Baltimore County Conference and Visitors Bureau, Towson Town Center, 825 Dulaney Valley Road, Towson, (410) 296-4886, www.visitbacomd.com.
Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks, (410) 887-3871, www.baltimorecountyonline.info.
Baltimore County Government, 400 Washington Ave., Towson, (410) 887-0000, www.co.ba.md.us.
Maryland Office of Tourism Development, (800) 634-7386, www.mdisfun.org.
Ballestone Manor House, 1935 Back River Neck Road, Essex, (410) 887-0218. This historic home was originally owned by William Ball, the great-grandfather of none other than Mr. George Washington himself. Come see if you can find any cherry trees on site.
Basignani Winery, 15722 Falls Road, Sparks, (410) 472-0703, www.basignani.com. Located in Baltimore County's famous horse country, this winery is a family affair. Basignani himself may serve up your wine. So drink up, enjoy the view, and take a relaxing break from the busy city scene.
Fire Museum of Maryland, 1301 York Road, Lutherville, (410) 321-7500, www.firemuseummd.org. The museum is commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Great Baltimore Fire this year. Besides looking at the many historic exhibits related to fire fighting, you can sit in the driver's seat of a 1939 Mack pumping fire engine.
Hampton National Historic Site, 535 Hampton Lane, Towson, (410) 823-1309, www.nps.gov-/hamp, hourly mansion tours $5, grounds free. This vast Georgian mansion and estate shows off life circa 1700--from those who lived in the house to those who merely worked there.
Historical Society of Baltimore County, 9811 Van Buren Lane, Cockeysville, (410) 666-1878, www.baltocohistsoc.org. Check out what life will be like after the Social Security fund runs dry. The Historical Society is housed in what was the third and last county almshouse, a place where poor folks were sent when they had no where else to go (when they weren't criminally bent or certifiable, that is).
Marshy Point Nature Center, 7130 Marshy Point Road, (410) 887-2817. One of the county's newest nature centers. Explore coastal forests, catch up on your bird watching, and get back to nature.
Oregon Ridge Nature Center and Park, 13401 Beaver Dam Road, Hunt Valley, (410) 887-1815, www.oregonridge.org. This large park was a mining site in the 1800s. Now it's full of playgrounds, swimming holes, a nature center, trails, and all that kind of outdoorsy hullabaloo. Not for your average couch potato.
Boumi Shriners' Circus, June 1, Maryland State Fairgrounds, 2200 York Road, Timonium, (410) 391-6099, www.marylandstatefair.com. It's always a fun time when the carnie comes to town. Midway rides, games, food, and all that circus hocus pocus.
Catonsville Strawberry Festival, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. June 5, Catonsville Presbyterian Church, 1400 Frederick Road, Catonsville, (410) 788-9172. Strawberry Shortcake. Word.
Catonsville Book Festival, July 5, 28 Bloomsbury Ave., Catonsville, (410) 744-4844, www.rotarycatonsvillesunrise.org. Local authors come out to sign their books and eagerly hope you'll take one home. Buy one (or two or three) and get your read on. We all know summer replacement TV series suck anyhow.
Dundalk Outdoor Art Show, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. June 6, Veterans Park, Dundalk Avenue at Center Place, Dundalk Village Town Center, (410) 284-2331, free. With local and regional artists hoping to sell you a piece or two plus live music, tasty foodstuffs, a children's activity area, and a classic car show.
Maryland State Fair, Aug. 27, Maryland State Fairgrounds, 2200 York Road, Timonium, (410) 252-0200, www.marylandstatefair.com. The state fair comes just once a year. Come out and look at all the pigs, chicks, cows, and assorted farm animals. Here an oink, there an oink, everywhere an oink, oink. You get the picture.
Towson at Night Concerts, Towson Courthouse Plaza, 400 Washington Ave., Towson, (410) 825-1144, www.towsonbusinessassoc.org. Free music is offered all summer long. Just the thing to do when you're sitting around outside of the courthouse. Hey, we're not asking you why you're there.
Wine and Herb Festival, 1-5 p.m., May 29, Boordy Vineyards, 12820 Long Green Pike, Hydes, (410) 592-5015, www.boordy.com, $10, ages 12 and under $5. Go to this wine fest just to say you saw a band called the Crawdaddies. Wine and cheese tasting, vineyard wagon rides, "living" history exhibits, dancing, potted herbs, and general merriment.
World Boardgame Championships, 9 a.m.-midnight Aug. 3, Marriott Hunt Valley Inn, 245 Shawan Road, Hunt Valley, (410) 893-0380, www.boardgamers.org. Around "100 tournaments of international board game competition." Go on, root for your nerds of choice.
World Guitar Congress, June 2-9, various locations on Towson University, 8000 York Road, Towson, (410) 783-8000, www.towson.edu/worldmusiccongressess, $10-$40 for individual events, full-time registration is $385 which includes admission to all events. Better than a night at the Ottobar: Musicians, composers,and educators from around the world present concerts, master classes, clinics, exhibits, symposiums, and lecture-demonstrations. Some concerts take place at Mount Vernon's Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.
SPORTS AND RECREATION
Baltimore County Skate Parks, Cockeysville and Dundalk, (410) 887-7734, (410) 887-3478. Skater kids need somewhere to pretend they're Tony Hawk. If you (or your kid) think Avril Lavigne really is the punkified, anti-Britney, this is your kinda digs.
GBMC Father's Day 5K, 8 a.m. June 20, Sheraton Baltimore North, 903 Dulaney Valley Road, Towson, (410) 561-3570, www.charmcityrun.com, $20, registration required by June 13. Tie on the ol' running shoes and benefit the GBMC neonatal unit. Participants get a post-run breakfast, a T-shirt, and the good feeling in the gut of raising money to help sick babies. Oh, and also top runners are eligible for monetary prizes.
Gunpowder Falls Golf Course, 11101 Raphel Road, Kingsville, (410) 592-9165, www.baltimoregolfing.com. A "mid-length" style course suited for players of any level. Come break in one of the newest golf courses in the county.
Loch Raven Fishing Center, Loch Raven Reservoir, 10 minutes from the Baltimore Beltway on Dulaney Valley Road, (410) 887-7692. Besides fishing, other good stuff is taking place on the lake: canoe, boat, and motor rentals; bait and fishing license sales; and concessions.
Mountain Club of Maryland, 7923 Gallop-ing Circle, Baltimore, (410) 377-6266, www.mcomd.org. This non-profit is dedicated to showing you the best hiking trails around town and promoting conservation efforts. Exercise and understand nature at the same time.
Rocky Point Beach and Park, Rocky Point Road, Essex, (410) 887-3873, www.co.ba.md.us/-Agencies/recreation/countyparks/rockypoint/index.html. This 375-acre park, which offers swimming, fishing, boating, picnicking, and assorted beach-type activities, is located at the mouth of the Back and Middle rivers. It's also considerably closer than the O.C.--Ocean City that is.
The Artists' Corner, 7524 Belair Road, (410) 665-4633, www.artistscornerstainedglass.com. Everything you'd need to create your own stained glass art. Classes, supplies, and third generation family help is at your fingertips.
The Avenue at White Marsh, 8125 Honeygo Blvd., White Marsh. Just your average shopping mall, but it's all in one place. Just about every major chain store available in the United States, plus Ikea across the way for the Swedish touch. The Avenue strip of shops are nice to walk along outside, and White Marsh Mall is across the street if you prefer the air-conditioned shopping experience.
The Nut Farm, Green Spring Station, 2360 W Joppa Road, (410) 821-7464, www.baltimorenutsandcustomgiftbaskets.com. If you like your nuts a little on the fancy side, the nut farm is the place to go. Online shopping is also available.
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201