Sports and Recreation
Published: October 10, 2011
While Baltimore consistently gets ranked among the fattest or unhealthiest or deadliest cities, there is a robust culture of sport here. Drive past any city field on a summer evening and you’ll see teams kicking around a soccer ball, coed softball leagues packing up bases before they hit up happy hour, and pee-wee football leagues in full gear, fathers on the sidelines in Ravens jerseys.
Baltimore, indeed, has a rich sports history, if not always for winning. Sure, a 15-year-old Little League pitcher was an infant the last time the Os had a winning season, but we’ll always have baseball icons Frank, Brooks, and Cal. And while old-timers still fume over the Colts’ departure in 1984, a new generation has embraced the Ravens, who, since winning a Super Bowl in 2001, are always on the postseason verge.
Baltimore is a city born on the water, so boating, kayaking, and fishing are popular—you just have to get a healthy distance from the nasty Inner Harbor. The Chesapeake Bay offers endless possibilities for water sports; learning to sail or kayak will pay you back in dividends.
In the past few years, cycling has become popular around here—the city is compact enough that a bicycle will get you far. Wear a helmet, please.
A network of lovely city parks offers pools, tennis courts, jogging paths, and hiking. If you need to get away from the ambient city noise, then head up into the county, where there’s even more hiking and trails, especially around the city’s reservoirs. Just don’t swim in them—that’s our drinking water.
Baltimore Grand Prix
Yup, they’re gonna do it again. If you braved the crowds and traffic to watch IndyCars jam around tight curves and accelerate to around 200 mph in the city’s first-ever Grand Prix, and you left with an adrenaline high or damaged eardrums (or both), then there’s more where that came from. At least the paving will be all done for next year’s event.
M&T Bank Stadium, 1101 Russell St., (410) 244-8154, baltimoreravens.com
The only thing crazier than the games is the sea of tailgating in the network of parking lots. If you’re not going to set up your smoker outside the gates, give yourself enough time to wander through the humanity. Once in the stadium, the energy only gets more intense. Double that if we play Pittsburgh.
5201 Park Heights Ave., (410) 542-9400, pimlico.com
They’ve been threatening to take the Preakness Stakes—the second leg of the Triple Crown—to Laurel, or, god forbid, someplace even farther away, for some time now. Hasn’t happened yet, but you never know. Such is the state of horse racing in Maryland. If you brave the beer-sprayed infield, maybe bring an extra shirt. Better yet, spend a few bucks and hang with old-timers upstairs. And hey, there are other races run at the track too.
Oriole Park at Camden Yards, 333 W. Camden St., (410) 685-9800, baltimore.orioles.mlb.com
The Os may struggle year to year, but we have to believe better days are coming under Buck Showalter’s regime. Either way, we have one of the finest stadiums in baseball, where we never fail to have a good time.
902-904 Stiles St., bocce.baltimore.md.us
Despite some occasional drama surrounding the courts, there’s nothing like a relaxing evening playing or watching bocce ball in Little Italy. The courts are free and open to the public, and every Wednesday and Thursday evening the neighborhood old masters come out to play.
Charm City Roller Girls
Du Burns Arena, 1301 S. Ellwood Ave., (443) 573-2450, charmcityrollergirls.com
With team names such as the Junkyard Dolls and the Night Terrors, the city’s all-female flat-track roller derby league competes year-round at the Clarence “Du” Burns arena in Canton.
This Baltimore fixture is a diminutive version of the game most people know. Played with smaller balls and pins, duckpin makes for a cheap night on the town, especially since most of the venues are BYOB. Patterson Bowling Center (2105 Eastern Ave.,  675-1011, pattersonbowl.com) in East Baltimore claims to be the oldest operating duckpin bowling center in the nation. At Hillendale Duckpin Bowling Center (1045 Taylor Ave.,  821-1172), you still keep score on paper, and Stoneleigh Lanes (6703 York Road,  377-8115, stoneleighlanes.com) has a summer youth bowling camp.
Parks and Green Spaces
Druid Hill Park
900 Druid Park Lake Drive, (410) 396-0730, druidhillpark.org
One of the oldest landscaped parks in the country and, at 745 acres, Baltimore’s largest, Dru Hill features a reservoir ringed by a 1.5-mile track, tennis and basketball courts, a massive pool, and a 27-hole disc-golf course, as well as a network of hilly roads and trails for hiking, running, or biking. Wander long enough and you’ll come upon densely wooded, little-visited areas—home to mysterious crumbling park infrastructure and the occasional deer.
Gwynns Falls/ Leakin Park
1900 Eagle Drive, baltimorecity.gov
One contiguous parkland with two names, Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park is a sprawling woodland oasis in West Baltimore. Leakin Park is home to the Baltimore Chesapeake Bay Outward Bound Center as well as a nature center, tennis courts, and baseball, soccer, and football fields. The Gwynns Falls Trail stretches more than 15 mostly paved miles through untamed woods and interesting, often overlooked neighborhoods. One of those is Dickeyville, a tiny village within the city with houses dating back to the early 19th century.
27 S. Patterson Park Ave., (410) 276-3676, pattersonpark.com
This is a South Baltimore success story: Long a dangerous, bedraggled remnant of greenery, it has in recent years been restored to its former glory. A lake, an ice rink, a swimming pool, athletic fields, and a four-story pagoda that affords a great view of the city are some of the park’s best features.
Robert E. Lee Park
Falls Road and Lakeside Drive
Just over the city line in Baltimore County, the mostly forested 400-acre park contains a small BMX course, winding hiking trails, and Lake Roland. Though the main entrance on Lakeside Drive is temporarily closed, it’s still possible to access the park by continuing past Lakeside and looking for legal parking, or try the few spaces available on Woodbrook Lane. And you didn’t hear it here, but the park is very popular with dog owners, who let their dogs (illegally) off-leash to romp in the woods and water. (For more information on the above city parks and others, go to baltimorecity.gov and search “recreation and parks.”)
4915 Greenspring Ave., (410) 367-2217, cylburnassociation.org
The arboretum was recently reopened after a massive restoration. The two and a half miles of trails meander through the extensive collection of trees and shrubs. Green lawns made for picnicking, a small bog, and a Victorian mansion also grace the 207-acre property.
The Waterfront Promenade
While not technically a park and fairly devoid of greenery, the Waterfront Promenade is a pleasant place for a long walk or run. It skirts the harbor for more than six miles, passing by luxury condos, marinas, and historic neighborhoods alike.
Stony Run Trail
This North Baltimore trail is a skinny greenway, popular with runners and dog walkers. The mostly dirt path meanders for several miles along a restored streambed behind some of Roland Park’s tonier homes, from West University Parkway to Northern Parkway.
The BWI Trail
A popular biking route, this 12.5-mile trail heads around the airport south of town.
Baltimore and Annapolis Trail
A 13-mile trail that, inexplicably, actually runs between Annapolis and Glen Burnie.
Gunpowder Falls State Park
A network of more than 100 miles of trails and countless opportunities for fishing, tubing, or just dabbling your feet. The Hammerman area includes a swimming beach on the Gunpowder River. And the 21-mile Torrey C. Brown Trail—which starts within biking distance of the northernmost light rail stop—is a flat, scenic route that’s great for running or biking.
The Jones Falls Trail
(443) 984-4058, baltimorecity.gov
The Jones Falls Trail will eventually skirt the river from Mount Washington at the city’s northern border and run south through Cylburn Arboretum and Druid Hill Park and all the way to the harbor. For now, it is just over four miles long. Completed sections include a chunk from Penn Station to the Woodberry light-rail stop.
Oregon Ridge Park
13555 Beaver Dam Road, baltimorecountymd.gov/Agencies/recreation/countyparks/oregonridgelodge
The relatively easy hike through this 1,000-acre park is a great way to unwind from city pressures. There’s a beautiful vista of Hunt Valley, babbling streams, and opportunities to watch wildlife.
City Swimming Pools
Get your swim in while you can. You’ll need a calendar to keep track of openings, thanks to city budget woes, but there are many pools to choose from and the price—from $1 to $1.50—is right. The newly revamped Roosevelt Park pool in Hampden is a good bet, as are the Patterson and Druid Hill park pools. For more information on city pools, go to baltimorecity.gov and search “pools.”
The Downtown Sailing Center
1425 Key Highway, Suite 110, (410) 727-0722, downtownsailing.org
Take sailing lessons in the Inner Harbor and then become a member so you can take a boat out on your own.
Several nearby quarries have been converted into “swimming holes.” Be forewarned: These are not secluded ponds with quaint rope swings. The beaches tend to be packed, and entry fees, concession stands, and game rooms are par for the course. Oregon Ridge Beach is in Cockeysville (13555 Beaver Dam Road,  887-1817, baltimorecountymd.gov), as is the Beaver Dam Swimming Club (10820 Beaver Dam Road,  785-2323, beaverdamswimmingclub.com). For a more rustic experience, try Rocks State Park (dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/central/rocks.asp ) in Harford County. Numerous swimming holes of the old-fashioned variety dot Deer Creek, and the Falling Branch wilderness area features a deep natural pool and high craggy rocks for the brave/reckless to plummet from.
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