A Tour of Pennsylvania Avenue Black Arts & Entertainment District
Baltimore’s newest arts and entertainment district spans most of Pennsylvania Avenue from Penn North to Upton. It’s full of history and culture, and aims to expand and uplift the community.
While this area’s designation as a Black arts and entertainment district may be new, the neighborhood has had a long history as a cultural center for the city’s African American community. During the 1940s, 50s and 60s, Pennsylvania Avenue was the place to go to see the latest singers and musicians perform—most notably at the Royal Theater, which hosted entertainers like Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday, Ray Charles and James Brown. Today, the Black Arts District aims to preserve that history and revitalize the neighborhood with restaurants, galleries and theaters.
Things To Do in Pennsylvania Avenue Black Arts District
The Arch Social Club is recognized as the entryway to the Black Arts & Entertainment District and an entertainment venue. Visit the Royal Theatre monument, celebrating the memory of Pennsylvania Avenue’s biggest entertainment jewel, which was demolished in 1971. You’ll also see a statue celebrating Baltimore resident and jazz legend Billie Holiday.
Enjoy bowling and roller skating at the Shake and Bake Family Fun Center, operated by Baltimore City Recreation and Parks. “The Bake” has been an iconic neighborhood staple since 1982. Take dance and art classes at Jubilee Arts. Or stop by Everyone’s Place, a bookstore and African Cultural Center, where you’ll find books, health food products, spiritual products, clothing, jewelry and art. You might even be able to catch a lecture from their speaker series.
At the heart of the district is The Avenue Bakery, famous for “Poppay’s Rolls,” enormous buttery soft bread rolls, as well as a delicious selection of breads, cakes, pies, and pastries. Owner Jim Hamlin has dedicated the front lobby and the outside garden of the bakery to telling the African American story in Baltimore. It highlights trailmarkers and photos of the Pennsylvania Avenue Heritage Trail which is a historic walking trail and there are murals depicting famous African Americans with ties to Baltimore. Take a guided tour with Baltimore National Heritage Area to learn more about the rich history and culture of this neighborhood.
Keep an eye on this neighborhood for big plans on the horizon—proposed ideas include a museum devoted to jazz legend Cab Calloway and a museum celebrating the history of Black women. The Black Arts District hopes to bring the area back to the way it was in the 1940s, 50s and 60s—a thriving entertainment community enriched by Black culture.
Pennsylvania Avenue Black Arts District Area Restaurants
Check out these delicious food options around the Black Arts District and nearby neighborhoods.