For decades, Baltimore’s Mount Vernon neighborhood has been at the heart of Charm City’s LGBTQ community. The historic district hosted Baltimore’s first Pride celebration in 1975, and it continues as a lively social hub for Baltimoreans of all backgrounds. But to fully experience the city’s culture and LGBTQ scene, branch out into its many other neighborhoods, which are full of must-visit museums, quirky shops, and welcoming restaurants and bars. Here are some fun places to start exploring.
Station North and Old Goucher
These walkable neighborhoods in central Baltimore are lined with galleries and theaters, as well as LGBTQ institutions. Stop in Station North Arts Café Gallery for breakfast or lunch, and to see rotating exhibitions and performances. Continue your cultural journey at Motor House, an innovative non-profit arts center, and the Parkway, a restored historic theater that shows independent and international films, cult classics and many LGBT titles. Old Goucher is also home to The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Baltimore (GLCCB), a haven for sexual and gender minorities that provides resources and programming for all ages. For beer or cocktails, try The Baltimore Eagle, an open-minded leather bar and nightclub that hosts drag shows, retro dance parties and other special events.
Pigtown and Federal Hill
Located just south of Baltimore’s busy downtown, these spots offer trendy dining and shopping along charming historic streets. In Pigtown, sample seasonal cooking and gourmet artisan food items at Culinary Architecture Market + Kitchen, then walk over to Ripp’d Canvas, a tattoo shop and artist social club that sells gift-worthy graphic t-shirts. Head eastward to Federal Hill for shimmering harbor views, plus a visit to the American Visionary Art Museum, which showcases eye-catching works by self-taught and intuitive artists. Look for the giant sculpture of Baltimore-born drag queen Divine, and pick up a gift at SIDESHOW, the LGBT-owned museum shop.
No stay in Charm City is complete without a trip to this hip stretch of northern Baltimore, where John Waters filmed many scenes in his films “Hairspray” and “Pecker.” The hometown director loves shopping in Hampden’s many thrift stores and even picks up his fan mail at Atomic Books, the place to go for the latest reads, local artist “zines” and community events. Search for kitschy treasures at Hampden Junque, modern home décor at Trohv and statement footwear at Ma Petite Shoe, then fuel up on Maryland Crab Soup and more local fare at Café Hon. Ready for a drink? Polish off your day with cocktails and charcuterie at the elegant-yet-approachable Bluebird Cocktail Room.
Charles Village and Remington
Wander southeast of Hampden to these laid-back neighborhoods, both featuring colorful rowhomes and an emerging crop of new businesses. Sign up for Baltimore Heritage’s LGBT Heritage Walking Tour of Charles Village to learn about the many social activists and institutions with roots here, including Baltimore’s oldest LGBT religious organization, the Metropolitan Community Church. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, have a light bite at the café-meets-bookshop Bird in Hand, or check out the buzzworthy R. House food hall in Remington, where you can eat everything from Korean BBQ to poke bowls. For a more formal meal, make a reservation at Gertrude’s, a gay-owned restaurant serving fine Chesapeake cuisine that is conveniently located inside the Baltimore Museum of Art, which holds the largest number of works by Henri Matisse in the world.
To learn about more of Baltimore’s diverse neighborhoods, and their restaurants and attractions, browse this LGBTQ Visitors Guide.