It's the REAL Bawl-mer, Hon! Annual Hampden Christmas Parade & Rocket to Venus

Hey kids!!  It's Christmas Kitsch Season in one of Baltimore's most authentic and quirky neighborhoods!  Second Half Rally will BE THERE (and NOT be square)...

Hamden Neighborhood - The Real Baltimore

If you're attracted to endless streets of row houses (both drab and colorful), pink flamingoes, kitschy culture, fake stone siding, corner bars, offbeat yard art, John Waters stuff, and cool shops and restaurants, then this event is for YOU!  Everything is local in Hampden, so you won't see the same old chain stores and mass tract homes that have taken over elsewhere.

You never know just what you'll see around the next corner in Hampden, but it's always interesting.  Where else can you see outdoor Christmas trees made of hubcaps or find a store that specializes in painted crab shell ornaments and jewelry?  Or a combo of Mother Mary and Star Wars figures set prominently on a car dashboard?

The Hampden neighborhood is ground zero for all things Bawl-mer, including calling people "Hon" and hanging out in John Waters' world where he gets his inspiration and fan mail.  The 1998 John Waters movie "Pecker" was filmed here.  To get a taste of what Hampden has to offer, check out the local merchants association website for photos, history, and John Waters information:

The 40th Annual Hampden Christmas Parade

We'll meet at the Holy Frijoles Mexican restaurant at noon to have a bite and a beverage before the parade arrives.  It may be crowded, so be prepared to improvise.  No problem for our intrepid fun folks.  Look for us there before 1:00 pm when the parade starts.  We'll be there for a while since it takes time for them to reach our viewing position on 36th Street.

Our group will start a festive afternoon by watching the Mayor's 40th Annual Christmas Parade on 36th Street, which is the main avenue of Hampden.

Attendance along the 2.5 mile route reached 25,000 people last year to view Santa Claus and about 160 marching units. The parade includes the Baltimore Marching Ravens, Harley Davidson motorcycles, marching bands, Santa's dancing elf girls, the Boumi Temple performers, floats, and lots of fun!

You can get a great preview by watching the 2011 Hampden Christmas Parade in this entertaining video on YouTube:

During the afternoon, we'll also walk around the streets of Hamden to soak up the local vibe while grabbing food and drinks.

If we need more walking room, the campus of Johns Hopkins University and Druid Hill Park are a short distance away.  So whatever course we take, it will definitely be a good outdoor walking and sight-seeing adventure.

Later at the Rocket to Venus Restaurant

After the parade and exploring Hamden neighborhood, we can visit an iconic restaurant named "Rocket to Venus" a few blocks away.  It's a very cool place that actually has a rocket attached to the front of the buiding.  Three guys in 1928 apparently planned to launch a rocket to Venus from Hampden, and you can read about it in the history link on the restaurant's website.  True or not, it's a good story for a bar/restaurant in Hampden.

More importantly for us, Rocket to Venus is open on Sunday afternoon with its "Eye Opener" breakfast menu, in addition to a well-regarded regular menu.  They have good drinks and the all-important Brewers Art Resurrection Ale that's a legend in knowledgeable Baltimore circles for its strength and curative powers.

We were at Rocket to Venus last year for drinks at the bar, and it was a very good time.  The food looked good too, although we didn't eat there.  People on Yelp seem to love the food, but some wonder about the service.  Hey, it's a bar.  It was okay when we were there last year...

So we shall plan to invade Rocket to Venus and enjoy its delights later in the afternoon.  It's a popular neighborhood spot with a great view of the Miracle on 34th Street Christmas lights when it gets dark.

Here is the Rocket to Venus website:

And here are the customer reviews and details on Yelp:

Meetup Details

Hamden is easy to get to from I-83 and Falls Rd.  It's the ultimate Baltimore row house neighborhood, so look for street parking where you can find it.  We found good parking last year at the small Rotunda Shopping Mall at 711 W. 40th Street, which is just a few blocks away from the meetup point on 36th Street at Holy Frijoles.  Everything is within a few blocks of 36th Street, and walking around is part of the fun.

The parade will go rain or shine, and so will we.  Call Jake at[masked] with any questions or if you need to find us.  We may be wandering around Hampden after our initial meetup at Holy Frijoles when the parade passes.

BTW, Holy Frijoles is a good Mexican joint if you're hungry and can get a seat inside.  Hampden will probably be crowded with early Christmas Parade revelers.  So let's join in the festivities with the locals...

I hope to see you there!

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  • mary c.

    Great fun in funky Balmer! Thanks Jake and everyone who made it out.

    December 6, 2012

  • Jake has made another stupid and unnecessary change to the format. Reviews for a specific meetup event will now appear here in the comments section instead of by the member photos where people normally look. So if you want to see what people say about an event, you need to scroll down to the comments AFTER and event has happened. is based in NYC, so I'm sure it makes sense to them even if we don't like their changes...

    December 5, 2012

  • Gloria

    BEST PARADE EVER! What they lacked in bagpipes, they made up for with drums, funk and boogie! THANKS JAKE for another excellent Bal'mer adventure.

    December 2, 2012

  • Jake

    This was a great day that was even better than expected. The weather was nice to watch a parade and the Hampden Christmas Parade was much more than we expected. Three hours of interesting entertainment and a nice friendly crowd of watchers. We started well at Holy Frijoles and did well all afternoon getting drinks from local places. We ended at Rocket to Venus with great food and a stroll down 34th Street to see the Christmas lights. Thanks to everyone for sharing a super day in the real Baltimore neighborhood of Hampden!

    December 2, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    thought thisv was yesterday .... hmmm

    December 2, 2012

  • E.

    I'll be heading up from downtown DC. Would love to catch a ride with someone!

    November 27, 2012

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