NTTC takes its annual conference and show to Baltimore, known for its dynamic Inner Harbor and eclectic cuisine

April 1, 2011
HISTORY and the harbor. When it comes to those two things, it doesn't get much better than Baltimore. The National Tank Truck Carriers' 63rd Annual Conference

HISTORY and the harbor. When it comes to those two things, it doesn't get much better than Baltimore.

The National Tank Truck Carriers' 63rd Annual Conference & Tank Truck Equipment Show is headed to “Charm City,” Maryland's largest city and economic hub, from May 22-24.

Named for Lord Baltimore (Cecilius Calvert) in the Irish House of Lords, Baltimore was settled in the early 17th century. The waterfront, surrounded with shops, restaurants and attractions that lure tourists and residents today, made Baltimore a hub for tobacco trade with England in its earliest days. By the 18th century, Baltimore had also become a granary for sugar-producing colonies in the Caribbean.

As a major seafaring and trading community, Baltimore played a key role in events that shaped the nation's history, including the American Revolution. Suffering from taxes and commerce regulations that the British attempted to impose, outraged merchants signed agreements not to trade with Britain. Leaders moved to the city to join the resistance, causing sizeable losses for British merchants, which fueled growth in Baltimore. The population doubled between 1776 and 1790, and again by 1800. Baltimore was once the second leading port of entry for European immigrants.

The city found enormous profit in overseas trade. When the British tried to cripple America's efforts to become ruler of the seas, America responded by declaring war in 1812.

The British attacked the city in the summer of 1814. During the Battle of Baltimore, Maryland lawyer Francis Scott Key was aboard a British ship negotiating for the release of a prisoner. Key recounted the bombardment by writing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the poem that would ultimately be set to music and become the country's national anthem. Historic Fort McHenry, where troops successfully defended Baltimore's beloved harbor, remains a popular attraction.

Shipbuilding center

Baltimore served as an important shipbuilding and supply-shipping center during World Wars I and II. “Suburban flight” led to rapid decay in the 1960s and ‘70s however. The city lost so much in population and business it became as financially stressed as it had been during the Great Depression.

Baltimore came back strong, beginning in 1979, with urban renewal efforts that rank among the most ambitious in the United States. Downtown and many other neighborhoods were revitalized, with special attention given to the city's greatest asset — the harbor. Hotels, office buildings and entertainment facilities like Harborplace, the Maryland Science Center and National Aquarium (Maryland's largest tourist attraction) replaced dilapidated wharves and warehouses.

Conference attendees will be staying at the Renaissance Harborplace Baltimore Hotel, located just a block from the Inner Harbor, one of the most photographed and visited areas of the city. It has been one of the major seaports in the United States since the 1700s and started blossoming into the cultural center of Baltimore in the 1970s, when it was redeveloped.

Distinct in function and form, the Inner Harbor and the surrounding neighborhoods offer a variety of fine dining, cultural experiences and exciting nightlife.

From breath-taking panoramic views of the skyline from the Observation Level of the World Trade Center to the up-close and personal experiences of street performances happening spontaneously at the waterfront, the Inner Harbor offers a multitude of things to do.

Shopping and dining

Located in the heart of the Inner Harbor on Pratt Street, Harborplace The Gallery offers unique shopping, diverse dining and a variety of entertainment right on the picturesque waterfront. The heart of Baltimore's renowned Inner Harbor, Harborplace The Gallery features a mix of 120 unique shops, restaurants, and diverse eateries, plus live seasonal entertainment on the waterfront.

The newly renovated Spirit of Baltimore offers year-round lunch and dinner cruises as well as specialty and holiday cruises. The Spirit has two fully enclosed climate-controlled decks along with an open air panoramic deck that boasts the best views of the historic Harbor. The Inner Harbor Spirit offers interactive, narrated 60-minute sightseeing tours of Baltimore from April-October giving insider's view of the Inner Harbor.

At the Maryland Science Center, commonly referred to as the Science Museum, let your senses and your mind wander as you experience the numerous sights and hands-on activities, including an IMAX theater and a planetarium. Serving more than half a million visitors per year, the Maryland Science Center is one of the Inner Harbor's main attractions. One of the oldest scientific institutions in the United States, it is a reputable learning center for all ages and was originally a meeting place for an amateur scientific society where members would discuss papers on a variety of natural science topics.

There are three floors of demonstrations to exercise your imagination and challenge your mind, including combustible reactions, eye-boggling optical illusions, and laser displays. Hands-on exhibits include a voyage through the human body and learning how microbes work for us. Traveling exhibits abound, so there's always something new to see and learn.

Maryland Science Center's Davis Planetarium features programs to explore the sky and discover space exploration. Visitors can travel the night sky to examine the sun and stars and learn astronomy to identify stars and constellations with the Sky Alive program or with friends from Mr Roger's Neighborhood, or travel to distant galaxies in Beyond the Nine while relaxing in total comfort.

National Aquarium

The National Aquarium, which hosts over 1.6 million visitors every year, houses sharks, dolphins, rays and tropical fish among the more than 16,000 creatures in naturalistic exhibits, including a walk-through rain forest, an exciting live-action dolphin show and a new Australian exhibit. Opened in 1981, the National Aquarium is world-famous and has a mission to “provide transforming experiences that encourage people to enjoy, respect, and protect the aquatic world.”

Visitors can view a life-size model of a Humpback Whale, see the concepts of surviving through adaptation come to life, visit a coral reef, and learn what jellies are telling us about the health of our oceans. Housing more than 16,000 creatures, the National Aquarium exhibits a variety of species in their naturalistic habitats. Visitors will find animals such as stingrays, sharks, sea turtles, bullfrogs, phytoplankton, monkeys, sloths, iguanas, puffins and thousands more, and can also catch an up-close view of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins as they leap and tumble with the National Aquarium trainers.

Other must see attractions include the Aquarium's 4-D Immersion Theater and Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes, where visitors will travel through a spectacular river gorge of Australia's Northern Territory, including a 35-foot waterfall, free-flying birds, free-roaming lizards basking on rocky cliffs, and freshwater crocodiles (safe behind a thick acrylic barrier). A self-guided tour on the National Aquarium's first level includes a gallery that traces the water cycle from a freshwater pond in the mountains of Western Maryland through the tidal marsh, into the coastal beach and out into the deeper, darker waters of the Atlantic shelf.

Ask local Baltimoreans what they like to do when they're in the city and you'll hear, “eat, hon!” Baltimore seafood restaurants are best known for their crab cakes and other blue crab delicacies. Local crab houses and seafood grills serve up the official Maryland state crustacean in crab cakes, crab soufflés, crab imperial and even soft-shell crab sandwiches and offer other Chesapeake Bay cuisine, including rockfish, scallops and oysters.

What makes Baltimore restaurant dining so enticing is the variety it has to offer. Baltimore's mix of regional culture and ethnic cuisines is spread out among the many different neighborhoods in the area. Once you've enjoyed the native seafood you find in Fell's Point and the Inner Harbor, you might savor authentic Mexican cuisine in Federal Hill, make a stop in Mt Vernon to tingle your taste buds with an Indian or Afghan meal, treat yourself to a Greek feast in Canton or satisfy your stomach with some good old American dishes in Hampden. Little Italy is the place to go for homemade pasta and Italian pizzerias.

Play ball!

Are you a baseball fan? You're in luck. The Orioles play home games Sunday, May 22, vs the Washington Nationals (1:35 pm) and Tuesday, May 24, vs the Kansas City Royals (7:05 pm).

Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the beautiful baseball-only facility in downtown Baltimore, became the official home of the Orioles on April 6, 1992. The construction of the park was completed in essentially 33 months from the time razing previous structures on the 85-acre parcel began June 28, 1989, in the area known as Camden Yards.

The one-time railroad center is 12 minutes west by foot from the city's Inner Harbor and only two blocks from the birthplace of baseball's most legendary hero, George Herman “Babe” Ruth. Ruth's father operated Ruth's Cafe on the ground floor of the family residence located at Conway Street and Little Paca, now center field at Oriole Park.

The ballpark seats 48,876 (including standing room) and the project cost was approximately $110 million. It was designed by the Kansas City architectural firm of Helmuth, Obata and Kassabaum (HOK) with direction and input from the Orioles and the State of Maryland, which owns and operates the facility through its agency, the Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA).

Oriole Park is state-of-the-art yet unique, traditional and intimate in design. It blends with the urban context of downtown Baltimore while taking its image from baseball parks built in the early 20th century. Steel, rather than concrete trusses, an arched brick facade, a sun roof over the gentle slope of the upper deck, an asymmetrical playing field, and natural grass turf are just some of the features that tie it to those magnificent big-league ballparks built in the early 1900s. Ebbets Field (Brooklyn), Shibe Park (Philadelphia), Fenway Park (Boston), Crosley Field (Cincinnati), Forbes Fields (Pittsburgh), Wrigley Field (Chicago), and The Polo Grounds (New York) were among the ballparks that served as powerful influences in the design of Oriole Park.

Located beyond right field, the B&O Warehouse is 439 feet from home plate. Built between 1898-1905, the warehouse is the longest building on the East Coast at 1,016 feet (but only 51 feet wide).

The ballpark and warehouse are separated by a 60-foot wide promenade, an extension of Eutaw Street. Open daily, Eutaw Street is home to plaques dedicated to members of the Orioles Hall of Fame, and the Mid-Atlantic Baseball Scouts Hall of Fame, as well as monuments to the players whose numbers have been retired by the Orioles. Ballpark tours depart regularly from the Baseball Store on Eutaw Street.

Music hotbed

Like music? Get in on the musical hotbed that Rolling Stone Magazine called Best Scene in the country. Touted for its original and eclectic sounds and personalities, Baltimore's rock-‘n’-roll scene is thriving. Any night of the week, live music venues in Federal Hill, the Westside, Fell's Point, downtown and Hampden are beating with fresh, new talent.

If your tastes tend toward smoother sounds, Baltimore has the historical pedigree and modern scene to guarantee jazz lovers a unique musical journey. Legendary jazz artists Cab Calloway, Chick Webb and Billie Holiday all hail from these parts, and their impact can still be felt today. Explore their historic footprints through the Westside and Fell's Point and visit the wealth of musical and cultural heritage at The Eubie Blake National Museum and Cultural Center before finding yourself settled into a local club to check out some local talent. Keep your eye on the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Heritage in the Inner Harbor for special performance schedules as well.

Whether you're looking for the best seats to national touring productions of Broadway's biggest hits or intimate front-row passes to one of the city's distinctive local theaters, Baltimore has got your ticket. Theater options abound from the grand France Merrick Performing Arts Center at the Hippodrome Theater on the Westside to CENTERSTAGE in Mt Vernon, Vagabond Players and Fell's Point Corner Theaters in Fell's Point and Everyman Theater in Mt Vernon.

The Grammy Award-winning Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Marin Alsop, the first female conductor of a major American orchestra, rouses audiences with classical and pops masterpieces at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Mt Vernon. If it's drama, romance and intrigue that you crave, the Baltimore Opera Company's divas bring down the house just up the street at the Lyric Opera House.