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!