Beyond the Birds: All About Baltimore’s Sports Scene
Call us competitive, but we couldn't confine our sports to Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium. There are plenty of ways to enjoy a game here, from basketball to bocce and everything in between.
When you picture Baltimore’s sports scene, odds are the Ravens and the Orioles are the first teams that come to mind; after all, their neighboring stadiums are prominently located downtown. But as much as we love our Birds, Baltimore’s sports scene consists of more than baseball and football. In addition to Maryland staples like basketball and lacrosse, you’ll also find more niche sports like bocce and skateboarding. Keep reading for a guide to Charm City’s dynamic sports scene, including how to get in on the action.
Baltimore is home to the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament, a week-long event that celebrates Black culture through concerts, step shows, Greek life, reunions and incredible athleticism. The tournament typically takes place in February, but it’s easy to play basketball in Baltimore any time of year, thanks to the ample number of public courts around the city. Notable ones include Cloverdale (where Carmelo Anthony and Will Barton have played), Druid Hill Park, The Dome (home to many legendary pick-up games) and Patterson Park, which recently got a colorful makeover from local artist Jordan Lawson.
For a classic Baltimore pastime, head to the public bocce ball courts in Little Italy. Try your hand at the sport or support the neighborhood’s two leagues—the Little Italy Bocce League and the Italian American Bocce League—which compete on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings between May and September. Bocce tournaments are also held during the two summer festivals hosted by St. Leo the Great Catholic Church and October’s Columbus Day Commemoration.
There’s no denying the monumental impact of Baltimore’s boxing community not only on local sports culture, but on professional boxing. Our city has produced several heavy hitters, from Calvin Ford—a trainer at Upton Boxing Center who inspired Chad Coleman’s character in The Wire—to his protégé, Gervonta “Tank” Davis, a boxing superstar who has won multiple world championships. As we anxiously await Davis’s return to CFG Bank Arena, you can support local boxers at matches hosted by Baltimore Boxing Club. Or, get in on the action by joining a sweat session at Knockout Fitness in Federal Hill.
Baltimore is the proud final leg of the Maryland Cycling Classic, which occurs every year in September and features Tour de France participants, Olympians and World Champions. The route consists of four laps around some of Baltimore’s most iconic neighborhoods, including Fell’s Point, Mount Vernon and the Inner Harbor. Spectators are encouraged to position themselves along the route to cheer on the athletes and push them over the finish line. You can also get involved by volunteering for the event, or participating in the Bike Jam in Patterson Park, a casual bike ride open to nonprofessional cyclists of all ages that also features food vendors and a DJ! As for the rest of the year, Baltimore Bicycling Club hosts group rides every weekend. And the Baltimore Bike Party takes place the last Friday of each month in the evening, with riders and their bikes decked out in lights, decorations and noisemakers as they ride around the city.
If you want to practice your golf swing, you’re in luck. Baltimore boasts several public courses, including Carroll Park, Mount Pleasant and Clifton Park, the oldest course in the city. There’s also the newly opened Top Golf situated between M&T Bank Stadium and Horsehoe Casino. With climate-controlled bays, plenty of food and drink options, and music, plus foosball and shuffleboard in the lounge, the swanky sports complex welcomes both athletes and amateurs alike.
The first Preakness Stakes was held at Pimlico Race Course in 1873—predating the Kentucky Derby by two years—and ever since, Baltimore has seen its fair share of historic horse racing moments. Here, Seabiscuit triumphed over War Admiral in 1938 and American Pharoah cinched the second jewel in the Triple Crown before becoming the 12th horse to claim the title in 2015. Today, Preakness is a weekend-long event consisting not only of the horse race, but also of the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes and InField Fest, an electronic music festival.
Lacrosse, the official team sport of Maryland, has been wildly popular in Baltimore since The Johns Hopkins University repped the country in the 1928 Olympics. Baltimoreans are still fond of lacrosse so you’re likely to find televised college games on at local bars, but nothing beats the in-person experience. Tickets to Hopkins’ and Loyola University Maryland’s home lacrosse games are available via each university’s athletics websites. Beyond games, you can immerse yourself in the sport at the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame and Museum and LaxCon, which returns to the Baltimore Convention Center this summer.
Throw it back to the ’70s with a groovy roller skate session, or a round of bowling, at Shake & Bake Family Fun Center in the historic Upton neighborhood. Named for Baltimore Colts (yes, our beloved Ravens used to be the Colts!) player “Shake & Bake” Doughty, the rink offers promos every day; Wednesday is $1 night, Thursday is for college students and Friday’s “Charm City Day” means skating admission is $4 and bowling is $5 per game. Want to take it outside? Patterson Park and Druid Hill Park offer plenty of space for new skaters to test their skills, and roller skates are welcome at most city skateparks as well.
Baltimore has several scenic running paths for you to explore, from waterfront routes to more dense trails. More competitive runners might enjoy participating in the Baltimore Running Festival. This fall event consists of a 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon so runners of all levels can participate. There’s even a cheeky charity .5K race that runs from the Power Plant Live entrance to its bar! Other Baltimore City races include the annual Baltimore 10 Miler in Druid Hill Park, the Shamrock 5K and the Under Armour Sole of the City 10K.
Baltimore has birthed a few skateboarding legends, from the late Shawn Green to X Games champion Bucky Lasek, so it’s no surprise that we’re home to several impressive parks for you to practice your kickflips, slides and ollies. Jake’s Skate Park at Rash Field Park, named the best skate park in Baltimore by Baltimore Magazine in 2022, is a modern waterfront option featuring a large bowl, mini ramps, rails, ledges and transfers to accommodate skaters of all ages and abilities. There’s also Skatepark of Baltimore, located in Hampden. The nonprofit that maintains the park often hosts meet-ups for skaters to meet one another and discuss issues related to their sport. Rather watch than ride? Several benches positioned along the skatepark’s perimeter allow you to sit back and enjoy the action.
You’d be remiss to visit Baltimore without getting on the water. From April to October, enjoy a kayak tour led by Waterfront Partnership, which typically departs from the Maryland Science Center on Sundays between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. (advanced reservations required). Paddle board tours, lessons, rentals and fitness classes are also available through B’More SUP. For those that prefer to sail, the Downtown Sailing Center offers youth and adult sailing education. For a more leisurely tour of the Inner Harbor, rent a Chessie dragon paddle boat or upgrade to a private charter from American Sailing Tours.
Women’s Tackle Football
Did you know the Ravens aren’t our only avian-inspired football team? We’re also home to a women’s tackle football team, the Baltimore Nighthawks. As part of the Women’s Football Alliance, the team aims to provide a safe environment for women to practice the values of discipline, teamwork and dedication that are intrinsic to the sport while proving that they can hold their own on the field. They compete against teams from all over the East Coast, including the New York Wolves and the Tri State Warriors. Home games are played at several fields around the area, so check their website for up-to-date information and to purchase tickets.