What To Do In Baltimore This Summer, Because Maryland's Charm City Is Totally Charming

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Baltimore! You can't mention Charm City without having some sort of punctuation at the end. Why, you ask? Well, get ready to forget the medley of misconceptions you might have about the town, because here is the truth: Baltimore — home to plenty of fine dining, scenic views, outdoors venues, festivals, markets, even kinetic sculptures — is one of the most entertaining cities you could possibly visit in the U.S.

Now, you may be thinking, "I've heard a lot about Baltimore, and it sounds like anything but fun." Here's the thing: Baltimore is a city that willingly wears its flaws on its sleeves. Hardly a day goes by anymore without some mentioning of Baltimore in the news. We get a lot of negative attention here. Too much. Baltimore is a strong city — one that regularly surprises itself, and the rest of the nation, with its own courage, and there are wonderful communities spread out all over its 92 square miles.

Sure, there's no denying this town's problems — and that they're emblematic of much bigger issues plaguing this country. But, in my opinion, that should only pique people's interests in this unique city. Because there's much to be discovered here and a lot to learn.

Let me give you just a peek...

Best Baltimore-centric Live Entertainment

Artscape

Mid-town Baltimore, July 17-19

Artscape is the Carnivale of Charm City. The largest free arts festival in America, Artscape attracts over 400,000 people to midtown annually. Over a three-day period, the ginormous art jubilee features over 150 fine artists, fashion designers and craftspeople.

Exhibitions include outdoor sculpture, art cars, photography, live concerts, traveling theatrical performances, dancers, gymnasts. readings, and hands-on projects. Admission costs absolutely nothing, except the time you'll spend in the festival's convivial climate. This year, Artscape will feature musical performances by Michael Franti, Spearhead and the god of funk himself, George Clinton.

Fluid Movement

Patterson Park Pool: July 25-27; Druid Hill Pool: Aug. 1-2

Fluid Movement is a Baltimore-based performance art group that takes its talents to the land and sea. While they also put on roller skate musicals and disco workouts, they're most famous for their incredible summer water ballets.

Last year's performance was dedicated to "The War of 1812." Synchronized swimmers of all ages and abilities took to the water to re-enact the Battle of Baltimore.

This year's incredible theme? JEFF GOLDBLUM. As Mr Goldblum himself would say, "You don't want to miss it. It's going to be, uh, uh, uh, it's going to be, uh, brilliant."

Tickets for Fluid Movement's performances sell out fast, so get your tickets ASAP right here!

Best Neighborhood To Check Out Some Art

Station North

Station North was designated by the state of Maryland as Baltimore’s official arts and entertainment district in 2002. It’s home to several galleries, coffee shops, art studios, homes, DIY spaces, and a wide array of the murals for which Baltimore is particularly famous.

The establishments in Station North host readings, open mics, trivia nights, and live music. As the district continues to expand, its central location near Penn Station and The University of Baltimore makes it accessible and easy to find for even the newbiest of Charm City newbies.

Best Landmarks

Lexington Market

Lexington Market is famous for being the world’s largest continuously running indoor market. It's open-year round and — get this — it's been active for 230 years. It's almost as old as America itself. Named after the Revolutionary War's Battle of Lexington, the marketplace features fresh seafood, meats, poultry, produce, delicatessens, a bakery, gourmet potatoes, and, of course, several different varieties of crab cakes. It's huge and bustling at almost all hours of the day, and worth a visit just for the crab cakes alone.

Best Restaurants

Red Emma’s

Red Emma's is a worker-owned co-op that runs its namesake restaurant, as well as a coffee shop, a bookstore and a community events space. As their website declares, Red Emma's “is dedicated to putting the principles of solidarity and sustainability into practice in a democratic workplace.”

The co-op also hosts the Baltimore Free School — a grassroots community-funded collective that runs classes on topics ranging from feminist writing to DIY sexual health to "Power and Subversion in Modern America."

Because the entire establishment is housed in a large open space, patrons can peruse and purchase zines, queer literature, anti-establishment pamphlets and select literary classics in the bookstore while they eat delectable vegan/vegetarian treats from the bookstore.

Nam Kang

This amazing Korean restaurant is an underground wonder — literally. Located on an otherwise nondescript corner of Maryland Ave and W. 22nd St., the sub-street-level restaurant doesn't exactly radiate luxury or pizzazz. But that's what makes it so incredible. The moment you walk in the door, you'll find yourself slapped silly by the savory fumes of beef bulgogi and shrimp pancakes (there are, of course, vegetarian dishes available as well).

Be sure to pick up a local Korean newspaper when you walk in; they're conveniently located in the restaurant’s entryway below a plethora of Zagat awards and Best of Baltimore certificates.

Best Museums

The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum

The National Great Blacks In Wax Museum offers visitors a dynamic way to experience African-American culture and heritage. You'll have the opportunity to stand next to accurately-scaled wax figures of some of history's most influential individuals — including Imhotep, W.E.B. DuBois, Zora Neale Hurston and Malcolm X, among several others. The exhibits also guide patrons through integral eras of black history — from "Magnificent Africa" to colonial America to the incredible Harlem Renaissance through the present day. The National Blacks in Wax Museum is a must-see for anyone and everyone visiting Baltimore.

Baltimore Tattoo Museum

What better way to ease the pain of getting some new ink done than to immerse yourself in the history of electric tattooing while you're under the needle? This museum and tattoo studio boasts an impressive collection of tattoo memorabilia: there are framed pieces of flash tattoo art from the "Sailor Jerry era" as well as samples of traditional Japanese body art (Irezumi). And the in-house artists can recreate any style you'd like (on whatever body part you prefer): realism, black & grey, portraiture — the list goes on. The Baltimore Tattoo Museum is dedicated to maintaining the historical narrative of the art of tattooing. And unlike most museums, you can actually walk out of this one with a piece of artwork all your own.

Additional reporting by Michelle Dwyer

Images: Bill Mill/ Flickr, Lexington Market / Facebook; Michelle Dwyer/ Instagram Avelino Maestas/ Flickr (3); courtesy of Trish Pilla (4); courtesy of Abby Higgs (6)