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Baltimore
 
Economically, geographically and culturally, Baltimore is an amalgam. One of early America's busiest seaports, it was also its first important railroad terminal. Not content to be a shipping hub, it also became a leading manufacturing center, renowned for shipbuilding as well as airplane production.

Situated just below the Mason-Dixon line, Baltimore is, strictly speaking, a Southern town. Yet its industrial base and urban energy cast it more in the mold of America's Northern cities.

Culturally, Baltimore's tradition of diversity dates back to 1649 and the passage of the Toleration Act, which permitted the practice of all religions in the colony of Maryland. In subsequent years the region's air of acceptance inspired waves of Polish, German, Irish, Italian, Greek and other immigrants. The various enclaves these newcomers established made Baltimore a collection of diverse neighborhoods, which is not to say that the melting pot always simmered peacefully. In the early 19th century, for example, Baltimore acquired the nick-name "Mob Town" because of its inhabitants' tendency to take to the streets en masse to demonstrate various ardently held beliefs.

Today, by and large, things are much quieter, but the neighborhoods retain their distinctive character--so much so that, no matter where you stand in Baltimore today, you can walk six or eight blocks in any direction and be in what, for all intents and purposes, is a different city.

Inner Harbor
Any tour of Baltimore should start with the Inner Harbor, an area that owes its character not to ethnicity but to industry. For years the area was at the heart of Baltimore's port facilities. As the city's shipping business declined in the post-war years, the Inner Harbor did too, until, by the mid-1970s, it was a long stretch of dilapidated docks and abandoned warehouses. But the end of the 1970s saw the start of a concerted effort to revitalize Baltimore, and a key part of the plan was the creation of Harborplace, a three-acre retail and entertainment complex that would become the anchor of a reanimated Inner Harbor. The effort was a resounding success.
Today the Inner Harbor's attractions include the Maryland Science Center, the National Aquarium, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Harborplace, the U.S.S. Constellation, the Pier Six Concert Pavilion, and The Power Plant, which houses several night-spots. In addition there are a number of excellent hotels, including the four-star Harbor Court, many fine restaurants, such as Obrycki's (one of the city's premier crab-houses), and two very busy marinas. Without a doubt, the Inner Harbor's renovation was vital to the general renaissance Baltimore experienced during the 1980s, and it remains the key draw of the city's approximately $625 million-a-year tourist industry. But its real value, at least to ordinary Baltimoreans, lies in its promenades and other public spaces. On summer nights, the Inner Harbor is mobbed with citizens from all over the city enjoying themselves and their hometown.

Downtown
In 1729, about 60 years after the first colonists settled in the area, the two roadways that are now Charles Street and Baltimore Street were laid out. Today, the intersection of these two streets (with Charles running north and south and Baltimore east and west) provides the framework for downtown Baltimore. This area, just above the Inner Harbor, is the city's primary business district. Here you'll find offices for the city's financial and banking institutions, international trade organizations, medical research companies, as well as law, engineering and architectural firms. If you're in town on business, this is probably where you'll be spending a lot of your time.

A grid of roughly 25 blocks, with its long axis running east and west, it's an easy area to find your way around in. It's within walking distance of most of the downtown hotels, and, as with the rest of the city, it's filled with great places to eat--everything from breakfast and lunch counters like David & Dads to four-star restaurants like Sotto Sopra.
Another wonderful feature is the large number of art galleries that line Charles Street, such as the C. Grimaldis Gallery, which offer a relaxing afternoon diversion.

To the North
Proceed up Charles Street about 10 blocks and you'll find Mount Vernon, one of the city's loveliest neighborhoods. Its chief feature is a park of shrub-lined lawns and flowerbeds, laid out in the form of a cross. Standing at the center of the park is a 178-foot tall monument to George Washington, which is open to the public Wednesday through Sunday, and offers a great view of the city. Mount Vernon is also home to the Peabody Conservatory of Music, The Walters Art Gallery, the Enoch Pratt Free Library and several excellent restaurants, including The Brass Elephant and Tio Pepe. Moreover, it's an architectural treasure trove, offering examples of dozens of building styles in an area of only a few square blocks.

Just above Mount Vernon is Bolton Hill. Known as the "Gin Belt" during the 1920s, this area was home to the city's Jazz Age bohemian community. F. Scott Fitzgerald made his home here for a while, and Tender is the Night was published during his stay. Today, the area is home to the Maryland Institute College of Art, Meyerhoff Symphony Hall and the University of Baltimore, as well as a present-day bohemian hangout: Spike and Charlie's.

Still farther up Charles Street lies well-groomed Charles Village, home of Johns Hopkins University. Just next door is Hampden, a funky blue-collar/alternative district made famous by independent film director John Waters.

Continue north, and you'll find Guilford, which features the wonderful Sherwood Gardens, and Mount Washington, a quiet, tree-lined neighborhood with lots of great restaurants, like The Desert Café.

Finally, your northward trek will land you in Towson, one of the city's busiest suburbs.

To the South
Just south of downtown, on the other side of the Inner Harbor, is Federal Hill. One of the most popular residential areas in the city, its streets are lined with stately 19th century row homes, and peppered with great restaurants like The One World Café and Ten Oh Six. The neighborhood is also home to the Cross Street Market, where a variety of vendors sell a vast array of fresh and prepared food items, and the American Visionary Art Museum, one of the most fascinating art museums in the country.

To the East
Immediately east of downtown is Little Italy, one of the city's most cherished neighborhoods. Settled in the 1840s by Italian immigrants seeking work on the city's railroads, the area is now known mainly for its many restaurants. At last count, the 12 square blocks of little Italy hosted 20 restaurants, from old favorites like Sabatino's to newcomers like Aldo's.
One of the great joys offered by Baltimore is a stroll down the streets of this neighborhood on a warm night, surrounded by the friendly attitude of the people and the pleasant aromas of the kitchens.

Just past Little Italy is Fells Point. This was once the chief Colonial shipbuilding center, and frigates known as Baltimore Clippers were launched from the end of Broadway, the neighborhood's main drag. Today Fells Point is known for its craft and antique shops, restaurants, bars and coffeehouses.

During the weekend the neighborhood is jammed with college-age revelers who flock to the many party-oriented dance clubs like Bohager's. But during the rest of the week, a mix of young urban professionals and bohemians come on the scene to eat at restaurants like Bertha's and Ding How, and relax and listen to live music at places like Funk's Democratic Coffee Spot and The Full Moon Saloon.

Just above Fells Point is Butcher's Hill, an area once home to dozens of butchers who sold their wares at Fells Point's Broadway Market, and farther north is Old Town, a neighborhood settled by German and Irish immigrants in the early 1800s.

Just to the east lies Canton, one of the most recently re-vitalized of the city's neighborhoods. Originally an industrial area populated by Welsh, German, Polish and Irish immigrants, Canton today is a lively residential area known for its friendly eateries like Nacho Mama's and upscale bars like The Gin Mill. To the north of Canton is Greek Town, another quiet residential neighborhood famous for its restaurants, Ikaros foremost among them.

To the West
A quick trip west from the Inner Harbor will take you into Pigtown, originally an area of stockyards manned by German and Irish immigrants. It's now a residential neighborhood, filled with classic Baltimore-style rowhomes with marble steps and formstone facades. Pigtown is now home to the B & O Railroad Museum, and the area's most famous son is memorialized at the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum.

Another famous sometime-Baltimorean, Edgar Allen Poe, is also memorialized in Pigtown--at PSInet Stadium, home turf of the Baltimore Ravens, the only National Football League team named after a poem.

Weather

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg. High 41° 44° 54° 65° 75° 84° 88° 86° 78° 68° 57° 46°
Avg. Low 28° 28° 38° 47° 57° 67° 72° 70° 64° 51° 42° 32°
Mean 35° 37° 47° 57° 67° 76° 80° 78° 72° 60° 50° 38°
Avg. Precip. 3.1 in 3.2 in 3.6 in 3.2 in 4.1 in 3.3 in 3.7 in 4.3 in 3.5 in 3.0 in 3.6 in 3.8 in