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Explorin' & Tourin': The Grand Finale

May 6, 2016
  • Fun in Charm City
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The last stop in the Explorin' & Tourin' circuit is Federal Hill.

Not to get overly sentimental here – but can I just say, we’ve been through a lot together on this Explorin’ and Tourin’ journey.  Let’s see, we’ve covered the Inner Harbor, Station North, Mount Vernon, Hampden, Harbor East, Fell’s Point, and now, *drumroll, please* our final stop on this grand Baltimore tour is Federal Hill!

Federal Hill, or Fed, as the cool kids call it, has a little bit of everything.  You’ll find historic landmarks, waterfront views, public parks, boutique shopping, funky museums, and a never-ending list of local bars and restaurants.  To give you some geographical context, you can see Fed’s main attraction (the hill) from the Inner Harbor and the main drag is clustered around the intersection of Light and Cross Streets.

And now, of course, we need some history!  I’m sure you’re all asking “what’s the deal with this hill?” “Where’d this ‘hood get its name?” Well, I’m here for you friend, allow me to fill you in.


Long before America was an independent nation, this big ol’ hill was the site of a paint pigment mine operation.  So, underneath what is now a family friendly neighborhood park is a complex system of colonial tunnels!  Exciting stuff, huh?

Originally the site was called John Smith’s Hill, after, you guessed it, John Smith.  This name probably rings a bell thanks to the animated portrayal of the Captain in Disney’s Pocahontas, but this guy was a real, live colonist!  Smith was one of the first chartered settlers of Jamestown, Virginia in the early 1600s.  During a voyage through the Chesapeake Bay and Patapsco River Smith laid eyes on the harborside hill and decided to give it his namesake (how humble).

Fast forward into the late 1700s, and the hill was a large part of community culture as a public meeting place.  Following the ratification of the brand new federal constitution of the United States of America in 1788 there was a huge celebration and the hill was where everyone gathered to party hardy. In true celebratory fashion, more than 4,000 Baltimoreans marched though the city in a parade featuring a 15-foot model of a naval ship called the “Federalist.”  The parade ended at John Smith’s Hill; the festivities got a little out of hand and some partying sailors decided to take the miniature Federalist for a test drive – they rolled the float down the side of the hill and into the Harbor and sailed all the way to Annapolis!  The raucous party inspired a name change and the citizens of Baltimore decided to not-so-ceremoniously ditch John Smith and rename the park Federal Hill. 

Throughout the following centuries, the hill remained a spot of public gatherings – town meetings, celebrations … you get the gist.  In 1814 Baltimoreans gathered atop Federal Hill to watch in astonishment as plumes of smoke rose in the distance when British armies burned down the nation’s capital (high school history class refresher: War of 1812).  Today the park is a much more peaceful spot, great for running, picnicking, catching Flicks on the Hill , or simply enjoying the spectacular views of the Inner Harbor. 

Now that we’ve had our history lesson, on to the present!  Time for your crash course in eating, playing, and shopping in Federal Hill:


  • Abbey Burger Bistro - Abbey’s the name, burger customization’s the game.  Here at Abbey Burger you can pick and choose your own tasty combinations, and with an extensive list ofmeats (not just your standard beef – there’s also bison, kangaroo, and duck) and a variety of toppings (and there’s much morethan just ketchup and mustard; there are things like fried green tomato, lump crab, and peanut butter)
  • Baba’s Mediterranean Kitchen - “friends don’t let friends eat store bought hummus,” that’s the motto at Baba’s where everything is made fresh to order and is authentically Greek (and delicious).
  • HomeSlyce  - a locally acclaimed favorite, HomeSlyce is a great place to have happy hour, participate in trivia night, and, of course, grab a slice of ‘za!
  • The Local Fry - this specialty fry shop is relatively new to the neighbor but has quickly established itself as a fan favorite.  Patrons can enjoy an eclectic mix of uniquely topped fries (think buffalo chickenfries or southwest BBQ pork fries) or select a sandwich/rice bowl a Korean flair.  
  • Mother’s Grille - if you’re looking for a die-hard Baltimore sports bar, Mother’s is the place!  With an extensive everyday menu and game day specials you really can’t go wrong.  
  • Mi & Yu Noodle Bar - another new Fed Hill haunt, Mi & Yu boasts some of SoBo’s (South Baltimore for those not in the know) finest Ramen.  You can customize your own or go with one of the tried and true options.
  • Thai Arroy - as the name implies this is your destination when you’re craving Pad Thai or mango sticky rice!  With reasonable prices and a wide selection Thai Arroy is a great spot for a date or night out with friends.


  • American Visionary Art Museum - arguably one of the most eye-catching buildings in Baltimore, AVAM is full of works from amateur and self-taught artists; the exhibits range from the exquisite to the just plain silly (like The Whoopee Cushion Bench, for example).  Bringyour student ID for a discount!
  • Downtown Sailing Center  -whether you’re an experienced sailor, or a novice, the Downtown Sailing Center has a program for you.  It’s an awesome way to connect with nature, enjoy some spectacular views of the Harbor, and maybe ma
    ke some new friends along the way.
  • Baltimore Museum of Industry - the BMI exists to preserve the industrial and technological history of the city.  During your visit you’ll have the chance to relive the Industrial Revolution and see how Baltimore has transformed throughout its history; you can stand beneath a suspended1937 WWII flying boat bomber, or look outside and see a 1906 steam tugboat sitting in the Harbor (plus much more). Don’t forget your student ID – there’s a discounted admission price here too!
  • Shop
    • Brightside Boutique - if you’re ready to spruce up your spring wardrobe Brightside is the place to go for unique styles and the latest trends. 
    • Punch! - As the name suggests this place as a lot of spunk – you’ll be able to find home décor, jewelry, clothing, and accessories at this one stop shop! 
    • Pandora’s Box - looking for a Mother’s Day gift? Or perhaps something for the fashionista graduate in your life? Pandora’s Box is the perfect place to go when hunting for presents (and planning to get something for yourself too of course ;))
    • Cross Street Market  - a variety of fresh food offerings await including: Baltimore’s Best BBQ, Nick’s Inner Harbor Seafood, and Matsuri’s Teppanaki.  You can go for a meal or go to get all of your groceries from fresh local vendors.

Well, there ya have it folks, our neighborhood adventures have come to a close.  But by no means have we covered everything – Baltimore is the city of neighborhoods after all – and I challenge you to go out and explore them all!  If you ever need resources while planning a trip off-campus head to the Collegetown website or, if you want an even deeper look into Baltimore’s neighborhoods you should check out LiveBaltimore especially if you’d like to live in Charm City after graduation. 

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