By George Hobica of Airfarewatchdog
This sleeper airport just a short ride out of downtown Baltimore via light rail – and a train ride away from the rest of the Eastern Seaboard – doesn't get a whole lot of credit for being very good its job. To boot, inbound fares can often be a great deal, compared to many other Northeastern airports, making it a fine alternative for those who've got more time than money.
If you're Baltimore-bound, the Maryland Transit Administration's light rail service leaves from the lower level of the terminal building, adjacent to Concourse E. The fare is $1.60 each way and the trip to the Inner Harbor area takes about 20 minutes. Learn more at www.mtamaryland.com. For Amtrak service to Washington and beyond, free shuttles serve the nearby rail station 24 hours a day. Fares run from about $11 on the regional trains when you buy in advance, much more than that on the Acela Express – either way, the trip takes between 25-35 minutes, so stick with the regional trains. Get schedules and buy tickets at www.amtrak.com. Also at he rail station, you can catch one of the MARC trains, offering service to Baltimore, Washington and many Maryland destinations. Trains run Monday-Friday only and the trip to Washington Union Station takes roughly 40-45 minutes. The fare is just $6. Learn more at www.mtamaryland.com.
If you're headed somewhere in the D.C. area besides the center of town, consider the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's express bus service to the Greenbelt stop on the Green Line of the Metro rail system. Service is offered every 40 minutes from the lower level of the terminals. More at www.wmata.com.
Service is offered by BWI Airport Taxi; head for the stands outside baggage claim. Fares are metered. Flag fall is $2.90, then 25 cents for each 1/10 mile ($2.50 per additional mile, for those keeping score at home). Waiting time amounts to 40 cents per minute and there's an upcharge of 25 cents for each suitcase after two and a $1.00 fee for oversized bags. Passengers are responsible for any tolls. To get to Baltimore's Inner Harbor, you'll pay about $35. For the center of Washington, D.C., expect to pay around $90. (Maybe don't take a cab to Washington, yikes.)
SuperShuttle is a popular option at BWI, with shared-ride service to downtown hotels for a reasonable price ($14 to the Inner Harbor hotels, for example). Headed further out? Find the fare to your location and book rides at www.supershuttle.com. Consider the Bayrunner Shuttle, a scheduled service from BWI to popular destinations on Maryland's Eastern Shore, including Easton (about 1 hr) and Ocean City (3 hr, 20 min.). The fare to Easton is $51 for one person, $104 to Ocean City. There are discounts for multiple people in your party. More information at
Need wheels? Hop on the shuttle to BWI's centralized rental car facility where you'll find all agencies serving the airport. Rates tend to be moderate, at least when compared to other Northeast destinations. Note that when returning your car, there are a handful of ways to access the rental car facility – none of them include going anywhere close to the airport itself, a good ten minute ride away. (Speaking of, make sure to budget that transfer time into your schedule.)
This is Baltimore. You get crab cakes. Then again, because this is Baltimore, there's more than one place in the airport to eat crab cakes. You should start at Obrycki's, a legendary Baltimore name. The restaurant was an institution in the Fells Point area of the city for generations before it closed in 2011. At least it lives on at the airport – Concourse B, to be specific. Are these the world's greatest crab cakes, ever? Maybe not. But they are good. Eat them. Should you find yourself on the other side of the airport, say, Concourse D, you can hit up The Greene Turtle, another Maryland institution (one that's still thriving outside of the airport). They have a crab cake sandwich that you ought to try. In the mood for sushi? Hit up Gachi, centrally located between Concourses A & B – that's also where you'll find Mayorga Coffee, a local roaster that does a mean Cubano, should you need a pick-me-up.
Where to go drinking
Grab a pint at DuClaw, a local microbrewery with a location pre-security in the Main Terminal. Also out here, before you take your trip to Patdown Town: Sky Azure, a classy establishment with a good selection of cocktails and craft beers. If you prefer to wait to drink until after your government-ordered groping, make tracks for Vino Volo, the local outlet of a popular (for a very good reason) airport wine bar chain, located on Concourse A. They're known for their great by-the-glass lists and tasty small plates for those with the munchies. Also on Concourse A is Obrycki's A Bar,featuring some super-cool cocktails and nibbles that include a fine crab cocktail.
It's free and it is everywhere. Connections time out after 45 minutes and you have to watch a commercial before the service starts, but did we mention it's free? There's a faster service available as well, through Boingo, starting at $4.95 for an hour. Sign up in advance at www.boingo.com.
Best airport hotel
For proximity to the terminals, it's definitely the Four Points by Sheraton BWI Airport, located barely ½ mile from the ticket counters; there's a free, 24 hour shuttle to get you there. You can get a room for about $120, sometimes more. Truthfully, though, there is little besides location that sets this hotel apart from the scores of other properties that cluster along Nursery Road, just another few minutes away from the terminals, and free shuttles are available over there as well. In our experience, the best hotel at BWI is the cheapest; you'll often get great rates at the very-close Hampton Inn, which has a homey breakfast room, decent service and a nice, cozy feel. Rates start at $89 – a very good deal.
Get away from it all
Feel like taking a hike? BWI has its own recreational trail, a 12.5-mile loop that takes you all the way around airport property and through some fairly scenic woods and fields. (Plus, there's great takeoff and landing views.) Pro tip: Skip the getting-outof-the-airport away; just a short walk back from where they let you off, turn left and disappear into the woods for a spell. The trail also runs directly past the first light rail station (Linthicum) as you head out of the airport; the trail back to the terminals is just over 2.5 miles.
The long layover
Baltimore's Inner Harbor area is just 25 minutes away by light rail; trains serve the airport terminal directly – no long walks, no shuttle buses, no hassles. There's a ton to do within a short walk of all of the downtown stations, too – at Camden Yards, hop off and admire the home of the Orioles, as well as the Sports Legends Museum, just across from the station. At Lexington Market station, you're across the street from one of Baltimore's finest institutions; the market was founded nearly 225 years ago and is home to Faidley's Seafood, one of the city's most famous spots for crab cakes. Most people, however, will want to climb off the train at Pratt Street and walk down to the harbor, where the legendary National Aquarium and lots of visitor-friendly shopping and dining can be found.
Got more time? Keep walking past the harbor and through the historic Fells Point area, staying as close to the water as you can for maximum scenic-ness. At the bottom end of lively Broadway, Max's Taphouse is one of the city's best – and most popular – beer bars, with an incredible tap selection (and incredibly good prices). Along the way, stop in at the beautiful new Four Seasons Hotel, where popular Los Angeles transplant LAMILL Coffee operates a sleek but casual café directly on the harborfront. It's a great place to kill time in style, without spending a fortune. Need something stiffer? Next door is the very good Wit & Wisdom, a smart, modern take on the Mid-Atlantic country tavern. They have a great bar. Should you lose track of time – and this is entirely possible – have the hotel call you a cab.
For more about Baltimore-Washington, check out www.bwiairport.com. Learn more about travel to Baltimore at www.baltimore.org.
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