With each year you spend at Johns Hopkins, your knowledge of the campus and city will grow and grow and grow. As soon as you get comfortable and find your classes on campus, you’ll inevitably want to go out with friends to explore Baltimore and find your own favorite spots. Nothing is better than becoming a “regular” – we’ve found that it brings you closer to the culture of Baltimore in a way that nothing else can! While such a list will always be growing and changing, here are common selections for the hidden gems of Homewood and Baltimore. Make sure you check them out when you come to visit!
1. Café Azafran
Cafeteria-style, amazing food, pretty forest views…all on the Hopkins campus? Located snuggly on the outskirts of the northwest end of campus in the Space Telescope Science Institute (which is a building that definitely doesn’t scream “great food,” so trust us), Café Azafran is basically unknown to many undergraduates. But it’s a grad student favorite and chances are that a TA will hold office hours here at least once during your time at Hopkins. It’s definitely worth it to come with friends for breakfast or lunch too! We recommend the burgers.
2. Hydrodynamics Testing Facility
On campus, there’s a two-story tank that holds 43,000 gallons of water – that is a LOT of liquid. Researchers use the tank to test computer control systems that will allow deep-sea robots to navigate unknown deep waters and report information back to scientists. Engineering students know and are proud of this unique opportunity to study hydrodynamics, but most students walk right by this tank…every single day! It’s located behind closed doors in the basement of Krieger Hall, right off of a hallway that students use daily as a shortcut from the Lower Quad – if you’re trying to go from Levering Hall to the bookstore, you’ll probably go through here. Next time you walk here, keep in mind the water power you’re near.
3. Chairs in Gilman Hall Lobby
The newly renovated Gilman Hall is absolutely beautiful! While many students and professors can be found studying and chatting in the three-story atrium, the chairs in the lobby are often unoccupied and overlooked. These incredibly comfortable chairs are a great place to study or to relax with friends. Alkimia, the new café in Gilman Hall, is conveniently close, so you won’t have to travel far to get great coffee or baked goods.
4. Bloomberg Hill
The Hill behind the Bloomberg Building is the perfect place to go sledding after the first snowfall in Baltimore. If you don’t have a sled or a snow-tube, there’s no need to worry – grab a cardboard box from someone in your dorm, and you’re good to go.
5. Pete’s Grill
Several blocks east from campus lays possibly the best breakfast place in Baltimore. Because its only seating is located along a short bar, Pete’s feels super intimate and seems like the perfect way to get a real taste of life as a Baltimorean. Their long menu offers something for everyone…and they even accept JCash! And some Hopkins students are still waiting for their chance to spot Olympic gold medal swimmer Michael Phelps, who reportedly gets his breakfast fix here on the weekends, so don’t forget to bring your camera…just in case.
6. Miracle on 34th Street
Here’s a seasonal gem for you to check out. Think of the feeling you get when you see a house elaborately decorated for the holidays. Now, multiply that by more than 30 times. In the weeks before Christmas, an entire block of 34th Street in Hampden decorates their houses with twinkle lights, animatronic figures of Santa, reindeer, and other personalities, Christmas trees and ornaments, music, and more. There are even large Christmas lights strung across the street from house to house, making a festive canopy over the block itself. For some students, this has become an essential tradition during the holiday season. For most though, they don’t even know this happens! Walking down the block feels absolutely magical – trust us, it is something you don’t want to miss.
7. Vogue Revisited
If you like shopping for vintage; you will love this hidden gem. Located on Roland Avenue right up the street from campus, it’s within walking distance and well worth the trip. Go early on a Saturday for some great vintage finds! It’s personal enough to even get to know the shopkeepers, which is a great way to feel a deeper connection to Baltimore. But wink-wink, remember to keep it between us…you’ll be able to take advantage of even better deals if the whole world doesn’t know about it.
8. Sherwood Gardens
What began as a hobby for a Baltimore resident has become one of the city’s most charming destinations. John W. Sherwood planted a host of Dutch tulips on his property in the 1920′s. He gradually expanded his property and his gardens throughout his life – now, they are a nationally-recognized landmark. Located just a 15 minute-walk up North Charles Street from the Hopkins campus are the Sherwood Gardens, a spring favorite among the Hopkins romantics and nature-lovers alike. The gardens are full of beautiful, perfectly-tended flowerbeds and greenery: there are six acres of tulips, cherry blossoms, apple blossoms, grassy fields, shady trees, azalea bushes, dogwoods and more. It’s completely free and open at all times. We recommend rounding up your friends for a lunch picnic! Don’t forget to bring your camera.
9. Chocolatea Café
Since Chocolatea is farther from the freshman dorms from Starbucks, Café Q, or the extremely popular Carma’s Café, not many freshmen have discovered this great local spot. Chocolatea is located only about a block away from the lacrosse field and has fantastic sandwiches, salads, noodle bowls, great breakfast food, and much more! If you ever need a quiet place to study or a great place to get a meal with friends, Chocolatea is only a short walk away.
10. Woodberry Kitchen
This new restaurant in Hampden, the neighborhood directly west of the Homewood Campus, offers a relaxing atmosphere and a fantastic menu featuring seasonal, locally grown ingredients. The restaurant is so unique to Baltimore that the Learn More, See More, B’more student video crew filmed a full episode there last year.
11. Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum
Located right next to Camden Yards (that’s our baseball stadium, home of the Baltimore Orioles) is the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum. It’s combined with the Sports Lenders Museum and is a great spot for any sports or history fan to check out. They offer great exhibits designed to educate the public about the historic legacy of Babe Ruth and the Baltimore sports scene (from the Orioles to the old Baltimore Colts to the Ravens), and the best part is that it’s done in an entertaining, fun, family-friendly way. Check out their website for a virtual tour and definitely add it to your “must-see” list when you visit!
12. Rams Head Live
Ok, so this isn’t really a hidden gem (since Rams Head is one of the largest of its kind here), but we just couldn’t resist including a concert venue. And really, lots of Hopkins students don’t realize just how easy it is to take a break in the middle of the week with a concert! Keep your eyes peeled for a musical act you’d like to see by checking out their website, then jump on it and buy your tickets. Most concerts average about $35 per ticket so, while it’s a little pricey, you will still have room in your budget for a cab ride downtown. Splitting the fare with friends will make it even cheaper! But as a Hopkins student, you also get to take advantage of a free shuttle system: the Collegetown Shuttle will pick you up at the library and drop you off right down the street from Rams Head. Couldn’t be simpler! So when you get to campus, show Hopkins that you know how to shut your textbook, venture deeper into the city and go enjoy some fantastic music with your friends.
13. Pitango Gelato
We’ll admit it: Baltimore may not rival Italy, but Pitango Gelato in Fells Point is easily the best ice cream in Baltimore. We love the gelato itself for its organic ingredients and amazing flavors, while the store seems really unique because of its hip, clean vibe in the middle of historic Fells. It’s definitely worth a Water Taxi ride from Inner Harbor to grab a cup and stroll down the cobblestone streets!
14. Water Taxi
Don’t underestimate the fun of super-touristy city attractions. We recommend the Water Taxi – it’s designed as an easy transportation between points along the harbor, but it can be a great way to see some Baltimore landmarks…and relax after a long day of walking. Keep your eyes peeled for the Domino Sugar plant, the Bo Brooks lighthouse in Canton, and the cobblestone streets of Fells Point. And it’s light on the wallet: it costs $10 for an entire day of taxi service. It’s efficient and practical, so it’ll be really easy to incorporate this into your day of exploring Charm City.