Why: I’d been meaning to get to Charm City for months. Seafood galore!
When: Sunday, April 7, 2013. Lovely first sunny-springy day of the season.
How: On Tuesday, Theo and I talked about going to a baseball game at Orioles’ park thanks to a ticket hookup. By Friday we had roped in more friends and decided to cut the game and just visit the city on Sunday. I researched activities on sites like New York Times 36 Hours (they’ve covered Baltimore 3 times in 7 years), mapped out a few activity options, and left the rest up to be played by ear. Since our group included four carless DCers, we rented a Zipcar for the day. The drive from downtown DC took just over an hour.
How Much: Costs included the car rental, lunch, dinner, snacks, and drinks. We didn’t pay entrance fees at any sites (e.g. the aquarium is around $30 pp, American Visionary Art Museum is $16, Fort McHenry is $7) because most of our activities involved either walking around or eating/drinking. Instead of renting a car, it would have been possible to take the train or bus from DC and rely on public transportation, like the excellent/free Charm City Circulator bus.
What we did: My main priority was seafood eating, so the first stop of the day was L.P. Steamers, recommended for its “authentic” vibe and blue crabs. Well, actually, our first stop, upon realizing the restaurant wasn’t quite open yet at 11am, was a wine bar. Another good thing about travel, it doesn’t feel weird at all to drink in the a.m.! It was the rest of the group’s first Maryland crab experience, and as Theo put it, “That was absolutely the correct choice to go there, but I never want to do it again.” I, of course, like high-activity/DIY meals (e.g. fondue, artichokes, Korean BBQ) and was therefore delighted.
Next up was a stroll to For McHenry, famous for its role in the War of 1812 and the inspiration for Francis Scott Key to write the Star-Spangled Banner. Hey, do you know this story? Key actually wasn’t at the fort; he apparently sailed his ship out directly into the midst of the British forces and was captured, so he spent the night sitting as prisoner watching the battle unfold as the British attempted to take the fort. Obvi, when he saw that banner yet wave in the morning light, he knew the Americans had held the fort. Sidenote: our attitude about the War of 1812 is slightly ridiculous; this is a topic about which I feel fairly strongly. Anyway, there’s a nice museum and movie that are free to visit; we elected not to pay the entrance fee to visit the fort itself (seeing from the outside=almost always good enough!)
From Fort McHenry, we drove towards the Inner Harbor, passing the American Visionary Art Museum and stopping by Federal Hill Park. Twelve minutes in the parking meter got us a walk up the hill, great views over the harbor and city, and a walk past some of Baltimore’s tonier real estate.
After depositing the car in a downtown lot, we debated between visiting the aquarium and eating again. Guess which won. Another great thing about traveling in the age of iPhones is that it’s so much easier to stray from the original plan and find fabulous alternatives. Walking through Little Italy, in response to group desire to drink coffee, a quick Google/Zagat search turned up an amazing Italian bakery two blocks away, Piedigrotta, which lays claim to the invention of tirimisu. Now, you know how I feel about cream-based desserts, but this cannoli made me a believer.
We continued our stroll along the waterfront towards Fells Point, which is filled with cute cobblestone streets, bars, and restaurants. We secured a waterfront table at a wine bar (more wine, always wine). Two members of our party are serious fans of Roy’s, the upscale Hawaiian chain whose only East Coast outlet is in Baltimore’s Harbor East. The much-discussed butter fish did not necessarily meet the group’s overly-lofty expectations, but it was still a very good and festive way to conclude the day.