There is no shortage of iconic and storied dining in Washington, D.C. – which Bon Appétite magazine called “The Restaurant City of the Year” – from Charlie Palmer’s Steakhouse in the shadow of the Capital Dome, or the classic French cuisine of The Hotel George.

When flying to D.C., however, you’ll save yourself a lot of headache and money coming into Baltimore’s BWI airport. Not only does this insider tip save time and aggravation, it opens you to a bustling city that you likely haven’t given much thought.

Teaming with unique neighborhoods, historic Mount Vernon offers museums, shops, art galleries and restaurants in buildings that once housed the city’s 19th century elite. Over in Fell’s Point – named for the English shipbuilder who produced the famous “Baltimore Schooner”, you’ll also find great 19th century architecture, if less elite. These lively buildings once catered to the “three B’s”: Boarding Houses, Bars and Brothels. If nightlife among the spirited living is too much, Fell’s Point is famous for its ghost and “wicked history” tours. The National Aquarium, Maryland Science Center, and historic ships can all be found near downtown at Inner Harbor. It’s a history worth exploring.

A city’s attractions are great, but to really explore the its character, you’ve got to sit down and eat – and Baltimore’s tables straddle the flavor of the South with the charm of New England coast. Chap’s Pit Beef barbeque is nearly a landmark. Then again, so is local culinary fixture Dylan Salmon. Located in the Hampden neighborhood, at Chef Salmon’s Dylan’s Oyster Cellar, the dishes center on nostalgic Baltimore and East Shore favorites that feature oysters, clams, baked beans and coddies – a potato cake flavored with cod.

If farm to table is your style, you could do worse than duck into the charming Woodberry Kitchen, under the direction of James Beard award-winning chef Spike Gjerde. Rustic dishes are served on a green patio – or a in the exposed brick interior flooded with light from warehouse windows. If craft cocktail, “Radical Localvorism” of Woodberry’s bartenders will set up.

If Kentucky is the birthplace of Bourbon, Maryland is the home of America’s other native spirit – Rye Whiskey. As the Triple Crown moves from Churchill Downs to the Preakness in Baltimore, the locals know to put down the Mint Julep and tip back a Black-Eyed Susan.

Baltimore is a sailing town in horse country, offering clam bakes one day and barbeque the next, wicked histories and scientific innovation. And it’s short train ride into D.C.