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City Paper's 2010 Guide to All Things Baltimore

Baltimore is a place of many nicknames and civic slogans, many of which have stuck whether they fit the place or not. Its 19th-century violence earned it the handle "Mobtown." More recently it was dubbed "Charm City," which the Visitor's Bureau probably prefers, and on a good day the place totally lives up to it. "The City That Reads" seems like overkill, even with the rising indie-lit scene, while "The Greatest City in America," still etched on fading bus benches all over town, is just plain grandiose.

The one we like best came off a beer label (National Bohemian, aka Natty Boh), but it rings true: "The Land of Pleasant Living." And in a way, that's what this second annual guide to Baltimore from City Paper, its free alternative weekly, is all about: helping you enjoy the city like a native.

'Cause let's face it, the city's waterside attractions and megabars and chain stores hold an undeniable allure for many casual visitors, and for lots of them that's plenty. But if you're not here long, or don't look too hard, you can miss what makes Baltimore such a unique place.

Of course, we'll be the first to admit that looking beyond the gloss and bustle of the Inner Harbor can be daunting. Baltimore faces many of the same problems as other cities built on a now mostly vanished industrial base, including derelict neighborhoods, poverty, and crime. Though the city's murder rate dropped precipitously in recent years, it still remains one of the highest per capita in the country. But Baltimore also boasts a host of friendly neighborhoods and cosmopolitan delights and nowhere-else experiences too, and they are as much a fact of life here as any grim news headline. It'd be a shame to miss out.

That's where Baltimanual comes in. While we can't possibly encompass the ins and outs of every part of town, we can give you the lowdown on a few areas where visitors and locals alike tend to congregate, and with good reason. Yes, there's the harbor, but venture out from the hotels and promenades due east and you may wind up in the narrow streets of Little Italy, where the local economy runs on red sauce. Continue to meander east along the water and find yourself experiencing the upmarket boomtown of Harbor East, crossing the historic cobbles of Fells Point, or soaking up the nightlife of Canton Square. Move away from the water to the northeast to discover the ethnic salad-bowl of the Highlandtown area. Head south from the harbor and the hot and cold running bars of Federal Hill and the sleepy slopes of residential South Baltimore greet you. Head north from the Pratt Street main drag and pass through the grand architecture and vibrant arts of Mount Vernon into the burgeoning subculture hub of the Station North area, and on into the leafy collegiate enclave of Charles Village. Indeed, many Baltimoreans are involved in the ongoing process of discovering and rediscovering the town from all angles, as indicated by the mix of old Baltimore holdouts and hip spots in neighborhoods such as Hampden and Hamilton.

For more information on Baltimore, visit baltimanual.com, an online resource that expands on the print version with updated content, a FAQ, more detailed downloadable/printable maps, and more to come. And if you're looking for a guide to what's happening this week, you won't find a better source of info than City Paper and citypaper.com.

So check it out. Don't be surprised if you get to know Baltimore better and find it most pleasant indeed.

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