Forest Park – Baltimore, MD

Tucked into a corner of northwest Baltimore, the tiny neighborhood of Forest Park differentiates itself as a quiet residential neighborhood in the midst of the vibrant energy of the city. Bordering the northwestern edge of Hanlon Park, Forest Park lies north of Garwyn Oaks and south of Ashburton, about 20 minutes from downtown Baltimore by car. In addition to retaining a laid-back pace of living, Forest Park attracts residents with its mature trees, older homes and easy access to Baltimore's amenities.

Restaurants & Nightlife

Though developers designated nearly all of Forest Park’s land for residential use, enough take-out restaurants exist in the surrounding area for foodies to get their fix. Many of these lie along Liberty Heights Avenue to the east and west of Forest Park proper. Not surprisingly given the neighborhood’s character, nightlife options remain slim. Night owls should head toward the city center to find bars, lounges and clubs. Don’t let the outward appearance of Caribbean Heat fool you. This carryout Jamaican restaurant on Liberty Heights Avenue near Gwynn Oak Avenue serves up traditional fare from the islands of the Caribbean Sea. Regulars return again and again for the jerk chicken, which some say tastes better than any competitor, including in Jamaica. For something off the not normally eaten in the United States but entirely in line with the rest of the globe, try the world’s most consumed meat: succulent goat. When take-out won't cut it, drive over to Birroteca, just east of Druid Hill Park on Clipper Road. A haven for lovers of craft beer and artisan pizza, Birroteca serves up both in a lively dining room accented by long communal tables and industrial light fixtures. Order the Duck Duck Goose, the house specialty pizza topped with duck egg and sweet and succulent duck confit. After dinner, gather a group of friends and head south to ChileSwing on Wetheredsville Road in West Forest Park. True to its name, ChileSwing features swing dancing events and classes for all skill levels. The house specialty, the Lindy Hop, originated in the 1930s and 40s in Harlem, New York. They offer private lessons as well, specifically designed for the shy dancers in your life.

History & Culture

Colonists established Baltimore in 1729 and named it after Lord Baltimore, the Englishman who first governed the Province of Maryland in the 17th century. The bulk of the city remained rural farmland for centuries after, but economic prosperity struck during the Revolutionary War, when iron ore, flour milling and trade of other resources gained importance. Baltimore faced increasing economic competition from New York and Philadelphia through the end of the Civil War, when a construction boom helped revitalize the economy. Through the 1900s, the area now comprising Forest Park attracted large numbers of Jewish settlers. Though it succumbed to urban decay in the latter decades of the last century, the neighborhood soon saw a sharply increased level of renewal and development opportunity. Forest Park retains easy access to some of Baltimore’s top cultural institutions, including the Howard Peters Rawlings Conservatory and Botanic Gardens in nearby Druid Hill Park.

Transportation

Forest Park lies far enough outside the city center to make travel easy to both downtown and outlying areas, whereas travel within the neighborhood can be accomplished on foot. The Baltimore city bus, operated by the Maryland Transit Administration, represents the most extensive public transportation option, and Route 52 runs along Liberty Heights Avenue at the northern edge of the neighborhood. Route 15 provides direct service to and from the city center, with buses leaving every 15 minutes during peak times and running until 1 a.m. Bicycling also proves popular, and the relative calm of the neighborhood means fewer cars to dodge. Many Forest Park residents own or lease cars, and the journey to downtown can take as little as 15 minutes with no traffic. In the other direction, Liberty Heights Avenue runs west to the Baltimore Beltway, which provides access to the greater metropolitan area. Drivers typically have no trouble finding parking on city streets. Car services for hire take riders nearly anywhere for a price, and Uber remains a quick and easy option for those with a smartphone.

Cost

The cost of living in Forest Park runs slightly below the national average and slightly above the Baltimore average. Renters face an average monthly bill of just under $970 for a one bedroom apartment. Due to the neighborhood’s location, urban but outside the core of the city, the cost of essential goods and services hovers slightly above the national average. Expect to fork over around $3 for a beer in the area and $1.60 for a one-way city bus ticket. Gas prices sit about 7 percent above the national average.

Shopping

Though not a shopping destination, Forest Park lies between numerous retail stores in all directions, just a short bus or car ride away. One notable cluster of stores exists to the southeast at Mondawmin Mall, where independent stores, such as Shoe City, compete with larger chains, such as Target and Marshalls. As a quirky, artistic outlier in the area, the Calico Cat on Gwynn Oak Avenue features one-of-a-kind art pieces crafted by artisans from around the world. Customers can easily get lost here, where the shelves hold vibrant pottery pieces and paper mache figures made using centuries-old techniques. The store hosts regular events as well, such as demonstrations on traditional Ukrainian egg decoration. Over at the Mondawmin Mall on Liberty Heights Avenue, Downtown Locker Room features rows of footwear in a sleek, warehouse-like space. From sneakers to dress shoes, Downtown Locker Room has you covered, with plenty of limited edition styles as well. What's more, the store also sells clothing, so you can buy a head-to-toe look and walk out sporting a new style. When it comes time to purchase groceries and other essentials, Forest Park provides several basic options, including ALDI and ShopRite, both within walking distance of the neighborhood's center. For a farm-fresh experience, head east to the Druid Hill Farmers Market, where area producers sell produce, baked goods and prepared foods on Wednesdays between June and September.

Parks

Outdoor life in Forest Park centers on Hanlon Park at the southeast border of the neighborhood. With a 25-acre reservoir called Lake Ashburton, the park provides a peaceful retreat for area residents, free of charge. As a more expansive green space a bit farther east, Druid Hill Park attracts visitors from around the city, including dog owners. The park features rolling hills and shaded areas, and maintains jogging trails, ball courts, athletic fields, picnic areas and a disc golf course. Two playgrounds keep younger children entertained. Every summer, Druid Hill Park hosts the Caribbean Carnival Festival, a three-day event celebrating island culture with traditional food, drink and dance.
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