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My brother and his wife are currently driving from Birmingham, Alabama to Baltimore, Maryland, where they’ll live for the next year. I sense they’re starting their time in Charm City much like I did six years ago – with reservations about just how charming this crime-filled city could be.

Entering from Interstate 95 North, Baltimore tends to appear grimy and industrial. When I first visited the city, a D.C. friend and I dubbed it Balti-less. Within months of moving there though, I fell in love with the city and the people.

With less than a year to discover all that Baltimore has to offer, I thought I’d help my brother and sister-in-law enjoy its many hidden charms from the start. Hopefully this series of posts can help others new to the area or visiting as well.

So, big brother, after a day of unpacking, I encourage you to take your wife by the hand and stroll along the waterfront from your new home to Fell’s Point. When you get there, cool down at Woody’s Rum Bar with the best mojito I’ve found in the continental U.S.

Woody's_Rum_Bar

From this third floor, open-air bar, you’ll be able to watch jet boats and cruise ships pass by. If the luxury liners docked along the waterfront walk didn’t conjure dreams of sailing and boating, this view will get you planning your next cruise.

Two months ago you would have seen pirate ships docked below in celebration of Privateer Day. Just think, ten more months and you can dress up for something other than Halloween.

Privateer_Day

When your thirst has been sated, wander along the cobblestone streets and in and out of local stores like Su Casa (you’ll love the furniture here) and Sound Garden. Follow Thames Street to Mezze for dinner, appreciating the old world charm further evoked by the British street name.

You’ll recognize Mezze by its large, fenced-in patio overflowing with flowers and greenery. Load your table with an assortment of Mediterranean tapas, being sure to try the hummus plate and spinach pie.

If you manage to resist dessert at Mezze and are up for exploring a bit more, walk around the corner to Pitango Gelato near the intersection of Thames and Broadway. Enjoy thick, creamy gelato in flavors like Bacio, pistachio, black tea, and cinnamon. Or keep it simple with a Counter Culture coffee.

Whether or not you make it to Pitango’s on this outing, be sure to go in winter for an Italian style sipping chocolate. This sumptuous hot chocolate is so rich it comes in a cup only slightly larger than an espresso shot. If you decide to cut the bittersweet flavor with steamed milk, ask them to go easy on the milk so the chocolate still takes the stage. You can also try shaking hot pepper flakes into the chocolate deliciousness for a bit of a kick.

Pitango

If you’re feeling overstuffed at this point, good news – you get to walk back home! Take Aliceanna Street or Fleet Street so you’re not alone on the waterfront after dark. Some of what you’ve heard about Baltimore is true after all.

You could comfort yourself with the knowledge that some sources have actually cited Birmingham as having more crime or violence than Baltimore in previous years.

Yes, I find that difficult to believe as well. Nonetheless, I’d take Baltimore over Birmingham any day!

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