10 Baltimore Traditions Worth Celebrating
From tasty treats to nostalgic games, here are a few Baltimore traditions to seek out during your stay.
1. Street Fairs
So ubiquitous are street fairs during the warmer months that they are practically a season unto themselves. This is the time of the year when Baltimoreans flock to a different neighborhood each weekend for the distinct mix of food vendors, bands, ethnic traditions and overall fun. Learn more about Baltimore’s eclectic neighborhoods here.
2. Old-time treats
The classic way to cool down in Baltimore is with a snowball, a cup of finely shaved ice covered with flavored syrup. Although there are dozens of flavors to choose from, egg custard is the most traditional and favored by many locals. Some snowballs also come with a dollop of marshmallow on top. To try one year-round, head to Lexington Market.
Another classic Baltimore treat is the lemon stick, a peppermint candy stick jammed into the flesh of a lemon. As you devour a lemon stick, the sweet taste of peppermint starts to mix with the tangy lemon, creating a sweet-and-sour treat like nothing else. These one-of-a-kind treats are always available at the annual Flower Mart.
If baked goods are more your style, look for Berger cookies while you’re in town. These dense sugar cookies with thick chocolate frosting are a Baltimore staple. Head to Berger’s Bakery in Lexington Market for fresh baked goods each day.
3. Rooftop Decks
One of the best parts of living in the mid-Atlantic is the chance to be outside most of the year. For residents in neighborhoods like Canton and Federal Hill, where you’ll find the largest collection of classic Baltimore brick and formstone rowhomes, rooftop decks are a must-have. It’s a great place to host a dinner party, watch fireworks or just catch some of the breeze coming off the Bay. Bars and restaurants are getting in on the trend, too. Check out our top picks for rooftop bars.
4. Maker Community
Baltimore is a haven for artists and hardworking entrepreneurs. This enterprising spirit courses through every aspect of the city, giving rise to small business ownership, neighborhood activism, volunteer work and other do-it-yourself projects. Join in on the DIY spirit with our picks for hands-on workshops to take a handmade memento home.
5. Talking to strangers
You don’t need to know anyone in Baltimore to quickly feel at home. That’s because eye contact, holding doors and saying hello to passersby is part of the culture and also part of the charm.
This savory dish is a local delicacy made from a mixture of potatoes, eggs, onions, saltine crackers and cod fish, rolled in a batter and then deep fried. Look for them on the menus at local delis and seafood markets—check out the best spots for the freshest seafood.
In certain areas of the city, “hon”—short for “honey”—is said so often it’s practically a punctuation mark. Historically, it’s the nickname for the dialect that originated among the blue-collar residents of Baltimore. Today it’s celebrated each year at HonFest, a neighborhood festival in Hampden where beehive hairdos, cat-eyed glasses and feather boas are part of the dress code.
8. Sitting on your stoop
In Baltimore, there are more row houses than in any other U.S. city. These narrow dwellings were constructed in a variety of styles, but most feature front “stoops” instead of porches. On warm evenings, it’s not uncommon for neighbors to gather on the steps to gossip while the kids play out front. The steps were typically made from marble thanks to the abundant supply from the quarries in Cockeysville, a town 17 miles north of the city. The same marble was used to help build many structures in Washington, D.C., including the Washington Monument. At the American Visionary Art Museum, there is a recreation of one of these classic stoops, complete with a painted screen and formstone facade.
9. Duckpin Bowling
Duckpin Bowling is a Baltimore tradition that dates back to the early 1900s, and some say it started right here in Baltimore. Because players use shorter and squatter pins and a significantly smaller bowling ball without finger holes, it’s more difficult to achieve a strike, so the player is allowed three attempts per frame. Try it for yourself at Patterson Bowling Center, the oldest duckpin bowling alley in the country, and Mustang Alley’s, a modern bowling center with a bar and kitchen.
10. Buying fruit from Arabbers
An arabber is a street vendor who sells fruits and vegetables from a horse-drawn cart. They often rely on hollers—short, lyrical calls—to attract the attention of their customers. They were once a common sight in many East Coast cities after the Civil War, but today, the practice only prevails in Baltimore, where fewer than a dozen still roam the streets.