There are lots of exciting reasons to visit Baltimore these days — including national caliber arts festivals, crustacean-cracking feasts, Oktoberfest parties aplenty, baseball playoff fever, and even a celebration of pickles for good measure. Indeed, fall is the ideal time to spend a day in Charm City, when the bars are cozy and crabs are heavy, and (perhaps best of all) the dreaded DMV humidity has subsided. So head up I-95 via car (or Marc train) to enjoy market feasts, Chesapeake Bay seafood, scenic strolls, and hot new cocktail dens.
9 a.m. Breakfast at the farmer’s market
If you find yourself in Baltimore on the weekend, your best bet for breakfast is the local farmer’s markets. On Saturday, head to Waverly for the 32nd Street Farmers Market, where you can bite into a brisket and egg sandwich from Blacksauce Kitchen, a spicy pork DMV Empanada, Atwater’s pastries, Ekiben steamed bun sandwiches, or vegan treats from Tom Cat’s Kitchen. Sundays mean the JFX Farmers’ Market and savoring smoked salmon from Neopol, chargrilled beauties from The Urban Oyster, and morels from The Mushroom Stand. No matter which market you visit, get a cold brew from Zeke’s to jumpstart your day.
11 a.m.-1 p.m. Drop your bags and explore Hampden
There are plenty of downtown hotels you could check into (including the super swank Sagamore Pendry or bucolic Ivy Hotel), but why not stay somewhere a little homier? This past summer, Hampden’s Good Neighbor coffee shop opened Guesthouse upstairs, complete with seven rooms, private and shared outdoor space, and curated drinks and snacks. The monochromatic color palette and artisanal materials will make you feel like you’re staying over at an artist-friend’s house rather than a corporate hotel. Plus, Good Neighbor has arguably the best chai latte in the city, and lots of chic tableware to peruse while you wait.
Head out the door to explore the shops (and eats!) of Hampden. Browse books and check out the back bar at John Waters-approved Atomic Books and flip through albums of all genres at nextdoor Celebrated Summer Records. Shop for vintage gems at Doubledutch Boutique and its men’s counterpart Sixteen Tons, or more contemporary kitchen and housewares at In Watermelon Sugar. Refuel with coffee and pastries at Common Ground or apps and beer at craft brewery Nepenthe or the western-inspired Chuck’s Trading Post.
1:30-3 p.m. Crack crabs and discover local parks
Some things are cliche for a reason, like getting your crab fix while in Baltimore. There’s no better setting than the waterfront deck at Nick’s Fish House, where you can overlook the Patapsco while sipping on Orange Crushes, digging into a crab pretzel, and cracking open a dozen hardshells. Work off all that J.O. Spice at historic Fort McHenry while walking along the tree-lined waterloop. Pay a visit to nearby Ice Queens for a classic Baltimore snowball or one of its more innovative creations with ice cream and fresh fruit. Enjoy it while walking around Latrobe Park, the ultimate spot for dog-watching.
4-6 p.m. Happy hour and some history
Make your way across the harbor (by water taxi, ideally) to historic Fells Point, where you can take in sights and knock a few back. The order of events should start with a visit to the Frederick Douglass Issac Myers Maritime Park, with indoor-outdoor exhibits dedicated to African American maritime history.
Next meander along the cobblestones, admiring 18th-century homes while you decide on your happy hour destination. There are plenty of options: beers and live music at Cat’s Eye or Bertha’s, a smart cocktail at subterranean Anchor Bar or corner spot Southpaw, or bubbles at newly opened Bunny’s or waterfront wine bar V-No.
6:30-8 p.m. Dinner in Butcher’s Hill
Mostly a residential neighborhood abutting vast Patterson Park, Butcher’s Hill is becoming quite the dining destination. If you’re in the mood for romantic Italian, there is candlelit Marta where Negroni cocktails and seafood pasta reign supreme. For something a bit more eclectic, try Little Donna’s (formerly the beloved locals’ spot, Henninger’s) for tavern-style pizza and pierogies inspired by the chef-owner’s Yugoslavian grandmother.
8:30-10:30 p.m. Channel the ’70s with dancing and drinks
Sweat it all out on the dance floor at The Royal Blue in Station North. This ’70s-inspired spot is replete with wood paneling and uncle’s basement vibes plus, every weekend night, a DJ spins tunes for dancers under the disco ball. Though Miller High Life is always a good dance partner, the cocktails and pub grub shouldn’t be missed (animal style tots, please). For another bar straight out of a time machine, visit the red-hued, Lynchian Club Charles up the street.
11 p.m. Time for a sexy nightcap
The recently renovated Hotel Ulysses has a lot of fun spots you can tuck into toward the end of the night. Check out Bloom’s to sip on an expertly made French martini while seated on plush fuschia banquettes surrounded by floor-to-ceiling mirrors. Last, duck into the hotel’s back alley to find The Coral Wig, a space as beautiful as its tropically leaning cocktails.