BALTIMORE (Reuters Life!) - Known these days as “Charm City,” Baltimore is less than an hour’s drive from Washington, but it is truly a world apart.
Historic, friendly and full of contrasts, Baltimore offers visitors a wide range of things to do, see and eat.
Local correspondents help you get the most out of a stay in the city whose famous citizens include the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, composer Philip Glass, neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Mo‘Nique, the comedian who won the Oscar as best supporting actress for her role in “Precious” earlier this month.
8:00 p.m. - Drive to Baltimore’s lively Fells Point neighborhood, where shipyards once built some of the best known clipper ships of the 19th century and cobblestone streets lead to fine views of the city’s harbor. Once the city’s red light district, Fells Point now offers dozens of restaurants and bars with live music and plenty of street life.
Grab a table at Bertha‘s, an institution in this neighborhood since 1974. Be sure to ask for the signature green “Eat Bertha’s Mussels” bumper sticker, which has reportedly been spotted on seven continents.
10:00 p.m. - Across from Bertha’s is the Broadway Market, which has been in operation since 1784. Grab an ice cream at one of several nearby spots and saunter along the waterfront, taking note of the big brick building at the end of the pier, which is where another hit television series, “Homicide: Life on the Street,” was filmed in the 1990s. There are many pubs to choose from for a night cap, or catch the live jazz back at Bertha‘s.
9:00 a.m. - Eat breakfast at Spoons Coffee Cafe and Coffee Roastery in Baltimore’s Federal Hill neighborhood, a warm and inviting coffeehouse that became the first certified green restaurant in the state of Maryland in 2006. Brunch is served until 1 p.m. on weekends, and includes several dishes featuring Maryland crabs. (Prices range from $5.50 to $14.25).
11 a.m. - Head to Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles, and see the statue of George Herman “Babe” Ruth, who was born in Baltimore in 1895. There’s also a museum dedicated to Ruth for die-hard baseball fans.
Noon - Visit Edgar Allen Poe’s grave at 519 W. Fayette St. Poe, known for his macabre short stories and poems, died in the city at age 40. His poem, “The Raven” inspired the name of Baltimore’s professional football team. For 60 years a mysterious visitor left roses and a bottle of cognac at the grave on the anniversary of his birthday on January 19. The tradition ended in 2009, the bicentennial of his birth, but Poe fans often still leave a rose at the site.
12:30 p.m. - A block away is the Lexington Market, which opened in 1782 and is billed as the largest, continuously running market in the United States. There are often concerts around midday. More than 80 vendors offer prepared food, deli items, fruits and other merchandise. Be sure to try one of the famous jumbo lump crab cakes from J.W. Faidley, a family owned business since 1886.
1:30 p.m. - Drive to Baltimore’s beautiful and historic Mount Vernon neighborhood and visit the Walters Art Museum, widely considered to be one of the most impressive private collections in the United States. (Admission free).
5:00 p.m. - Take a short walk up Charles Street to the Washington Monument, which was erected in 1815 to honor George Washington. Continue up Charles Street to the Helmand, an Afghani restaurant owned by Qayum Karzai, one of the brothers of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. (Entrees from $15)
7:00 p.m. - Head back to Fells Point by car, where the Fells Pointed Haunted Pub walk begins at Max’s Sidebar, offering a two-hour guided tour of the neighborhood’s best haunts. (21 and older, $20).
9 a.m. - Join the locals for breakfast at Jimmy’s Restaurant, a popular diner in Fells Point that serves generous portions of fluffy pancakes, Texas-sized French toast and other goodies for $3 to $5. Coffee is $1.65 and a Mimosa will run you just $3.95.
11 a.m. - Take a ride on the Baltimore Water Taxi ($9.00 for an all-day pass), which departs from the end of the pier to the Inner Harbor. Take the taxi service all the way to Fort McHenry, a beautiful star-shaped fort in the harbor. It’s a great place for a walk and full of history too. It was here that Frances Scott Key witnessed the Battle of Baltimore in 1814, when the sight of the tattered American flag inspired the words to the U.S. national anthem. The city was also home to Mary Pickersgill, who made the flag that inspired Key’s poem.
12:00 p.m. - Catch the next water taxi to the Inner Harbor, which offers something for everyone, from museums to shopping to food and even a Civil War era sailing ship! Grab a quick lunch at the food court in the pavilion, then walk along the perimeter to the American Visionary Arts Museum, or take the water taxi to the Rusty Scupper stop. The museum is an architectural delight, with a 55-foot whirligig created by a 76-year old mechanic and farmer Vollis Simpson, who like all the artists exhibiting here was entirely self-taught. (Admission $15.95)
3:30 p.m. - Take the water taxi back to the Inner Harbor and get off at the stop for the National Aquarium, the nation’s largest. Reserve a timed ticket in advance to get a guaranteed entry time and see the dolphin show. ($29.95 ticket includes dolphin show and 4D Immersion Theater). Allow about 3 hours to get the full aquarium experience.
6:30 p.m. - A short walk will take you to the cozy neighborhood of Little Italy, which has almost 30 restaurants. The neighborhood was the birthplace of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose father was the city’s first Italian-American mayor and later served in the House of Representatives.
8:30 p.m. - Return to the aquarium and take the water taxi back to Fells Point to collect your car. (Be sure to check your schedule for the last water taxi run, but it’s usually around 9 p.m. on Sundays in the summer._
Reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Patricia Reaney