x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Americana retrofitted: Baltimore and its flourish new art scene

My kind of place: Maryland’s largest city has vibrant new art scene flourishing within its industrial-era facades, writes Ashley Lane.

The historic Washington Monument anchors the Mount Vernon neighbourhood of Baltimore, Maryland. Getty Images
The historic Washington Monument anchors the Mount Vernon neighbourhood of Baltimore, Maryland. Getty Images

Why Baltimore?

Think of Baltimore and chances are your mind will stray immediately to the HBO series The Wire. And while the TV show did present a window into Baltimore’s battle with its high crime rate, the city has seen some drastic changes over the past 10 years.

From gentrified neighbourhoods to a thriving and truly dynamic art scene, this city is perfect for those who are looking for an American east coast city experience. This mid-Atlantic city of over 600,000 residents boasts a rich history based around its industrial contribution in canning, tin and sheet-iron ware. These factories are still standing today (though most have been repurposed) and make up much of the landscape around the popular Inner Harbor.

A comfortable bed

If you’re looking to stay central, then definitely check out one of the more popular boutique hotels, the Pier 5 Waterfront Hotel in Baltimore. Located in the Inner Harbor, Pier 5 is within walking distance of the National Aquarium, Pier Six Pavilion and Power Plant Live (home to Rams Head Live, one of Baltimore’s more popular live music venues). Perfect for if you plan on touring the city by foot. A double room starts at US$206 (Dh757) per night, including tax (001 410 539 2000; www.harbormagic.com).

Meet the locals

Fiery, loud and loyal. No three words could better describe the residents of Baltimore. Prime examples of this can be found on game day at one of the bars in Federal Hill, located just south of the Inner Harbor. The two big teams in Baltimore, Major League Baseball’s Baltimore Orioles and the NFL’s 2013 Super Bowl Champions, the Baltimore Ravens, both keep the city buzzing with excitement. You’ll find most venues in Federal Hill packed wall-to-wall with Ravens fans (Mother’s Grille is a must, located on S Charles Street, mothersgrille.com) while Pickles Pub is the go-to spot for Orioles supporters, located in walking distance of the team’s home stadium, Camden Yards.

Book a table

If there’s one thing Baltimore is known for, it’s crabs, and you’ll find a vast range of outlets serving up the city’s signature dish.

From May to September (when crabs are in season), an absolute must is Phillips, located on E Pratt Street in the Inner Harbor. Keeping with the industrial feel of the city, its illuminated 5-metre sign is hard to miss as it sits looking out over the city from the top of the former Pratt Street Power Plant building. From Crab Cakes starting at $29 (Dh107) to Clams Casino for $10 (Dh37), Phillips has you covered (phillipsseafood.com).

If you’re looking for more of an upscale vibe, Brewers Art is a stellar option. Located on N Charles Street, it not only offers a well stocked, gastropub like menu – try the Seared Diver Scallops for $28 (Dh103) – but a scrumptious list of their very own house beers and an even more spectacular décor (check out the exquisite chandelier when you first walk in).

And if you fancy a bit of music with your food, go to their basement for a slightly different atmosphere. This cosy, lantern-lit cellar sports exposed brick walls and a fireplace making it a great place to settle in for the evening (001 410 547 6925; www.thebrewersart.com).

If you find yourself shopping in Hampden or just are looking for an authentic Italian restaurant and need a quick pick-me-up, then head over to W 36th Street for Grano’s Pasta Bar. This small, quirky pasta bar seats only a handful of customers and serves homemade pasta and sauce from a small menu. Pasta dishes start at $9 (Dh33), and the bar also makes gluten-free pasta (001 443 869 3429; www.granopastabar.com.

Shopper’s paradise

Your first stop to get a true feel of Baltimore shopping should be Hampden, located in north-west Baltimore, where the majority of the shops are locally owned. Perhaps our favourite store is Trohv, as it’s just that: a treasure trove of quirky and intricate gifts, appropriate for just about anyone (www.trohvshop.com).

Ma Petite Shoe (www.mapetiteshoe.com) offers a bizarre mix of footwear and chocolate. Shop for a pair of new vintage pumps or eccentric boots, while munching on fair trade, vegan chilli chocolate.

What to avoid

There are still areas of Baltimore, such as neighbourhoods west of Martin Luther King Boulevard, that still have high crime rates. For that reason it’s best to be mindful of your surroundings, especially when venturing out in the evening.

Don’t miss

With such a thriving art scene, a must-see is the Metro Gallery, located on N Charles Street near the Charles Theatre and Penn Station, which acts as a multipurpose performance space, gallery and bar. With a focus primarily on local artists and musicians, you’ll get a true taste of what the artists and musicians of Baltimore have to offer (www.themetrogallery.net).

And for a touch of the macabre, head over to the Edgar Allan Poe house to learn more of the famous writer who lived and died (under appropriately mysterious conditions) in the city. Located on N Amity Street, visit poeinbaltimore.org for museum times, events and ticketing information.

Go there

Emirates flies direct from Dubai to Washington, DC from Dh6,135 return including taxes. The flight takes 15 hours and 40 minutes going and 12 hours coming back. From there Amtrak trains from Union Station will take you directly into Baltimore Penn Station (located five minutes from the heart of Baltimore). A single round trip ticket on Amtrak starts at $28 (Dh103). For more details or to book a ticket, visit tickets.amtrak.com.

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