What’s New in Baltimore
Baltimore continues to buzz, starting 2018 off with a #15 ranking on the New York Times’ annual “52 Places to Go” list. The recent opening of Hotel Revival, a Joie de Vivre hotel located in the heart of Baltimore’s historic Mount Vernon neighborhood, is evidence that the city’s neighborhood renaissance is growing. Here are a few of the newest additions to Charm City’s tourism offerings and the thematic storylines shaping authentic visitor experiences.
Buzzing Beer Scene
Charm City's sudsy past dates back to 1748, when a German immigrant by the name of John Leonard Barnitz established the city's first brewery. It was on the floor of this brewery that Mary Pickersgill sewed the stars upon the star-spangled banner, which flew above Fort McHenry during the War of 1812, inspiring Francis Scott Key to write the national anthem. Another famous brew, National Bohemian Beer, was first brewed in Baltimore in 1885. Today, its winking, mustachioed mascot, lovingly called “Natty Boh” by the locals, still sits atop the historic “Natty Boh Tower” in Baltimore’s Brewers Hill neighborhood. Baltimore’s beer scene is rapidly growing and 2018 additions to the local scene make it a must-see destination for craft beer lovers.
- The highly anticipated Guinness Open Gate Brewery & Barrel House will be the first Guinness presence on U.S. soil since 1954, and the first ever purpose-built Guinness brewery in American history. The full brewing facility will open before the end of 2018, and The Test Taproom, a small onsite bar, is already open to the public.
- Slated to gradually open throughout the summer, UNION Collective is a curated assembly of independently-owned, Baltimore-based businesses set under one roof and anchored by one of Baltimore’s favorite beermakers – UNION Craft Brewing Co. The 10.5 acres of warehouse space will include local hot sauce brand Huckle’s, Baltimore Whiskey Company, The Charmery ice cream, Vent Coffee Roasters, Well-Crafted Pizza, Earth Treks climbing gym and more.
- Mt. Vernon’s new Hotel Revival has partnered with Baltimore brewers and makers including Peabody Heights Brewery to create an authentically local experience. At Executive Chef Wilbur Cox’s year-round rooftop restaurant Topside, diners can sip on Thirstay, a specialty brew crafted by Peabody Heights. Topside emphasizes unique beers, with 13 taps and more than 60 bottles and cans, as an ode to the strength of the Maryland craft beer movement.
Emerging Arts Scene
Charm City’s reinvigoration begins with Baltimore’s millennial boom - with young minds come new visions, ideas and creativity. Thanks to this new generation of emerging artists, makers and designers (boosted by the fact that Baltimore is home to the Maryland Institute of Creative Arts (MICA), one of the best art schools in the country), as well as world-renowned museums and galleries, the city’s art scene is flourishing.
- Upcoming must-see exhibits include the Baltimore Museum of Art’s John Waters: Indecent Exposure, the first major retrospective of the Baltimore native and uncompromising cultural force’s work (October 7, 2018 – January 6, 2019), and Mark Bradford: Tomorrow Is Another Day, a progression of abstract installations and canvases that served as Bradford’s exhibition for the U.S. Pavilion at the 2017 Venice Biennale (September 23, 2018 through March 3, 2019).
- The opening day of Jewish Museum of Maryland’s Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini (June 24, 2018 – January 21, 2019) will be marked by a recreation of Houdini’s 1916 Baltimore stunt, in which an escape artist will break free from a straitjacket while suspended upside down from a 50-foot crane.
- On display now at The Walters Art Museum, Crowning Glory: Art of the Americas is an intimate exhibit exploring the art of Central and South American cultures, between 900 BCE and the 16th century. The exhibition includes work from Incans and Mayans, as well as from lesser-known civilizations such as the Jama-Coaque of Ecuador and Nasca of Peru. Crowning Glory is on view through October 7.
- Year-round, local artists and makers are working and showcasing their creations at spots such as Motor House, a non-profit theater, performance space, music venue, art gallery, studio space and arts hub. Its bar & café, Showroom, recently opened on the first floor of the building, in a space that was formerly Baltimore's first Ford dealership built in 1914.
- Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower provides studio spaces for visual and literary artists, who open their doors weekly for visitors and events.
Baltimore’s Black Chefs
Baltimore has long been an epicenter of Black culture and heritage, and the recent increase of Black-owned restaurants in the city further demonstrates the importance of the city’s African-American legacy. The following restaurants led by Black chefs are bringing a contemporary take on soul food to Charm City’s culinary scene:
- Ida B’s Table: This downtown restaurant, affiliated with local journalism nonprofit The Real News Network, is a mixture of classic 19th century design and modern comfort, reflecting the historical era and contemporary impact of its namesake, pioneering editor and activist Ida B. Wells. Chef David Thomas offers a new comfort food concept, with dishes like catfish Reuben and short ribs in bourbon gravy, and a cocktail program spearheaded by Drinkable Genius guru Chelsea Gregoire.
- Connie’s Chicken & Waffles: Khari and Shawn Parker’s restaurant, with locations in Lexington Market and downtown Baltimore, was inspired by memories of childhood home-cooked meals by their mother, Connie. Connie’s also gives back to the community by supporting causes related to financial literacy, STEM and community empowerment.
- To keep up with the growing demand for vegan and vegetarian options, The Land of Kush, a mainstay for vegan dishes in Baltimore, will open a second location near Johns Hopkins Hospital in early summer 2018. Land of Kush is known for its vegan soul food options such as BBQ "ribs," curry "chicken," vegan crab cakes and sides of baked mac & cheese and cornbread. The owners of Land of Kush also organize the annual Vegan Soulfest, celebrating its fifth anniversary this summer, and Baltimore Vegan Restaurant Week, which launched in 2017.
The draw of Baltimore’s culinary scene is no secret – Zagat named it one of the most exciting food cities in America. New restaurants, concepts and food experiences are popping up across the city, making this a must-visit destination for the culinary traveler.
- Italian Disco, a new pizzeria and restaurant, opens its doors to the public in Baltimore’s historic Bagby Building this spring. Located in Harbor East, the restaurant features a food menu designed by Julian Marucci, recognized as one of America’s Best Chefs. Italian Disco will also offer 36 beers on draft.
- Charm City Food Tours has launched a new Mt. Vernon Food Tour. Starting from the Washington Monument, participants will experience the rich history of this area while stopping to enjoy a variety of bites and drinks, like Chesapeake crab inspired dishes, handmade pastas and local craft beers, from longstanding Baltimore institutions.
- Sandlot, the waterfront bar, eatery and recreation yard by James Beard Award-winning chef Spike Gjerde, reopens for the season in May. Next door, Karma Farm will build a hydroponic greenhouse and two hoop houses to grow vegetables for area restaurants and residents year-round.
Summer Festivals & Outdoor Concerts
There’s nothing better than spending a warm summer evening outside with friends, enjoying live music with food and drink in hand. Here’s a sampling of the free outdoor concerts and festivals around town this summer:
- Honfest, June 9-10, honors all things “Bawlmer,” particularly the working women who made Charm City what it is. The event, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, features entertainment, local vendors and best of all – women, men, children and pets decked out in their most outrageous retro looks.
- Live merengue, bachata, cumbia, reggaetón, mariachi and more will fill Patterson Park June 24 and 25 for the 27th annual LatinoFest. This celebration of Hispanic culture, music and art will include salsa dancing, the hottest Latino DJs, arts and crafts, Latino cuisine and family activities like face-painting, clowns and rock-climbing walls.
- From July 20-22, thousands of visitors will flock to Artscape, the nation’s largest free outdoor arts festival featuring 150+ fine artists, craftspeople and fashion designers.
- WTMD’s First Thursdays: From May through September, the first Thursday of the month features free concerts showcasing local and national acts, rain or shine, at the Canton Waterfront Park starting at 5:30 p.m.
- The Patterson Park Concert Series will host seven free, family-friendly concerts throughout the summer, with local and regional acts performing everything from Americana and psychedelic rock to hip hop and Latin.
Baltimore is home to the Ravens and Orioles, plus Under Armour’s headquarters. With the city’s rich sports history and legacy of producing legendary athletes (like Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps), it’s no surprise Charm City has a variety of wellness options to keep visitors in step.
- The Movement Lab: Located on the second level of R. House, Movement Body Lab is an epic wellness and fitness space featuring aerial yoga, dance, meditation and martial arts classes. They also have kid and family classes such as the “Fazafam Family Jam,” “Youth Hip Hop” and “Antigravity Just for Kids.” The studio’s drop-in passes offer a $7 minimum donation-based option.
- Waterfront Wellness: Every summer, the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore offers free fitness classes four days a week. From May through September, gather along the Inner Harbor at West Shore Park and Pierce’s Park for a choice of dance, boot camp, barre, yoga or high intensity classes.
- Light Street Cycles: See Baltimore up close and personal with Light Street Cycles. The company offers five guided bike tours, with something for everyone: The Gwynn’s Falls Trail, The Waterfront Tour, Jones Falls Trail, The B&O and Historic Sites Tour and The Waterfront Smoothie Tour. Visitors can also utilize the city’s Bike Share to explore on their own.
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