Two recent travel guides highlight not only places we wish to visit, but the very places where we live: Baltimore and Maryland. Here's our take on the books:
'Moon Handbooks: Baltimore'
Baltimore often is called an underrated city. As the former Colonial trading port continues to evolve, it has begun attracting more visitors. Local author Geoff Brown nicely describes it as a Southern city in character but a Northern city in geography. "It's a town of society teas and horse races," he writes, "raucous street festivals and experimental music, and oddball characters and living legends." What to see?
This first edition mentions some of the highlights, including downtown and the Inner Harbor (the latter area is hailed as a model for urban renewal and, indeed, is credited with "saving" Baltimore from what was then considered irrevocable urban decay), the historic Fells Point neighborhood, Little Italy and the entertainment district of Federal Hill. Baltimore has a number of unusual museums, including the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum and the Edgar Allan Poe House & Museum. But because one cannot live on museums alone, Brown describes various places to eat, including where to find the best crab cakes - he calls the variety of crab cakes in the city "astounding" - and he even includes a primer on steamed crabs ("a nearly sacred Baltimore tradition").
He features a short sidebar on "deciphering Bawlmerese," that is, understanding the speech patterns indigenous to white, working-class residents, which he evocatively describes as "a unique mix of a Southern drawl, an almost Cockney-like pronunciation of certain vowels and mangling of consonants."
- June Sawyers, Tribune Newspapers
'Virginia and Maryland With Washington, D.C.'
With contributors including The Baltimore Sun's own Sam Sessa and Julie Scharper, as well as local freelance writer Donna Owens, this 10th edition guide has the inside track on Maryland, Virginia and Washington. Fodor's prides itself on the use of local writers to provide an insider's perspective. The book is divided by state and the Maryland portion has sections on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis/Southern Maryland, Baltimore and Frederick/Western Maryland. The guide includes a list of great itineraries, offering a 10-day "best of" tour through the region or a 10-day "Civil War" tour with stops at Antietam and Monocacy battlefields.
According to Fodor's, "Baltimore's charm lies in its neighborhoods ... much of the city's character can be found outside the Inner Harbor." Still, the guide encourages visitors to take in the Inner Harbor, especially harbor views from the 27th floor of the World Trade Center or Federal Hill Park.
The best time to visit Baltimore? Summer, according to Fodor's, when plenty of festivals can be found. Suggested side trips from the city include visits to Havre de Grace and Ellicott City.
Among the top experiences listed in the guide for Maryland are a ballgame at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, a visit to National Harbor in Prince George's County, a chic stop at Baltimore's Harbor East and a ferry ride from Crisfield to Smith Island - and "don't skip the island's nationally known cakes."
- Michelle Deal-Zimmerman, The Baltimore Sun