This summer’s top 10 Charm City events

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Carol Sorgen

Once you get past the heat and humidity, there’s lots to like about summertime in Baltimore. Here are some of our favorites:

1. The Preakness. This year’s 136th running of the Preakness — the second jewel in horse racing’s Triple Crown — will be held Saturday, May 21, at Pimlico Race Course.

For a behind-the-scenes look during the days before the race, experience sunrise over Old Hilltop. This 20-minute tour is offered between 6 and 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of Preakness Week.

After enjoying sunrise on the Grandstand Apron, you will get an insider’s perspective on racing during an escorted tour of the Preakness Stakes Barn. Reservations are not taken; tours are on a first-come, first-served basis.

For more information, e-mail Diana Harbaugh at dharbaugh@marylandracing.com. For more information on the Preakness, visit www.preakness.com.

2. Showcase of Nations Ethnic Festivals. One of Charm City’s, well, charms, is its cultural diversity, honored every year in its ethnic festivals which run from June 9 through Oct. 16. From the St. Nicholas Greek Folk Festival to the Russian Festival — and many more in between — these celebrations of ethnic music, crafts and cuisine are a summer highlight. For a complete list of upcoming festivals, visit www.promotionandarts.com.

3. Farmers’ markets. Buy local and buy fresh at Baltimore’s farmers’ markets. One of the oldest, and most popular, is the Baltimore Farmers’ Market, held every Sunday under the Jones Falls Expressway at Holliday and Saratoga Streets from 7 a.m. until noon through Dec. 18. For a complete list of Maryland farmers’ markets, visit www.mda.state.md.us and click on “farmers’ market directory.”

4. HonFest. This local tradition is quintessentially Baltimore. The “Bawlmer” term of endearment, Hon, short for Honey, embodies the warmth and affection traditionally shown neighbors and visitors alike by working women of Baltimore. HonFest is an annual celebration in honor of these women.

Since 1994, HonFest has grown from a tiny pageant behind Café Hon to a nationally recognized festival that covers four city blocks on Hampden’s very own 36th Street (“The Avenue”). This year’s homage to “all things hon” takes place on Saturday and Sunday, June 11 and 12. For more information, visit www.honfest.net.

5. Little Italy Open Air Film Festival. Baltimore has a number of film festivals, but this one in Little Italy not only has great films, but the picturesque charm of this traditional neighborhood — and lots of great food nearby!

This year’s series starts on Friday, July 1 and continues every week through July and Aug., with live music at 7 p.m., and the film of the week — projected onto a wall near the corner of Stiles and High Streets — at 9 p.m.

As is tradition, the series ends on Aug. 27 with the showing of Cinema Paradiso. For more details, visit www.littleitalymd.com.

6. The BSO Celebrates Independence Day. Every year, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra puts on a show with its performance of the “1812 Overture” and Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes,” under the skies at Oregon Ridge. Of course, there will be fireworks as well.

This year’s concerts will be held on Saturday and Sunday, July 2 and 3 at 8 p.m. Come early and bring a picnic. For more information, visit www.bsomusic.org.

7. Artscape. This year marks the 30th celebration of the largest free arts festival in the U.S. Artscape features more than 150 fine artists, fashion designers and craftspeople; visual art exhibits on and off-site, including exhibitions, outdoor sculpture, art cars, photography and the Janet & Walter Sondheim Prize; and live concerts by name performers on outdoor stages.

There’s also a full schedule of performing arts including dance, opera, theater, film, experimental music and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra; family events such as hands-on projects, demonstrations, competitions, children’s entertainers and street theater; and a delicious, international menu of food and beverages that is available throughout the festival site.

This year’s festival will be held Friday to Sunday, July 15 through 17. For details, visit www.artscape.org.

8. Baltimore Summer Antiques Show. To be held at the Convention Center from Thursday to Sunday, Aug. 25 through 28, this annual event is the largest indoor antiques show in the country. More than 500 exhibitors from across the U.S. and four continents will be on hand. For details, visit www.baltimoresummerantiques.com.

9. Maryland State Fair. Funnel cake anyone? That’s just one of the treats at this annual farewell-to-summer celebration held every year at the Timonium State Fairgrounds. This year’s fair will take place from Thursday, Aug. 25, through Monday, Sept. 5. As always, there will be rides, games, refreshments, animal exhibits, concerts and a jousting tournament. For a complete schedule, visit www.marylandstatefair.com.

10. Baltimore Grand Prix. OK, it’s not one of our favorites yet since this is the first year it’s being held, but we’re pretty sure the Baltimore Grand Prix will take its rightful place in Baltimore’s must-see summer line-up.

Scheduled for Friday and Sunday, Sept. 2 and 4, in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, this event — part of the IndyCar racing series — will feature a combination of world-class racing and festivities, highlighted by the American Le Mans Series and IZOD IndyCar Series. For more information and to order tickets, visit www.baltimoregrandprix.com