Of course it's only coincidence, but as a Maryland native preparing to visit my family at the end of the week, I took particular interest in the most recent "36 Hours" feature from The New York Times. Assuring skeptical readers that the majority of misfits in Baltimore are wacky artists, not drug dealers, the Gray Lady then recommended forays to neighborhoods like Hamden and Fell's Point.
I'm of a like mind when it comes to the charms of my home state's largest city—there's a lot to see beyond the Inner Harbor. But while I agreed with some of their suggestions (the house beers at The Brewer's Art for instance), I would steer first-time visitors to a few spots the newspaper of record didn't mention.
First off, if you're going to spend any time in Hamden, do yourself a favor and fuel up at Cafe Hon before setting off to explore the rest of 36th Street. The prices are reasonable, the dishes are filling and the decor is only tacky if you've got something against pink flamingos and leopard print. After that, if art appreciation was part of your plan for the day, consider The Walters Art Museum in addition to, or even instead of the BMA. The exhibitions are quirkier and span a greater period of time, and like the more popular collection uptown, admission is free. Finally, Fell's Point. Much has changed since I started coming here in college, but fortunately The Sound Garden has stuck around. Look no further for the best new and used music, video games, and movies, along with the chance to catch an in-store performance by a touring band.
I've never stayed in a local hotel, but if necessary, I'd turn to the listings in the new Moon Baltimore. Their advice is usually trustworthy and often brutally frank plus, in the case of this handbook, it's dispensed by a local writer.