Running in Baltimore – Along the Harbor and By the Zoo

A couple weeks ago, we took a quick trip down to Baltimore for the weekend. It’s an easy drive, and although I’ve been to and through the city before, I’ve never really spent a significant amount of time there.

The seafood was great – especially the crab cakes. We found a few sights to see. And of course, I found some places to run.

Where We Stayed in Baltimore

We stayed at the Residence Inn Baltimore Downtown by the Inner Harbor. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big fan of Marriott properties and the Bonvoy program is one of the ways I earn and use points to fund my travel.

If you don’t currently have a Chase Bonvoy card, you should check it out. They’ve got some good promos going on.

The location is great. It’s just a couple blocks north of the Inner Harbor. The Charm City Circulator – a free downtown bus system – goes past the hotel, so you can easily get around without your car. And if the Charm City Circulator won’t get you there, you’re also close to the light rail and paid bus routes that traverse the city.

We drove down, so we used the valet service. It was a bit pricey, but typical for a downtown hotel in a big city. If we planned ahead better, we could have parked in a garage for the weekend and saved a little money – but most of the garages in the area didn’t include in and out privileges.

The free breakfast was decent. Nothing special, but fine for me to start my day. One thing I like about Residence Inns is that they have a full kitchen. We didn’t have time to use it this trip, but if we come back for a longer trip I’m sure we’ll grab some fresh food at the farmers market and use the kitchen.

What We Saw in Baltimore

I had scouted out a few things to see while we were in Baltimore, and we crossed most of them off my list.

The Edgar Allan Poe House was a quick little tour. If you’re even remotely interested in American literature, it’s worth a trip. The tour guide said a quick spiel, then you could explore the house on your own. All told, it was about 45 minutes – so a quick activity, not something to plan your whole day around. But make sure you plan ahead. There are limited spots on the tour. We missed our opportunity to buy tickets on Saturday and we had to go back Sunday afternoon.

The Rawlings Conservatory was an amazing stop if you’re into flowers. It’s a sequence of greenhouses that simulate different environments – from the tropical to the desert. My wife loves flowers, so I put this on the list for her. But I enjoyed it as well. The Orchid house and the Palm house were both especially cool. We probably spent about an hour here. It’s also right next to the zoo – so you could double up if you plan to head there, too.

We also tried to check out The Observatory at Patterson Park. It’s an old tower, built in the style of a pogoda, in the middle of a beautiful park. Unfortunately, they were doing some renovations and we couldn’t actually climb up the tower. I’m sure the view from the top was cool. But we enjoyed sitting in the park for a bit, people watching.

Another park we checked out was Federal Hill Park. It’s just south of the harbor, and it has some spectacular views of the city. Lexington Market is a great spot for food and some vendors. More on the food below. I passed by the Farmers Market on my run Sunday, and it looked amazing, but it was closed by the time we circled back to check it out. Finally, I tried to run by Fort McHenry on Saturday morning … but the park area doesn’t open until 9am. So I saw the front gates.

What We Ate in Baltimore

The food was delicious. Baltimore is known for crabs, so we tried them everywhere. And they didn’t disappoint.

When we got in Friday night, we stopped at LP Steamers. It was busy, and we waited 45 minutes, but it was worth it. We got the giant combo, along with some old bay fries and corn fritters, and it was amazing. This was the only place we got steamed crabs, but they have them all over the city. The place has kind of a dive atmosphere, and they put paper over the table like a southern style crab boil.

Saturday afternoon, we stopped at Faidley’s Seafood in Lexington Market for lunch. It was listed as one of those places you’re supposed to go to, and I wasn’t sure if it was going to be legit – or a tourist trap. It was legit. The crab cakes were awesome, as were the sides. I had macaroni and cheese and potato salad.

That night, we went to Bertha’s in Fell’s Point. We took the Charm City Circulator to get there. The whole area was busy with a nice vibe. It’s the kind of place you could go barhopping in. Bertha’s had some live music inside, but we sat outside to enjoy the people watching. They specialize in mussels, so we got them instead of more crabs. I also got the oyster soup, which was delicious. After dinner, we walked along the harbor a bit before catching a Lyft back to the hotel.

Finally, on our way out of town Sunday, we stopped at Sip & Bite for lunch. It was featured on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives, and it didn’t disappoint. I wouldn’t usually get a crab cake at a diner – but it was a great choice. Maybe a notch below Faidley’s, but a close contender. I got the combo with the spanakopita, and I loved it. The restaurant was right near Patterson Park, so we stopped there to see the observatory on our way back north.

Where I Ran in Baltimore

Saving the best for last – here’s the running routes I used while I was in Baltimore.

Saturday, I had about six miles planned, so I didn’t want to go too far. It was about 3 miles from my hotel down to Fort McHenry, so my plan was to run down there, loop around, and come back. I went out along Light Street and Key Highway, and I spotted a lot of other runners out that morning. It was a popular route. When I got to Fort McHenry, I realized the area didn’t until 9, so I just turned around to head back to the hotel.

On the way back, I followed the harbor for a bit as well. You can run right along it for a good portion of the way. I also took a quick detour through Federal Hill Park, and the view was part of the reason I made sure we came back there later in the afternoon.

Sunday, I had a longer run planned – 12 to 13 miles. I wanted to get out to Druid’s Hill Park, which is where the zoo and the Rawlings Conservatory are. I wasn’t sure exactly how to get there, though. After a little research, I figured out the Jones Falls Trail connects downtown to the park, running alongside the interstate. Once you get out of downtown, you run along a river and an old train track, and things get a bit more scenic.

The route involved a few turns, and I didn’t want to get lost. So for the first time, I actually planned out a route and loaded it onto my Garmin to use the course navigation features. It was amazing! I wrote up a separate post on how to do that. The route also had some markings spray painted on the ground, but they weren’t consistent. So if you didn’t already have a genera idea of where to go, I wouldn’t rely on them.

It was a little under 12 miles round trip from my hotel through the park. I had planned to finish with a short loop around the harbor to add a little distance, but it was getting warm Sunday morning and I didn’t bring any water. So I cut it a little short and headed back.

Baltimore – We’ll Be Back

It was a short weekend, and looking back it was jam packed with good times and good eats. It’s officially on my wife’s list of favorite cities in the world, and we’ll be back before long.

There’s plenty of other things to do – like go to the aquarium or catch a baseball game. And of course, lots of good food to eat and places to run.

If you take a trip to Baltimore, I hope you enjoy it too. I know I did.

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