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June 12, 2024

Gems of Charm City: Stepping away from mainstream Baltimore spots

By JAE CHOI | August 31, 2019

It’s far too easy to get caught up in the Hopkins bubble — here are some neat places to explore during the weekend or on a study break.

Station North Arts District  

The Station North Arts District immediately south of campus is home to the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) graduate campus, a number of independent art studios and local Korean Restaurants. There is also a well-known streetcar museum next to the Graffiti Warehouse, which features graffiti art from people in the community. Notably, the area is home to several movie theaters such as the Parkway Theater, The Charles and the JHU-MICA Film Centre at the intersection of North Charles Street and North Avenue; all offer screenings of popular box-office hits and rare films alike. The Arts District also hosts the Maryland Film Festival and Artscape festival annually.  

32nd Street and Baltimore Farmers Markets 

Going to the 32nd Street Farmers Market in Waverly, open Saturdays 7 a.m. – 12 p.m., or the Baltimore Farmers Market & Bazaar, open Sundays 7 a.m. – 12 p.m., is a great way to meet people in the community and support your local farmers in Baltimore! The farmers markets also have fresh produce not always available at the local grocery store.  

The Book Thing  

The Book Thing is an independent bookstore in Abell open on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. However, all the books are free, and the shop takes book donations as well. Interestingly, the building’s upkeep is sustained by monetary donations and rentals of books, which have been used as props for TV shows like House of Cards.

Coffee Shops in Mount Vernon  

Around the University’s Peabody Institute in Mount Vernon, you can find many independent coffee shops like the Bun Shop, Baby’s On Fire, Dooby’s and Koffee Therapy Cafe. These businesses not only have excellent food and drinks but also are great places for studying!  


Hampden is a fun, quirky neighborhood just northwest of campus. Here, you may spot some of your classmates grabbing ice cream from the Charmery or checking out some of the antique stores lining West 36th Street. Grabbing food from Dangerously Delicious Pies or dessert from SweetSide Cafe while you’re here is a must! There’s also MOM’s Organic Market amid a complex of other stores and businesses several blocks north of West 36th Street. 

Little Italy  

Nestled between Inner Harbor and Fells Point is the neighborhood of Little Italy, a historic area full of family-run Italian restaurants. It’s a quiet neighborhood filled with charming restaurants and shops, and it also frequently hosts small festivals. There are also several bocce ball courts, with seats for spectators. Vaccaro’s Italian Pastry Shop and Pitango have authentic gelato and Italian ice, and Cafe Gia Ristorante and La Tavola offer more affordable meals without compromising quality and taste amid the more expensive choices in the vicinity. That said, La Scala and Da Mimmo Italian Restaurant are great choices if you can afford it.  

The woods immediately north of campus leading up to Loyola and the scenic drive 

If you continue to travel north of campus, up the part of North Charles Street sandwiched by the Tuscany-Canterbury and Guilford neighborhoods, you’ll enter a beautiful wooded area at the edge of Baltimore City. This area, which is home to Loyola University and Notre Dame of Maryland University, is great for walking around or jogging in the mornings. Continuing up the street, you’ll eventually come across a scenic byway flanked by green hills and lush countryside. There are few joys in life like driving down North Charles Street from the Towson Trader Joe’s at sunset.  

Thai Restaurant, Indochine, and other Southeast Asian Restaurants 

One surprising feature of Baltimore is its wide selection of Southeast Asian Food, most notably Vietnamese and Thai cuisine. Thai Restaurant (it’s literally called “Thai Restaurant”) in Waverly is probably my favorite restaurant in the entire city. Khun Nine Thai in Mount Vernon and My Thai just above Little Italy are also good options for Thai food. If I’m looking for Vietnamese food, I can usually count on Indochine in Mount Vernon or Pho Bac in Canton. 

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