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.