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The Nature of Baltimore: Baltimore’s Great Outdoors

December 15th, 2015 by

Maryland is rich in rural character with its vast forests, rolling farmlands, and access to the Chesapeake Bay. The state’s suburban areas are popular for their strong school systems and large yards, but it is Baltimore City that is particularly appealing to many of today’s prospective homebuyers — thanks in part to incentives such as the Homestead Tax Credit and recent cuts in property tax rates.

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People search for a vibrant urban center when finding the place they want to call home. A strong economic base and rich cultural offerings are important factors for creatives, businesspeople, young professionals, families, and retirees when settling in a new city. While these features help to improve the quality of life for an urban dweller, it’s important not to overlook another important lure: green space and connectivity to the great outdoors. In fact, recent research shows that living in urban areas with green space actually improves residents’ sense of wellbeing — a finding that fits with earlier studies showing that green space can improve peoples’ mood and even their cognitive functioning.

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Fortunately, Baltimore City has a rich array of offerings aimed at getting residents outside to enjoy nature and the great outdoors. Music lovers can relax at outdoor concerts hosted at various venues and parks, such as Pier 6 in the Inner Harbor or WTMD’s First Thursdays at Canton Waterfront Park. From April until November, urbanites can shop outdoors for fresh produce at the popular Waverly Farmers’ Market and other markets across the city. Even moviegoers have a plethora of outdoor options, with movie series screened at venues ranging from Federal Hill, to Little Italy, to Fells Point.

There are also many seasonal festivals that get Baltimore residents mixing it up outside, such as autumn’s Oktobearfest, hosted at the Maryland Zoo, and “Miracle on 34th Street” in Hampden, which draws people of all ages to see the wondrous display of Christmas lights. And alfresco dining is increasingly popular in downtown Baltimore, where numerous restaurants offer outdoor patios during the warmer months and even into early winter.

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When it comes time to exercise, Baltimore locals are not confined to claustrophobic indoor gyms. The city offers sprawling, spacious parks (such as Patterson Park, with its iconic pagoda, ball fields, tennis courts, playgrounds, basketball courts, and endless pathways) as well as smaller green spaces like Mount Vernon Park, a popular gathering spot for dog walkers and coffee sippers. These open, outdoor green spaces provide refreshing contrast to typical compact urban living. By bringing people together, parks also help to cultivate a sense of community while addressing a multitude of social needs.

Baltimoreans also look closer to home to get their outdoor fix. While rooftop decks and patios are very prevalent in other urban areas, they are almost ubiquitous in downtown Baltimore. Outdoor decks offer privacy, fresh air, and wonderful views of the cityscape. Many see these outdoor gathering spaces as an extension of their home and they utilize them nearly year round. Since many of these decks are almost as large as downtown apartments in square footage, they can add significant value to an urban home.

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Perhaps because green space comes at such a premium, today’s city residents often embrace a sense of minimalism and purpose, and are more conscious about lifestyle choices, especially involving consumption and preservation. This mindfulness inspires many Baltimore residents to view their neighborhoods as urban ecosystems and to prize their precious green spaces.

By transforming a vacant lot into a community garden or an abandoned alleyway into a friendly green corridor, Baltimore’s city dwellers increase foot traffic between communities, build neighborhood connectivity—and improve the quality of life for all.