I’ve taken the train through Baltimore many times, going back and forth from New York to Washington. In fact, I first met my husband getting on to the train at Union Station in DC, so I essentially rode through Baltimore on our first date. But I had never actually set foot in Baltimore until this past weekend.
So what finally brought me to Charm City for the first time in my life? SATW (Society of American Travel Writers) invited me to give a workshop on Social Media at their Northeastern Chapter Convention in Baltimore. Not only was I excited to share my social media tips with some of the world’s top travel writers, I was looking forward to spending 24 hours in a new city.
Of course, I took the train to Baltimore. The station, which I had passed through countless times, didn’t have much to offer in way of shops or food but it did have beautiful stained glass skylights that date back to 1911. There was also an unmistakable Southern vibe, although that might have been the warm weather greeting us after an overly air-conditioned ride. Regardless, I could feel that I was south of the Mason-Dixon line.
I had arrived in Baltimore with Linda Bernstein, my fellow social media adjunct at Columbia Journalism School. A car whisked us away to our hotel, so we could freshen up and then join the SATW folks on an art tour. We might have made it to the tour’s first stop, the Baltimore Museum of Art, but our driver persuaded us to check out the hub of the Inner Harbor instead.
I’m so glad I didn’t miss out on the hub of the Inner Harbor, with the beautiful ships like the U.S.S. Constellation (photo at top) that I hope to tour next time I’m there. I’m sure at times the Pratt Street area of the Inner Harbor is frightfully crowded but on this beautiful Friday afternoon in May, it wasn’t crowded at all. Linda and I caught a quick lunch al fresco at La Tasca with a perfect view of the people paddling in Chessie boats, which are named for the supposedly fictional Chesapeake Bay monster.
After lunch, we joined the SATW art tour at its second stop: the Maryland Historical Society. Much of the museum’s gallery space was under renovation for the upcoming War of 1812 , but they let us poke around the vaults so that was pretty cool. The Civil War exhibit was fascinating, as the residents of Baltimore were on both sides ideologically.
One of the Maryland Historical Society’s main highlights is the original manuscript of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” which Francis Scott Key composed during the Battle of Baltimore in 1814. The bellicose lyrics of our national anthem really come to life when you see an intact bomb — one of the bombs from that war that didn’t burst in the air.
We had dinner at the Rusty Scupper, where I ate a delicious crab cake, which was a relief because I had vowed not to leave Baltimore unless I had one and I pretty much had to leave on a train right after the social media presentation the next day so only room service would have saved me. But instead of resorting to that, I had an outstanding specimen at the Rusty Scupper, which serves 2.7 million crab cakes a year. In fact, it might be worth it to return to Baltimore just for that crab cake, especially since it’s such an easy getaway from NYC.
Seeking a slightly more romantic destination, perhaps Hawaii? Check out these Honolulu hotels.