SURE, MANY PEOPLE head north to Baltimore lured by old-fashioned pleasures — Berger cookies, cobblestone streets in Fells Point. But there are many new reasons to visit.
» Hampden Haute Fashion
John Waters‘ ‘hood used to be a zone of beehives and tiger-print twin sets. But lately, a slew of fresh women’s clothing boutiques have made the Avenue and its side streets into fashionista central. The latest addition, Form (1115 W. 36th St.), fills a loft-like room with party frocks by Vera Wang Lavender Label, jackets by Milly and high-end bags. It joins style sisters like indie label-rich Shine Collective (1007 A W. 36th St.) and Doubledutch Boutique (pictured, 3616 Falls Road). The latter stuffs an aqua-walled, are-we-in-Brooklyn? space with affordable clothing by Kenzie Girl and Sailor Jerry, plus truly quirky accessories, like an airplane necklace with a working propeller and locally made Pistol Designs handbags.
» Dolce Vita Dining
The buzziest pasta and antipasti in town isn’t dished up in Little Italy these days. It’s coming from Cinghiale (822 Lancaster St.; 410-547-8282), a swanky enoteca/osteria with old-school tiled floors and new Italian dishes like Kobe beef carpaccio and rabbit-stuffed tortellini. Other reasons to score a reservation: a gigantico Italian wine list and a salty caramel-spiked molten chocolate cake that breathes new life into the cliched dessert.
» Mapping It Out
Get lost in a citywide celebration pegged to “Maps: Finding Our Place in the World,” a sweeping exhibit at the Walters Art Museum (through June 8; 600 N. Charles St.; 410-547-9000; Thewalters.org) dedicated to cartography through the ages, from Leonardo da Vinci‘s take on central Italy to Robert Louis Stevenson‘s “Treasure Island.”
Dozens of local institutions are giving the directional drawings center stage (Baltimorefestivalofmaps.com has the details). Highlights include the Contemporary Museum‘s “Charm City Remix” — a fictional audio walking tour —and the Maryland Science Center‘s “Mapping Science,” which takes you on journeys into biology, astronomy and other areas not covered by Google Earth.
» A Tree Grows In Baltimore
Well, actually, the city is hoping for more than one — the plan is to double the city’s tree canopy in 30 years. Artists are helping promote the initiative with the Baltimore Urban Forest Project (Bmore-urbanforestproject.org) April 11 through June 27. Their banners promoting oaks and friends will fly about town, be feted at local parks and, then, be recycled into one-of-a-kind eco-chic bags ($120, available for preorder now).