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Taiar

Some Help from Baltimore Locals

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For 7 years (not necessarily in a row), I've been attending Otakon and devoting practically all of time I spend down in Baltimore near or within the convention center, doing the things that we all do here on this forum. And lovin' it.

But this year, I've been speaking with other members of my family and randomly threw out Baltimore as a possible destination for a less-con-related-family-vacation. And so I was wondering if there were only Baltimore locals on the board who could throw out some opinions on the city and it's surrounding area?

Is there a lot to do? Enough to occupy a family for a couple days? I hear a lot of bad stories although have been taking them with a grain of salt. I know there's a couple pages worth of things in the Otakon booklet every year as well, but can anybody suggest some more?

Thanks in advance!

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What are you into? History? Art? Interactive stuff for the kids? Science? Sports? Outdoorsy stuff?

Give us something to work with here!

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Downtown Baltimore is a perfectly safe, very nice tourist destination. Within walking distance of the harbor you have the Science Center, the National Aquarium, the American Visionary Art Museum, Geppi's Entertainment Museum, the World Trade Center, Harborplace and one of the most beautiful ballparks in the country.

However, many of the better attractions aren't downtown. There's Fort McHenry, which is a cool piece of American history. There's Fells Point, a waterfront row f bars, restaurants and shops along cobblestone streets. There's Mount Vernon, home of the *real* Washington Monument.

Bounce around http://www.baltimore.org for some more ideas.

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I like the Walters Art Museum (they have a lot of Egypt stuff, and a lot of Asian stuff, and in my book, that's always okay), and of course the Aquarium. The Science Center is fun, but you can finish it in an afternoon or so unless you're getting an IMAX screening, too. The Baltimore Museum of Industry is pretty cool. If you're into theater you should check out whatever's playing in the Hippodrome. There's also Fell's Point (as mentioned before), Federal Hill (just what it sounds like, but you get a nice view of the city from the top of the hill), and depending what time of year you come down, you can catch an O's game or a Ravens game. I've secretly always wanted to take a Ride the Ducks tour, but I'm nervous about losing my "local" cred. Oh, there's a zoo! :( It's an okay zoo, but it has some really high points that make the trip worthwhile (a few minutes out of downtown).

If you wear out Baltimore, you could take a trip down to Annapolis for a day and check out the Naval Academy, the State House, and see the Chesapeake Bay and the (famous, and famously mismatched) Chesapeake Bay Bridge. A lot of folks toss DC into a Baltimore vacation, which is perfectly valid - but there is a lot to do in DC, and you might be better off taking a week-long trip if you wanted to add DC stuff in. The Smithsonian museums are my favorite museums ever, and not just because they're free. :lol:

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Alabaster: Good call. Well, the family consists of nobody below 20 years in age, so interactive kids stuff probably won't score too highly (Albeit sometimes the child in me loves stuff like that... Let's ignore him for the moment). Science is a definite, so I'm glad to hear the others mention the Science Museum. Art and Entertainment would also be quite appreciated. I'm sure the females of the group would hit any string of shops like a tornado, so those would be nice. American History is probably lesser on the chart, but still okay. Sports even less so.

Hmmm...Oh! Food. That's definitely high; Any off the beaten path sort of places with great (sea)food?

Animals are fantastic, so I'll be spending the greater part of a day in the Aquarium and/or Zoo. Other animal-based things to see wouldn't hurt though!

What other topics are there...?

Aresef: Out of curiousity, is there anything in the World Trade Center aside from the observatory or is it a business/office sort of building?

ZGL: Heading out to another city is a great idea, and although I've done DC before back in middle school for a class trip, the possibilities in Annapolis are probably fantastic. I shall poke around online for ideas there as well.

And... If I do the Ride the Ducks thing, I'll tell ya about it!

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The WTC is just the observation level, and many business offices.

O'Brycki's has arguably the best crabs/crabcakes in the city, and is pretty well off the beaten path. The Brewer's Art has great food, as do many of the other places in Mt. Vernon (check out The Brass Elephant and Tio Pepe's, among others).

For shopping, check out Hampden, which is quirky and vintage and just... well, Baltimore, haha.

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Yeah, the only thing to do at the WTC is the observation deck, but it's cool to go up there to take a breather and check out the view. Alternately, hit Federal Hill for all your awesome skyline needs.

Given who you're traveling with, I still recommend Geppi's Entertainment Museum and AVAM. Very cool stuff. AVAM, while an art museum, is dedicated to self-taught artists. The building-size windmill outside says it all.

As for food, what ZGL said. Also, check out City Paper's Best of Baltimore and Urbanspoon for some other ideas.

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Something else about food! Besides Seafood, are there any really iconic Baltimore food items that I should definitely be on the lookout for while I'm there and exploring? I don't mean crazy awesome restaurant food this time, but... Street fare I guess? The sort of thing that the working man makes famous. A burger from a certain joint or something new entirely.

If you've seen Alton Brown's Feasting on Asphalt or anything by Anthony Bourdain, I'm sort of referring to that kind of culinary pursuit.

And lastly... I gotta ask: Is there anything I should definitely see as a lover of Otakon and the culture that surrounds it? That's probably a pretty far off question for any city besides... Chinatown or something, but any input would be appreciated!

On the topic of appreciation though, thanks for all your previous help guys. I didn't want to suggest Baltimore as a destination to see something or other and have the whole thing explode in my face. I owe ya.

... Metaphorically anyways. Lest I can help you guys with a Vacation someday some time. *Thumbs up*

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Something else about food! Besides Seafood, are there any really iconic Baltimore food items that I should definitely be on the lookout for while I'm there and exploring? I don't mean crazy awesome restaurant food this time, but... Street fare I guess? The sort of thing that the working man makes famous. A burger from a certain joint or something new entirely.

If you've seen Alton Brown's Feasting on Asphalt or anything by Anthony Bourdain, I'm sort of referring to that kind of culinary pursuit.

And lastly... I gotta ask: Is there anything I should definitely see as a lover of Otakon and the culture that surrounds it? That's probably a pretty far off question for any city besides... Chinatown or something, but any input would be appreciated!

The Hackerman House at the Walters Art Museum is chock full of asian art goodies. Bonus: admission is free! A lot of the good Chinatown/asian stuff is down in DC or out in the 'burbs, but I'm sure someone else will have a few suggestions for you. The Science Center has an exhibit right now called Chinasaurs, about all these dinosaurs no one's ever heard of that have been discovered in China in the past few decades.

Workingman/"local" fare:

- Get a Monte Cristo sandwich from Burke's.

- Hit Caf

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I didn't want to suggest Baltimore as a destination to see something or other and have the whole thing explode in my face.

That was Otakon 2004. :) The manhole covers exploded and the streets flooded and a train carrying hazmat stuff crashed in the tunnel downtown, heh.

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I actually think New York has a proud history of manhole explosions, so I might be the expert on that one! Unless somebody actually from the city posts to take the position...!

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I didn't want to suggest Baltimore as a destination to see something or other and have the whole thing explode in my face.

That was Otakon 2004. :) The manhole covers exploded and the streets flooded and a train carrying hazmat stuff crashed in the tunnel downtown, heh.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. The derailment in the Howard Street Tunnel was July 18, 2001. I was there and spent several days covering it for national magazines. Said derailment had nothing to do with manhole covers "exploding," either--that is typically fires/explosions in underground electrical transmission lines.

My apologies, then - it's been a few years, and I'm not getting any younger. The manhole covers went up a few weeks later because of residual chemicals from the train building up underground (according to this press release from the MDE). At any rate, barring any more catastrophic train derailments or similar incidents, it's a pretty safe bet that Baltimore won't explode when you come to visit, Taiar. :D

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The Hackerman House at the Walters Art Museum is chock full of asian art goodies. Bonus: admission is free! A lot of the good Chinatown/asian stuff is down in DC or out in the 'burbs, but I'm sure someone else will have a few suggestions for you. The Science Center has an exhibit right now called Chinasaurs, about all these dinosaurs no one's ever heard of that have been discovered in China in the past few decades.

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Okay, I lied. I have another quick question.

What's the deal with Pit Beef?

It's sort of related to barbecue, and involves large cuts of beef essentially grilled for a fairly long time (though not smoked or technically barbecued). Typically it's done to medium/medium rare. It's then sliced thin and served on rolls with horseradish and onions and other traditional roast beef condiments -- though often people will put BBQ sauce on it, too.

When done properly, it's among the best roast beef you'll ever taste, because it tastes like *beef* rather than like sauce. BBQ is all about the sauce and the smoke; pit beef is all about the beef.

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My apologies, then - it's been a few years, and I'm not getting any younger. The manhole covers went up a few weeks later because of residual chemicals from the train building up underground (according to this press release from the MDE). At any rate, barring any more catastrophic train derailments or similar incidents, it's a pretty safe bet that Baltimore won't explode when you come to visit, Taiar. :D

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Dear ZGL:

I rode the ducks, so I thought I would say some things about it. My driver was a big Japanese fellow, and although I had assumed that after doing this sort of thing for months or years would tire him out, he seemed as jolly and excited about the experience as if he was doing it for the first time.

Real love for his job or a great actor? I dunno. Great guy though.

We went around starting from the Baltimore Visitor's Center and headed north past Lombard towards the real Washington Monument, and then turned to pass by Poe's Grave and turned again to head south towards the University of Maryland. Turned on Pratt and went by the Convention Center, and then onwards towards Fells Point. The whole time, our driver was speaking about the various landmarks of the city and spurring on the people in his duck to join him in merry quacking.

There was a lightning storm passing over by the end of the ride so he deemed it too dangerous to do the water part of the trip though. Unfortunate, but we did get a refund for it. Which was extremely awesome of the group that runs the thing.

Overall, it was pretty amusing. Maybe not 22 dollars worth of amusing, but I have no regrets (Although I didn't technically pay anything...).

Lastly, I made a point to ask him about what he said to his riders when Otakon was on and they passed by all the Cosplayers and what not. He responded "I usually just say 'Hey, look at those guys! They're havin' a good time too!'" I was a little disappointed... Maybe we should write up something nice about the history of the 'Con and all for them to read?

And there ya go; No need to ruin your local cred!

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