Where to Find the Hidden Gems of Charm City

It’s no secret that Baltimore is home to an eclectic collection of people, places, and things. So much so, that sometimes the best spots remain hidden among the well-known attractions of the city. Finding Baltimore’s best kept secrets can be a piece of cake if you know where to look though. To get you started, we found a few of the many must-see sights of Charm City.

Normal’s Bookstore: Despite the name, Normal’s is anything but. They also carry far more than just books. Normal’s Bookstore serves a diverse community through their collection of used books, records, and CDs. Now on their 23rd year of business, Normal’s buys and sells used books (and music), or treasures as they may be more appropriately called. With a penchant for the obscure and hard to find material, this is the anti-Barnes & Noble. Prices are kept low (as little as $1) and a great location leaves them less than two miles away from Loyola’s campus. I challenge you to come up with a good enough excuse for not visiting Baltimore’s best used book store.

Artscape: The facts about Arstcape speak for themselves; Arstcape is America’s largest free arts festival, spanning over three days and attracting more than 350,000 attendees, and it’s held right here in the city of Baltimore. Since it takes place in late July, not everyone can have the pleasure of attending, but if you are in Baltimore for the summer, do not miss out on the 150+ artists, fashion designers, and craftspeople that showcase their work during this event. And if you need to escape from the summer heat, there are live concerts/performances (both indoor and outdoor) of all genres including dance, opera, theater, film, and more. Also, do I need to remind you that this is totally free! Whether you make a day of it or go all three days, I promise you won’t be bored. http://www.artscape.org/

Little Italy Film Festival: The weekly Friday night “cinema al fresco,” or open air film festival for those of you who don’t speak Italian, is another great free event not to miss. Running through July and August, feel free to head down to Little Italy with a lawn chair or blanket to grab a spot on the street where you can watch the movie of the night. If you head down early around 7 p.m., you’ll be able to catch live music before the movie starts at 9. And if you’re up for a late dinner, plenty of the authentic restaurants in the area will be serving movie night specials for you to enjoy with the film. Take a break from the routine and immerse yourself in this unique Little Italy tradition.

Senator Theatre: Freshly renovated and back in business, the Senator Theatre is a historic landmark in Baltimore that is sure to entertain. Here, you can catch some of the latest movies while marveling at the architecture and designs of the 1930s. The Senator is just down the block, on York Road, a short ride from Loyola. You can grab food inside before the movie, or at any of the local surrounding restaurants. Showings begin at 12:30 p.m. and run all afternoon and evening, so pop on down for an afternoon study break, and give back to a great local business looking to help revitalize the York Road community. http://www.thesenatortheatre.com/

Patterson Park Ice Rink: Open from October through the end of March, the rink features public ice skating, ice hockey, broomball, and sled hockey sessions as well as hosting many of Baltimore’s hockey teams and seasonal special events. This rink isn’t your average run-of-the-mill ice rink, as it is equipped with a warm-up room, fireplace, concession stand, and skate shop. General Admission costs just $4 and skates are an additional $2, making the Patterson Park Ice Rink a popular hub for activity during the cold winter months, as well as the perfect place for students and families to get active and have fun without breaking the bank.

Geppi’s Entertainment Museum: If you’ve ever gone downtown for an Orioles game, or even just walked by Camden Yards, you’ve probably passed Geppi’s Entertainment Museum (GEM for short) and not even realized it. GEM chronicles the history of pop culture in America beginning in the 17th century all the way to today. Here you can find memorabilia of every conceivable category, as you walk through the 16,000-square-foot space downtown. As a home to both one-of-a-kind permanent and special temporary exhibits, every visit to Geppi’s will show you something new. As you walk through each room, you’re taken through a unique timeline that parallels and is entwined with history as a whole. So, whether you’re a history buff, looking to reminisce about your childhood, or wanting to learn more about today’s pop culture, Geppi’s Entertainment Museum is guaranteed to have something for you.

Top of the World Observation Level: Try seeing all of Baltimore in a day. I bet you’ll have a bit of trouble. That is of course, unless you go to the Top of the World. As the perfect starting point for any visit to the city, this 360-degree observation deck located on the 27th floor of the World Trade Center is guaranteed to provide breathtaking views of Baltimore’s skyline, harbor, and beyond. With the help of stationed binoculars and photo-map guides, all guests have the opportunity to learn about local attractions, hotels, sites, and neighborhoods. For only $5, you can view metropolitan Baltimore from all directions atop the world’s highest pentagonal structure. And don’t worry about climbing those 27 floors to get to the top—elevators are readily available to ease the pain. http://www.viewbaltimore.org/

Pimlico Race Course: Pimlico Race Track is famous for hosting the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the U.S. Triple Crown, following the Kentucky Derby. But that doesn’t mean Pimlico is only open once a year. In fact, Pimlico hosts multiple horse races throughout the year that are open to the public, with seats generally costing between $2 and $5 each. If you’ve never been to a race before, visit their website and download their Racing 101 Beginner’s Guide, where you can find tips on how to wager and more. Pimlico Race Course is also a historic landmark, with its opening in 1870 making it the second oldest racetrack in the nation. People of all ages and expertise levels are welcome to watch a race or two, and who knows maybe you’ll even win a few bucks! http://www.pimlico.com/

Edgar Allan Poe’s House + Museum: Just like the name implies, 203 North Amity St. is the former home of American writer Edgar Allan Poe, and in 1972 was designated a National Historic Landmark. Nowadays if you’re looking to visit, you will find a museum featuring memorabilia of Poe, his family, and his life. It is rumored that Poe wrote at least 25 pieces of work during his time on Amity Street. The space is also home to the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore, who also host a number of Poe events through the year. After a short closing in 2012, the home and museum reopened in October 2013. The Edgar Allan Poe House + Museum makes for a great afternoon outing with family or friends, especially if you’re looking to soak up some inspiration. http://www.poemuseum.org/

Now that you know where to find some of our must-see sights in Baltimore, the time has come to tackle that list! Baltimore is a unique city with a treasure trove of opportunities right at your front door. Challenge yourself to make a personal list of places and attractions to visit in Baltimore. Who knows where it will lead you!


7 ways students have fun on the Quad

Whether students are just getting back to campus in the beginning of the fall, or getting ready to leave for summer vacation, if the sun is out so are they. And where better to spend quality time outside than on the quad? While there are endless opportunities for a good time on the quad, here are a few of the most popular activities.

Getting some sun

Are you trying to catch the last rays of summer before the air gets cool and the leaves change color, or eager to warm up after a long winter? Then the quad is the place to go. On a nice and sunny day you are guaranteed to find it packed with students, so the earlier you can snag a spot the better. The best part is that there are always people coming and going, so expect some impromptu meet ups with friends old and new.

Loyola University Maryland quad on a sunny day

Grabbing a bite

Jazz up your lunch by bringing it to the quad and eating picnic style. Bring a blanket or hang out on the bench if you’re not one for sitting in the grass, but don’t count out the opportunity to commune with nature quite yet. Make it a date and grab a few friends for a fun afternoon pow-wow or go solo for a nice afternoon of reflection or people watching.

Listening to or playing music

Finally, a reason to be “that guy” who brings his guitar everywhere! When the weather is nice, everyone loves a good serenade on the quad. And let’s face it, for people like me who aren’t as musically inclined it is nice to have someone provide the soundtrack to my fun. If you’re not one for a jam session, feel free to bring an iPod and some speakers and crank up the tunes. Heck, throw a spontaneous dance party in there if you’re really looking to spice up your day.

Frisbee or Kan Jam or Slacklining

Get your blood pumping and have some fun with friends with these games. Everyone loves a laid back afternoon of tossing the frisbee around, but if you want to get a little more competitive pick up a game of Kan Jam. It’s that one where you’ve got to get the frisbee into the “can,” maybe even turn up those tunes to add in the “jam” part. If you’ve never tried slacklining, you’ve probably seen it. It kind of looks like people walking a tight rope between two trees, and let me tell you it is not as easy as it looks. But it sure is fun and will get your adrenaline pumping.


We’ve all had those conflicting moments where we want to sit outside and feel the breeze and just relax, but we’ve got a huge test coming up; more often than not this happens during finals week. Well, who says you can’t bring your studying outside? I am officially giving you permission to mix work with pleasure and hopefully make the task of studying a little less dreaded.

Reading for fun

I know I just told you to take your studying outside, but drop those required books and pick up a fun novel or a thrilling mystery and let your mind wander. If you’re feeling stressed, I highly recommend this to you; nothing helps your mind escape more than giving it a whole new world to delve into. This will also serve as a nice reminder of what it feels like to read without deadlines or pressure – this is for you, not for school.

Taking a nap

If you can fall asleep just about anywhere, try falling asleep on the quad. You won’t need a bed or blankets when you’ve got the warm sun and a free afternoon. Remember to put on some sunscreen or at least bring your shades, you can never be too cautious. And if you still aren’t convinced or think that napping in public sounds crazy, keep in mind I’ve seen plenty of people doze off on the quad, both intentionally and unintentionally. But really, I swear no one will look at you funny and even if they do you won’t know because you’ll be asleep!

Rock climbing and the discovery of your (unexpected) passion

When I started my college journey, I knew that I was going to come out four years later with a degree. What I didn’t know was what else I would pick up along the way.

Loyola has taught me so much about life in and out of the classroom, a surprise I happily embrace every day. I am not the only one who has experienced this either! Many people come to school and unexpectedly find a passion completely unrelated to academics. It is a truly priceless experience. If you want a better idea of what I mean, stop by the rock wall at the FAC and ask Sarah Gervasi, ’14, about her new found passion for rock climbing.

When asked how she was first introduced to climbing, Sarah will tell you, “I tried climbing one of my first nights at Loyola,” at the FAC attack orientation event. She started going regularly the second semester of her freshman year. At first, Sarah found climbing to be a fun alternative to working out. But she says, “once I started learning how much was involved in the sport … I found that it was becoming something I really enjoyed and excelled at.”

Finding something you love at Loyola outside of the classroom really is as simple as that. It is all about trying something new, and taking advantage of the different opportunities that Loyola has to offer its students.

Sarah’s experience with climbing has brought her new opportunities both on and off campus as well. Her on-campus job is at the rock wall, but she has also been able to travel around Maryland and surrounding states to go climbing outside and to compete at other schools (Loyola is part of the Mid Atlantic Collegiate Climbing Series where schools host climbing competitions). Additionally, she has been part of the competition marketing committee, which acts as a great melding of her study of communication and her love for climbing.

Rock climbing has definitely become a lifelong passion for Sarah, who can’t imagine a situation where she would ever stop climbing; it is a part of her lifestyle now, and for good reason. She admits that it “has really given me some confidence that I never used to have.” She is also open to new opportunities and adventures after become more “outdoorsy” through climbing. Sarah took a trip while abroad to visit Cinque Terre, five small towns along the coast of Italy. While there, the regular hiking trails were closed because of landslides, but that didn’t stop her group from exploring. Because of the experiences that rock climbing has afforded her, Sarah felt comfortable exploring every inch of all five towns, which may not have been the case before she was introduced to climbing at Loyola.

Ultimately Sarah urges everyone of all shapes, sizes, and ages to try climbing, because you never know, you might love it like she does! And truly, this advice can be applied to anyone coming to Loyola who may not necessarily be looking for a passion outside of the classroom. Whether it is sports like climbing or swimming or joining a club such a Relay for Life, there are new opportunities around every corner.

Why You’ll be Happy You Took the Core

Ah, so we have arrived on the topic of the core.

“The core of what?” you ask.

I’m talking about Loyola’s core curriculum. You know, those classes that everyone has to take no matter your major. Some people dread it, other people love it. Either way you’re gonna have to face it, so why not get something positive out of these new areas of study?

When I first heard about the core, my mom was all “wow you’re going to get such a well-rounded education” and I was like “oh yeah totally, I can do this, I can learn everything!” … and then the time came for classes to begin. I was a bit apprehensive once I realized I had to take math, and language, and science — some of the subjects that don’t exactly highlight my skill set. But I realized that I had to trust in the system. Loyola would not have let me come here if they didn’t have faith in me, and the core really does serve a purpose.

You will learn to love this. I promise.

To begin, I’ll point out the obvious. For all students, whether you come to Loyola knowing what your intended major is or you are undecided, the core allows you to explore it all. I took some communications courses and found my major, but I came here set on photography and journalism and I am (happily) studying neither of those today and I have the core to thank. I made it through my math and language courses just fine and then I found a passion with sociology. As I was browsing the course catalog trying to choose a social science course I landed on an intro sociology course focused on societies and institutions. That one course led me to sign up for another sociology course the next semester, and the next thing I knew I was declaring a minor when previously I had no intent to minor in anything. The best part was I didn’t care how practical this course of study might be, or how it would fit in with everything else; the core allowed me to branch out of what I was comfortable with and learn something new about both myself and the world.

Along the same lines, the core can lead you to take out-of-the-ordinary classes that end up being fun. I bet you never thought you’d say school could be fun. But it really can! For one of my theology requirements I wanted to branch out from what I thought I knew, so I took a class on Judaism. I was blown away with how interesting and fascinating this historic religion was; and to think I could have missed out on this if it weren’t for the core.

This is the time when you can take classes that, at first glance, don’t seem to outwardly relate to anything. However, I promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised. You’ll be surprised at how much you didn’t know. You’ll be surprised at how lucky you were to find a new topic that interests you. You’ll be surprised how much you take away from the class and apply it to your main area of study, because you’ll be surprised at how everything really is connected.

The core curriculum seems, to many, as just another requirement, an additional step in getting a degree, maybe even a hassle. But it is so much more than that, all you have to do is give it a chance. The foundation of a Loyola education is the core curriculum; it is the broad and truly well-rounded education you will be receiving over the next four years. The core will both challenge and delight you.

Be open to the core. Embrace it.

The 6 Best Study Spots on Campus

So I hear you want to get some studying done and I’ve got good news for you. If you’re in need of a study spot at Loyola, look no further. After three years here, I’ve successfully scoped out six awesome study spots (listed in no particular order) and now I’m going to share my secret with you!

The first great study spot: YOUR DESK!

Yea, that’s right. I said it. Your desk can be a great study spot but so many people forget about this little piece of furniture that is used as a table more times than it is as a desk.

“Why my desk?” you ask me; well the answer really is simple.

Your desk is conveniently located right in your own room. For some, this may provide distractions based on who else is in your room or how many times you procrastinate by going to the kitchen and opening the fridge. For others though, the fear of wandering around campus only to find any and all potential study spots taken is forevermore banished. You’ve got a clean surface, with easy access to food, water, outlets, all your textbooks, a printer, and comfortable clothing. You don’t have to worry if it is raining or cold outside, so dressing however you like is always an option. Another perk is that you likely have access to a roommate if you’ve got a question that they can answer, just remember to stay on topic and get back to work so you don’t lose your drive. So while the desk may be underrated or often forgotten, dust that thing off and crack open the books. There is work to be done!

Onwards: The Knott Hall and Donnelly Science Center breezeway

View from the Knott Hall/Donnelly Science Center breezeway at Loyola University Maryland

View of the Alumni Memorial Chapel from the Knott Hall/Donnelly Science Center breezeway.

Wait, what’s a breezeway? Well in this case, it’s the series of hallways that connect Knott Hall with Donnelly. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you find yourself looking out the giant windows onto the back of the Alumni Memorial Chapel. Not only are there some great views, but you can usually find a vending machine or two close by, as well as lots of tables and chairs, several computers, and even printers.

Even if the breezeway gets crowded with students studying, you won’t find yourself surrounded by more than 10 people, because seats are limited. Usually, fewer people are a good thing. The natural light is an added bonus that you won’t find if you’re tucked away in Humanities or in a study room in the library.

Half way there: The porch of Humanities!

Admit it: you’re always envious when you see a porch full of students that aren’t you. This is a highly coveted spot for many activities including drinking Starbucks, people watching, and even studying.

Humanities building at Loyola University Maryland

Prime real estate on the Humanities porch.

The upside to studying on the porch is that you get to enjoy the beautiful weather (depending on the time of year of course) while also being productive. No more having to choose between hiding out in your room and lounging on the quad. Instead, pack a bag full of books and grab a chair on the Humanities porch. You’re pretty much guaranteed a good time surrounded by the sounds of happy students enjoying the outdoors and the lovely view of campus that never gets old.

The first three spots are so good, how can there be more? Enter: The Library

Okay so we all know the library is where people go to study for hours on end and pull the all-nighters during finals, but maybe you aren’t one of those library people because it can be a bit intimidating. Well fret not, during the past 2012-13 school year I recently braved the stereotypes of library people and ventured to the other side (i.e., east side) of campus to see what it was all about. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised! There are tons of great spots in the library to choose from, meaning there is something for everyone. If you like a little background chatter and natural light like myself, grab a few friends and snag a table in the front gallery. If you need a small and quiet space with no visual or auditory distractions, get there early to claim a study room or cubby. Or if you want to lounge a little while soaking in the atmosphere, wander in just about any section and you’ll find a couch or two to plop down on.

Like I said, there is something for everyone so don’t be afraid of the library! My only advice would be if it is midterm or finals week, the earlier you can get there the better because the library can fill up quickly.

Second to last but still great: Starbucks

Starbucks at Loyola University Maryland

Empty over the summer; always packed during the school year.

Wait, Starbucks sees hundreds of students pass by all day, and there are lines during prime coffee drinking hours, why would anyone study here? I’ll tell you why: because it is fun! And you’re always able to fuel up on caffeine. During the day, you’ll be lucky to find a spot whether it is at the Starbucks bar or the long table a few feet away, but if you get one I suggest putting in your headphones and sipping on your beverage of choice to get into the zone. You’re sure to always see a friendly face walk by and wave, which can be a welcome reminder to smile and relax. You’re also close to several options for food as well as bathrooms for the inevitable bathroom break. And of course you can make all the noise you want, this isn’t the library.

Last but not least: The Reading Room

Tucked away on the third floor of Loyola’s Andrew White Student Center is the haven for students looking to nap between classes. But napping is overrated when you wake up disoriented and late for class. So if you want to get comfy, and I mean really comfy, but don’t feel like sitting studying in bed all day, I present to you the Reading Room. The recliners that you can find here are likely sent straight from heaven, and this room may actually be quieter than the library. It ends up becoming the perfect mix between practicality and relaxation. Even if you end up never getting an ounce of studying done here, at least take a power nap just once before you leave.

So there you have it, the six best study spots on campus. I challenge you to try each study spot at least once. But if you find the perfect spot for you, than stick to what you know works. Everyone needs something different, but I can guarantee you’ll find it if you just look.