I grew up here, so I'm allowed to say this: Baltimore is not known for being "cool."
We're not Manhattan with its Broadway shows and billionaires. We're not Los Angeles with its sunshine and celebrities. Heck, we're not even D.C. with shiny politicians, international flair and national monuments. The weather is cold in the winter and painfully muggy in the summer. When I tell people that I'm from here, I usually get one of these three responses:
1) That's where The Wire was filmed! (They assume the whole city is a ghetto.)
2) Are you a Ravens fan?
3) They have the best crabs!
Let's just say Andy Cohen isn't planning a Real Housewives of Baltimore anytime soon.
That being said, in recent years there's been a definite shift. It's like I went to sleep, woke up and all of a sudden — boom! — there's Harbor East. There's Whole Foods, Lululemon and the Four Seasons with its magical infinity pool. We've got the Ravens winning Super Bowls and the O's in the playoffs. Even Town & Country Magazine just voted Oakland, Md., No. 1 for viewing the vibrant fall colors.
Walking through Fells Point on a brisk Friday evening, it's a vibrant scene with live music and attractive young people ambling down cobblestone streets. I can't believe I'm admitting this, but I've waited in lines here — lines — to get into certain bars.
I'm sorry, but when did Baltimore become so chic?
Since moving back here from Los Angeles, I have met so many interesting people. So you're a tech entrepreneur? Wouldn't you rather be in Silicon Valley? So you're into men's fashion? Don't you prefer a city like New York? But no, these young, cool professionals are making a name for themselves in our old school, blue collar town.
Here are the top three reasons why I think Baltimore is becoming a choice destination for college grads, millennials and pretty much anyone else who never thought they'd come back:
It's affordable. Living in New York City, L.A., D.C., London — it all sounds phenomenal, but in reality it's pretty hard to do. Let's focus on NYC: You'll be paying several thousand dollars for rent each month, plus cabbing around, plus the 8.875 percent sales tax. Not to mention your apartment will be the size of the bedroom you grew up in. I love New York, and if I had a billion dollars I'd probably have a place there. But until then I'm unwilling to settle for a pea-sized studio. In Baltimore, you can get a lot more for your money. My friend here is living in a three-bedroom townhouse in Canton. Renting the entire townhouse costs less than the rent of my one bedroom apartment in L.A. Yikes!
You're a big fish in a small pond. If you are trying to break into any industry, it's easier to do in a smaller town. Baltimore is big enough that it has major companies like Under Armour and T. Rowe Price, but it's small enough that you can actually stand out, if you want to, and achieve significant upward mobility.
If Baltimore doesn't have it, you can get it nearby. I'll be the first to admit there are plenty of things that Baltimore doesn't have: endless sunshine and warm weather, celebrity hairstylists, fancy sushi restaurants, boutique spin classes a la SoulCycle and Flywheel. But if we want any of that stuff, Washington, Philly and New York are an easy trip away. Plus there's Tysons Galleria in McLean. And if you want nice weather, take a quick two-hour flight to Florida.
All in all, I'm not saying that you should give up any dreams of moving out of town. But I am saying that when the glamour and adventure wear off, when you are thinking about the next place where you might like to settle down, don't underestimate the good ol' City that Reads. It's cooler than you think.
Sarah Rose Attman, who grew up in Baltimore and attended Bryn Mawr High School, worked in Los Angeles for Us Weekly before launching her own PR company, Sarah Rose Public Relations (sarahrosepr.com), where she helps businesses and individuals across the nation get top tier exposure and coverage. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @sarahrosepr.