4th of July Fun Facts and More

by Stacy Tharp 2. July 2013

Happy 4th of July!

The 4th of July is all about having a day off work, BBQs and fireworks, right? Well, sure...but why do we do these things on the 4th? Of course you've learned the story of our fight for independence during the Revolutionary War, but how much do you really remember? If you are planning on spending your 4th of July kicking back with your family and friends, it makes sense to at least brush up on your knowledge about what you're actually celebrating, right?

Lucky for you, our friends at VAMortgage.com have put together a "History of Independence Day." You'll also find some of the best way to celebrate, a list of BBQ essentials, and fun facts about the 4th of July. Sound interesting? We think so too.

 

Get the 411 on the 4th

Top 10 Free Things to Do in Baltimore This Summer

by Stacy Tharp 24. June 2013

Baltimore Skyline

It's that time of year again – you know, the time of year when you’re free to go out and about without fearing frostbite or having to duck into a warm place to thaw out every hour or so. Maybe that’s a tad bit dramatic, but you can’t argue with the fact that right now, we have warmth and long daylight hours on our side!

With weather this nice it makes no sense to spend all your time cooped up indoors or to spend money on activities you could enjoy any time of the year. Summer is about being outside and enjoying the free things in life! From organized events to things you can do on your own, here is a list of 10 Baltimore favorites when it comes to free outdoor summer activities.

1) Hike or Bike at Gwynns Falls

Gwynns Falls Trail begins at the I-70 Park & Ride trailhead and follows the Gwynns Falls stream to the Middle Branch and the Inner Harbor of the Patapsco River. It contains 15 miles of a unique urban hiking and biking trail which provides access to a scenic and historic greenway stream valley in Baltimore City.

Also check out Druid Hill Park, Patterson Park, or for some more advanced hiking and rock climbing, Rocks State Park.

2) Visit Edgar Allen Poe’s Grave

Give yourself a spook and head over to Westminster Hall and Burying Ground. There you can visit Poe and his wife, Virginia Clemm. Look a little further and you will find some other prominent Maryland citizens including James Calhoun, Baltimore’s first mayor, and James McHenry, signer of the Declaration of Independence.

3) Listen to Live Music

There’s nothing like sitting in the warm open air listening to some good live tunes.

The First Thursdays Concerts in the Park series takes place on…any guesses? That’s right, the first Thursday of every month during the summer (July-September). The shows run from 5:30 to 9:00 p.m. under the Washington Monument in West Mt. Vernon Park. Food and drinks are available for purchase from local vendors, or you can bring your own food. These concerts are great for families and people of all ages.

Friday Night Live! is another great option. These free concerts take place every Friday beginning at 8:00 p.m. at Power Plant Live! You must be 21 or older to attend most of these concerts.

4) Watch an Outdoor Movie

Save the movie theaters for when it’s cold and you need to coop yourself up indoors. During the warm summer evenings, take advantage of these free outdoor movie events.

“Flicks from the Hill” takes place every Thursday from July 11th to August 22nd. The American Visionary Art Museum hosts these free movie screenings, which begin at 9:00 p.m. Bring a blanket and grab a spot on Federal Hill to enjoy the screening. Not only is the movie free, the American Visionary Art Museum is open with free admission from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Flicks nights. A list of this year’s films can be found here.

Another option is the Little Italy Open Air Film Fest (Cinema Al Fresco). Every Friday in July and August on the corner of High and Stiles Streets, you can set up a lawn chair and listen to live music (beginning at 7:00 p.m.) or grab some yummy Italian cuisine, then enjoy an Italian-related film beginning at 9:00 p.m. Click here for this year’s film schedule.

Charm City Circulator

5) Travel by Charm City Circulator for a Self-Guided Tour

These eco-friendly shuttles service residents, students, tourists and anyone else who wants a ride for free around Baltimore. The Charm City Circulator is the perfect way to get around town for a day of sightseeing. It saves you the hassle of finding parking while lessening pollution and congestion. Shuttles arrive every 15 minutes at each designated stop. Visit their website for schedules and routes.

6) Climb to Federal Hill Park

If you want to see one of the best panoramic views of Baltimore, Federal Hill is the place to go. A public park since 1789, it was used as a celebration point following the ratification of the new “Federal” U.S. Constitution. It was also used during the Civil War and the War of 1812 as a lookout point. It’s a little bit of a climb, but once you reach the top, you’ll see it was worth it! Federal Hill is a short walk from the Inner Harbor, the Maryland Science Center and many other local attractions.

7) Artscape and Beyond

The 32nd annual Artscape, America’s largest free arts festival, located on Mount Royal Avenue, will occur this year on July 19th through the 21st. Artscape features over 150 fine artists, fashion designers and craftspeople. Enjoy several visual art exhibits as well as concerts and performing arts including dance, theater and film. This is a great festival for families - you'll find hands-on projects, demonstrations, competitions, children’s entertainers and lots more. Check out the website for updated information.

Out of town that weekend? There is plenty of other art around Baltimore that you can view for free anytime. General admission to the Walters Art Museum is free, as are the outdoor exhibits at the American Visionary Art Museum, to name a couple.

Washington, D.C. Capitol Building

8) Spend the Day in D.C.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. D.C. is totally not in Baltimore. Yes, I may be cheating a little on this one, but it’s just so close by and there are SO many free things to do there! You cannot go the whole summer without spending a day in D.C. From the 19 museums, galleries and zoo that make up the Smithsonian Institution to the National Mall and monuments, it would be impossible to not be able to fill up your day with free activities.

Check out Washington, D.C. on the Cheap to find other D.C. deals and discounts.

9) Wander the Baltimore Farmers’ Market & Bazaar

Open every Sunday from 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. underneath the Jones Falls Expressway at Holliday and Saratoga streets, this is Maryland’s largest producers-only market. I have to admit, although admission is free and vendors are often giving out free samples, it’s highly unlikely that you will be able to walk away without spending any money after walking through the copious amounts of fresh produce, seafood, meats, fresh baked goods, cheese, local cuisine stations serving breakfast and lunch, plants and herbs as well as unique crafts and collectables. However, many things you’ll find at this market are things you would normally purchase at a supermarket anyway, so it’s better to buy it fresh and local, right?

Click here for more information on this and other Baltimore farmers’ markets.

If the limited hours of the farmers’ markets are a problem for you, check out some of Baltimore’s standing public markets, open year round, most days of the week.

Fireworks

10) Celebrate Independence Day

Downtown Baltimore is definitely the place to be when celebrating the Fourth of July. Head down early and bring your costumed pet to the American Visionary Art Museum for the Visionary Pets on Parade. Prizes will be awarded for best costume, most patriotic, best owner & pet look-alikes and more. Don’t have a pet? You’re still welcome to stop by and enjoy the dressed up pooches. Pet registration begins at 9:30 a.m. and the parade begins at 10:00 a.m.

Then stick around for Baltimore’s official Independence Day celebration in the Inner Harbor. Live music begins at 4:00 p.m. and the amazing fireworks show begins at 9:30. If you’d like to enjoy the show without the crowds, head to Federal Hill, Harbor East or Fells Point where you can still get a great view of the fireworks.

So there you have it. Hopefully you’ve find something on this list appealing…or perhaps you’ll try them all! Just be sure to take advantage of the summer sun one way or another this year!

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Save Up before You Start Up: How to Obtain Startup Capital

by Jason Dieter 12. June 2013

Startup Business Plan

So, you've decided that it's time to start your own business - that you no longer wish to work for "the man" as they say. You have your product or idea, you have your goals and objectives outlined in the form of a working business plan, you've formed your company legally with the state you plan to operate in, you’ve obtained your Federal Tax ID number and now you’re all ready to roll. But wait, we have forgotten one all important step in the process. The most important step perhaps. How do you obtain the loan (startup capital) to get the business off the ground? This step is arguably the toughest task of all for any new startup business. Why? Let's explore.

It's first important to note that most lenders, including banks as a whole, view startup business loans similarly to unsecured personal loans - very risky. Tim Carroll, Vice President for Deluxe Corporation, a company that helps small businesses with marketing, estimates that generally 50 to 70 percent of new startup businesses fail within the first 18 months. Certainly an alarming rate, yet it sheds light on why lenders tend to shy away from making a loan of any size to a new business.

So where does one turn to obtain such capital to kick start their business into existence?

You may start by considering dipping into your own personal savings from what you previously earned in your former line of work. Other resources could be personal credit cards, a loan from a family member or friend, or perhaps a loan secured by your most valuable personal asset, your home. Truth is, in my experience as a business banker, the sources listed above may be your best initial line of attack when looking to secure capital for your new business.

Now, if by chance you are not having any luck with obtaining startup capital from any of the sources mentioned above, it then becomes time to look elsewhere. Start with your local bank, but you should know, as mentioned above, most banks are somewhat conservative in their lending decisions when it comes to startup businesses. If the bank does express interest in funding your startup request, it's often typical that they will ask you to pledge collateral acceptable to them to secure the loan.

You may also want to look into an SBA (Small Business Administration) loan. The qualifications for an SBA loan are specific, although their programs are varied. The SBA will typically facilitate the loan for you with a third party lender, such as an SBA preferred bank.

A third option to look into is an angel investor. Such investors are typically affluent individuals who provide capital for a business startup in exchange for partial ownership in your company. It should be noted that while an angel investor is helpful in obtaining the startup capital you require to get your business off the ground, the risk you need to consider is in giving up ownership in the company and oftentimes the say to do as you please when making future business decisions. Proper research and careful review of the angel investor you go into business with is strongly encouraged.

So there you have it, some resources, but not all, to consider when looking for working capital to start your new business. Keep this in mind, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook had to start somewhere and according to Forbes.com, as of March 2013, he's worth a cool $13.3 billion dollars at the ripe age of 29. Maybe you can ask him to fund your new startup? I suggest you start with a simple friend request.

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