All Articles Your guide to Black Baltimore

Your guide to Black Baltimore

The city’s community of Black creatives, chefs, and business owners is only getting bigger.

Jennifer Douglass for TravelCoterie in partnership with Tripadvisor
By Jennifer Douglass for TravelCoterie in partnership with Tripadvisor23 Jan 2023 4 minutes read
Boat on the Baltimore harbor
Boat on the Baltimore harbor
Image: Greg Pease/Getty Images

The history of Baltimore City is deeply rooted in Black history. Ingenuity on the part of figures like Frederick Douglass and Isaac Myers breathed life into the vital shipping industry, aiding in Baltimore’s success as a thriving port city. In fact, prior to the ending of slavery in 1865, the city was home to the largest free Black community in the country—many of whom worked in Baltimore's shipping and manufacturing industries—and, through the years, it has prolifically produced cultural figures who have played major roles in the civil rights movement, the arts, education, and politics, including Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, Billie Holiday, and Jada Pinkett-Smith, among others.

Known as a “City of Neighborhoods,” Baltimore is rich in historical landmarks, attractions, and museums that tell the tale of those figures, including the Frederick Douglass Isaac Myers Maritime Park, The Walters Art Museum, and the Smithsonian's Reginald F. Lewis Museum.

Today, the city—whose population is 62 percent Black—is experiencing a renaissance in the arts and entrepreneurship. From food and clothing to art and cosmetics, Baltimore’s hub of Black makers is only getting bigger. Ahead, we pulled together a few places to bookmark so you can celebrate this vibrant community the next time you visit Baltimore.

Dive into Baltimore's Black history

The Great Blacks in Wax Museum

The Great Blacks in Wax Museum (GBWM) in Baltimore is the only museum of its kind in the U.S. and is is dedicated to memorializing often-overlooked Black public figures and important moments in African American history in wax.

Founded by Drs. Elmer and Joanne Martin in 1983, it was first run out of a 1,200-square-foot row house. (Joanne would often speak of the stares they would get from neighbors who saw them hauling life-sized wax figures in and out of the home.) The museum moved to its current location in a former East Baltimore fire station in 1989 and now highlights more than 150 wax figures and scenes. Prepare yourself for the slave ship exhibit—it’s an unforgettably powerful experience. The close quarters and sounds leave you with chills.

Frederick Douglass Isaac Myers Park & Museum

A bust of Frederick Douglass at the Frederick Douglass Isaac Meyers Park & Museum in Baltimore
A bust of Frederick Douglass at the Frederick Douglass Isaac Meyers Park & Museum in Baltimore
Image: DCHistoryAndCulture/Tripadvisor

Located in waterfront Fells Point, the Frederick Douglass Isaac Myers Park & Museum showcases the lives of orator, abolitionist, and author Frederick Douglass and Isaac Myers—a free-born African American living in Baltimore during slavery who made his living as a ship caulker and later founded The Chesapeake Railway & Dry Dock Company to employ Black workers. It's also home to the Berman Gallery, which features a rotating exhibit of local African American artists.

The museum sits at the western edge of Thames Street and is surrounded by water on two sides, creating a beautiful spot to watch the sunset by the docks. If you’re looking for a bite to eat after your visit, you’ll find Teavolve, a Black-owned teahouse and cafe, just four blocks away. Pro tip: They specialize in tea-infused cocktails.

Where to eat

Capital Lounge & Restaurant

Capital Lounge & Restaurant is a cornerstone of Baltimore’s Black Arts District and harkens back to Pennsylvania Avenue’s heyday when the likes of Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holiday played in the thoroughfare’s famed venues. Today, CLR offers a cool, laid-back environment with entertainment from local bands, spoken word artists, Sunday brunches, and the biggest ode to Baltimore: crab nights.

CLR’s specialty is overstuffed baked potatoes, and the heavily loaded spuds are all named after performers who used to grace Pennsylvania Ave’s stages, bars, and lounges many decades ago. The Miles Davis is a favorite, loaded with shrimp, crab meat, chopped chicken, and a melted cheese crab sauce. Other items include the Duke Ellington—a loaded veggie baked potato—and the BB King BBQ loaded with chicken and barbeque sauce.

Terra Café

Salmon and Leeks Soup at Terra Cafe in Baltimore
Salmon and Leeks Soup at Terra Cafe in Baltimore
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

Local artists’ work covers the exposed brick walls at Terra Café, where Chef Terence Dickson (Chef T, as he’s affectionately known) serves up an extensive menu that blends American and Afro-Caribbean fare. In the warmer months, Chef T opens the outdoor “Jerk Garden” dining area, where you'll find local bands and plenty of great food (reservations are highly suggested). Vegan and vegetarian options are available, but the jerk chicken platter is always highly recommended.

Shop local

Flourish

Aerial view of shops and cityscape in Baltimore
Aerial view of shops and cityscape in Baltimore
Image: Sean Pavone/Getty Images

Stepping into Flourish, a lifestyle boutique located on St. Paul Street, is like entering a small bazaar. You can find anything from niche body and hair care products to candles, books, clothing, jewelry, and more. Boutique owner Nilajah Brown has sourced the store's offerings from local, national, and international craftspeople, culminating in a curated collection of more than 300 goods. (Flourish also offers workshops and classes spanning waist bead making and meditation to fragrance and oil blending.)

Mess in a Bottle

Mess in a Bottle is a Black- and woman-owned apparel business launched by entrepreneur and architect Kalilah Wright. The company, which opened its doors in 2015, was a personal response to the uprisings in Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray “to create messages that evoke change, give a voice to the voiceless, and to create a community of unapologetically authentic humans,” according to its mission statement.

Since then, the company has grown exponentially, and messages like “A Black Woman Created This!”—displayed in a bold white typeface on black t-shirts—have been featured on Shark Tank and been worn by many celebrities, including Andre 3000 and Yvonne Orji. The store also offers handbags, totes, jackets, and t-shirt dresses, as well as clothing for infants and children and even home goods.

Where to stay

The Ivy Hotel

An interior view of a sleeping quarter inside The Ivy
An interior view of The Ivy
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

The Ivy Hotel, a mansion located in historic Mount Vernon, is among many grand homes that were built towards the end of the 19th century. However, none in the area were as distinguished as The Ivy. Designed by architect Charles Carson in 1889, the home showcased the wealth, power, and luxury present in the area at the turn of the century. Through the years, the mansion has changed ownership, flip-flopping between private and public hands, before being turned into a hotel in the '80s. Today, it’s owned by one of Baltimore’s most well-known philanthropic couples, Eddie and Sylvia Brown, and more than 100 years later, it still displays opulence at its best.

The boutique hotel has eight suites and nine guest rooms, cozy common areas like the conservatory and the library for lounging, a small luxury spa, and restaurant Magdalena with indoor and outdoor seating. Included in the daily rate, you'll find made-to-order breakfast, English-style afternoon tea in the Tea Room, evening cocktails in the Mansion Bar, midnight snacks, valet parking, private car service within a three-mile radius of the hotel, daily housekeeping, and turndown services. The classic charm and white-glove service are unmatched.

This article was created in partnership in TravelCoterie, a Black-owned publication featuring travel news, tips, and cultural experiences.

Jennifer Douglass for TravelCoterie in partnership with Tripadvisor
Jennifer J. Douglass is a freelance writer and content provider with years of experience in the travel, tourism, and convention industry. She has a penchant for uncovering and highlighting the narratives of those indigenous to the places she covers. She is an astrology buff who also enjoys studying and writing about cosmology and astrocartography.