John Waters’ Baltimore
Explore the oddball side of Charm City through these colorful spots that feel like the backdrop to a John Waters film.
Baltimore is known for its off-beat joints and fun characters, so it’s not hard to see where native filmmaker and writer John Waters found inspiration for his long list of campy films. While you’re here, take a tour of some of these “latest, greatest Baltimore town” locales, such as the American Visionary Art Museum, where you will find a statue of Divine, Waters’ childhood friend and the larger-than-life star of many of his films.
Have a Bite with an Attitude
Drag Brunch at Bookmakers
On Sundays at Bookmakers in Federal Hill, enjoy an all-you-can eat buffet, with cheap drink specials while enjoying the antics of Baltimore’s famous queens Brooklyn Heights and Iyana Deschanel. Reservations are required, so get your tickets in advance for one of the best shows in town.
Rocket To Venus
This stylish John Waters favorite features a retro palette and furnishings, with a name inspired by a group of visionary Hampdenites. Rocket to Venus itself is full of vision, intended to be a place where nice neighbors can gather, grab a good meal, and then linger and drink into the night.
This longtime favorite breakfast spot can’t be missed—literally. Papermoon Diner’s colorful exterior and collection of mannequins on the lawn are nothing compared to the inside. A cornucopia of kitsch awaits with thousands of Pez dispensers, Barbie dolls and other pop culture figurines hanging from the ceiling and adorning the walls.
Fill Your Shelves with Fresh Ideas
John Waters is a famous bibliophile, so we’ve rounded up a few places where you can snag a good read for the ride back home.
Book lovers and John Waters fans shouldn’t miss visiting Baltimore’s legendary indie bookstore, specializing in small press, graphic novels, contemporary art and literature. And, indeed, Waters does receive fan mail at Atomic Books.
The Ivy Bookshop
This Mount Washington bookshop fills its shelves with new fiction, poetry, and literary criticism, not to mention tons of books on art, kids, nature, photography, history, reference, travel and much more. The generous biography section and lineup of staff recommendations illustrates The Ivy’s literary bent.
Normal's Books & Records
John Waters names Normal’s Books & Records his favorite used book shop in town. This collectively run shop is overflowing with good stuff, and has been voted “Best of Baltimore” time and again by City Paper.
Hit the Edgy Side of Town
Have a drink at this locally flavored favorite. Club Charles is filled with exotic artwork, music and drinks.
Memorialized by John Waters’ 2004 film A Dirty Shame, the Holiday House captures classic Harford Road culture better than any other bar or restaurant in the area. Bikers swarm the joint and park their impressive, if intimidating, rides outside with pronounced gusto. Inside, this American bar is totally wholesome if you are into vibrant edginess and big character. Hear that great Baltimore accent careening across the room.
Pay Homage to Divine
American Visionary Art Museum
Visit this museum of self-taught artistry to see the larger-than-life statue of John Waters’ dear friend and star in many of his films, Divine. The outside of the American Visionary Art Museum is just as eye-catching as the inside.
Despite his short career, actor Glenn Milstead lives on thanks to transcendent appeal of his dynamic blonde stage character, Divine. You can pay your respects at the Prospect Hill cemetery in Towson, MD, about 25 minutes from downtown Baltimore. Divine devotees are known for leaving love notes and lipstick kisses to show their appreciation for the fabulous person who lived live to the fullest.
See What's Playing
Bengies Drive-In Theatre
This drive-in movie theater was featured in John Waters’ film Cecil B. Demented. One of the last remaining old fashioned outdoor theaters in the country, Bengies features the latest blockbusters alongside retro throwbacks.
The Senator Theatre
This Art Deco landmark is considered one of the best theaters in the United States and is where John Waters has premiered most of his films. These days, the Senator screens classic revivals like The Princess Bride and a small selection of new releases, plus an anime series.
The Charles Theatre
The only theater of its kind in Baltimore, The Charles has the unique distinction of offering first-run specialty films in addition to Hollywood movies, foreign films, and cinema classics. The 1150-seat, 23,000 square-foot movie house is located in one of Charles Street’s most intriguing historic buildings.