"Why do all the benches say we are the 'The Greatest City In America?'" I had the hardest time figuring that out when I was younger. Amidst the horrible reputation for heavy drug use, crime and violence, gangs, etc., I do believe that Baltimore still has more positive traits than negative. I am a twenty-something Baltimore native who has moved away and visited many times after. Although there are many other factors and influences that make this place home, I've decided to focus on my top five that really hit me hard when I come back to visit:
1. Weather and nature
In Baltimore County, we get all types of weather. Some days it's sunny and 80 degrees, and the next day it's a high of 46 degrees with an insane wind storm and rain. But despite the bi-polar weather, we get all four seasons, which some people across the country do not get to experience at all. There is certainly nothing worse than a 90-degree day with the humidity levels out of the frame, but we do get the perks of beautiful morning sunrises and evening sunsets. We get all different types of trees and plants that bloom, thrive and then die as the year progresses. We get rabbits in our yards in the beginning of spring, and deer roam our neighborhoods and fields in the dusk of a summer night. We get annoying mosquitos, but we can hear the birds chirp every morning. There is such a delicate balance of beauty here and it's nothing like any other state I've traveled to.
2. Downtown and National Harbor
Although the radius and safety factor of this city will not be spoken of in this article (sorry, too depressing), there are actually so many neat things to do downtown and in the surrounding area. Not only is the skyline absolutely unique, there are tons of attractions and history here. For one, the United States national anthem was written at Fort McHenry ('Merica). The ports of Baltimore connect from the Chesapeake Bay and out into the Atlantic Ocean–can you say boat rides? Downtown Baltimore also has so many restaurants that have great seafood, steaks and Italian cuisine. You can also head out to the iconic "Fed Hill" and hit the strip of bars that is overly-crowded with young adults, or head to "Fells" and hang out on the original cobblestone streets and indulge while being near the water. Regardless of where you go downtown, there is a reason why they call Baltimore "Charm City," and only locals know the true spots to enjoy it.
3. Maryland pride
OK, so it's the beginning of April and I went into Greetings & Readings in Hunt Valley, and I swear everything to the left of the escalator was nothing but Maryland-pride items. From bright orange Oriole's gear to the deep purple of the Ravens' to the super awesome company Route One Apparel that kicks out nothing but our state pride gear, there is clearly a high demand to rock our state proudly. Not to mention, I live in California now and still rock a Maryland Crab sticker on the back of my car–I have a lot of pride being from this awesome state, and having that sense of community with your neighbors and friends is so special. I certainly don't feel that living in Los Angeles. In Baltimore we have a culture, and we all come together as a family...it's truly an incredible upbringing.
If you're from Maryland, you're into sports by default. It just kind of happens, it's how we all bond–we go out and watch sports and socialize. I really don't know how it works, but that's just the way it is. When there's an Orioles home game you'll probably make it to Camden Yards once or twice on a mid-summer's night with your friends and family to watch the sunset for a 7:05pm game while the stadium lights up orange and we sing the national anthem where we proudly interrupt the bold soul singing with an obnoxious "Oh" during the line "O, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave." Or how about in the dead of winter and it's beyond cold out, and we all suit up in dark purple and tailgate hours and hours before a Ravens game in the parking lot of M&T Bank Stadium. There is no more iconic American sport than football and, in Baltimore, we are all about bleeding purple. Yes, we're rowdy, and no, we don't care. (On behalf of the our pride, we will forget about that 2015 season, Ravens. That was a rough one, fam.)
I had to save the best for last. There is nothing like the Baltimore music scene. I had such an amazing privilege of growing up with a solid bout of talented musicians and industry pioneers. Because of everyone's talent and dedication, most of us have created our own communities based upon the genre(s) of music that we listen to. We've got some of the quaintest and coolest venues like the 8x10, Rams Head, Merriwether, Soundstage and Pier 6 within our backyards that hold some of the most diverse kinds of music. Thinking about it now, almost all of my friends I stay in touch with here are people I met at a concert or "show." I live in Southern California, and although you'd think we'd get it all, we get skimped on some tours and that makes me bummed. Baltimore really has it all going on for music. And if Baltimore doesn't bring it, DC is an hour away and there isn't a tour that doesn't stop there. Music is a universal language and when we all stop to appreciate it, the world becomes a happier place.
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