I’m very pleased with the progress of WelcomeToBaltimoreHon.com. It’s a sort of love note for the city that adopted me almost 30 years ago.
My goal is to create a means to experience Baltimore in different ways, to make a site that encourages people – whether visitors or residents – to explore the city beyond the Inner Harbor.
I spent a few years traveling to medical conferences all around the country, making numerous trips to Boston, Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Orlando, New York, St. Louis, San Francisco and a couple of European cities. I read all the city guides, the tourism magazines they give you at the hotels. Every city has its usual suspects – zoo, aquarium, science center, historical museum.
Whenever I could, I’d seek out something particularly local, offbeat, more interesting that gives me a specific memory of the place I’m visiting. I also tried to fit in at least one extended walk through a neighborhood or avenue that seemed promising, to experience the locale at street level. After sitting through conference sessions all day, some evenings I’d walk for miles just to see what there is to see.
You meet a lot of people at these conferences. They know of Baltimore for different reasons – “The Wire,” the films of John Waters or Barry Levinson, its staggering STD and murder rates, the redevelopment of the Inner Harbor, Edgar Allan Poe. They’ve attended conferences in Baltimore, often with a spouse and/or kids, and say things like “Oh, Baltimore. Nice. We had a crab cake at Phillips.” Or, “I like the Inner Harbor. We went to the National Aquarium.”
Makes me want to facepalm. Not that there’s anything terribly wrong with Phillips or the National Aquarium or the Inner Harbor, but jeez, if you’d only walked a few blocks north you could have had a Faidley’s crab cake at the Lexington Market – a crab cake to tell your grandchildren about and also drink in some authentic everyday Baltimore. If I only have one sandwich in Philadelphia, I’d rather have the cheesesteak sub that locals eat than an airport cheesesteak sub. Please.
Science centers are practically a dime a dozen, but how many cities have a museum of untrained visionary art, or a dental museum? Having raised kids, we’ve done the National Aquarium. Many times. Oooo, pretty fishes. We’ve done the zoo many times too. It gets pricey after a while, with admissions around $50-60 for the family and a shakedown at the gift shop for trinkets and another stuffed animal. Expensive, routine and boring.
Over the years, we’ve visited practically every museum and attraction in town, and DC as well. Baltimore has lots of things to do, places to go, that don’t cost an arm and a leg. There are many overlooked museums that are inexpensive or free, such as the Historical Electronics Museum near the airport or the National Cryptological Museum at Fort Meade.
So aside from having a comprehensive list of every museum, nature center, attraction, cultural and historic places in Baltimore, I am creating information about dog parks, bike trails and similar things to do, particularly with kids. Not long ago, I completed a large portion of something I’m calling Buried in Baltimore – maps to the graves of famous people. Everything will be integrated as much as possible, so if you’re interested in Edgar Allan Poe there is information and maps for his house, his grave, the Poe Toaster, etc. I still have a few cemeteries across town to do.
I have plans to create a mass transit map, a map of former homes of famous people, and maps of locations used in “The Wire” and “Homicide: Life on the Streets.” I just finished the whole “Wire” series on DVD from Netflix, taking pages of notes. There will be information about painted screens and maps to where to see them. How and where to go crabbing around the watrerfront. Eventually there may be some blog-like content, but for the moment I’m focusing on infrastructure and maps. It’s a massive undertaking that may take years to complete. But it will be a resource unlike anything else on the web.
Ideally, some like-minded people might join in and contribute. Depending on how it grows and evolves, there could be a discussion forum or other features. What there won’t be are gadgets to make hotel reservations or car rentals, movies times, restaurant listings or things like that. There are plenty of other web sites for that.
WelcomeToBaltimoreHon.com is about everything else – the people and places and quirky things that make this city unique.