So you're moving to Baltimore

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Editor's Note: This post was written by Brian Caffo, occasional Simply Statistics contributor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Biostatistics at Johns Hopkins. This was written primarily for incoming graduate students, but if you're planning on moving to Baltimore anyway, feel free to use it to your advantage!

Congratulations on picking Hopkins Biostatistics for your graduate studies. Now that you’re either here or coming to to Baltimore, I’m guessing that you’ll need some start-up knowledge for this quirky, fun city. Here’s a guide of to some of my favorite Baltimore places and traditions.

Put more in the comments!


First, let me discuss some sporting events that you should be aware of.  Absolutely top on the list is going to a baseball game at Camden Yards to watch the Orioles. There’s lots of games on days, nights and weekends and for the most part, tickets are easy to get and relatively cheap. Going to the (twice Super Bowl champion) NFL Ravens is a bit harder and more expensive, but well worth the splurge once during your studies. Then you can come back to your research on investigating the long term impact of football head trauma.

 The Preakness horse race is another that’s worth going to at least once.  The Preakness takes place on a Saturday and is a very popular event; this can translate to big crowds.  If you don’t like big crowds but would like to see what all the fuss is about, you may enjoy the Black Eye Susan Stakes; this is a day of racing at Pimlico on Friday before the Preakness where the crowds are smaller, it costs $5 to get into the track and you can enjoy the celebratory atmosphere of the Preakness.  Another fun event is the Baltimore Grand Prix which happens every Labor day weekend (at least for the next few years).  Since you’re at Hopkins, try to go catch a lacrosse game. The Hopkins team is consistently among the best. If you’re a distance runner, there’s the Baltimore Marathon. Also, I hesitate to include this with sports, but I can’t get enough of the Kinetic Sculpture “Race”, the most fun Baltimore event that I can think of.  And we would be doing Hilary Parker a disservice if we failed to mention the Charm City Roller Girls!

The main non-sporting event that I like are all of the festivals. Every year, especially during the summer, every neighborhood has a festival. Honfest in Hampden is surely the one not to be missed (but there are festivals in every notable neighborhood including the Fells Point Festival) At Christmas time, there’s the Miracle on 34th Street right nearby and 36th street (the Avenue) is a fun place to go out for shopping and eating, regardless of whether Honfest is going on.  During the summer months, a local radio station sponsors “First Thursdays” where they put on a free concert series at the Washington Monument in Mt. Vernon.

Things to do during the day

Probably you’ll visit the Harbor as one of the first things you do. Make sure to hit the National Aquarium, the Visionary Arts Museum and the Maryland Science Center (not all in one day). Downtown there’s the Walters Art Museum and the Baltimore Museum of Art on the Johns Hopkins Homewood campus. Go see Fort McHenry, where Francis Scott Key wrote the National Anthem. The Museum of African American History and Culture is right near the Inner Harbor on Pratt Street.

If you’re outdoorsy, Patapsco and Gunpowder Falls appear to be good places nearby. Catoctin Park is nearby with Camp David tucked in it somewhere; you’ll know you’ve found it when the secret service tackles you. If you don’t want to travel too far, just outside the northern border of the city is Robert E. Lee park which has a nice hiking trail and a dog park. When you’re done there you can grab lunch at the Haute Dog.

 If you have kids, the Baltimore Zoo is a really nice outdoor zoo that is a great place to go if the weather is nice. It’s in Druid Hill Park, which is also a great place to go running or biking. If you’re willing to drive an hour or more, the outdoor options are basically endless.

DC and Philly are easy day trips using the train and Annapolis is an easy drive. If you go to the DC, only schedule a few museums right near one and another, otherwise you’ll spend the whole day walking. On a nice day, the National Zoo is fantastic (and free). The MARC train goes to DC from Penn Station and is under $10 each way, but it only runs in the morning and evening. Outside of those times you can take the Amtrak train. If you drive, it’s usually about an hour one-way, depending on where you’re going.

Things to do during the night

I have little kids. How would I know? My answer is, fight about bedtime and collapse. However, if I was forced to come up with something, I would say go to Patterson Park Lanes and do Duckpin Bowling. Make sure to reserve a lane earlier on in the week if you want to go at night on a weekend.

From my outside vantage point, there appears to be tons of nightlife. The best places appear to be in upscale city areas, like Fells Point, Canton, downtown, Harbor East, Federal Hill. Also, catch a show at the Hippodrome or Center Stage or any one of the many local theatres. The best places to go to movies are the Senator, Rotunda, the Charles and the Landmark at Harbor East.

 The Baltimore Symphony is one of the top orchestras in the country and usually has interesting programs. You can usually just show up a few minutes before the concert and get a good (cheap) ticket. There’s also opera at the Lyric Opera House, but Ingo will tell you that the real stuff is in DC at the National Opera.

Things to eat

There’s too many restaurants to discuss. So, I’ll talk about some recommendations. If you have to have deli food, go to Attman’s on Lombard street. If you need authentic Chinese food, go to Hunan Taste in Catonsville. All of the Korean restaurants are just north of North Avenue on Charles; try Jong Kak.  If you’re a locavore and want to go out for a nice dinner, there’s a lot of choices. I like the Woodberry Kitchen and Clementine. If you want to break the bank, go to the Charleston, probably the fanciest restaurant in the city. Also, make sure to hit the big Farmer’s Market on Sunday at least once. The best place to go drink beer and eat crabs is LP Steamers. If you want a crab cake the size of a softball, go to Faidley’s in Lexington Market. Lexington Market is its own spectacle that you should try at least once. If you need an Italian Deli, there’s several (Mastellone’s is my favorite, but this list at least omits Isabella’s in Little Italy and Ceriello in Belvedere Square).

What you eat

You’re a Baltimoron now, so you drink Natty Boh, eat Utz Potato chips and Berger cookies. (Don’t question; this is what you do now.) In the summer, go get an egg cream snowball with marshmallow.  If you want high end local beer, I like Heavy Seas and Union Craft.  If you’re a coffee drinker, you drink Zeke’s coffee now.

Baltimore stuff

So you need to know a few things so you don’t look the fool. I’ve created a Baltimore cheat sheet. Normally I wouldn’t suggest cheating, but feel free to write this on your hand or something.

  • The O’s  are the baseball team (Orioles, named after a species of bird that lives around here); they have a rich history and are in a division with poser glamour bankroll teams: the Yankees and Red Sox. You do not like the Yankees or Red Sox now.

  • Cal Ripken Jr is a former O’s player who broke a famous record for number of consecutive games played.

  • The Ravens are the football team (named after the poem from Edgar Allan Poe see below). They have been very good for a while. There was an issue where the old team, the Baltimore Colts, left Baltimore for Indianapolis and Baltimore subsequently got Cleveland’s team and named it the Ravens. So, now you don’t like Indianapolis Colts fans and people from Cleveland don’t like you.

  • Lacrosse is a sport that exists and Hopkins is good at it.

  • Thurgood Marshall, the first black US Supreme court justice, was born here. The airport is named after him.

  • The author Edgar Allan Poe lived, worked, died and was buried here. You can go visit his grave.

  • The most famous baseball player ever, Babe Ruth, was born, grew up and started in baseball here. He really liked duckpin bowling, so the story goes.

  • Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps grew up, lives and trains here.

  • John Waters is a famous film director of cult classics is from Baltimore and the city is prominent in many of his movies.

  • HL Mencken was a celebrated intellectual and writer.

  • Frederick Douglass, the abolitionist and intellectual was born and lived near here.

  • There was a wonderfully done and controversial television program from HBO, The Wire, by David Simon, that everyone talks about around here. It’s filmed in and is about Baltimore.

  • There is a Baltimore accent, but you may miss it at first. People say hon as a term of endearment, pronounce Baltimore as Bawlmer  and Washington as Warshington, among other things. Think about all of the time you can save for research now, by omitting several pesky syllables.

That’s it for now. We’ll do another one on Hopkins and research in the area.

  • Somebody

    I would think "The Wire" would prevent anyone from ever moving to Baltimore...

  • CGrillo

    Great list, Brian! For the cheat sheet: You have a deep respect for Frank Zappa now. Look up his history with Baltimore, the Edgewood Arsenal, and mustard gas - good reading for public healthies. Then check out his statue in Highlandtown, outside the Enoch Pratt Southeast Anchor Library.

  • anthony damico

    spro in hamden has the best coffee south of the columbia river

  • CGrillo

    Don't forget the Enoch Pratt Free Library (EPFL), which is what we call the public library system here. Definitely visit the main branch on Cathedral Street, which has a lot to offer, including story hours for kids. In September, there's the Baltimore Book Festival.

  • Ben L
  • Bmore Bungalow

    Great list. I would also add eating at Terra Cafe. The Terra burgers are AMAZING!!