The Campus Bubble
Published: August 21, 2013
If there’s one piece of advice I could give to pre-freshman me, it would be to get my butt out of bed, leave the library, and venture a little farther off campus to explore my new home. Baltimore has so much to offer young people, and when you’re 18, living far away from home for the first time, a bit shell-shocked after five seasons of The Wire, you might be reluctant to step out of your comfort zone. But believe me, it’s worth a little anxiety and you’ll regret it if you don’t.
Public transportation will be your best friend. The Charm City Circulator might seem daunting, and MTA buses can look a little sketchy, but they will save you tons of money (download the CCC app!). Cabs get really expensive, really quickly. Anywhere farther than the Inner Harbor will likely result in a cab fare that’s higher that whatever meal you’re going to eat. And speaking of the Inner Harbor, it’s awesome—until you hit all seven restaurants that are in your price range and comb through every dress on Urban Outfitters’ racks. Baltimore is a city made up of neighborhoods; you should make it your college goal to hit every one at least once (and maybe study a little).
Some of my favorite neighborhoods, and why they should be yours too:
Mount Vernon: In my freshman year, I took a class during intersession (the three weeks before the start of spring semester at Hopkins), and we took a field trip to Mount Vernon for a literary walking tour. Before this, I’m ashamed to admit, I had only known Mount Vernon to be a city near my hometown and George Washington’s mansion in Virginia, which I visited with my family when I was probably about 8. My class took the Johns Hopkins shuttle, visited the Peabody library, and saw places where icons like Poe, Fitzgerald, and Emily Post, had lived, worked, and more. When I realized how easy it was to get to, I spent a little more time exploring Mount Vernon and came across many restaurants that were a nice change of pace from on-campus dining. Plus, it’s home to City Paper, where I spent my internship this summer.
Hampden: If you’re looking for antiques, some good Mexican grub, Christmas lights, a great bookstore, or even a haircut, Hampden is the place to go. Only a short walk from JHU’s Homewood campus, Hampden claims an eclectic, arty scene, with plenty to do. It’s nice to get some fresh air—D-Level Dwellers, I’m talking to you—and window-shop or grab a bite to eat.
Federal Hill: Now I have to admit, I’ve only been to Fed Hill a few times. Mainly for food (hey, when the parents come to town . . . ), but the other day I visited the American Visionary Art Museum and took a long walk over the giant—hence the neighborhood’s name—Federal Hill. There’s not as much to do if you’re not willing to shell out some dough, but it’s a place that many freshmen haven’t even heard of, unfortunately. The Charm City Circulator’s purple line, which leaves from Penn Station, brings you down easily. On a nice day, bring a few friends and explore.
Fells Point: Just past ritzy Harbor East and Little Italy (where your parents are sure to want to dine), you can find Baltimore’s old maritime neighborhood, chock-full of bars, restaurants, beautiful old streets, and a bona fide record store. For a few clams, you can even take the Water Taxi over from the Inner Harbor.
Of course, there are still places I’ve yet to try and things on my Baltimore bucket list that I want to check off. I want to try some restaurants in Canton, where you can hammer Old Bay-slathered crabs on brown paper; I want to walk through Harbor East; I want to go to more Orioles games (Camden Yards has turned me into a baseball fan—or at least someone who no longer wants to gouge her eyes out while she watches). I want to go to all of Baltimore’s historic markets (Faidley’s at Lexington Market has the best crab cakes).
You’ve got (at least) four years here. Might as well get to know your new home: It might even help lessen how much you miss mom’s cooking or dad’s “hilarious” jokes. You’ll soon find out why some of those old dilapidated benches read “Baltimore, The Greatest City in America.”