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Why Go to Baltimore

Once pegged as a blue collar town with a high crime rate and a gritty underbelly, dramatized by pop culture portrayals in series like "The Wire" and "Serial," Baltimore today has a new sheen, transforming itself into a vibrant, culture-rich East Coast mainstay. And though it clings to its working-class roots, Baltimore — or "Balmer" as some residents say — also boasts contemporary museums, a sophisticated dining scene and a reimagined Inner Harbor that's luring art-loving types, outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs alike. This revitalized Charm City offers Yankee-Southern fusion architecture and a rich and eclectic culture, jam-packed with trendy art galleries, lively theaters and world-class collections at the Walters Art Museum and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

You can opt for a traditional Baltimore experience, filled with forays to historical sites like Fort McHenry National Monument, leisurely strolls along the Inner Harbor and Federal Hill Park and, of course, freshly caught blue crabs steamed and seasoned with a heavy dose of Old Bay. Or, if you've traveled to Charm City before, experience Baltimore's literary side with a trip to the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum before blending in with other baseball aficionados as you cheer on the Orioles at Camden Yards. And there's no way better to get a sense of Baltimore's quirky culture than at HonFest in June, when swarms of ladies sport leopard prints and sixties-era beehive hairstyles to support Baltimore's hard-working women. As the sun goes down, take back a pint of locally crafted beer at one of the up-and-coming gastropubs and nightlife venues scattering Fell's Point or Federal Hill. With its laid-back vibes, plentiful historical and cultural attractions and picturesque setting along the Chesapeake Bay, there's a good chance Baltimore will charm you.

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Baltimore Travel Tips

Best Months to Visit

The best time to visit Baltimore is from June to August, but you'll have to book early. While summer brings heavy crowds, peak season hotel rates and soaring temperatures, the city overflows with unique events and festivities. Spring and fall usher in milder temperatures, but the winter months can can get quite chilly, so be sure to arm yourself with plenty of layers if you plan to visit Cham City at this time of year. And don't forget your boots — precipitation is common year-round.

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What You Need to Know

  • Try the crabs Crab soup, steamed crabs, crab cakes — Baltimore is in love with its signature crustacean in any edible form. Dust on some Old Bay seasoning and dig in.
  • Welcome to Balmer, Hon The "Hon" culture thrives in Hampden. You'll find Beehive hairdos, brightly colored dresses and distinct accents flourishing in this vibrant neighborhood.
  • Lights! Camera! Action! The city has been displayed on the big screen. In recent years the city's been featured in the popular HBO show "The Wire," the Netflix series "House of Cards"  and the motion picture and musical "Hairspray." Take a driving tour around East Baltimore and Mount Vernon and to see a few film locations.

How to Save Money in Baltimore

  • Visit free attractions Baltimore boasts exceptional art collections and trails. You can check out Renaissance paintings at The Walters Art Museum or take a guided tour along the Inner Harbor, for free. Consult the Baltimore Visitor Center to find the city's best daily giveaways.
  • Consider a winter trip Hotel rates and airfare are cheaper at this time of year. Just be sure to bring warm clothing and bundle up.
  • Purchase a harbor pass If you plan on visiting multiple Baltimore attractions and museums that charge entrance fees, invest in this pass to save up to 30 percent on admission prices.

What to Eat

Seafood dominates the food scene in Baltimore. Crabs in particular, are especially popular here. For authentic cuisine, avoid the Inner Harbor area, which is filled with national chains and tourist traps. Instead, head to Mount Vernon and Fell's Point for a larger range of high-quality dining options. Baltimore also hosts a variety of international dining options, with restaurants serving everything from Afghan flavors to Greek fare to fish-focused dishes.

Wander to Little Italy, and you'll find plenty of acclaimed venues, like Aldo's, which serves southern-inspired Italian dishes in a relaxed setting. Or, make your way to Canton, where you'll find up-and-coming eateries, like Fork & Wrench plating staples like fried chicken wings dusted with Old Bay mustard and crab mayo, and Of Love & Regret, a gastropub that serves craft beer and Bavarian hot pretzels. Take a jaunt to Mount Vernon, and you can indulge in Belgian-style beer at The Brewer's Art.

Along with its expanding gastropub scene, Charm City appeals to foodies craving locally sourced dishes. For a memorable meal, try Woodberry Kitchen, which earns heaps of praise for staples like chicken and biscuits and oysters with braised beef. For more affordable dining spots, head to Hamden, where you'll find culinary institutions like Cafe Hon dishing up standouts such as freshly shucked oysters and crab cakes. Another popular — and inexpensive — area is Belvedere Square, where you can grab a stool and enjoy crêpe at Sofi's Crepes or indulge in specialty soups and sandwiches, like New Orleans-style gumbo with shrimp & andouille sausage at Atwater's.

Colorful farmers markets and bazaars also abound in Baltimore. If its crab cakes you came for, Faidley's at Lexington Market, is your first order of business. Faidley's has long been a must-visit destination for its jumbo lump crab meat blended with saltines. Another crowd favorite is Cross Street Market in Federal Hill, an ideal spot for hearty sandwiches and a variety of fresh seafood, meats and produce. On Sundays, follow the locals to Baltimore Farmers' Market & Bazaar, where you'll find healthy and organic ingredients, seasonal produce, flowers and authentic crafts, among other goods.

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Safety

Over the years, Baltimore has carred a less-than-stellar reputation for safety, perpetuated by crime-heavy HBO series "The Wire." Although some parts of town might live up to those portrayals, well-traversed tourist areas are generally safe for visitors. While tourists will most likely not encounter any kind of violent crime, including drug-related activity, especially in busy areas like the Inner Harbor, Mount Vernon, Fells Point and Federal Hill, you should still use common sense and stay vigilant of your surroundings. Like any large city, Baltimore has its fair share of robberies and muggings. Stay prepared by stowing away your valuables and sticking to busy streets, especially at night. If you're unsure of where you are going, take a cab or drive yourself, since neighborhoods can quickly change from block to block.

Getting Around Baltimore

The best way to get around in Baltimore is via car, whether it be your own or a rental; most visitors use the agencies at the Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI). A range of taxis and shuttles are also available to drive you the 10 miles north from the airport to the city's downtown area. Once you get there, you can use the public transit systems, run by the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA), which offer a convenient and cost-effective way to navigate the city. The MTA offers bus, Metro Subway, Light Rail and MARC train services, along with the Charm City Circulator, a free bus service introduced in 2010 that connects visitors to a variety of popular attractions.

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