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The convivial neighborhoods of Fells Point and Canton complement the Inner Harbor's high-profile sophistication. While the Inner Harbor has Starbucks, Fells Point has Cafe Latte da; the former has McCormick & Schmick's, the latter Bertha's; the Morris Mechanic Theatre has its counterpart in Fells Point's Vagabond Players; and the Inner Harbor's high-rise luxury condos find their match in Canton's updated row houses, where traditional window screen paintings are making a comeback. Once hardscrabble ports, these historic neighborhoods have become singular destinations featuring a diverse blend of culture and style.
Fells Point has been a happening place for over 200 years, thriving first as a shipbuilding center and then as a major entry port for immigrants. Neighboring Canton served as a shipping center where sea lanes and railroad lines converged. It's industrial buildings have been transformed into condos, shops and restaurants. To get acquainted with Fells Point, take one of the Saturday morning walking tours that leave from the Visitor Center on Thames Street spring through fall. Drawing on local sites and the stories of those who once lived here, one tour chronicles Fells Point's maritime history and the other its role as an immigration center. Some contend the presence of the neighborhood's more colorful characters is still felt. See for yourself on Ghostwalks led Friday and Saturday evenings spring through fall. Near the Visitor Center is the Robert Long House (1765), the city's oldest residence. The public is welcome into the restored home and its splendid garden. Located at historic Chase's Wharf, the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park honors these two distinguished leaders and features a re-creation of the first shipyard and marine railway owned and operated by African Americans.
In Canton, visitors can stroll the waterfront park and see the Maryland Korean War Memorial. Walking inland toward the heart of the neighborhood, O'Donnell Square, you'll see signs of rejuvenation everywhere: new townhouses and condos plus old row homes undergoing renovation and spectacular churches (photo above).
Entertainment options include everything from live music and theatrical performances in both neighborhoods to the Baltimore Blast's summer soccer practice matches in Canton. The adventuresome can take a guided Segway “safari” or rent one of these two-wheeled wonders and ad-lib their own excursion.
Broadway Market (erected on the site of Fells Point's oldest marketplace, c. 1784) is filled with counter-style eateries and vendors selling fresh produce, meats, seafood and baked goods. General groceries are available at Save-A-Lot in Fells Point and the large Safeway in Canton. Bonaparte Breads in Fells Point features fresh breads and luscious pastries; in Canton visitors will find two pastry establishments whose popularity extends well beyond the city's limits: Vaccaro's Italian Pastry Shop and Cake Love.
Both neighborhoods attracted developers who've transformed old warehouses into vibrant commercial centers like Brown's Wharf in Fells Point and the former American Can Company building in Canton. Fells Point is noted for antiques and collectibles shops and gift and specialty stores. Canton's
waterfront and O'Donnell Square retail hubs feature specialty stores and a handful of galleries.
These communities teem with excuses to dine ashore at neighborhood cafes, pubs, coffee bars—and an elegant historic hotel. Restaurant cuisine runs the gamut from seafood and raw bar fare to Greek, Italian, American, vegetarian and deli food.
Each neighborhood offers activities sure to appeal to visitors. On the first Friday on the month, galleries in Fells Point stay open late for Artloop (exhibits, events and food), and the Can Company in Canton presents happy hour and live music outdoors (June to October). On the second Sunday of the month, Fells Point hosts an Antique Market.
Fells Point comes alive with special events throughout the year: in April, Privateer Day and Pyrate Invasion; in May, the Historic Harbor House Tour; and in October, the two-day Fun Festival (music, food, vendors) and activities.
Fells Point Visitor Center, 410-675-6750, www.preservationsociety.com, www.fellspoint.us; Canton Community Association, www.cantoncommunity.org. Or 877-BALTIMORE, www.baltimore.org.