Just Blew In And Got Money to Blow? GO TO TOWN!


It's Preakness time, and you've just arrived in Baltimore for a week of high rolling. You probably don't need help spending your money. But just in case, here are our suggestions of a dozen things to do, places to go, souvenirs to buy to help introduce you to the area and make your visit more fun. Don't look for the National Aquarium or the Baltimore Museum of Art -- we're counting on your guidebook to tell you about the Really Big Attractions!

1. Chesapeake Balloon Service, 1140 Monkton Road, Hereford, (410) 667-6789: Preakness Week traditionally begins with a hot-air balloon race. Why not take your own ride in honor of the occasion? A "Champagne Balloon Adventure" above northern Baltimore County takes about three hours and costs $150 a passenger. Balloons leave twice a day: just after dawn and just before dusk, when the winds are calmest.

2. Conservatory Bar, Peabody Court Hotel, 612 Cathedral St.: Have a drink in the rooftop bar of one of the city's most chichi hotels. Prices are comparable to other bars in the city (unless you go overboard and order some of the fine wines, ports, cognacs and champagnes available); but for the price of your vodka and tonic you get fabulous atmosphere and a stunning view of the city. The bar is mahogany and marble, the chairs are leather -- the place reeks of the good life.

3. Harborplace, Light Street Pavilion: Harborplace shops have lots of Maryland memorabilia. Buy a mug with the Baltimore skyline or rowhouses ($7-$9) or a Maryland flag key chain ($2) from Celebrate Baltimore. The Hard Crab Market sells Old Bay seasoning and canned crab soups, tote bags shaped like crabs ($9-$11), a stuffed toy crab ($6) and a puppet crab ($15). Small items like pencils, pens and postcards, as well as Maryland posters and lithographs ($5-$20), can be had at Maryland My Maryland.

4. Downtown Athletic Club, 210 E. Centre St.: Show your hotel key and get a guest membership at the DAC for $15 a day. Play racquetball or squash, swim, run around the indoor track (nine laps to the mile), do aerobics or weights. Tanning and massage extra.

5. Kirchmayr Chocolatier, 6223 1/2 N. Charles St.: If you've never tried truly fresh chocolates before, head straight for the source of the best confections in town. Here you can see addictive truffles, liqueur-filled bonbons and chocolate-covered marzipan being made, then buy a box (or boxes) to take home. Hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. Expect to spend $7 to $20, depending on how serious a chocoholic you are.

6. Maryland Historical Society, 201 W. Monument St.: Tired of tacky Preakness souvenirs? Take home something from the Historical Society's gift shop, such as a "Ming" jar ($25) or a porcelain trinket box ($12). Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m. Sundays, closed Mondays.

7. Maryland Tours, Constellation dock, Inner Harbor: A 90-minute narrated cruise leaves every hour on the hour from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week. The 16-mile round trip passes by Fells Point, Fort McHenry, Fort Carroll and other points of interest. Even if you aren't interested in the history of Baltimore's harbor, what could be nicer than being on the water on a sparkling day in May? Cost is $6 for adults, $3.30 for children.

8. Max's, 735 S. Broadway: This Fells Point nightspot offers a wide assortment of beers and a wide assortment of music -- both traditional and alternative rock, and everything else from acoustic guitar to South African mbaqanga groups. Call (410) 675-6297 to find out what acts are booked Preakness Week. Admission is typically $10-$18, somewhat lower for local acts.

9.Obrycki's Crab House, 1727 E. Pratt St.: Grab your crab mallet, folks. Preakness Week, and especially Preakness night, is a madhouse at this Baltimore landmark. No reservations accepted; people are willing to wait a couple of hours for the steamed crabs, crab cakes and good times. $20-$25 per person.

10. Polock Johnny's, Lexington Market East: You can't leave Baltimore without having one of their Polish sausages. We recommend the Works: A pork and beef hot dog with onion, peppers, celery, "hots," tomato sauce, relish and onions ($1.75). While you're there, stroll around one of the East Coast's great city markets.

11. Stikky Fingers, 802 S. Broadway: Think Baltimore isn't hip? Try shopping here for your rock and roll stage wear. Take home a Guns N' Roses T-shirt ($14), leather wristbands ($10-$12), a spike belt ($19-$45). Naturally Stikky Fingers doesn't open before noon. It closes Mondays-Thursdays at 8 p.m., Fridays-Saturdays at 10 p.m., Sundays at 6 p.m.

12. Theatre Hopkins, the Barn, Johns Hopkins University, North Charles and 34th streets: An alternative to Baltimore's big-ticket shows, this is an independent community theater that happens to be located on the Hopkins campus. Built in 1804 (it was originally a barn), the tiny theater has 106 seats, all of them good. Preakness week you can see "Emerald City," a comedy-drama about writers in the Australian movie industry. Shows are Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoon. Tickets are $7.50 Fridays and Sundays, $10 Saturdays.

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