Best of Baltimore
Best of Baltimore 2023
Our annual celebration of the best that Charm City has to offer.
Edited by Max Weiss
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MATT ROTH
Boards & Breakfast
Do you have a budding Tony Hawk in your midst? Find out by attending Waterfront Partnership's Boards & Breakfast, where daring tots learn how to shred from local pros. Hosted by professional skateboarder and fashion designer Joey Jett, this monthly event at Rash Field Park gives kiddos free skateboarding lessons led by volunteer instructors from the Skatepark of Baltimore. While the little ones are learning, parents can enjoy coffee and bites.
Salt Box Sip & Craft with Juliet Ames
This past spring, Ames—the gifted Govans artist and destroyer of discarded plates (for jewelry-making purposes), most famous for her stand-out art on Baltimore’s salt boxes—teamed up with Charm City Meadworks for this birdhouse-decorating class. With stencils and supplies, a group of 30-plus adults sipped mead while doodling designs (think: crabs, flamingos, and the like) onto their very own small, salt-box-yellow birdhouses. As Ames wrote via Instagram, the fast-selling tutorial “was sorta like adult kindergarten, and it was great!” Look for more crafty classes from Ames in the future.
CAMDEN YARDS SECTION
Bird Bath Splash Zone
The Orioles’ water-themed celebrations on the bases—players turn on an imaginary faucet for a single, mimic a sprinkler for doubles and triples, and drink from a “homer hose”—were conceived in Spring Training by the team’s energetic young roster. The players were having so much fun, they wanted the fans to get in on the act. Enter the Bird Bath Splash Zone. For $20, fans can get a ticket to the 200-seat Section 86 and celebrate big plays with the team, as an O’s employee named “Mr. Splash” (who wears an inflatable pink flamingo pool floatie, snorkel, and jersey) sprays hose water into the crowd. The section, like this year’s team, was an immediate hit.
The Royal Blue
When we heard that restaurateurs Randy Coffren and Rich Pugh were opening a third location, we knew it was going to be a good time. Like sister restaurants Johnny Rad’s and Snake Hill, The Royal Blue epitomizes the no-frills, everyone’s-welcome ethos of Baltimore at its best, from approachable prices to a slam-dunk food menu. But their secret weapon is the back bar disco where, every weekend, a rotating DJ throws an all-out dance party, quickly making this one of the hottest new spots in town. Dress to impress and be ready to boogie into the wee hours of the night.
Every Day Is Earth Day
We get it. Picking up trash might not sound like everyone’s idea of a good time, but this group actually makes it fun. Led by local realtor Dan Brover and his small-but-mighty team of ecoactivists, the nonprofit plans regular meetups to beautify greenspaces such as Canton Waterfront Park and Pikesville’s Greens at Smith community. They provide grabbers, bags, dumpsters, and requisite globs of hand sanitizer, and end every cleanup with free food for volunteers (and the occasional group drone photo). The kid- and dog-friendly meetups are an ecofriendly alternative to joining, say, an adult sports league. But the best part? The gatherings are making a real impact—with more than 2,000 pounds of garbage removed in total last year.
It’s not often that Baltimore can boast it has a nationally renowned music venue. But when the San Francisco jazz club Keystone Korner, named after the silent movie troupe Keystone Kops, opened in Baltimore four years ago, bragging rights were ours. Not since the days of the Royal Theater, The Sphinx Club, or Ethel’s Place has Baltimore had a live jazz venue that attracted so many glittering acts from across the country. Names like Coltrane, Chestnut, and Sun Ra have returned to Baltimore and new voices like Ebban and Ephraim Dorsey, both Baltimore School For the Arts graduates, are tearing up the stage as well. Baltimore does have more than one jazz club, and more are thankfully popping up. In just a few short years, Keystone Korner has put Baltimore’s jazz scene back on the map.
PLACE FOR A BOOK CLUB PARTY
Charm City Books
We were bound (get it?) to figure it out—the perfect place for a book club gathering is a bookstore. Charm City Books knew, of course. They rent out their Pigtown space after hours for a nominal fee. There’s a table in front of the whimsical book arch that’s perfect for snacks or dinner—might we suggest nearby Culinary Architecture—and it’s BYOB. Folding chairs are set up in the front of the store, tucked among the tomes, perfect for a lively discussion. And after staring at books all night, don’t be surprised if you leave with an armful. (There’s a nice discount.)
PHOTOGRAPHY BY CHRISTOPHER MYERS
Charm Aviation Helicopter Tours
Buckle up—literally—for the best views in Baltimore. A Charm Aviation helicopter tour gives you a perspective of the city like none other: soaring 800 feet in the air. Though not for the easily queasy, tours for up to four people get breathtaking views of the downtown skyline, peeks down into the stadiums and parks...you may even spot your house or alma mater. Tours wrap with a panoramic spin around Ft. McHenry. You can create custom or private flight plans (popular with proposals). Due to flight restrictions around D.C., this is one of the only regional helicopter tours around, making it a truly unique Baltimore experience.
COURTESY OF TOPGOLF
We waited years for our version of the gleaming sports complex to open near the South Baltimore stadiums, and, since debuting last fall, it’s become a go-to for group hangs. Although the high-tech hitting bays overlooking the skyline are ideal for golf enthusiasts—a variety of games for all skill levels makes use of microchipped balls and colored targets—Topgolf is also one big convivial sports bar. So, if you’re not there to perfect your swing, you can catch a game in one of the lounges, order some shareable snacks (two words: injectable doughnuts), or sip a colorful cocktail in a mug shaped like a golf bag—Topgolf’s version of a fishbowl.
In need of a good cry or deep belly laugh? You’ll get both in one sitting when this heartfelt, hilarious show takes over the Creative Alliance. Produced by Alexandra Hewett and Adam Ruben, the Baltimore branch of this live-recorded podcast and storytelling series asks adults to share their angsty teenage journal entries, love letters, and poetry in front of strangers. From love notes stuffed in school lockers to lusty letters sent from overseas, each contribution is endearing, awkward, vulnerable, oftentimes adorably naive, and rife with adolescent hormones.