Baltimore doesn't make a lot of top 10 lists, overshadowed as it is by the powerhouses of the Northeast Corridor. But once you experience the easy pace, historic neighborhoods and waterfront establishments, you'll get Baltimore's nickname: Charm City.
For older singles, the inclusiveness is evident in the corner pubs, the walkable streets of Federal Hill, Charles Village and Fells Point, and the lively Cross Street Market. Baltimore is a city of natives, a place with a sense of community that spans generations.
Most of the Baltimore metro area (population 2.7 million) is located on the west shore of Chesapeake Bay and stretches north to the Pennsylvania state line, embracing hundreds of distinct neighborhoods. Twenty-five miles south is the picturesque town of Annapolis, the capital of Maryland and one of the sailing capitals of the East Coast.
The region has a profusion of world-class parks, including 19th-century gems in the Mount Vernon Place neighborhood that are fiercely guarded by a local nonprofit. Fresh, locally grown food is easy to find at dozens of public markets. Some, including the Cross Street and Lexington markets, are open year-round.
Unemployment in Baltimore City was 10 percent in April 2012, above the national average. But a high share of the population has a college degree, and there are nearly two dozen degree-granting institutions in the metro area, including such highly ranked colleges as Johns Hopkins University (enrollment 19,000) and two campuses of the University of Maryland. Johns Hopkins and Towson University both operate Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes.
Metro Baltimore features top-quality cultural institutions, including the world-famous Peabody Institute and the Walters Art Museum. This is heaven for boaters, with marinas dotting the hundreds of miles of coastline along Chesapeake Bay and the Patapsco River.
Baltimore is a major center for medical talent, with a high concentration of physicians and specialists; the teaching hospital at Johns Hopkins is one of the best in the country.
Baltimore's major downside is the entrenched poverty portrayed so well in the HBO series "The Wire." Gangs give the metro area a very high rate of violent crime, and poverty contributes to a high rate of mortality from cancer and heart disease. Property crime rates are much lower — near the national average.
Also, traffic congestion is bad, as are ozone levels in the air, according to the American Lung Association. But relief often awaits along the breezy waterfront, which is a relaxing place to sit anytime, just to see who strolls by.