TravelQ: Baltimore Part I

Editor’s note: TravelQ, a series that documents travel through the eyes of stylish queers, returns this week with a new feature by Caroline and Erin, web designers, freelance photographers and writers who co-own Authentic Asheville.

So you’ve got 48 hours in Baltimore? Come with us as we take you on a visit around Charm City, one of the most interesting places in Maryland. If the only thing you know about Baltimore is what you’ve seen on TV, we dare you to hit ‘pause’ on any preconceived notions you may have about this city and come see why we have such a soft spot for it and consider it one of our favorite places to visit. Special thanks to Visit Baltimore for their VIP pass which gave us access to several of the attractions listed below. (Stay tune this month for our Baltimore TravelQ Part II: @anitadolcevita most Instagrammable recommendations.)

THINGS TO DO

George Peabody Library | 17 East Mount Vernon Place

One of the most beautiful spaces in all of Baltimore is The George Peabody Library. It was built in 1828 and is part of John’s Hopkins University but you don’t have to be a student to enjoy it’s floor-to-ceiling walls of books (there are six tiers of them). This is a great spot for those in need of a quiet, hushed space for thinking or for those of you looking for a cool photo for your Instagram feed.

American Visionary Museum | 800 Key Highway

If you only have time for one museum while in town, we recommend the American Visionary. It is full of inspiring art and unlike some museums, it doesn’t have a stuffy quality to it. The exhibits are fun, surprising and, as the Visionary in the name suggests, features works by people who were largely self-taught with little to no formal training. Bonus: the gift shop has original art by some of the featured artists in the museum for sale alongside a fairly large collection of moderately priced books, vintage postcards of Baltimore, buttons for $1. 

Atomic Books | 3620 Falls Road

This small, independently owned bookshop is a go-to for comic books, zines, books by local authors and books about local celebrities as well as quirky, fun gifts to take home as a souvenir from your time in Baltimore. Atomic Books also happens to be one of the unofficial where you can reliably send fan-mail to queer icon John Waters.

Baltimore Musem of Art | 10 Art Museum Drive

If you just can’t get enough of museums, be sure to stop by the BMA. This museum is free and opens every day except for New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. The art you’ll discover is world-class and in addition to the permanent collections on display you’ll also find rotating exhibitions that makes future visits exciting and new. Pro Tip: Try to plan your visit on a warm day so you can spend some time in the outdoor sculpture garden.

National Aquarium | 501 East Pratt Street

We happened to visit during one of the National Aquarium’s Dollar Days and it was super busy but it was awesome to see some many people enjoying the space. There are several different floors to make your way through starting with the first floor that is home to several different sharks and manta rays. As you make your way up the building you’ll encounter everything from an electric eel to poisonous frogs, puffins, snakes and more. Consider spending a few extra dollars to see one of the 4-D movies they show daily. Pro Tip: If you parked in a garage, get your parking ticket validated inside and save a few bucks. We also recommend ordering your tickets online and skipping the wait.

Inner Harbor | The area around East Pratt and Light Street

The Inner Harbor isn’t just one specific place, it’s an area on the water that’s a mixture of restaurants, bars, shops, and tourist attractions. The National Aquarium, mentioned above, is in this area as well as the Maryland Science Center and is also host to a bunch of fun tourist attractions. In the winter an ice rink pops up and in the warmer months, you can see the entire harbor full of rented paddleboats. It’s a super busy place but definitely worth checking if it’s your first time in the city.

PLACES TO EAT AND DRINK

Suspended Brewing Company | 912 Washington Boulevard

When we saw the mission statement for Suspended Brewing Company: to demonstrate that social justice and ecological stewardship can be a potent combination for business, and to be an uplifting presence in our community, we knew we had to pay them a visit. We could see the LGBTQ+ and trans flags proudly hanging above the bar from outside on the street and knew we’d made a good decision. The owners, Yasmine and Josey (also the brewer) are some of the kindest, warmest, most welcoming people you will meet in Baltimore. Their staff, too. It’s a great stop for anyone visiting Baltimore as they have truly created a space in the community where you can let your guard down for a few hours and just be yourself.

Never On Sunday | 829 North Charles Street

$2.75 pizza jumbo slice pizza. Lemme repeat that in case you didn’t hear me the first time. $2.75 jumbo slice pizza. You can eat in or take away, it’s a great spot to go before going out or late night (on Friday and Saturday nights they’re open until 3am). You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better, more affordable piece of ‘za in the entire city.

Owl Bar | 1 East Chase Street

Looking for a safe and friendly space to grab a drink? Put Owl Bar on your list. It’s located inside the swanky Belvedere Hotel and has a great happy hour. From 4 – 7, you can get discounts on food and select draft beers, wines and rail drinks are only $3 a piece. Grab a seat at the bar or a spot in one of the more private lounge areas towards the back.

Grand Central | 1101 North Charles Street

There’s a few gay flags and drag posters on the outside of Grand Central but if you’re not looking for it you could easily walk by it without knowing that it’s a gay nightclub. (From the outside it looks like an unassuming brick building). If you’re looking for a drag show or a nightclub with DJ’s where you can dance the night away, this is one of Baltimore’s go-to spots.

Mi & Yu Noodle Bar | 520 Park Ave

There are a couple of Mi & Yu Noodle Bars in Baltimore. They’ve got locations in Federal Hill, Hampden and Mount Vernon. It’s a great spot to get a quick bite to eat. We both ordered the chicken pho which came in a savory miso broth and was served with an egg, some cabbage and Korean radish slaw. It’s unlike any pho we’ve ever had before but it was tasty, piping hot, the service was friendly and the vibe was laid back and casual. We’d definitely eat there again.

The Crown | 1910 North Charles Street

Located in the artsy neighborhood called Station North, the Crown is part restaurant, part bar and part music venue. The shows range from free, no cover DJ sets to karaoke nights to live, local bands. The vibe is cool and laid back. You’re likely to see a bunch of students from MICA (the Maryland Institue College of Art) hanging out here. Come as you are, it’s cool.

Clavel | 225 West 23rd Street

The space is gorgeous and the food and drinks are delicious. Try to get there as close to when they open if you don’t want to wait for a table. Otherwise, be prepared to hang out for a drink or two until something opens up. The place buzzes on the weekend with a vibe that makes you feel like you’re part of something special. We recommend the Barbacoa de Borrego and the Rajas Vegetarians.

Want to keep up with Authentic Asheville? You can follow them on instagram at @e.mcgrady, @carolineperdue and @authenticasheville

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