With grace and grit in the face of adversity, Baltimore is a city on the rise
Baltimore has always had somewhat of an image issue. Serial didn’t help things, as the city is beleaguered by negative headlines that far too often conjure images of a crime-infested netherworld. And while there’s no denying Baltimore has its social and economic challenges, a creative renaissance invites opportunities for artists and entrepreneurs to flourish and create new buzz.
While new hotels like the recently opened Hotel Revival in Mount Vernon and Sagamore Pendry in Fells Point offer respite to visitors, for local flavor, you have to dig deeper and be willing to get a little weird. This is the home of John Waters, after all. Walk in the steps of the pop culture icon while visiting some of the city's historic theaters, like The Senator, which boasts a restored 40-foot silver screen, and screens revivals of Waters' work throughout the year. (Cry Baby is playing in February.) For the more traditional, the Baltimore Museum of Art features the world’s largest collection of Henri Matisse paintings. Don't miss one of the world’s largest free arts festivals, Artscape, which sees more than 350,000 attendees over three days in July.
For every establishment like the BMA, there are just as many counter-culture equivalents. The American Visionary Art Museum is lauded as one of the world’s most cutting edge sanctuaries for self-taught artists, as is Creative Labs. Taking up a warehouse in North Baltimore’s trendy-ish Hampden neighborhood, this consortium of creatives supports emerging artists with its huge performance space, a woodworking shop, private arts studios and more.
Of course, you can’t leave without eating the city’s famous Maryland blue crabs. There’s no shortage of options, from Mount Vernon’s The Elephant to modern soul food at Ida B’s Table to R. House, a chef-driven food hall in a former mechanic’s garage in Remington. The city doesn’t get nearly enough love for its phenomenal beer and cocktail scene, either. The Elk Room serves up some of the city’s swankiest, ever-changing speakeasy-style libations, as does The Blue Bird Cocktail Room back over in Hampden. For something truly no-frills, W.C. Harlan is heralded a hometown hero, as is sister property Clavel, beloved for its wide array of mezcals and Mexican inspired bites. -- Michelle Gross