Baltimore Oriole Cal Ripken Jr. turns a double play during game 2 of the 1983 World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo: Getty Images)
If you’re a Baltimore Orioles fan, this is the season you’ve been waiting for since 1983.
In my family, we’re not Orioles fans. As Bostonians (one native, one transplant), we are proud members of the Red Sox nation.
But when we went to Baltimore with friends for a baseball weekend getaway, we could not have felt more welcome — even though we were dressed head to toe in Sox swag.
Camden Yards on a beautiful Sunday afternoon (Photo: Paul Seventy/Flickr)
The key to a fun Baltimore baseball vacation is in planning to do more than just baseball. Like my two teenage girls, some members of your party might not likebaseball (it’s blasphemy, right?). But one of the awesome things about Baltimore baseball is that the ballpark, Camden Yards, is in the middle of the Inner Harbor, the rejuvenated and glossy area along the waterfront.
Now that the Red Sox are out of the running (I’m saying this as a disappointed fan whose team had a rebuilding year), I’m rooting for the Orioles to go all the way. That’s partly because I had a total blast in Baltimore, an interesting and historic city that doesn’t get nearly enough credit. So, if you’re considering a Baltimore baseball getaway as the Orioles continue their quest to win the American League championship and, a few weeks from now, the World Series, don’t hesitate for a minute.
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Where to stay:
Exterior of Homewood Suites (Photo: Homewood Suites by Hilton)
The Homewood Suites by Hilton in the Inner Harbor is conveniently located near the ballpark — and it’s spacious. Every room’s a suite, which means you have a living area, a kitchen, and a bed-bath combo. If you’re traveling with kids or another couple, a suite’s the way to go, especially because it costs the same as a regular room at other hotels. Also included, for free, are breakfast and Internet — all extras that can add up elsewhere. And if the 15-minute walk to the ballpark is too long for young kids, a free shuttle stops just outside the hotel entrance.
Where to shop:
The Orioles team store sign (Photo: Getty Images)
Outside the Camden Yards entrance is the Majestic Orioles Team Store, which sells almost everything related to the Orioles (think baby baseball caps and foam fingers). The Modell’s in Arundel Mills (a nearby outlet) offers many choices, too, without the crowds. You can also pick up gear from pop-up street vendors near the park.
Where to eat in the park:
Crab dip waffle fries (Photo: Kelly/Flickr)
There are two camps on food here. One fan favorite is the crab-dip waffle fries at Old Bay Seafood on the main concourse — and it’s a solid base hit. But my favorite is Old Bay’s main competitor, Boog’s BBQ, where the carved turkey sandwiches are a real home run. Surprisingly, the walking vendors seemed few and far between during the two games we attended, so plan to use the seventh-inning stretch to grab ice cream in a mini helmut or one last beer.
Where to sit:
Stick to the third base side for shade on a sunny day (Photo: Wally Gobetz/Flickr)
During postseason, you’ll be lucky to get any seats at all. But if you get a chance to choose, the third base line is covered in case of rain — and shaded when the sun is out. But one of the great things about Camden Yards (this coming from a Fenway freak) is that every seat is great, with few to no obstructed views and amazing sight lines.
What to do when you’re not at the game:
“Chessie” boats lined up (Photo: Bluestocking42/Flickr)
If it’s sunny out, take a Chessie boat ride in the Inner Harbor. Chessie, which looks like a dragon, is the Chesapeake Bay’s version of the Loch Ness Monster. If it’s raining, head to the National Aquarium, where you can spend the entire day exploring different types of marine and freshwater habitats, including a manmade coral reef full of sharks, clownfish, and more. And if you just can’t get enough of baseball, the Babe Ruth museum includes exhibits on his record-setting pitching and hitting as well as the story of his life, which began in — you guessed it — Baltimore.
Where to eat outside the park:
Faidley’s crab cake (Photo: Faidley’s Seafood)
You need lunch after a long evening of festivities in the park, right? Perhaps something to settle your stomach? Saturday Morning Cafe serves breakfast all day long. For a quintessential Southern treat, try the shrimp and grits, which are loaded with tomatoes and bacon. The waffles are large enough to feed two. For classic Maryland crab cake, do as the locals do and find some of the city’s best at Faidley Seafood, about a half-mile from the Inner Harbor.
How to fly your team’s flag:
Close up of the jumbotron (Photo: Keith Allison/Flickr)
Pretty much from the moment we got to Baltimore, we wore Red Sox gear 24/7. We were pleasantly surprised that we weren’t harassed or even booed — even Orioles fans dressed head to toe in orange and black were remarkably welcoming. So break out your best tees, hats, and sweatshirts, and walk the Inner Harbor streets with pride.
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