Quick note: Lights go on tonight through Jan 1st. Grab coffee from one of the eight(?) coffee shops near The Avenue (or get icecream from The Charmery after dinner!) and walk through the 2 blocks of lights. Parking is a challenge & driving through is worse so grab a spot on Falls Road and just bundle up. Lights go out at 11PM so go before hitting the bars.
So with all of the bullshit from outside media about how shitty Baltimore is, I feel the need to make a post about one of my favorite little places in Baltimore, possibly the world. Please note this is not at all trying to distract or devalue the problems, pain, and poverty that Baltimore faces but instead is just meant to show how Baltimore’s community is actually pretty fuckin neat and full of awesome people.
In 1999 this guy named Russell Wattenberg was working his regular night shift at the bar when he overheard a couple of teacher’s complaining to each other that they just couldn’t find any books to give to their impoverished students. Wattenburg, overhearing their conversation, decided to take some of his tips that he earned, and went around all different kinds of thrift stores and yard sales, gathering up as many books as he could. He started giving them away to the schools before eventually operating out of his van and driving to anywhere where people would accumulate– schools, bus stops, homeless shelters, etc giving away as many books as he could.
Eventually it grew so large that he started renting out a facility. Now, years later it’s still going. With a collection of over 250,000 books (and thats just sources from 2002- who knows how many books there are now) he manages to give away over 20,000 books a week. What’s the catch? Nothing! That seems hard to believe, but there truly is no catch. His only rule is nobody is allowed to leave with more than 150,000 books on any given day, something I am not sure anyone has tried to do yet. Also I have been there several times myself and there is a little sign out sheet by the door that asks for your name and how many books you took but its not really required, more of just a courtesy.
And let me tell you guys, this place is amazing. As you can see from the pictures, the place is quite spacious, with so many books crammed into every corner it possibly can with every genre you can possibly imagine. The place is only open on Saturdays and Sundays every weekend, from 9 am to 6pm each day. So of course, a lot of the really popular things go very quickly, but there are still so many gems and treasures that it’s hard not to leave with bags full of books. They actively encourage you to take boxes full of books too, with a small room in between two of the larger book rooms that is piled high with boxes to carry books in.
The book thing is completely non profit but the Founder who runs it does get a very small salary from institutional grants and a few private donations, so that he can work on the book thing full time. But other than that it is all run by volunteers and neighbors. Please go check it out if you are in the area, it’s super worth it, and donate some old books that you never use while youre at it, too!
As a resident of Baltimore I was excited to learn that my very first BronyCon would take place right here in Charm City. I have been going to college in Baltimore for years and grown to love this city, the history and its culture. There is a lot to do and see here. In a madden sleep deprived 7 hours I drew this map which I hope will help other bronies from out of town experience all aspects of the city. I have also just created a Tumblr blog where I will be posting weekly tips given by Chocolate Pony on transport, hotels, and food locations. I will also be answering any questions people have about the city when BronyCon draws near (hopefully in the form of drawn answers, time willing).
Transportation to Baltimore Convention Center
If you are coming in by train then Penn Station is your stop. If you are flying in then Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI) is the closest airport which is 9.8 miles from the Convention Center. If you have light luggage then the best and cheapest means of getting to Baltimore is the Light Rail (Line to Hunt Valley). One way fare is $1.65 and it stops right in front of the Convention Center. Start from STOP 119 at BWI. Stay on for 11 stops until you reach STOP 25. If you have more luggage then the Super Shuttle is a great way to get to the city. One fare will cost $22. Taxis get more expensive and have cost me $45 at times. You can also take the MARC Train or Amtrak which will arrive at Penn Station (2 miles from the Convention Center). The ticket prices will change so make sure you check them online, but they should be around $7.00.
Baltimore is a great city for transport and if you are staying anywhere within a three mile radius from the Baltimore Convention Center in the Inner Harbor you can be sure to find free transportation. The Charm City Circulator is the best method of getting around Baltimore and will also transport you to local landmarks, shops, and bars around the Inner Harbor, Downtown, and Fells Point. If you are coming in from Penn Station by train then the Purple Route at STOP 311 is the free bus you will take to the Inner Harbor STOP 319. If you are coming in from Fells Point then you will take the Orange Route to STOP 205. The Orange Route is also the one you will take to travel around the Inner Harbor and Fells Point if you do not want to walk. The Green Route is also another route by the Inner Harbor which also goes to Fells Point and sights like the Johns Hopkins Hospital. If you are a little more north then you can take the Johns Hopkins Shuttle (also free) from Charles Village (3 miles north of the Inner Harbor) to either Penn Station or the Peabody Institute then catch the Purple Route to the Inner Harbor. Keep in might these times and stops might change in the next few months so check both sites for the latest information.
If you want to take the city bus, then the MTA Bus 3 and 11 Routes (and many others) stop right in front of the Convention Center as well. One way fare is $1.65 and a day pass is $3.50. The day pass can also be used for the Light Rail. Check the times on the MTA site and Google Maps.
The Inner Harbor is a great place for BronyCon and also host Otakon (the 2nd largest anime convention in the nation), Baltimore Comic Con (Home of the Harvey Awards), and the Baltimore Grand Prix. All these events take place within weeks of BronyCon so you might want to extend your stay to attend these events. Also BronyCon will fall around a few Homes Games for the local Baltimore Orioles. The Thursday before BronyCon the Orioles will face the Astros and on Friday through Sunday the Mariners. You might also want to take the chance to check out M&T Bank Stadium home of the NLP Champions the Baltimore Ravens (I am a Niners fan -_-). Nearby is also the tombstone of writer Edgar Alan Poe and across the harbor you can see Fort McHenry, the location of the battle that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen the Star Strangled Banner. The Charm City Circulator Banner (Blue) Route will take you there for free, and it is worth the trip. Within walking distance of the Convention Center there are a lot of places to eat from Phillip’s Seafood, Hard Rock Café, Bubba Gumps, and steakhouses to Five Guys (In-N-Out is better), Chipotle, and sushi. Also both the Power Plant and Fells Point nearby host many bars and clubs.
While in Baltimore you should take the chance to check out local food, including our world famous crab cakes with Old Bay seasoning, a bag of Utz, and a glass of Natty Boh beer. If you have a chance take a short walk up to Lexington Market, one of the oldest markets in the United States, and head to Faidley Seafood, which serves what has been voted, the best crab cake in the world. There are also countless other seafood places inside Lexington Market.
Make sure to follow my new blog for more information and tips, as well as to ask questions.
Note: Streets on this map are not to scale and should not be used for navigation or approximation of distances. The distance of areas on the map increase the further they are from the Inner Harbor. Bus times and stop numbers may change. No pony puns are used for locations for accuracy. I am not affiliated with the BronyCon staff or organization.