The mid-Atlantic state of Maryland is dotted with a plethora of waterways and shores along the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. It is also home to some of the most exotic cities in the United States, none more so than Baltimore.
This part of the United States is rich in history and culture, so it’s no surprise that Baltimore, and Maryland as a whole, hosts a plethora of festivals and fairs each year, each with a specific theme. Here are the 20 best events held in 2017.
Winter Wine Fair
If you thought “Dry January” was for purists and cowards, this event is sure to please. Held at the historic B&O Railroad Museum, the event allows visitors to taste and learn about some of Maryland’s best wines in a small, unique setting. There will also be live music and a chance to mingle with the leaders of the Maryland wine industry while surrounded by the largest collection of antique trains in the country. Now that’s how to ring in the New Year in style. When: 26 January Venue: the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore.
Frozen Harbor Music Festival
What better way to get excited and warm on a cold February day than with some hot music? That’s exactly what the Frozen Harbor Music Festival offers as it invites some of Maryland’s best local performers to entertain the crowd with their unique sound. Rock, hip-hop, and funk bands will all perform on multiple outdoor stages throughout the Baltimore Harbor area over the course of two days.
Baltimore Jewish Film Festival
One of North America’s longest-running celebrations of Jewish-themed cinema, this internationally acclaimed festival has been running for more than a quarter of a century and continues to thrive. This, of course, is due in large part to the efforts of countless directors, writers, producers and actors, as well as many others on the front lines of filmmaking who help create the wonderful films that screen each year at the Gordon Center for Performing Arts. But there are unsung heroes as well, including the festival directors and volunteer film committee who help plan the event. In 2017, the festival will present another stellar lineup, including Awake Zion, a documentary exploring the unquestioned connection between Rasta, reggae and Judaism, and The Women’s Balcony, a film centered around an Orthodox synagogue in Jerusalem. Simply put, this is the best when it comes to honoring Jewish life and culture on screen. WHEN: March 19-April 30 WHERE: Gordon Center for the Performing Arts, Baltimore.
Baltimore City of Lights
Baltimore’s lights take on a whole new dimension for one week in April as the city hosts a stunning festival of light, music and innovation. Artistic immersion, live performances and concerts, and informative lectures all take place in the Inner Harbor, attracting hundreds of visitors eager to see the city’s lights in the most visually striking way possible. The inaugural event, held last year, featured animated peacocks, hundreds of light sculptures resembling paper boat flotillas and “light up” marshmallows, among other highlights. Time: March 31-April 8Where: the Baltimore waterfront.
Beer, bourbon and barbecue festival
If that title isn’t enticing enough for you, it’s probably hopeless. But if you need a little more convincing, here’s a taste of what you can expect from a party of food and drinking fun. As the name implies, you’ll find world-class beer, bourbon and barbecue vendors on site, with plenty of tastings and samples available. If you’re not overwhelmed by the food and drink, there’s even a gaming area offering fun activities to keep you entertained. If that’s not enough, the festival also offers a great selection of live music, including rock and bluegrass bands.
Charm City Comedy Festival
There’s laughs-a-plenty at this annual comedy festival which invites premier local and national acts to tickle the funny bones of live audiences at the Zissimos Bar in Baltimore. Stand up, improv and sketch shows all feature, as well as practical workshops for those who want to fine-tune their own comedy talents. The event is held over two weekends, so festival-goers arriving from outside Baltimore get two bites at the cherry if they miss the first one. And if you’d like to pitch yourself to perform, you can even drop an application in to the organisers.
The Preakness Stakes in Baltimore is one of America’s most prestigious horse racing events and each year it is preceded by a fantastic music festival called Infieldfest. Held at the same venue as the horse racing, the festival boasts an impressive line-up that spans a variety of genres ranging from hip-hop and pop rock to country and EDM. Past performers include Lorde, Macklemore, Bruno Mars, Maroon 5, Zac Brown, Wiz Khalifa, Pitbull and many others.
Don’t fear – this festival isn’t quite as menacing as it sounds. Celebrating ‘extreme’ music, this internationally renowned event brings together bands that perform on the outer reaches of the alternative music scene. The very best in death metal, grindcore, doom, thrash, hardcore, black metal, and experimental bands from all around the world all feature here, giving the event a truly eclectic feel. In fact, the diversity of the line-up is only surpassed by the diversity of the festival’s rabid fan base, who travel from all over the world for a weekend of high-octane fun, excitement and amazing sounds.
Naptown barBAYq Contest & Music Festival
Taking place in the small coastal town of Crownsville, this popular music festival attracts thousands of revellers each year who come to enjoy the array of live music, great food and – perhaps the star of the whole event – a barbeque competition that invites aficionados of the great American culinary tradition to come and pit their smoking grill skills against each other. The event is also extremely family friendly, with a number of free kids’ activities, as well as arts and crafts vendors and cooking demonstrations.
Capital Jazz Fest
Jazz has always been a polarising musical genre, but those who love it do so with a passion that can only be admired. Each year in early June, tens of thousands of music lovers from across America flock to this weekend of cool jazz and soul, which has grown to become one of the country’s most popular outdoor music festivals. As well as showcasing some of the best jazz and soul music on the planet, it also features amazing food and drink, shopping opportunities, arts and crafts, and educational workshops. After the show, there’s also late night events hosted at local hotels.
Chesapeake Crab & Beer Festival
Legend has it that enough crab is consumed at this event to stretch all the way across Baltimore Harbor and back again – and it’s easy to see why that could be true. Now in its 4th year, this annual festival is an all-you-can-eat extravaganza featuring over 30,000 crabs, lashings of beer, arts & crafts, live music, family fun and plenty more besides. Thousands of tables and chairs along with huge tents ensure the 22,000 people who descend here each year are comfortably accommodated.
Baltimore African American Festival
With its huge African American community, it seems only fitting for Baltimore to host a festival celebrating the rich and deeply-embedded heritage of so many of its residents. The largest cultural festival on the entire East Coast, the city welcomes over 350,000 attendees annually to the event, which places a huge emphasis on music, attracting top musical acts as well as showcasing emerging local talent. There are also segments of the show that focus on wellness, beauty and technology, all with an African American slant.
Baltimore Improv Festival
Baltimore has always been fertile breeding ground for gifted comedians and this heritage is both celebrated and enhanced each year at the Baltimore Improv Festival. The event is dedicated to advancing the art and appreciation of improvisational theatre in the greater Baltimore community through a dynamic programme of performance, instruction, and outreach, showcasing a variety of local, regional and nationally-known improv groups in shows and workshops across the city.
Said to be America’s largest free arts festival, Artscape attracts an eye-popping 350,000 visitors each year. Held over three days, the event features more than 150 fine artists, fashion designers and craftspeople who come together to present visual art exhibits, exhibitions, outdoor sculptures, art cars and photography. There’s also a full schedule of performing arts including dance, opera, theatre, film, experimental music and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, all strutting their stuff on several outdoor stages. Families with little ones are made welcome by hands-on projects, demonstrations, competitions, children’s entertainers and street theatre.
Electronic dance lovers planning a trip to Baltimore next August are in for a treat if their visit happens to coincide with the annual Moonrise Festival. Founded in 2013, the festival features a whole host of distinguished acts from the electronic dance music scene, with a smattering of hip-hop performers adding to the eclectic vibe. As has become tradition, each evening of the two-day festival is brought to a climax with a moving celebration of the rising moon.
With veganism surging in popularity around the globe due to increasing concerns about both sustainability and animal welfare, it’s no surprise that this festival has grown exponentially too. Each year visitors get to browse and sample a huge range of locally-sourced vegan products, as well as speak to non-profit exhibitors about issues such as health, social justice and animal rights. The festival also features guest speakers discussing the benefits of a vegan lifestyle including how it can enhance our relationship with animals and the environment. Meanwhile there’s also cooking demos and live music and entertainment for all the family. WHEN tbc WHERE Baltimore City Community College
Comic-Cons are now some of the biggest pop culture events that take place anywhere across the world and the Baltimore edition is one of the very best. Founded in 2000, the show offers comic lovers the chance to meet marquee-name comic book creators past and present, publishers and vendor booths offering genre-related items, including comic book back-issues, limited edition collectibles, comic-themed clothing, videos and DVDs, Meanwhile panel discussions throughout the show feature industry names conversing on past hallmarks in comic book history, and offering general information on the industry and how to be a part of it. WHEN 22 – 24 September WHERE Baltimore Convention Center
Baltimore Seafood Festival
If there’s one thing Baltimore natives love to chow down on more than anything, it’s seafood. The city’s edible oceanic plunder is legendary, with its crab cakes, crab soup, shrimp salad, local oysters, and of course, Maryland blue crabs just some of the dishes that are treated as something approaching regional treasures. It seems fitting, therefore, that the city hosts a waterfront festival showcasing some of Baltimore’s favourite restaurants serving their signature seafood dishes. Throw into the mix live music, cooking demos, and an area for families with toys, games, face painting and more, and you have one of the city’s most eagerly awaited events on the annual calendar.
Baltimore Book Festival
This is one of the biggest and most popular book festivals in America, featuring appearances by hundreds of local, celebrity and nationally known authors, book signings, as well as more than 100 exhibitors and booksellers showcasing their literary wares. There’s also readings on multiple stages, workshops, panel discussions, storytellers and hands-on projects for kids. If you’re visiting with anyone less passionate about books, then there’s also cooking demos by top chefs, live music, and a curated food, craft beer and wine programme to keep them entertained. WHEN 22 – 24 September WHERE Baltimore Inner Harbor
Maryland STEM Festival
Making learning fun is the modus operandi of the Maryland STEM Festival. Held over ten full days in venues across Maryland, the festival provides inspirational, educational and accessible programming in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) for visitors young and old. Through collaborative, interactive, and dynamic events and activities, the event offers a superb opportunity for parents to drag their kids away from their X-Box and Snapchat to really engage with real-life learning in a meaningful way. Who knows, it could be the first step towards greatness for your little cherubs…