The best description of Baltimore’s quirky charms came from film director John Waters, who has drawn considerable inspiration from his offbeat hometown. In his book Shock Value, Waters wrote: “I would never want to live anywhere but Baltimore. You can look far and wide, but you’ll never discover a stranger city with such extreme style. It’s as if every eccentric in the South decided to move north, ran out of gas in Baltimore, and decided to stay.” Signs of this can be seen at the American Visionary Art Museum (800 Key Hwy., 410/244-1900, Tues.-Sun. 10am-6pm, $16), which displays an array of works by outsider and self-taught artists in every medium imaginable—painted packing crates, “art cars,” and so on—south of the popular Inner Harbor waterfront redevelopment.

Location for the nostalgic 1980s film Diner, as well as the acclaimed TV shows Homicide and The Wire, Baltimore is not as faded or gritty as that might sound. For typically Baltimorean food and drink, head to historic Fell’s Point, a mile east of the Inner Harbor. One of a dozen good places to eat here is Bertha’s (734 S. Broadway, 410/327-5795), a friendly little café famed for (grit-free!) mussels and other seafood specialties. To sample the other local specialty, Chesapeake Bay crab, head down to the Patapsco waterfront to Nick’s Fish House (2600 Insulator Dr., 410/347-4123).

If you’re interested in catching a ball game, the Baltimore Orioles play at Camden Yards (888/848-2473) right downtown.

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