Posted by: outandequal | August 2, 2012

Baltimore: The Charm of “Charm City”

by Barbara Wrigley, Senior Director, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates

The 2012 Out & Equal Workplace Summit will be held in Baltimore this year.  Baltimore?  Really? At first glance, this destination may not seem as alluring as New Orleans or South Beach, but Baltimore is known as “Charm City,” and is, in fact, quite charming!  From the Inner Harbor’s seafood restaurants to Oriole Park at Camden Yards; from Fells Point where you can “Eat Bertha’s Mussels” to the downtown gravesite of Edgar Allen Poe; from the Babe Ruth birthplace and museum to Fort McHenry which inspired “The Star Spangled Banner;” this city is a delightful collection of old neighborhoods, diversity and lots of pretty delicious Maryland crabs and sailors.

Founded in 1729, Baltimore is the largest city in Maryland, and the largest seaport in the Mid-Atlantic.  After Ellis Island, its Inner Harbor was once the second leading port of entry for immigrants into the United States thus contributing to the city’s ethnic diversity.  The Baltimore Convention Center, where the Summit will be centered, was opened in 1979, followed by Harborplace – a fun urban retail and restaurant space, and Maryland’s largest tourist destination, the National Aquarium in Baltimore, which features an open ocean shark tank, a 4D immersion theatre, and a multi-story Atlantic Coral Reef.  It was named one of the best aquariums in the U.S. by the Travel Channel in 2012.

While the Inner Harbor area, adjacent to the Convention Center and Oriole Park at Camden Yards is always full of street entertainers, open-air concerts, and the luscious aroma of seafood and Esskay Franks, it’s the neighborhoods of Baltimore that have always held the most charm for me.  My favorite, Fells Point, is the oldest neighborhood in the city, with cobblestone streets lined with pubs that are reminiscent of a funky old English village.  Dock workers and neighbors gather well into the night to “Eat Bertha’s Mussels” and sip Bertha’s Best Bitter or simply a good old “Natty Boh.” (National Bohemian to the uninitiated.)

Other neighborhoods include Little Italy which boasts a nice collection of authentic mom and pop restaurants; Mt. Vernon which is a destination for all art lovers and a few gay bars; and Charles Village, which is where you can find Johns Hopkins University and The Baltimore Museum of Art. Charles Village is also home to artists and bohemians, and is known for its “Painted Ladies,” Victorian row houses painted in vibrant hues much like those in San Francisco.

Baltimore is also the home to the NAACP and three historically black colleges.  The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African-American History and Culture, also near the Inner Harbor, is an 82,000-square-foot space dedicated to preserving history and retelling the stories of Maryland’s African American community. The Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Culture Center, just a mile and a half from the Convention Center is where you can learn more about jazz greats, Eubie Blake, Billie Holiday and Cab Calloway.

With over 2700 LGBT professionals and allies attending the Summit, the Convention Center and the five neighboring hotels hosting Out & Equal will likely be the hot spot in town October 29 – November 1, but you may want to take an evening to venture out a bit further to check out the local scenery.  To learn more about LGBT spaces, visit Baltimore Gay Life, a monthly publication of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland and download their brand new sixty page  Baltimore LGBT Visitors Guide.

I think you’ll be charmed.

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