So we're currently holding steady at just two major sport franchises, but you can't knock Baltimore for lack of effort. We used to have an NBA team, the Bullets, who moved to DC and became the Wizards for reasons too stupid to acknowledge here. In the dark time between the Colts and Ravens, we've had both a USFL and CFL team. There have been indoor lacrosse, football, and soccer teams-we've even dabbled in ice hockey. Not to mention college hoops, football, and lacrosse. Not bad for a state whose official sport is jousting. Yeah, jousting. Oh and the "rec" part? We're coming along, man. Sure the streets of Baltimore are narrow, one-way, pothole-ridden death traps for cyclists and runners, but, hey, bike lanes are popping up here and there. Oh and there's this beautiful promenade now that circles pretty much the entire harbor. And the best part? People actually use it. There's a kayak club and city parks with public swimming pools, ball fields, tennis courts, and even an ice skating rink for Pete's sake. So don't act like there's nothing to do, sporty and outdoorsy types.
Baltimore Grand Prix
Admittedly, the sport of auto racing is way over on the Earth-hating side of the spectrum, but the sound of Formula One engines screaming down frigging Pratt Street at 19,000 rpm is just
. Alas the critics were mostly justified in being wary of the potential financial pitfalls of the Baltimore Grand Prix and those trees that were taken down for the inaugural race never did get replanted as far as we know. Regardless, backed by new promoters, the race is back, and will (fingers crossed) benefit the city as well as promoters and spectators.
Oriole Park at Camden Yards, 333 W. Camden St., (410) 685-9800, baltimore.orioles.mlb.com
"Growing the arms and buying the bats," sounded good for a while, but after 13 plus years with no payoff, a general manager switch was in order and the O's have, by anyone's estimation, outplayed expectations. Guess it kinda helps that expectations were in the basement. Who knows whether the birds will be actual contenders, but tickets are easy to come by, and Camden Yards is still probably the prettiest park in the whole country.
M&T Bank Stadium, 1101 Russell St., (410) 244-8154, baltimoreravens.com
As difficult (read: expensive) as it is to get even nosebleed tickets to a Ravens game, everyone should make the effort to experience an NFL game in what's widely regarded as one of the loudest, most intense-not to mention well-appointed-stadiums in the country. Down in the lower rows, the noise is so loud you can feel it pressing down on you, and here the 12th man really can affect the outcome of games.
5201 Park Heights Ave., (410) 542-9400, pimlico.com
The grandeur has faded a bit from the once elegant facility, but it's still the second jewel in the Triple Crown. And we must say that the infield festivities and music during Preakness have only been improving over the years, and are now a destination event where the getting drunk part is actually secondary to the entertainment. At least, that's what we keep telling ourselves.
902-904 Stiles St., bocce.baltimore.md.us
One of those sports where watching can be more fun than participating, the locus of bocce ball action in town is, you guessed it, Little Italy, where you will find public courts. If you're feeling a bit fancier, or if the weather isn't cooperating, there's even an indoor court housed in La Scala restaurant.
An oddball twist on regular bowling, our style uses tiny pins, tiny balls, plus you get three turns, and you don't have to worry about high-tech aspects like spin or whatever else there is in bowling other than just chucking the ball as hard as you can. There are three venues that offer the sport:
Patterson Bowling Center
(2105 Eastern Ave.,  675-1011, pattersonbowl.com) in East Baltimore;
(6703 York Road,  377-8115, stoneleighlanes.com) a bit north of town near Towson University; and
Hillendale Duckpin Bowling Center
(1045 Taylor Ave.,  821-1172), just a bit up the road from Stoneleigh, and by far the largest of the bunch.
Flat Track Roller Derby
Du Burns Arena, 1301 S. Ellwood Ave., (443) 573-2450, charmcityrollergirls.com; Free State Indoor Sports, 5811 Allender Road, http://www.harmcityhomicide.com
All-female roller derby is already well-established here. It seems like everyone knows someone on a team, which is the basis for exceptionally strong grass-roots support for the sport. But what's good for the gander is good for the goose, and the more recently official all-male league is gaining traction. There's a pun in there somewhere, either for the skating part or the getting hurt part.
Parks and Green Spaces in the City
4915 Greenspring Ave., (410) 367-2217, cylburnassociation.org
Impeccably maintained grounds and, of course, rare and beautiful plant life, Cylburn is great for picnicking or strolling. Also a popular geocaching destination, if anyone still does that.
Druid Hill Park
900 Druid Park Lake Drive, (410) 396-0730, druidhillpark.org
Rolling hills, paved pathways, beautiful old oaks everywhere, Druid Lake reservoir, plus the Maryland Zoo, make Druid Hill the largest park in Baltimore. The volunteer corps that helps support the park is strong, and you can find all manner of activities here: a weekly farmer's market, guided tours, yoga, concerts, and you can even hold your very own event, just get a permit first.
Gwynns Falls/ Leakin Park
1900 Eagle Drive, baltimorecity.gov
Roughly straddling the area between Mondawmin Mall and Ingleside near Route 40 West, these two connected parks are probably the wildest in terms of vegetation. The falls meander through a narrow valley that is so thick with trees that it's hard to get a glimpse of direct sun at times. Lengthy hiking trails and the Chesapeake outpost of Outward Bound can be found here.
The Jones Falls Trail
(443) 984-4058, baltimorecity.gov
The plan is for the trail to connect Mount Washington, a wooded neighborhood in north Baltimore, to downtown. Completed sections include a chunk from Penn Station to the Woodberry light-rail stop, through a section of Druid Hill Park. Guided tours, "Bike and Brunch" events, as well as volunteer opportunities, are excellent ways to get down with Jones Falls.
27 S. Patterson Park Ave., (410) 276-3676, pattersonpark.com
A couple decades ago, East Baltimore residents knew to avoid traversing Patterson Park after dark for fear of getting jumped or worse. The pagoda was totally dilapidated, and park was generally filthy. Now? Clean, well-kept, and, most importantly, well-used. The beautiful part is that it was community activists, concerned neighbors really, that got the ball rolling back in the 80s and 90s, to make it one of the best urban parks anywhere, period. Swimming pool, ball fields, concert pavilions, tennis courts, a playground for the kids, an ice rink, and a beautifully restored pagoda are among the stand out features.
Stony Run Trail
An unpaved path north of Hopkins Homewood campus, well-utilized by local runners and dog-owners, though it's fairly secluded as you make your way through the woods of Roland Park.
The Waterfront Promenade
As of early this year, the Promenade completely connects up so runners, walkers, cyclists, rollerbladers, and the occasional jump-ropers, can make their way all the way from Canton on the east side, around the harbor to Federal Hill, a full 7 miles of clean, landscaped path with a view of the water the whole way. Natives realize what a blessing it is to be able to make that journey on foot without worrying about getting mugged, let alone while soaking in gorgeous surroundings.
Parks and Green Spaces Outside the City
The BWI Trail
Really just a collection of paved pathways, the BWI trail connects up to the Baltimore-Annapolis trail. The full circuit is actually not a cake-walk, as there are some pretty challenging climbs along the way. Or you can just hang out at the head of the trail and watch the planes land.
Baltimore and Annapolis Trail
It actually originates a bit south of Baltimore, near the airport as mentioned above, and, yes, does go all the way to Annapolis. The trail is relatively flat and well-paved, making it a viable day trip for those of us who like to ride but may not quite be in Tour de France shape.
Gunpowder Falls State Park
A sprawling area north east of the city, the falls are a popular destination for fishing, hiking, or creek-walking. There's swimming beaches along the Gunpowder River and even decent tubing on the Northern stretch. There are several hiking loops of varying length and difficulty within the park as well.
Oregon Ridge Park
13555 Beaver Dam Road, baltimorecountymd.gov/Agencies/recreation/countyparks/oregonridgelodge
A bit of a hike from Baltimore (sorry), Oregon ridge is way up north in Baltimore County, with, of course, hiking, good birding, as well as summer concerts by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, sometimes with firework included. Winter brings some of the best sledding in the area, as the front of the park is one long, sloped face.
Robert E. Lee Park
Falls Road and Lakeside Drive
Located in Baltimore County, this park is home to Lake Roland, a city water supply reservoir. Major improvements have recently been made, the crown jewel of which has to be the incredible off-leash area for dogs. Huge, secure, and with water (like, to swim in) access, dog-owners can finally go legal for a small annual fee. And though it is actually county property, it's too awesome a resource for city dwellers to sleep on.
City Swimming Pools
There are several dotting the city, and recent overhauls make for a decently clean and disturbance-free time at many of them. Admission is usually a negligible dollar or two, but the crowds form early, and capacity limits have been strictly enforced lately, so get there right at opening. (Check baltimorecity.gov/Government/AgenciesDepartments/RecreationandParks/Aquatics.aspx for deets).
The Downtown Sailing Center
1425 Key Highway, Suite 110, (410) 727-0722, downtownsailing.org
There are several other private outfits that provide lessons, but DSC is community-oriented, and offers very low prices on numerous classes and clinics. The harbor can be a busy waterway, and the winds are a bit unpredictable, but there simply is no better way to experience its beauty than from the water, being pushed along at a good clip by nothing but air. But don't go out solo until you're ready-watching sloppy sailing is like watching someone try to parallel park who can't, slightly amusing, but mostly just sad. And, in this case, potentially dangerous.
So by "holes," you might get the impression that we're talking about secret spots. There are some of those to be found, but most are technically illegal. The ones listed here are generally private outfits or parks, with crowds, concessions, and entry fees. And the water is cold as hell. Some popular ones are:
Oregon Ridge Beach
in Cockeysville (13555 Beaver Dam Road,  887-1817, baltimorecountymd.gov),
Beaver Dam Swimming Club
(10820 Beaver Dam Road,  785-2323, beaverdamswimmingclub.com) also in Cockeysville,
Rocks State Park
(dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/central/rocks.asp ) in Harford County, and the
Milford Mill Swim Club
(swimpark.org), which is just Northwest of the city and maybe the quaintest of the bunch.