Fun Things to Do in Baltimore for All Tastes
By Tamar Alexia Fleishman
Baltimore Local Expert
Baltimore and its surrounding area has a vibrant nightlife for all ages and speeds. Whether it's sports, dancing, comedy clubs, live music, gaming, avant garde theater, after-hours restaurants or outdoor events, the various neighborhoods have unique flavors. Fells Point has been a hot spot for nearly 250 years, catering to the sailors of yore and today's fun seekers. It reputedly has more bars per square foot than anywhere else in the world.
Nightlife means different things to different people. For some, it's a relaxing place to grab a casual dinner with family and listen to music outdoors. Others may enjoy a later poetry slam while sipping on a local microbrew. Some night-owls want a place to go after the majority of bars close at 2 am. Baltimore's got it all!
In the early evening, the Charm City Circulator can get you to many of the centrally located venues for free, though one of its routes was recently terminated by the city's government. Baltimore does have Uber, the ride request app that's popular all over the world.
Baltimore is a fairly casual city. So, ladies, you won't see a lot of big makeup/hair/heels here. Be prepared to walk to neighboring venues during a night on the town.
If memorable places have their own distinct vibe, Red Emma's is chock full of personality. They are a "radical" (they changed the description from "anarchy") cafe/bookstore/meeting space/coffee roaster. Red Emma's moved from a more residential neighborhood to North Avenue for more room to do what they want to do: their space is open, yet calm and inviting. Need a place to sip a fresh basil iced mocha while blogging about your world? Even more conservative types will find the vegetarian food tasty and at least some of the books sold required reading for thinkers across the political spectrum. Red Emma's is a great come-as-you-really-are place that's open until 11 pm on weekends. They host interesting speakers, as well. Their location offered a place to meet for the peaceful original protestors in the Baltimore Uprising. (443-602-7585)
Slow Burns Cigar Shoppe & Smoking Lounge
Its front door is on an unassuming stretch of Frederick Road . . . almost like a speakeasy. With a minimum purchase of $6 a person (and they do have a few snacks, soft drinks), you can hang out in one of two comfy rooms, chock full of leather recliners. It's BYOB. Some people rent humidor lockers or the glass cabinets to store fancy liqueurs, cigars, whatever they like. Sometimes they have specials where they give away drinks with purchase. There are televisions to watch the game, etc. Upscale cigars being tended to in perfectly climate controlled conditions are for sale. A night with your own booze at Slow Burns costs a lot less than it would to head to an upscale hotel bar -- the closest comparable type of destination, luxury-wise -- with your group of friends. There is street and lot parking. (443-830-0022)
This is a brightly lit, no-frills Korean BBQ restaurant in Baltimore's Lower Charles Village-Little Korea neighborhood. Open until 4 am, there's the opportunity for some serious people watching. Your first decision will be informing the hostess whether you want to sit at a table with the "regular" menu or BBQ (for 2 or more). BBQ is the pricier option, but it's a multi-course meal unto itself. Little banchan -- appetizers -- include kimchi, pickled sprouts, quick-cooked broccoli. A server lights a built-in charcoal grill that they occasionally boost with a hairdryer. Depending on the BBQ bundle you pick, there can be tender beef, pork belly, chicken and other meats. They're served with Romaine lettuce leaves, scallions, sliced raw garlic and bean paste -- great for carb watchers! The meal is also accompanied by bowls of fresh soft scrambled eggs and hot, spicy soup with kimchi and tofu. (410-837-5231)
So many of us work so hard with swing shifts, second jobs, tasks on weekends. For some, late nights and day trips are a thing of the past. Thursdays have long been a going out night in Baltimore: Some of the graduate schools have few Friday morning classes, it's our hump day, etc. Boordy is a well-recognized vineyard in Maryland that makes several styles of wine, including fun fruit flavors. On Thursdays from 3 pm - 7 pm, they welcome people for wine tasting, a farmers market, prepared food stands, local bands. While you feel like you've gone on a bucolic road trip, they're only 30 minutes from downtown Baltimore. (410-592-5015)
Sounds of Summer at Belvedere Square
You no longer have an excuse to stay in on Friday nights in the summer. Sounds of Summer at Belvedere Square -- the food market and shopping destination in North Baltimore -- has a live band playing every Friday night from 6 - pm until the end of August. The bands range from pop to classic rock. No car? No problem: they're on the bus line. No cash? It's free. No babysitter or pet sitter? The event is kid and dog-friendly. Food and local beers are available for sale out in the lot. You can also go inside the market (without Fido, of course) and purchase all kinds of gourmet delights like smoked fish, house-made Italian foods, healthy smoothies and artisan vegan chocolates.
Charm City Roller Girls
Charm City Roller Girls is made up of four intramural teams and two intermural teams that have played all over the world. They're the best of the best! Roller Derby has changed since the films of the 1950's-1970's: more athletic than shtick/pro-wrestling. Still, the players dream up risque stage names for themselves and their teams. Fun hairdos and lots of ink are the norm. The teams are skater-owned and managed. The food sold at bouts is often made by skaters' loved ones. Their posters are created by local artists and look fabulous framed. Charm City Roller Girls recently lost their skate venue in Canton -- which they had really outgrown, anyway -- and are playing for now at the Ice Gardens in suburban Laurel.
Pop's Tavern got the second Baltimore County liquor license after the end of Prohibition in 1933 and they're the oldest tavern still running continuously. Its popularity no doubt rose when nearby Bethlehem Steel - now closed - was operating at full blast 24/7. Llive bands still play on Saturday nights to a packed, older crowd. Back in the day, bands such as Danny and the Juniors, as well as The Platters played there. Today, dance bands playing country music, Southern rock and classic rock get people to their feet. This is a place to have casual fun, opposed to being on display. (410-477-0270)
Pier Six Pavilion
Baltimore's Pier Six Pavilion is located right in the Inner Harbor, unlike many city's outdoor concert venues which are out of town. It's steps from restaurants, hotels, parking. Nearby hotel guests on their balconies and boaters in the harbor can certainly catch strains of whatever show that's playing. Pier Six does a good job of hosting a wide variety of musical acts, to appeal to a cross-section of concert goers. The season generally includes a solid schedule of classic rock, Southern rock, metal, R & B, country music. The audience can see landmarks of the Inner Harbor from their seats. Beer and snacks are available for purchase. ((410) 783-4189)
Upstairs has pool tables, a sofa, a small performance space, a bar and an altogether intimate, relaxed atmosphere. You can actually have a conversation! Downstairs tends to feature local bands, up-and-coming touring bands and bands living their golden years. Because of the configuration -- with a comfortable seated balcony and back bar with tables -- it makes for intimate viewing of the bands. Some of the bands that have appeared at the newer location include Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Drive-By Truckers, Dinosaur Jr, TV On the Radio, The Breeders, Maroon 5, Supersuckers, Quiet Riot, KRS-ONE, Jonathan Richman, David Cross, Michael Ian Black, At the Drive-in, Atmosphere, The Melvins, Coheed and Cambria, Bouncing Souls and Animal Collective. (410-662-0069)
Maryland Live Casino
Maryland Live Casino is located in an elegant part of the Baltimore metro area. It's directly across a walkway from one of the region's largest outlet and value retail mall. The Hotel at Arundel Preserve is an upscale accommodation that further creates a full resort atmosphere to the casino. The casino itself is "full", meaning it has card games along with slots. It's open 24/7 with a 24/7 liquor license. The aisles and restrooms are spacious. There's a Ram's Head Live (the area's concert venue chain) inside that frequently has free shows. There are locally beloved restaurants like The Prime Rib and Phillip's Seafood, chains like Cheesecake Factory and a couple of gourmet but reasonably priced Asian restaurants including Luk Fu. (443-842-7000)
About Tamar Alexia Fleishman
It takes a Renaissance woman to cover cool, shocking, tasty and thought-provoking things. Tamar was a professional violinist, studying with Daniel Heifetz at Peabody Conservatory, serving as Principal Second with Annapolis Symphony. She earned her BA in Political Science from Goucher, her JD from the University of Baltimore and is a member of the Maryland Bar. She’s appeared on TV with Bill Maher, Greta Van Susteren and Peter Frampton. A foodie, she’s judged the Roadkill Cookoff, the International Water Tasting Fest, the Mason-Dixon Chef Tournament. Tamar’s a Kentucky Colonel, a beauty pageant winner and managed Southern rock and alt-country bands.
Read more about Tamar Alexia Fleishman here.