Where to take your out-of-town guests

Published on: June 24, 2022 6:00 AM EDT|Updated on: July 11, 2022 3:10 PM EDT

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I’m 5 years old and tear-stained because my mom has declared it’s time to head home.

My family had driven 35 minutes from our home in Baltimore County to downtown Baltimore, where we were helping a friend sell her creations at the annual Artscape festival. I forget exactly what I was tasked to do, but I’m sure it changed my life, because I never shook the feeling that Baltimore City was where I was meant to be.

Today I am an accountability reporter at The Baltimore Banner and call the city home. I’m among the few of my close friends to plant roots here — jobs, relationships and family obligations have pulled them elsewhere. But my loved ones visit often, and when they do I take them places where I hope they’ll feel as energized and inspired and connected to Baltimore as I did that hot summer night all those years ago.

These are my favorite spots to bring my out-of-town guests. What else belongs on this list? Let me know your favorite places at hallie.miller@thebaltimorebanner.com.

I was thrilled when the conservatory and botanic gardens reopened during the pandemic; I felt like I needed to be among natural beauty and remind myself of all the world’s colors and surprises.

This is a great spot for the plant lovers in your life, and it’s also a quick trip from the great Maryland Zoo. I especially like the collection of cactuses and succulents.

Baltimore’s museums do a great job of showcasing the city’s personality and innate curiosity. There’s nothing like the American Visionary Art Museum, but I’m also partial to the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture, the Walters Art Museum, the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park Museum and the Baltimore Museum of Industry. Visiting Fort McHenry, the site of a pivotal battle during the War of 1812, is also a must, not just for its historical value but also for the scenic views.

Touristy, I know, but in my opinion this is one of the city’s best attractions. The array of wildlife here is nothing short of spectacular (fans of Shark Week understand), and depending on how brave you are, the trip can be interactive, too (i.e., you can pet stingrays; or if you are like me, you can watch other people do it). I admire the organization’s commitment to environmental conservancy and research. And of course, the dolphins. (Psst: Tickets are half-price Fridays after 5 p.m.)

The pandemic underscored for me the importance of having ample green space and safe pedestrian routes close to home. Walking and running with others gave me an outlet to unwind and stay connected in a period of profound isolation. That, and a break from my computer screen.

Baltimore may be an urban city, but there are several places I like to go for sightseeing. As a Highlandtown resident, my favorite is Patterson Park, where festivals, concerts and community events keep me engaged all year round. I’m also a fan of Lake Montebello, Federal Hill Park, Druid Hill Park, Cylburn Arboretum, Stony Run Trail and Canton Waterfront Park, where I delight in watching families fish, pick crabs and picnic together.

I’ll never forget coming to the city in elementary school for a field trip to the Enoch Pratt Free Library as part of an academic unit on library cards. I remember the quiet halls and how the librarians’ wisdom and patience made the space feel sacred.

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The Enoch Pratt branches have some of the best free resources in the city, including lectures, workshops and classes. The sheer enormity and breadth of the Central Library still takes my breath away.

There’s also the George Peabody Library at the Peabody campus, which is so picturesque it looks like the set of a high-budget film. There are some 300,000 volumes there (for those, like my mother, who always like to ask about the number of books in any library), free for all to use.

Then there are the bookstores; I love living in a city where independent booksellers still thrive. There are too many to list, but Greedy Reads, the Ivy Bookshop, Atomic Books, Red Emma’s and The Book Thing of Baltimore have a special place in my heart.

I love having this multipurpose arts center in my neighborhood. Their rotation of exhibitions and musical and creative acts features performers from all corners of the world. They also sponsor some of the best community events of the year, including the Big Baltimore Kite Fest and the Great Halloween Lantern Parade and Festival.

From “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” to “The Amazing Acro-Cats,” this space has a lot to offer and is great for a fun or thoughtful night out.

One of my first memories in Baltimore is going to see “Beauty and the Beast” live at the Hippodrome; it’s one of the first times I can remember acknowledging the power of performance. Since then I’ve made it a habit of going back to the Hippodrome at least a few times a year, not just for musicals but also for stand-up comedy, dance shows and plays.

The theater has one of the strongest rotations of touring acts in the region. Over the past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to catch “Tootsie,” Fortune Feimster and Jonathan Van Ness. And this year’s calendar includes two of my favorites: “Hairspray” and “Hamilton.”

Baltimore has a great array of smaller theatres as well, such as Center Stage and Everyman Theatre.

I am far from a decisive food critic or fine dining guru (cereal with milk is my meal of choice), but I do enjoy going out to eat and exploring new cultures through food. That’s why visiting the city’s food markets has become a centerpiece of my existence here: I like experiencing a little bit of everything all at once.

I’m looking forward to seeing the new Lexington Market, which has some of my all-time favorite vendors, such as Faidley’s Seafood. In the meantime, I’ve become a regular at R House, Mount Vernon Marketplace, Broadway Market and Belvedere Square.

Farmers markets also have become outdoor havens for me and my friends during the pandemic. Among my favorites are the 32nd Street Farmers Market in Waverly and the Baltimore Farmers’ Market under the JFX.

One of the other benefits of living in Highlandtown is participating in the monthly art walks, where pop-up shops, galleries and neighborhood crafters open their doors.

I bought some of my favorite pieces over the summer from a local artist who set up a sidewalk booth. Another gorgeous piece, a spoon rest, came from a ceramicist neighbor who sells crafts out of his basement. There also are live music performances, improv comedy shows and food stalls to peruse along the route.

They say Baltimore is a “city of neighborhoods,” and events like these help me remember how special that can be.

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