Thursday, July 29, 2010

Your Guide to the Charm City, Part Two: Staying and Eating Here

So you've saved up your pennies, clipped those coupons, skipped out on your last three mortgage payments, and are coming to Baltimore for The National. Great. Now that you know how to get here, where are you going to stay? Fortunately, Baltimore is a city with plenty of bridges, overpasses, and park benches; but for those of you who want a proper bed, you're also in luck.

Where to Stay

Most of the Convention action is centered around the Inner Harbor, and not surprisingly there are a large number of hotel rooms within walking distance. Unfortunately, most charge $200 a night with an extra $25 a night to park your car. The organizers of The National have negotiated a discounted group rate for most of these hotels, but you have to book your room through them.

For those of you who can't write it off on an expense report, there are more affordable lodging options in and around the airport district and a cluster of hotels in Hunt Valley, north of town. Check the website of your favorite hotels for info.

For those who really, really, want to save a buck, Aberdeen is about 30-miles northeast of Baltimore, conveniently located right off I-95 and the Northeast Corridor. It home to an Army base, a minor league baseball team (owned in part by Cal Ripken) and plenty of national chain motels.

Where to Eat, Drink, & Be Merry

Like I mentioned before, the Inner Harbor caters to tourists and out-of-towners, and as such, many of your favorite national chain restaurants have locations here. Yes, there are The Rusty Scupper, Phillips, and Obrycki's for seafood; but you can get crabs just about anywhere in Baltimore. (No pun intended) There was an ESPN Zone in the Power Plant building, right next door to the Hard Rock Cafe, but it recently closed.

Fells Point, which is due east of the Inner Harbor is home to some of Baltimore's oldest watering holes and is a must see. The Horse You Came In On Saloon has been in business since 1775 and, according to legend, Edgar Allan Poe had a drink here on the night of his death. Slainte is a "soccer bar" where, if you ask the barkeep very nicely, they might let you watch the out-of-town baseball game. There are (literally) dozens of other bars and restaurants in Fells Point that are just a stone's throw from each other. Best of all, there's a free bus called The Charm City Circulator you can pick up right in front of the Convention Center.

Federal Hill is the neighborhood immediately south of the Inner Harbor, and like Fells Point, is within walking distance of the Convention Center. There are tons of bars lining Cross Street and the Cross Street Market is a 19th Century urban marketplace (think the Reading Terminal in Philadelphia, or D.C.'s Eastern Market) with food vendors galore.

In part three of my series, things to do in Baltimore that don't involve baseball cards.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Video Pack Break: 2005 Topps Hot Button

Big shoutout to Tom the Ripper for the new intro.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Your Guide to the Charm City, Part One: Getting Here

The National Sports Collectors Convention
is just weeks away, and for the first time in eight years The Nat is back on the East Coast. Many of you have never been to "The Charm City" and as a resident of the region who drives through the city frequently, I've come up with this guide of what to do, where to go, and most important, how to get here. There's a lot more to Baltimore than crab cakes, Pink Flamingos, and cheap heroin!

The site of The Nat is the Baltimore Convention Center, directly across Howard Street from Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Convention Center is located in the Inner Harbor -- one of those 1970s-era "urban renewal/edifice complex" redevelopment projects whose benefits haven't exactly spread to the rest of the city. (If you've seen The Wire, you know what I mean.) The Inner Harbor is home to various bars, restaurants, shops, hotels, and caters mostly to out-of-towners. Most of the Convention muckety-mucks will be staying here, but that's for another post.

How to get here

Planes: Baltimore-Washington Airport (BWI) is located about 20 miles south of the city, proper. Most domestic airlines serve BWI and you should be able to catch a flight from just about anywhere in America. Southwest Airlines is BWI's #1 carrier, and most of the other discount carriers serve Baltimore. Getting a cheap flight should be no problem.

British Airways does have one non-stop flight from London-Heathrow and Air Canada has 5 flights from Toronto. Otherwise, the closet airport with overseas flights is Dulles Airport (IAD), which is about 25 miles west of Washington, D.C. and about 60 miles from Baltimore.

To get from the airport to the city (and if you're not renting a car), you could take a taxi which will run you $25. Or if you want to save a few bucks, you could take either the MARC train to Penn Station or the Baltimore Light Rail (see below).

Trains: Baltimore's main rail station is Penn Station. Located about three miles north of the Inner Harbor in the Mount Vernon section, Penn Station is right smack-dab in the middle of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor. If you live in the Northeast or Midwest, chances are, you can get here from there.

Mass Transit: The state of Maryland's MARC commuter rail provides an affordable alternative to Amtrak. The MARC Penn Line runs from Union Station in Washington D.C. all the way to Perryville in northeastern Maryland with a stop at Penn Station Baltimore. The MARC Camden Line parallels the Penn Line from Washington to Baltimore and terminates across the street from the Convention Center at Camden Yards. Unfortunately since MARC is a commuter service, it doesn't run on the weekends. (Although Amtrak serves Aberdeen, BWI, New Carrollton, and Washington D.C. along the Penn Line seven days a week.) But for those of you planning on attending during the week, the MARC train is a viable and affordable transportation option. A one-way ticket to/from Baltimore from Washington D.C. or Perryville runs $7 each way.

Probably the best kept transportation secret is the Baltimore Light Rail. Stretching from Hunt Valley in the north to Glen Burnie in the south, with spur lines to BWI and Penn Station, Light Rail cuts right through the heart of the city with a station conveniently located right across the street from the Convention Center. Best of all, it's only $1.60 to ride it and there's plenty of free parking available -- which alone will save you at least $15-$20 if you so choose to drive here. Unfortunately, it doesn't run past 11:00 pm. Plan accordingly.

Baltimore also has a Subway line which goes from downtown to Owings Mills, a suburb northwest of town. Just like the Light Rail, it also costs $1.60 each way and parking is free. Take the Subway to Charles Center, walk a few blocks south, and you're there.

Automobiles: Most of you will probably be driving to Baltimore and the good news is that the Inner Harbor and Convention Center are easy to get to. From the south and northeast, just take I-95 to exit 53 (I-395) and you're (literally) there. I-70 and I-83 serve the city from the west and north, respectively.

Those of you coming from the New York/Philly area, and want to avoid the $4 ripoff toll on the Delaware/Maryland state line, here's an alternate route. From I-95 South, get off at exit 1B, Delaware route 896 North. Take 896 North for about three-quarters of a mile and take a left onto Christiana Parkway (DE Rt. 4). Follow Route 4, past the abandoned Chrysler plant where Bob Marley used to work (really, he did!) and make another left onto Route 2 Elkton Road. Take Elkton Road across the Maryland state line for two miles back to I-95 South (Elkton Road becomes Route 279 in Maryland). Returning north, exit at 109-B in Maryland. Congratulations, you just saved $4; four extra bucks you can spend on cards at The National.

And when you cross the state line into Maryland, you might want to stop at State Line Liquors in Elkton. State Line has one of the largest selections of beer, wine, and spirits on the East Coast, and all at cheap-o Maryland prices. Stock up and save!

Parking: There is plenty of parking available in the Camden Yards lots and expect to pay "Stadium Prices," since the Orioles are home throughout the duration of The National. There are also thousands of parking spaces available in various garages scattered throughout the Inner Harbor and Downtown areas, but if you're going during the week, expect to pay "commuter prices."

Of course, you can avoid the hassle and cost of parking by leaving the car in the suburbs and taking the train or Light Rail to The Nat.

Next time, where to stay and eat!

Baltimore National Group Blog

Bookmark it, NOW!!!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I Can Haz A Noo Laptop

So my old rig was beyond repair, and the Geek Squad just gave me a new one.

Good News: I'm back.

Bad News: I now have to transfer all my old files to the new one.

Yes, it's a pain in the ass; so do not expect any further dispatches for a while.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Speaking of patience...

My good friend Andrew of the excellent cardnewsblog (yeah, it's all one word) Sports Card Info has informed me that my one-man campaign to get the greatest card collector who ever lived, Jefferson Burdick, onto his own baseball card has been successful. Sort of.

It ain't gonna be in Topps and it won't be the set Jeff deserves to be in (Allen & Ginter), but instead it'll be an unlicensed Minor League product: 2010 Tri-Star Obak.

But hey, it's better than nothing!

Life in Internet Hell

So just moments after my last dispatch, guess what. The motherboard on my laptop goes kaput.

So yeah, this is the first time in over a week I've had access to the internet.

I apologize for the lack of updates. And since most of your mailing addresses were on said laptop, I apologize to those I owe maildays to. (You know who you are)

Patience grasshopper, patience.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Junk Pack Break: 1995 Topps D3

Away for a week, so I come to you with a video junk pack break.