critics called it a “palace for felons” when it was built in the mid-1800s, which seems downright prophetic considering the inmates-running-the-jail scandal that erupted last year.



We’re growing more and more of our own food. Urban farming has taken root in Baltimore in a big way. There are approximately 20 farms currently operating, and more are probably on the way. Thanks to the Farm Alliance of Baltimore City, many of these farms sell their produce by way of food trucks, farm stands, CSAs, restaurants and caterers, and, through low-income vouchers, much of it gets to those who need it the most.

Courtesy of Christopher Myers


You can blow an entire day’s calories on the PB&J Delight at Rocket to Venus (and it’s totally worth it). Take a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, fry it in pancake batter, top it with vanilla-bean ice cream and chocolate and caramel sauces, then let the crunchy-creaminess, sweet-saltiness, and warmth-coolness of it take over and rejoice that you live in a city where this level of bliss can be had for $8.

Courtesy of Butt’s & Betty’s Tavern


We’ll never be too cool for the corner bar. Sure, we have trendy tapas bars, craft cocktail hipster meccas, and a glitzy Four Seasons now. But that doesn’t stop some of our favorite dives—Curb Shoppe, Harry’s American Bar, Butts & Betty’s—from filling their bar stools every night. We like that the only decisions you have to make are: “Who breaks?” and “Natty Boh or Bud?”

Courtesy of Christopher Myers


Atomic Books is your portal to weirdness. This Hampden hangout continues to fly its freak flag, and we continue to enjoy watching it flap in the breeze. Where else can you buy a zombie bottle opener and X-rated graphic novels, attend regular drawing club meetings, and leave fan mail for John Waters that he actually picks up and reads? It’s a rhetorical question, but we’ll answer it anyway: nowhere.

Courtesy of Amazon


Your Amazon order really will be here ASAP. Thanks to Amazon’s soon-to-be-opened, 1 million-square-foot distribution center in Southeast Baltimore, not only will the site of the old GM plant get a second life, but you’ll be able to count on that last-minute birthday gift arriving before the surprise party you forgot all about starts. (Though not yet by drones, alas.)

Courtesy of Anthony C. Hayes


We have The Block. Yes, still. Oh, baby, there was a time when burlesque was theater, and striptease an art form. In Baltimore, we called it The Block. It’s where voluptuous women like Blaze Starr got their starts at places named The Two O’Clock Club and The Gayety. How times have changed. But a smaller—albeit seedier—version of the East Baltimore Street landmark still exists with strip bars and barkers—and a Subway shop. The opening of Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club has brought back a touch of class. Some say.

Courtesy of Bryson Dudley


We don’t forget our dead. Graveyards aren’t just for Halloween. We visit our cemeteries all year long, whether it’s all the famous names (including John Wilkes Booth!) at Green Mount Cemetery, actor Harris Glenn Milstead (aka Divine) in Prospect Hill Cemetery in Towson, or the Fallen Heroes section at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens in Timonium. Throw in our wide array of cool monuments (Frank Zappa and Billie Holiday, anyone?) and we’re definitely a town that honors the dead.

Courtesy of Andre Chung


One of our most interesting art galleries is also a barbershop (or vice versa). Sowebo’s New Beginnings barbershop doubles as an art gallery, and a good one at that. Barber Troy Staton is also a self-taught curator who exhibits works by an impressive roster of artists (such as Sondheim Prize winner Renee Stout and painter Ernest Shaw) at his upscale, family-friendly shop. Stop in for a trim or just to peep what’s on the walls.



Two words: Crush Davis.

Ryan Snook


We all sometimes shout out the “O” during the national anthem at inappropriate times.



Our accent is beautiful to us.



David Simon keeps fighting the good fight. Simon hasn’t gone soft after all The Wire accolades. Whether shooting Treme in New Orleans, penning op-ed pieces and posting on his blog, or headlining a Constitution Day symposium at MICA, he still speaks truth to power with gusto and moxie.

Fluid Movement


Ironic (and awesome) water ballet happens here. Fluid Movement has redefined the art of synchronized swimming, making it a little less synchronized and Olympian and a whole lot more community-oriented and fun. How could you not love a ballet called Rebel Teen from Outer Space!, performed in a pool?



He’s just Mike Phelps to us. Rodgers Forge-born and Meadowbrook-raised, Olympian Michael Phelps stuck around town, first buying in Fells Point then landing on an unassuming side street in Canton. Bumping into Mike on the street, at the bar, or in the coffee shop is just par for the course (golf pun totally intended).

Courtesy of Christopher Myers


It’s totally normal to stick a peppermint into a lemon here. Drinking lemon juice isn’t just some sort of cleansing method. Since 1911, the FlowerMart in Mt. Vernon has welcomed the spring season with the display of over-the-top flower hats along with the traditional treat that replaces a straw with a peppermint, stuck straight into a lemon to give you the perfect refreshing balance of sweet and sour.

Ryan Snook


Toilet Bowl Races are a Thing. Sure, most cities have Porta Potties. But it’s so very us to have portable pots. At Hampdenfest in September, Baltimore’s Wright brothers of the commode come together and turn their toilets into racing machines. Insert your gas jokes here.

Courtesy of the BMA


One of our museums has the second-largest collection of late Warhol (even though he never lived here). Thanks to visionary purchases by Brenda Richardson and Arnold Lehman in the late-1980s/early-1990s, the BMA possesses a formidable collection of late Warhol works (second only to the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, the artist’s hometown). These days, the museum can’t afford such work, as its value has only skyrocketed.



2014 is the 200th anniversary of the city saving the nation from the British. (You’re welcome, America.) When the British advanced on D.C. during the final months of the War of 1812, the residents (including the President) split, leaving Baltimore—and the nascent nation—vulnerable. Oh, but Baltimore would not go quietly. In a series of land and sea skirmishes over a few days in September 1814, Baltimoreans, exhibiting the grit we’ve become known for, beat back the mighty empire and saved the nation. Some guy even wrote a poem about it. Maybe you’ve heard of it? It starts, “O say can you see...”

Courtesy of BSA


Our performing arts high school is fab (and was once graced by Channing Tatum’s abs). Forget the fact that Baltimore School for the Arts provides a world-class education for free to urban children, has its wonderful TWIGS after-school program, and has such famous alumni as CFDA fashion designer Christian Siriano, the late hip-hop artist Tupac Shakur, and actress Jada Pinkett-Smith—Channing Tatum break-danced there! Yup, parts of the movies Step Up and Step Up 2 were filmed in its halls.

Courtesy of The Charles Theatre


For some Baltimoreans, Cinema Sundays at the Charles is our church. On several Sunday mornings of the year, a kind of cinematic miracle occurs: A packed movie theater where audiences pay rapt attention to the first-run independent film on the screen (not a glowing cell phone or crinkly food wrapper in sight) then join host Jonathan Palevsky and a special guest speaker in a lively and intelligent post-film Q&A. Come early for some coffee, bagels, and a shmear.



“Watch Out For the Big Girl” is our most popular club anthem. (Of course it is.) Bmore Club is a sound of its own. You might have even tried doing some Spongebob dance moves to this blend of hip-hop and choppy house beats that clocks in at 130 bpm, mixing in samples of old Baltimore hits and TV show theme songs. The fun (and practical!) “Watch Out for the Big Girl” by Doo Dew Kidz was one of the first singles to break through.



We host the most strange and wonderful music festival known to man: High Zero. After 15 years, this improvisational laboratory of experimental music continues to turn the industry on its ear. The four-day event draws acclaimed avant-garde players—toting one-of-a-kind instruments and noise contraptions—from around the world, establishing Baltimore as one of the genre’s hubs. Between festivals, check out the unique sounds at The Red Room at Waverly’s Normals Books and Records.

Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress


We have the oldest cathedral in the United States. Designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary—built from 1806-1821, and partially funded by a state lottery—is America’s oldest cathedral. Pope John Paul II visited twice, and since a $32-million restoration in 2006, the neo-classical basilica now receives more than 100,000 visitors a year. Perhaps the new pontiff someday?

Ryan Snook


September 25-27

We race in high heels. For cash. The Baltimore Pride Festival’s annual High Heel Race is short, but tough—a dead uphill sprint, which always includes some elbows and jostling before the pack separates. On hand: thousands of parade fans lining both sides of Charles Street. At stake: a two-foot trophy, $1,100 in prizes, and a bottle of Champagne.

Courtesy of Four Seasons


We could swim forever (and ever and ever) in the Four Seasons’ infinity pool. The outdoor urban oasis (which has caught the attention of Condé Nast Traveler, naming it one of the “Head-Turning Infinity Pools” of the world) provides more than 120 feet of salt water, cabanas, chaise lounges, and a breathtaking view of the Inner Harbor. When in its presence, we can’t help but feel like spoiled royalty. It’s no wonder that it’s where the Ravens Justin Tucker proposed to his girlfriend. She said yes! (Duh).

Courtesy of The Stoop Storytelling


We love to tell (and hear) great stories. The Stoop Storytelling Series, in its eighth season, is one of those obviously great ideas, that when launched, you can’t believe no one had thought of it here before. At the same time, no one could do it better than producers and co-hosts Laura Wexler and Jessica Henkin. Nearly 500 stories later, the Stoop now includes workshops and “Second Stoop” shows around town. Everyone has a story. What’s yours?

Ryan Snook


There’s a gargoyle hugging an owl on City College’s stone façade. Take a close look at the façade of the “castle on the hill” (at 33rd Street and The Alameda) and you’ll notice, amongst the dramatic arches and elegant cornices, a curious assortment of statuary. It includes a man smoking a pipe, squirrels gathering nuts, and—most intriguing of all—a gargoyle with its arm around an owl. Curiously, the gargoyle, holding an open book, appears to be the wise one.



Our best pit-beef joint shares a parking lot with a strip club. This is one of those “only on Route 40” scenarios. Chaps Pit Beef has been featured on The Food Network and Travel Channel for its delicious pit-beef, onion, and Tiger sauce (horseradish and mayo) sandwiches. Don’t hold it against the place that it’s smack dab next to The Gentleman’s Gold Club. Gives a whole other meaning to dinner and a show.

Courtesy of Woodberry Kitchen


The Gov’t Mule exists. You may think you’ve had other mule cocktails (characterized by the inclusion of ginger beer). But wait until you try Woodberry Kitchen’s Gov’t Mule. They start off with silky organic vodka, add house-made ginger beer and house-made ginger-lime syrup to kick up the spice, top with lime zest, and serve over crushed ice. The kicker? It’s served in a rustic copper mug, which keeps the drink impeccably cold no matter how long you sip.

Courtesy of Christopher Myers


You can blow an entire day’s calories on the PB&J Delight at Rocket to Venus (and it’s totally worth it). Take a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, fry it in pancake batter, top it with vanilla-bean ice cream and chocolate and caramel sauces, then let the crunchy-creaminess, sweet-saltiness, and warmth-coolness of it take over and rejoice that you live in a city where this level of bliss can be had for $8.

Ryan Snook


Our favorite sandwich has legs. True story. We’re in a restaurant. The woman next to us is eating a soft-shell sandwich in all its whole-bodied glory. Suddenly, a small boy shouts out, “Look! That lady is eating a giant spider.” Not quite, sonny. That pan-fried blue crab with appendages on a bun is a delicacy that is in the running to be our state sandwich.

Courtesy of Atwaters


Odds are, you live near an Atwater’s. All hail Ned Atwater. Quietly, purposefully, his cafes—bread! soup! sandwiches! lattes! yes, please!—have taken over Charm City. A drive-thru in Kenilworth; the Belvedere Square Market with its Pike Place Market-esque hipness; and Canton—its first downtown location—opening this year. Curried cauliflower soup for all!

Mark Peters Photography


Every year, 34th Street has us believing in miracles. Whether it’s the peace house, the hubcap tree, the inflatable Santas, or the Utz girl smiling at the Boh man, there’s a house for you on 34th Street in Hampden in December.

Courtesy of Scott Suchman


Egg custard with marshmallow. Enough said.


Get fresh content delivered straight to your inbox.