Late-night fun doesn’t always have to involve hitting the local bar or club.
Nothing against those traditional after-hours gathering places; hey, we’re all-in for spending our late-night hours with good friends, a few drinks and some music.
But what if you’re up for something different? What if you’re in the mood for a pushing-midnight activity that engages more than your ears and your tolerance for alcohol? Not something that will keep you up all night, necessarily, but something to keep you happy and engaged as one day fades into the next.
Happily, the Baltimore area has something for you, too. Here are a half-dozen activities that offer variety to those anxious for something to do after the kids have gone to bed, but before the wee hours of the morning have set in — places still going strong when much of the world has turned in for the night.
When it comes to arcade games, a go-to spot in the Baltimore area is Glen Burnie’s Crabtowne USA, with over 100 video and pinball games, plus an ambience that screams vintage-’80s — certainly the golden age of such places.
And happily, the fun doesn’t stop when the sun goes down. Crabtowne (and be sure to enjoy some of the delicious crustaceans that give the place its name while you’re there) stays open until midnight Friday and Saturday, and 11 p.m. Sunday through Tuesday and Thursday.
“It’s always very active,” says Darlene Coulbourn, who runs the business with her 80-year-old mother, Barbara. “All the games we have, they only cost from 25 cents to 75 cents. People can have a cheap night out.”
It’s hard to imagine those quarters could be better spent anywhere else. From classic pinball games as “The Addams Family” (keep an eye out for Thing, who loves to reach out and grab balls from the playfield) to such video mainstays as Asteroids, Pac-Man (and his distaff partner, Ms. Pacman), Q*Bert and Tapper, the annex connected to Crabtowne’s dining area is crammed wall-to-wall with games. There are even a couple claw machines, for those who want to take home a souvenir (and are incredibly lucky).
The typical nighttime crowd includes all ages, Coulbourn says. If you want to play alongside the experts, stop by on Tuesday nights, when the Crabtowne Pinball Club holds court from 8:30 p.m.-11 p.m.
Crabtowne USA is located at 1500 Crain Highway in Glen Burnie. 410-761-6118. crab-towne.com.
Scanning the skies
For a late-night activity that’s literally out of this world, the Maryland Science Center offers its Friday night stargazing sessions via its rooftop telescope.
“There’s always something good to look at,” promises Jim O’Leary, the center’s senior scientist. “If we look at the moon, you can see beautiful mountains, craters, amazing details. You can look at Saturn and its rings, Jupiter and its moons. You can look at the Andromeda galaxy, 2 million light years away.”
Access to the science center’s 90-year-old refracting telescope (it was acquired by the Maryland Academy of Sciences in 1927) is free, running from 5:30 p.m.-9 p.m. (during daylight savings time, 7 p.m.-10:30 p.m.). The crowd averages around 50-60 people, O’Leary says, which allows patrons to take their time and enjoy a good look at the heavens. If an especially large crowd shows up, he says, the staff will focus on just one or two objects.
But even an object or two can be spectacular. Recently, O’Leary noted, visitors were treated to a look at a double-star called Albireo — a celestial body that looks like any other star to the naked eye, but is clearly two stars when seen through a telescope.
Once you’ve finished looking skyward, be sure to take advantage of the rooftop visit to enjoy an impressive view of your home planet as well. “You get a really nice view of the city.” O’Leary says — no telescope needed.
Friday night stargazing is free at the Maryland Science Center, 601 Light St. (enter through the Key Highway entrance). Sessions are canceled when the weather is bad; check by calling 410-545-2999 after 5 p.m. on the Friday you plan to visit. mdsci.org.
Late-night at the movies
The days of the midnight feature seem to be past, at least in Baltimore; rare is the feature that starts much beyond 10 p.m., unless you’re talking the third entry in a weekend triple-feature at the Bengies Drive-In.
But area theaters have not forsaken the late-night crowd entirely. At the Maryland Film Festival’s Stavros Niarchos Foundation Parkway, schedulers have taken to starting themed double-features at 7 p.m. or so on Monday nights, meaning audiences intent on staying for both films aren’t going to be getting out until near midnight.
“We’re trying to brand Monday as a good night to come out and stay out until the late hours,” says Eric Allen Hatch, the festival’s director of programming.
Already, the Parkway has played host to a weeknight “Magic Mike” double feature (which attracted a crowd of about 100, “but the energy level was about 1,000,” Hatch says); a tribute to a pair of recently deceased horrormeisters with a coupling of George Romero’s “The Crazies” and Tobe Hooper’s “Eaten Alive”; and an ode to the high school pecking order with a double bill of “Mean Girls” and “Clueless,” which drew a crowd of about 250, Hatch says.
While most would-be auteurs still dream of having a major release and getting studio backing, more and more are taking advantage of the internet’s availability as a low-to-no-cost (and low-risk) distribution platform.
“They’ve been robust crowds, they’ve been boisterous crowds,” he says. “They appreciate that our atmosphere accommodates a fun vibe as well as a serious one.”
Forthcoming double features at the Parkway include a trio of holiday-scenarios-you-might-want-to-avoid pairings, with “Home for the Holidays” and “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” on Nov. 20, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” and “Trading Places” on Dec. 4. and “Scrooged” and “Bad Santa” on Dec. 11. The first show starts at 7:15 p.m., the second at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 for one movie, $16 for both.
And more late-night offerings are in store for the new year, Hatch promises, possibly including some 11:30 p.m. shows.
“We’re definitely going to try some more late-night stuff and see what lands,” he said.
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Parkway is located at 5 W. North Ave. 410-752-8083. mdfilmfest.com.
Twenty-four-hour diners ring the city, each one offering fabulous (and filling) food at any hour of the day or night. But for something a little out-of-the-ordinary, try a wee-hours visit to Valentino’s, at the corner of Harford Road and Northern Parkway in Hamilton.
“We like to think of ourselves as a cut above a regular diner,” says Nick Hatzinicolas, whose family runs the diner and has since it opened in 1987.
He has a point. Besides touches that include homemade garlic breadsticks with every meal (as well as a couple small pieces of fruit and a dab of whipped cream when you’re done) and a black-and-white uniformed wait staff, how many diners pay tribute to an actor who died in 1926?
Step inside, and the visage of silent-film legend Rudolph Valentino greets you, smoldering from a rug in the entranceway. The Valentino theme permeates the restaurant, from the framed movie posters adorning the walls (“Son of the Sheik,” “Beyond the Rocks” and more) to such menu items as the Rudolph breakfast (French toast, two eggs and meat).
The restaurant first opened around Valentine’s Day, and its name was once a tribute to that most romantic of holidays, Hatzinicolas says with a laugh. “But then my cousin had an epiphany. At first it was hearts, then we switched over to Rudolph.”
Valentino’s hearty menu, which covers everything from all-hour breakfasts to shrimp alfredo and veal parmigiana, is available just about anytime; except for 5 a.m.-7 a.m. Sunday-Thursday, the kitchen never closes.
“Maybe the dining room will die down after 10 o’clock [p.m.] until about 1 o’clock [a.m.], when the bars start letting out,” Hatzinicolas says. “But we stay pretty busy all the time.”
Valentino’s is located at 6627 Harford Road. 410-254-4700. valentinosbaltimore.com. For a roundup of more options for late-night eats, click here.
Loud music, a darkened room and duckpin bowling. Can a night be any better?
That combination has been a bowling-alley staple for decades — a tradition proudly maintained at Stoneleigh Lanes in Towson, where $16 per person buys two hours of weekend-night bowling, booming classic rock and a raucous atmosphere guaranteed to keep the party going until the last pin drops.
“Everybody always seems to be having such a good time,” says Deb Gill, the manager at Stoneleigh, a happily retro 16-lane duckpin bowling alley operating out of the basement of a York Road building since the 1940s.
Thirty years ago, there were hundreds of duckpin bowling lanes scattered along the East Coast, scores right here in the Baltimore area. The sport was something of a Baltimore obsession. Today, all but a handful of those lanes are gone. But there are signs of life in duckpin land — including renovations to Baltimore's Patterson Bowling Center, and hopes for a new duckpin alley/bar in a Hampden basement.
The odds may be on the house’s side, but that doesn’t stop the late-night crowd from flocking to Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, where about 2,200 slot machines (or video lottery terminals, the preferred name these days), more than 150 table games and a 25-table poker room never close.
“If you’re a night owl, it’s a great place to be,” says Erin Chamberlin, the casino’s senior vice president and general manager.
For sure, no spot in Baltimore is more teeming late at night than this block of Russell Street. In addition to all the gambling possibilities, Horseshoe is home to six dining establishments (seven when Gordon Ramsay Steak opens later this month, eight when Giada De Laurentiis opens her new restaurant early next year), including Lenny’s Deli, open 24/7.
Night owls can flock to the brightly lit, lavishly decorated slots, with their promise of payoffs if only you pump in another quarter (or nickel, or dollar, or whatever, up to $500). As long as you’re willing to exercise some self-control — set a limit on how much you can afford to lose, and stick to it — they can make the evening seem awfully celebratory.
(Of course, if you lose your shirt, there’s not much to celebrate about. As we said, know your limit.)
Horseshoe stays pretty hopping for most of the night, Chamberlin says; the later it gets, “the more people are ready to let loose, have a good time.”
But every revelry has its limits. “We’re pretty active until 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning,” Chamberlin says. That’s when people start, perhaps reluctantly, heading for home, “with the reality of the morning facing them.”