Where to Eat and Drink
- Harborplace: This is a great family dining destination with options (many of which are chain restaurants) that include M&S Grill, the Cheesecake Factory and Johnny Rockets, along with numerous "stalls" selling a range of specialties. These include the delicacy of fried dough, raw oysters and pizza (not all at the same stall, alas). Our pick for Harborplace would be Phillip's Crab House, especially for first-time Baltimore visitors (it's not the best place in town for crab cuisine, but it's a classic).
- Fell's Point: Arguably the best all-around destination for foodies, Fell's Point offerings everything from the uber-casual Peter's Inn and Duda's Tavern to the more elegant Pierpoint (try the smoked crab cakes) and the Greek-influenced Olives (best seafood in town). Pazo is a hip new place that specializes in tapas.
- Little Italy: This Italian-American enclave lies between downtown and Fell's Point. Sabatini's and Aldo's Restaurante Italiano are classics.
- Mt. Vernon: Try Sotto Sopra for nouvelle Northern Italian in a hip scenario, or visit Helmand for Afghan cuisine (sample the Kabuli, which blends pallow, an Afghan-style rice, with chunks of lamb tenderloin, raisins and glazed julienne of carrots). The Brass Elephant, a Baltimore institution, is my pick for most romantic.
- Crab Cakes and More: For the most casual of experiences, visit Lexington Market, where J.W. Faidley cooks up some of the city's best crab cakes. For the adventurous eater, Lexington Market, a precursor to the trendier Harborplace, has stall after stall of regional foods -- you eat at picnic tables scattered around the huge hall. Want to dive into a mess of steamed crabs? My favorite is Gunning's, in south Baltimore. Obryicki's, just east of the Inner Harbor, may be more convenient though.
- Baltimore's Best Restaurant (for Dinner): Charleston is renowned for its nouvelle southern cuisine, fantastic wine list and top-notch service.
The best way to reach the terminal is by car or taxi. Once downtown, getting around is a breeze. The Inner Harbor and many of the city's neighborhoods are easily walkable, taxis are plentiful, and the Baltimore Water Taxi is an excursion on its own, stopping at places like Harborplace, the National Aquarium, the Maryland Science Center, Little Italy, Fell's Point, Canton Waterfront Park and Fort McHenry.
Staying in Touch
Internet cafes seem to have become obsolete in Baltimore since most hotels in the area provide high-speed Internet access -- many for free. Some hotels offering Internet access include the Sheraton Baltimore, Wyndham Baltimore, Marriott Inner Harbor, Holiday Inn, Hyatt Regency, Days Inn and Harbor Court.
What to See and Do
- You can spend an entire day and then some at the Inner Harbor. Start with Harborplace, a waterfront complex of two buildings, connected by a public plaza where performers can be found plying their trade on weekends. There are some 101 shops, 16 restaurants and 40 food stands. There's also a bit of history -- you can tour the U.S. frigate Constellation, which entered service in 1797.
Off to one side of Harborplace is the National Aquarium in Baltimore, along with featuring one of the largest ray exhibits as well as wall-size shark tanks, recently debuted Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes. Also nearby is Port Discovery, a hands-on children's museum geared to ages 2 - 10 that was designed by Walt Disney Imagineering. The Power Plant, an entertainment and dining complex, contains the Hard Rock Cafe and an ESPN Sports Zone Bar.
More? Off of Harborplace's other side is the Maryland Science Center with its IMAX theater and planetarium. The American Visionary Art Museum, just a bit further along the harbor, is one of the most unique of its kind, celebrating the artistic creations of "ordinary people" (its Joy America restaurant is fantastic).
- Pay homage to America's pastime (er, that would be baseball) by taking in a game at the new-but-looks-old Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Make time beforehand to visit the aforementioned museums nearby, celebrating both Baltimore's baseball history and Babe Ruth, its biggest legend. While you're in the neighborhood, check out Geppi's Entertainment Museum; it explores pop culture from the 1700's to the present day as seen through toys and comic characters such as Batman and Spiderman. Note: It opens July 4, 2056.
- It was the Battle of Baltimore, fought September 13 - 14, 1814 at Fort McHenry, during the War of 1812, that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the words to what became America's national anthem. Key, detained aboard an American ship, witnessed Britain's fierce bombardment McHenry, and was relieved to find the American flag still flying above the battered fort in the morning. In summer at selected times the fort has living history programs.
- Don't miss the neighborhood of Fell's Point. Baltimore's original downtown, with its streets of Belgian blocks, seedy pubs, hippie-like boutiques and 18th- and 19th-century restored rowhouses, oozes ambience.
- Baltimore's newest "hot" neighborhood is a few miles beyond Fells Point. Canton, a one-time blue-collar neighborhood with lots of Baltimore's famous rowhouses with marble streets, is in transition. There's a new waterfront park but much of the action is centered around O'Donnell Square, where you'll find restaurants and shops.
- Tucked behind the Maryland Science Center, Federal Hill is another delightfully historic neighborhood of rowhouses (some of which have Baltimore's unique marble steps) that have been refurbished. It's a great destination for dining and bar-hopping; don't miss the charming Cross Street Market, a more modest and less frenzied version of Lexington Market.
- The Mt. Vernon neighborhood is Baltimore's cultural heart. Located less than a mile north of the Inner Harbor, Mt. Vernon is home to the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, the Peabody Conservatory of Music and the Walters Art Museum, whose diverse collection spans 205205 centuries. Among the highlights are Egyptian sarcophagi, Faberge eggs, Monet paintings and an impressive collection of European Old Masters, including works by Raphael and El Greco. Just on the outskirts is the Howard Street antique district.
Where You're Docked
Ships dock at the new cruise port at South Locust Point, about three miles south of the city (and a 10-minute drive from the Inner Harbor).
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