You may have heard of the classic Christmas movie, Miracle on 34th Street, but have you ever been to THE Miracle on 34th Street? Every year, a crazy wonderful amount of homemade and store-bought holiday decorations light up a block of 34th Street in the neighborhood of Hampden, Baltimore. The lights go live the weekend after Thanksgiving and you should definitely take the time to check them out before New Years.
For those coming in from out of the neighborhood, as a past Hampden resident, I must insist that you do not try and drive through. For one, it is nearly impossible. You either end up spending too much time waiting in a long car line or the road might be closed. Also, you must explore the neighborhood! I wanted to pull together a few of my favorite spots to help guide visitors, but picking my favorite spots in Hampden is like picking a favorite child, so I brought in a few local Hampden lovers.
Meet Amy, also known as the @CharmCityCook. Amy is a consultant and blogger, who loves the weirdness of her neighborhood of Hampden.
Meet Lou, who many have dubbed the unofficial mayor of Hampden. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to get a trike ride from him to the lights, synchronized to music of course.
Meet Alysha, who helps to share what’s happening around Baltimore through @DiscoverCharmCity. Alysha suggests that you take your time to look through all that Hampden has to offer.
First Things First, Where Do I Park?
If you come earlier in the day, you will have better luck finding some street parking. Otherwise, there is plenty of metered parking along 36th street (fondly known as “The Avenue”) and some down Chestnut Avenue. For easiest parking, check out the parking information here.
‘Tis The Season for Giving, Check Out the Shops for Gifts
I highly recommend to come earlier in the day and do some of your holiday shopping. Amy suggests that your first stop be her favorite shop, Trohv, a home and gift shop. It is my personal favorite for finding the perfect gift for friends and family. Lou recommends checking out the painted crabshells from Razzo for a truly unique gift. Some other great shops to include (but are not limited to):
- Hunting Ground
- In Watermelon Sugar
- Ma Petite Shoe
- Atomic Books
- Hampden Junque
Before the Hanger Hits, Find Some Dinner
All of that shopping would lead anyone to have quite an appetite and you are in luck, Hampden has many dining options. If Amy had her pick, you would find her at the bar of The Food Market, enjoying a delicious dinner and a martini. I would also recommend reservations if you are looking for a table.
If You Are Looking for a More Casual Dinner
- Luigi’s Italian Deli is one of my personal favorites. While passing owners throughout the years, it remains a staple in Hampden. I love the Italian Cold Cut, but you will hear many rave about the Scooch or the Chub.
- You will find one of the largest Royal Farms right on the Avenue. RoFo can be quite family friendly and affordable when you are exploring with kids, especially since there is seating and the fanciest Royal Farms ceiling you’ll ever see. (Update: It wasn’t named the best fast food fried chicken by Food & Wine for no reason.)
- Lou recommends holding out for the Hot Dog Cart on 34th Street, sponsored by The Food Market and all proceeds go to the GreenMount School. All food and drinks served by the students.
Save Some Room for Dessert
Alysha and Lou advise that you grab a Hot Chocolate from the Charmery before walking down to the lights. Get ready for some huge handmade Marshmallows.
Save Water, Drink Beer
If you are looking for a local brew, head over to Waverly Brewing Company and Union Craft Brewing. Both within walking distance. Amy recommends the Foxy IPA or the Double Duckpin, her personal favorites from Union.
If grapes are more your thing, head over to 13.5% Wine Bar. You won’t be disappointed by their wall of wine.
It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Cocktails
If you are looking for a craft cocktail, you must find the Other Corner. It is essentially the back room of the Corner Charcuterie Bar, but with a different vibe that is away from the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Alysha likes it because it is dark and cozy with great music. If you’re Lou, you always end up at the back corner because “once that door closes, you could be anywhere in the world.”
New businesses are constantly opening in the quirky neighborhood of Hampden. Try out some of these new spots:
- Five & Dime Ale House – a new take on a classic neighborhood tavern
- Wicked Sisters – restaurant brought to you by the same wonderful people who created Papi’s Tacos, Alexander’s Tavern, and Huck’s
- Paulie Gee’s – a delicious pizza joint. Alysha recommends the back bar that has a nostalgic basement feel, complete with trophies.
Make a Night of it
Because after a few drinks, you wouldn’t want to miss a delicious brunch in the AM.
- Live like a local and grab an funky Airbnb like this one or this one
- Grab a cup of coffee from Artifact Coffee
- Head over to Golden West Cafe for brunch, where they happily serve vegans and meat-eaters alike