embrace contradiction

Go on a first date with Baltimore and start a new relationship

Baltimore skyline
This should be the new image that pops to mind when you think about Baltimore.

Baltimore is like a gay man: the city has a complicated history but extraordinary potential—outsiders need only be willing to embrace it.

We got to know the often snubbed American destination personally, including its Visit Baltimore tourism committee – who took on the role of the beloved Fairy Godmothers of our dream vacation. These fierce ladies were determined to show us how much Maryland’s largest city has to offer and they welcomed GayCities with open arms and a fully packed schedule of queer fun.

We’ve broken down everything you need to know.

Baltimore skyline
Weather-wise, spring and early summer are the best times to visit.

Where to stay: We stayed at the Canopy by the Hilton Baltimore Harbor Point on the Patapsco River. It will be difficult to beat this view and location, not to mention the unparalleled hospitality of the venue. The room sizes are not ideal for tourists who like to host friends/pregames, but the hotel has a chic bar lounge and patio area serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

Few people are as friendly as a gay man at brunch after a couple of mimosas, but the Canopy staff always matched our happiness level. The hotel’s restaurant also serves the Southern comfort food you crave come Sunday morning.

One particular highlight was seeing server Sheryll – inspired by our fashion – wearing a leopard blouse to work the next day. We love a queen who proudly knows you can’t go wrong following the style of the gays. You can’t beat this level of heartwarming interactions where employees feel like friends. The staff exudes the charm that only happens in movies. Many of the locals we met carry this energy. 

Dancer at Baltimore Eagle
One of the highlights from our weekend was spontaneously watching Daya Betty perform backstage at the Eagle.

Nightlife: The Eagle Baltimore is one of the most popular gay bars and embraces an environment you usually wouldn’t associate with the Eagle brand. The owner, Q, says he needed to create a space where anyone feels welcome. Other spots worth checking out are the Manor and Club Charles. Melanie’s at Griffith’s Tavern is also a great place to experience modern queer culture at a dive bar preserved by history. 

Regardless of where you end up, don’t be surprised when the lights turn on at 2:00 am. The city should consider pushing nightlife’s curfew to 4:00 am, which already feels early in places like New York.

Baltimore gayborhood
The locals of Baltimore are a massive part of the city’s magic.

President and CEO of Visit Baltimore, Al Hutchinson, wants to convey to LGBTQ+ visitors that the city welcomes everyone and celebrates people from all different backgrounds. This mentality is embodied through the city’s nightlife, culture, and entertainment versatility.

“What I think is beautiful about Baltimore is that we are a city full of diverse people who celebrate diverse thinking. We are a city that embraces contradictions in every form, where you can embrace the modern and retro simultaneously, contemporary and throwback simultaneously.”

Noway Rose interior
Noway Rosé ensures you are entertained with your brunch.

Where to eat: Beyond delicious food, the new restaurant No Way Rosé delivers gayness with sparkly outfits, acrobatics, and ribbon twirling; basically, this is what we expect from brunches that do not have a drag performance. Their champagne piña colada was a welcomed upgrade to the classic mimosa. You can also plan your final supper at Duck Duck Goose’s Sunday Supper. Enjoy three courses and be served at the heart of Fells Point, one of the most scenic neighborhoods. 

Gay mural in Baltimore
Queer art and culture can be found in all corners of Baltimore; you only need to know where to look.

Shopping-wise: There’s a block of vintage shops on 36th Street called the Avenue. However, we found nothing you can wear during the summer unless you dabble with vests or dresses. For the retail experience, Harbor East was rebuilt from ghosted warehouses from the 19th century into an iconic waterfront neighborhood. With this spirit to revitalize Baltimore, the city is channeling its past but renovating the future. 

Visit Baltimore’s Communications Manager, Ari Hamilton, who also identifies as queer, says she loves Baltimore’s ability to surprise people. “When I bring friends into the city, they are often shocked by our passionate community, storied arts and cultural institutions, and absolutely fire food scene.”

Water taxi shaped like a monster
Our new favorite way to get around town.

Her perfect day starts with a waterfront brunch in Fells Point, then a water taxi ride across the harbor to the American Visionary Arts Museum, ending with a snowball at Ice Queens. Baltimore-born actor Josh Charles wasn’t kidding about the city’s passion for ices when he taught viewers how to make a “Baltimore snowball” on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

Speaking about the Baltimore Pride, we need to talk about Preakness Stakes: The race happens every third Saturday in May each year at Pimlico Race Course. Horse racing might be the game, but glamour is what the gays play best. And that’s what makes Preakness such a good time. It’s an entire day of funky outfits, an open bar, and watching straight dudes act like they know what they’re talking about and then lose their bets. 

Preakness Stakes jockey on horse
Preakness Stakes is one of the most celebrated yearly events in Baltimore.

Baltimore’s official Pride weekend soon follows, typically in mid-to-late June. The entire city will be celebrating rainbows.

We concluded our trip with a tour of the Baltimore Museum of Art‘s latest Ellen Perez Devotions exhibition. We love that such an enlightening showcase about transness is being offered free to the public. In her work, Perez questions, what if we approached photography (and perhaps transness) as an act of devotion? “Slowly, with reverence, like building trust with someone you love.” 

Baltimore Museum of Art
The Baltimore Museum of Arts celebrates all history and cultures.

Achieving this level of intimacy can help you develop deeper connections. Without trust, a relationship cannot grow. This is the attitude needed to immerse yourself fully in a new city. 

Baltimore might not be the first name gay tourists consider when planning bucket list destinations, but it’s determined to change that. The city has broken free from the chains of outsiders trying to write its identity (opinions often coming from those who have yet to visit), and it commits to welcoming travelers with this same openness. 

Our willingness to trust is what the city of Baltimore deserves from tourists visiting for a first date. The community is fighting for visibility and empowering its queer culture. Baltimore officially invites you to spend the night, and you might find yourself staying another.

Baltimore Penn Station
Baltimore Penn Station eagerly awaits all LGBTQ+ tourists.

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