Baltimore Grand Prix Fan Guide

By Lisa Kenny (@lmkenny), co-editor/bartender of the DrunkChicane.com

Located within Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, this 2 mile street course provides a great atmosphere for race weekend. The scenic views of the water and city contrast nicely with the sights and sounds of cars speeding down the streets and provided fans with a memorable getaway. The inaugural event saw record attendance at recent IndyCar events and trust me, it was packed moving around everywhere. Some have called it the “Long Beach of the East Coast” and that seems like a fitting description. All locations around the track, whether general admission or grandstands, saw standing room only during the race and one thing that was very noticeable was the amount of potential new fans the series could gain from this market – and that is great news! So if you were one of the few fans that missed out on this great event, make sure you add this to your list as a MUST-SEE in the future.

DIRECTIONS TO THE TRACK


If you are coming into the area, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to get around the surface streets near the track by vehicle as there is a lot of traffic in the city. Flying into Baltimore (BWI), the best option is to take a cab or shuttle (if available) to your hotel. Parking is expensive in the city and if you are planning on staying at one of the properties located within the track, you will not be able to leave the parking garage all weekend with your vehicle. From BWI to the track, the cost of a cab was about $45 (minus tip). When departing, there is a flat fee of $30 to BWI from Downtown. Without traffic, it is about a 20-25 minute ride to the airport.

For those driving in for the race, be sure to look around beforehand for parking options downtown. It may be cheaper to park further away versus near the track and either walk or take a cab in for the festivities.

From BWI to W. Pratt Street (from Google Maps)

  • Take I-195W
  • Exit 2A to Merge onto MD-295N/Baltimore Washington Parkway toward I-695N/Baltimore
  • Turn Right onto W Camden Street
  • Turn Left onto S Eutaw Street

**This will place you in the vicinity – but as with any street course, be prepared for a lot of detours and traffic getting close to the track.

There is also Public Transit (Light Rail) available. Click here for more information. http://www.mdot.maryland.gov/

TRACK INFO


Where should I sit?
Probably the most important question while planning your trip to a race is where to sit. If you opt to purchase general admission tickets, there is some good standing room in front of the Hilton Baltimore (Turn 12); otherwise, walk around and find the best option for you. Note, you will have limited access for standing points along the front straight closer to the start/finish line as it is all grandstand seating.

For reserved seating, Turn 3 (Grandstand 10) was optimal viewing of cars coming into the hairpin and existing back down Light Street. There is also a large monitor dead in front of you so you will not miss any of the action happening elsewhere. Be sure you are in GS 10 however, as GS 8 & 9 do not provide good views of the monitor. Turn 1 also provided some passing opportunities and has a grandstand available. If they make changes to the track and remove the chicane, this could prove to be a great spot to sit.

Fan Tip: For Friday, ticket holders were able to sit in any of the grandstands. Having sat on the front straight near the chicane, the view is not optimal and you will only be able to see the cars as they pass in front of you for the most part. There are also limited monitors here – on either end of the grandstands on Pratt Street (so be sure you are sitting on one of the ends).

Pedestrian Access
This was a bit of a challenge in 2011 and the city has an opportunity to make changes to the access points into the track. There are two entrances on Pratt Street, as well as along the Inner Harbor. Once you are inside the track, navigating your way around can be a little tricky. For instance, if you are sitting in the hairpin and leaving the paddock, you are diverted through a shopping mall and have to leave the track to re-enter by the grandstands. This is not an optimal experience and one we hope they resolve for next year’s race. And there are a lot of people! So have some patience as you navigate through the crowds (or try to).

Paddock
Love, love, love the paddock at Baltimore. It is located within the convention center so you have access to clean bathrooms (no port-a-potties), air conditioning and perhaps most importantly, a break from the sun beating down on you! Indy Lights and IndyCar are located in two sections (ALMS and Star Mazda paddocks were located across the street from the IndyCar Fan Village). Fan Tip: If you want to have a good vantage point for photos of teams and drivers, mill around by the exit to pit road from the convention center (located by Race Control).

Permissible Items
Similar to most street course events. We encourage you to check the race’s website for additional information.

LODGING

There are several hotels located within the track so if your budget allows for it, try to get into one of these properties. Having stayed at the Hilton Baltimore (cost roughly $800 for 4 nights), there is a nice lobby bar and also provided free breakfast buffet every day until 11 AM in the Diamond Tavern. You can also walk from the hotel to the convention center (paddock) without having to go outside.

Additional hotels are available within walking distance outside of the track. Many folks were staying at the Radisson and Sheraton City Center. Fan Tip: Be aware of your surroundings if you are staying outside of the track and walking in. While these properties are only a few blocks away, it does cut through a rather dodgy section of town. Some routes in are better than others – but avoid the area by the public transportation depot and the red light district.

ENTERTAINMENT


Organizers of the event did a fantastic job of entertaining folks inside the track, with concerts all weekend long in the Party Zone. Outside the track there is a TON of options right within walking distance.

Dining
Trust me, you will not go hungry at this location – there are restaurants galore all within walking distance from the track (and even some right inside it). Within the Inner Harbor, you can easily walk to The Power Plant which houses numerous restaurants including Dick’s Last Resort (fun if you have a large group, if you have never been to one check it out) and Hard Rock Baltimore, while along the water you have several seafood restaurants, a Hooter’s and more. Be sure to also check out the Pratt Street Ale House located along the front straight for reasonably priced pub food. Outside the track in T12, there is a Frank & Nic’s which was very yummy; however, they change their menu starting on Friday so be sure to hit it up on Thursday night.

A short cab ride away you can hit S. President Street (near the Landmark Harbor East Theatre) and enjoy some fine dining, as well as a good Irish pub called the James Joyce Irish Pub. From here you are close to Little Italy if it is Italian food you are craving.

There are several steakhouses located within the track – Sullivan’s and Morton’s (pricey, but so worth it if you can swing it). There is also a Kona Grill where we are sure you can run into Graham Rahal all weekend long.

Other Things to Do
Aside from race activities!? Not sure why you would want to do that but have no fear, there are several attractions right within the Inner Harbor including the National Aquarium at Baltimore which features an indoor rainforest (you can see this from outside the glass building) and the Maritime Museum. You can also stroll along the waterside and if so inclined, there are water activities (e.g., boat rides). For those interested in English Literature, Baltimore was home to Edgar Allen Poe at the time of this death and there are several locations you can visit including his home in the city and burial site (though from what we heard this too is located in a dodgy area so again, watch your back if you are walking).

As with traveling to any location, be sure to do some research before you arrive in Baltimore and find the activities that are perfect for you…that is if you are not too tired from the Festival of Speed that is the Baltimore Grand Prix.

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