Baltimore is more than a city. It’s a tapestry of tight neighborhoods, giving travelers an exceptional diversity of experiences. This city boasts resilience and a DIY spirit that’s infectious. Yes, Baltimore has overcome incredible challenges, but what should be more well-known and revered is its place in American history, and its unique brand of easy going urban hospitality. See why Baltimore, Maryland is a place to love!
PLACES AND STORIES TO LOVE
Exploring historic Fell’s Point
Did you know “Charm City” was a major shipbuilding center for the original 13 colonies? It also served as a hub for immigration and played an important role in the life of American hero, Frederick Douglass. And yet, Baltimore doesn’t get the historical credit it deserves. That’s why I wanted to meet up with Lou Fields of BBH Tours, who showed me around Fell’s Point. Established in 1763, this National Historic District boasts over 161 buildings on the National Register, including the oldest standing residence in Baltimore City. It’s also where you’ll find “Douglass Place,” the five homes Frederick Douglass built as rental properties for African Americans in 1892.
IF YOU GO
You can literally walk in Douglass’ footsteps in Fell’s Point, and celebrate his legacy at Baltimore’s African-American and cultural institutions. Click here to find the places where Douglass lived, worked and influenced.
Book a tour with Lou Fields here.
Farm Fresh Soul Food
David and Tonya Thomas are the husband and wife team behind Ida B’s. This soul food spot aims to honor the food cooked by slaves in America, while elevating it with classic technique. Chef David derives inspiration from his grandmother, who lived farm to table before it was a thing (she ran 13 acres and kept chickens, picked apples and slaughtered cows). You’ll find inventive takes on soul food classics, like octopus po’boy sliders; smoked fried chicken, drizzled with honey and served with Liberian greens, mac & cheese, or hand-cut fries.
The restaurant is named after Ida Bell Wells-Barnett, more commonly known as Ida B. Wells. Born in 1862, Wells was an investigative journalist, educator, and an early leader in the Civil Rights Movement. She was also one of the founders of the NAACP.
IF YOU GO
Much of the produce at Ida B’s comes from the Baltimore Farmers’ Market & Bazaar, held every Sunday 7am – 12 pm between April and December. Stalls set up shop beneath the Jones Falls Expressway at Holliday & Saratoga streets.
Ida B’s Table
235 Holliday Street
Baltimore, MD 21202
A festival that’s sweet as honey
I fell in love with Hon culture the first time I visited Baltimore. This time, I was thrilled to participate in Honfest. Short for “honey,” hons celebrate the strong, resilient women of Baltimore. Though hons operate year-round, Honfest is their official celebration. Participants dress up in over-the-top vintage wear, decked with fantastic costume jewelry, cat-eye glasses, long gloves and, of course, bouffant hair. The costumes are an homage to real, working-class women of Baltimore who held down jobs while their husbands were away during WW2. After getting a taste of financial independence, they didn’t want to leave the workforce when the boys came back.
I had the great pleasure of touring the festivities with Nikki Bass, who won the title of Miss Hon. She’s chemist by day, but loves to be a hon during her down time. Not only is the tradition about celebrating the past, it’s also about connecting with the community. The Hon Hive (link) visits charity events, senior homes and children’s hospitals.
The Queen of Baltimore’s Art Scene
Baltimore is known for its thriving arts. The queen of that scene? Joyce Scott, a visual and performance artist, as well as recipient of the MacArthur Genius award. We met at Nancy Cafe in the Station North neighborhood, home to MICA Maryland Institute of College Art—the school Joyce graduated from in 1970. Her art is exhibited in many of the country’s biggest galleries and museums, including the Smithsonian, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Baltimore Museum of Art.
She uses beadwork as a medium to create conversations about social and racial injustice. Joyce explains beads aren’t typically materials thought of as high art, but it should be. Her work upends conceptions of beadwork and jewelry, creating objects that reveal stark representations of racism, sexism and violence.
GOOD TO KNOW
In 2016, at age 67, Joyce Scott was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, which is given to people pushing art forms into new and emerging places, and addressing the urgent needs of under-resourced communities.
Nancy by SNAC
131 West North Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201
(410) 685 0039
Art as a catalyst for opportunity
Baltimore has an impressive amount of significant museums and institutions. There’s no doubt of the importance of big philanthropy in this historic and creative city. A great place to see art and philanthropy in tandem is at the American Visionary Art Museum. I met up with Rebecca Hoffberger, the director, curator and one of the founders of the AVA. Visionary art is defined by the museum as art created by those without formal training. However, it goes deeper than that. Pieces here are made by those looking to express something they can’t fully articulate with words, and thus, communicate through artistic expression.
At the AVA, you’re surrounded by art created by outsiders. A great example of this is the stunning mirror mosaic that covered the building’s exterior. This projected was completed by the largest apprenticeship program for incarcerated youth in the USA. It took 14 years to complete due to funding, but the result is much more than a beautiful art piece—it served as a way to teach incarcerated kids a trade that they can use for the rest of their lives.
IF YOU GO
Every Saturday at 2:30PM the AVAM offers a drop-in guided with one of their volunteer docents, FREE with museum admission. The docent will cover permanent collection, as well as special exhibitions. No need to RSVP. Just meet the docent in AVAM’s main building near the base of the stairs.
American Visual Art Museum
800 Key Highway
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
The Future of Food
You’ll find all sorts of creative innovation throughout the Charm City. Take for example, the R House. A former auto body shop, this building now operates as a food hall, with 11 local food business and one massive bar serving craft cocktails.
I met up with J.J. Reidy of Stall 11, a food spot that only uses locally farmed ingredients. When I say local, I mean within the city—J.J. is a farmer himself. Instead of cultivating food on a traditional farm, J.J. grows his in the city. For example, his greens come from a shipping container outfitted with hydroponic technology at a boarding school. The reason? He says most people will live in cities in the future, and it’s important to start creating infrastructure to support that.
IF YOU GO
Arrive hungry! Other stalls include a pizza place, a spot for breakfast sandwiches and coffee, Korean BBQ, tacos, sushi, arepas, ice cream and more.
The R. House
301 W 29th St
Baltimore, MD 21211
Bags that tell a story
Usually when two guys meet in a bar and one of them is prone to arm wrestling, it doesn’t end well. Not so for Aaron Jones and Jason Bass, the designers and manufacturers behind Treason bags. These beautiful canvas and leather bags are designed for both beauty and utility. The duo decided to fashion the bags with raw canvas and leather, which lends itself well to a bag with a perfect patina. The materials wear in, and show the story of the person carrying it… quite literally! Say you’re visiting Japan and spill some soy sauce on the bag—your bag will serve as a constant reminder of that particular meal.
The Future is Female
From Billie Holiday to Frederick Douglass and Thurgood Marshall, Baltimore’s list of hometown visionaries is nothing short of impressive. However, there’s a much younger generation of leaders using not only their voices to be heard. I was honored to meet students from the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women. The BLSYW Way prepares girls for college, setting high expectations and creating a strong support network.
One of the ways they help foster a strong sense of self is through its STEP team. Often thought of as a dance, STEP is so much more. Coach Gari McIntyre McCarter explains STEP originated in Africa, and came to America through the transatlantic slave trade. It was made popular through black fraternities and sororities. It’s more than dance—it’s military movement, gymnastics, its rhythmic beats you make with your body. Not only that, students of BLSYW have had 100 percent college acceptance three years in a row—something Coach G attributes to things like their STEP team, which not only empowers the girls, but connects them with their history.
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