Baltimore is a vibrant city that is rich in both culture and history. From the ever expanding Inner Harbor that houses such tourist attractions as The National Aquarium and The Maryland Science Center to the fort that inspired the Star Spangled Banner; this city is full of surprises. The summer months bring warm weather along with outdoor concerts, lush green parks to explore and plenty of outdoor activities whereas the winter brings beautifully decorated shops and hotels as well as an impressive skating rink. Fresh seafood, an abundance of family focused activities and one of the best baseball stadiums around is enough to convince us that this city has to be explored. Here are our top twelve things to see and do in Baltimore.
12. Fell’s Point
Fell’s Point is home to over 350 original colonial period buildings, historic homes and cobblestone streets. Pubs, unique shops and restaurants line the Historic District which during the day is the perfect place to spend antiquing; and the night partying. Start off at the visitor’s centre where educated employees will give you a quick history lesson on this waterfront town. Artifacts and brochures about the area are also found in this historical building that once housed trolleys and horses.
Arrive via water taxi and head to Stuggy’s; the best place to grab a hot dog and load it up with crab mac’n’cheese. Or head to The Horse You Came In On Saloon, one of Edgar Alan Poe’s favorite drinking spots. For the kids and the kids-at-heart try your hand at the Pirate Ship cruise where you can battle it out. Try the oysters at the Thames St Oyster House. Walk, shop, dine, catch some outdoor live music and explore the beautiful historic town of Fell’s Point while you are in Baltimore.
11. Camden Yards
The baseball stadium that all other stadiums are basing their designs on is a must visit when in Baltimore. Oriole Park or as the locals call it “Camden Yards” is a combination of new and old, bringing sleek design together with an “old” design. Modern amenities make this the perfect place to catch a game. Located inside Camden Yards is the Sports Legends Museum where artifacts and exhibits from Baltimore’s legends such as Babe Ruth and Cal Ripken are housed.
The best way to experience Camden Yards is to join with the locals and cheer on their beloved Orioles; but if you happen to come on an off-day make sure to take the stadium tour. Offered daily, these tours give you an all access pass to the stadium; taking you through the press box, suites, dug-out and even out onto the field. There are plenty of food concessions inside the stadium and out. Eutaw Street located beside the stadium is a pedestrian only street that offers many restaurants and the official Orioles store. Whether a baseball fan or not, visiting Camden Yards is something you will never forget.
10. The National Aquarium
Considered one of the world’s best aquariums it is no surprise that the National Aquarium in Baltimore is on the top list of places to visit. Housing over 17,000 animals with over 750 species of fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles, marine mammals and sharks this aquarium deserves a full day to explore. Beyond being a place for all these animals to live; this aquarium prides itself on the conservation and preservation of the world’s natural eco-systems and living creatures.
Along with the normal viewing areas that most aquariums offer, Baltimore’s National Aquarium offers many behind-the-scenes opportunities for the real marine life enthusiast. Learn more about the playful dolphins, sharks or coral reefs. Join the dolphin trainers on deck and learn how to care for them, feed them and teach them a few tricks. This aquarium is busy and we recommend starting your visit before 11am or after 3pm to get the most out of your experience. Be aware that strollers are not allowed in this building due to the nature of the building structure (they do have front and back baby carriers to borrow if you have forgotten yours). Come and experience the magic as you watch the sharks glide weightlessly through the waters, the jellyfish silently swim by and the dolphins play effortlessly in the pools.
9. American Visionary Art Museum
Unusual and intriguing art is what you will find at this Museum dedicated to non-mainstream artists. What is visionary art? As the museum explains it “Visionary art as defined for the purposes of the American Visionary Art Museum refers to art produced by self-taught individuals, usually without formal training, whose works arise from an innate personal vision that revels foremost in the creative act itself.”
This museum welcomes all self-taught artists and as you wander through the fascinating displays it is hard not to be inspired to create something yourself. From giant balls made out of bras to the huge ceramic egg and nest that live outdoors; nothing is off limits. Learn what to do with your old PEZ dispensers, buttons and even uses for an old toilet bowl. The humor, wit and authenticity of this place make the $16 adult admission well worth it. We suggest visiting even if you have the kids along as the brightly colored art and the uniqueness will capture their attention; not to mention the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches you can purchase from the café. Located right next door to many other tourist attractions, you don’t want to miss the American Visionary Art Museum.
8. Maryland Science Center
It seems that every big city boasts a worthy science center to visit and Baltimore is no exception. The Maryland Science Center has focused much of its efforts on catering to kids, which will make your trip there more enjoyable if the wee ones tag along. As adults only, don’t fear there is still plenty for you to discover.
The amount of interactive exhibits stands out as we all know that learning while playing is just so much more fun. The permanent dinosaur exhibit will delight both kids and adults. When your legs get tired of exploring the museum, head to the IMAX theatre, the Planetarium or both. Check ahead to see what shows are playing as they vary day by day and have the most showing times on the weekends. On Friday nights head to the rooftop observatory for a free viewing of the constellations and planets. On Saturday afternoons stargazing on the roof is open to visitors of the Science Center. Whether you visit for a couple hours or come to enjoy the day, there are enough activities to keep both you and your family happy. The Science Center in Maryland has truly done an outstanding job and deserves a visit.
7. Splash in the Walter Sondheim Fountain
So you brought the kids to Baltimore and by now they are tired of the museums, tired of eating all that amazing seafood and all they need is a little fresh air and a place to have some fun. Head to the West Shore Park located right beside the Science Center. Along with a terrific green space that hosts a variety of events throughout the summer perfect for kids and families; this park boats an enormous interactive water fountain.
The Walter Sondheim Fountain has an incredible 53 interactive water jets that spray up from its large flat surface. Sit back and watch the kids run and scream in delight as they move from one jet to another. The best part about this park is its location. Parents can soak up the sun while enjoying the beautiful views of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. The fountain operates from 10am-10pm in warm weather months and we promise it to be a hit with the kids.
6. Eat at Faidley’s
Known as having one of the best crab cakes in the city; Faidley’s Seafood is a must stop when you are in Baltimore. Although it’s not located in the best of areas and is quite unattractive inside and out; do not let that deter you away from here. There are no sit down tables, only a line and a high table to stand at to eat so leave the wee ones at home for this outing.
Where do we start? Aside from the obvious (and famous) crab cakes, Faidley’s offers freshly shucked oysters and clams on site at great prices and boy oh boy are they huge! Moving onto the crab cakes, you won’t find anywhere else in the city that offers such cakes loaded with tons of crab, lots of flavor and enough flour to stick it all together. Insiders tell us to spring for the premium “lump crab cake” and you will not be disappointed. Mac n’ Cheese, coleslaw, haddock and cream of crab soup are all choices along with the traditional crab cakes. Come visit this historic fish market that has made itself a big name in the world of Baltimore seafood.
5. Fort McHenry
This coastal star shaped fort is best known for its role in the 1812 war when it successfully defended the Baltimore Harbor from attack from the British Navy. Today is serves as a national monument and historic shrine where visitors from all over the world come to visit. Not only was this fort responsible for the defense of the attack but it inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
The visitor’s center plays a short film that introduces you to Fort McHenry and catches you up on the history if you need a quick reminder. From there you will want to spend an hour or two self-guiding yourself around the site. You can participate in the changing of the flags twice a day (weather permitting), listen to a ranger speak and explore the museums that include the fort, barracks and house many artifacts. Kids can participate in the junior ranger program where they search for answers and participate in activities that will earn them a certificate and badge. Fort McHenry is the perfect place to spend brushing up on your history knowledge as well as learning new things and participating in a very important piece of United States history.
4. The Infamous Domino Sugar Sign
This sign is not only huge sitting at 120 feet by 70 feet; enough to fit four F-35 fighter jets inside but is also iconic as it baths the city in a red glow every night. Comprised of 650 elongated glass tubes bent in the shapes that spell out America’s No. 1 sugar, this sign has become the backdrop for countless photos.
There is a debate where the best place to see the sign is. Choices range from Federal Hill Park where you can watch the sunset and get a glimpse of the sign to atop a hotel balcony in the East Harbor or perhaps Hall Street Pier has the best views? No matter where you choose to view this sign from, as the night settles and the 650 glass tubes light up; you will be amazed. The sign went solar in April of 2014 in an effort by the huge sugar company to become more eco-friendly. But not just anyone can see the sign up close and personal; that privilege is only for maintenance workers and the man in charge of the sign.
3. Historic Ships in Baltimore
This is not your typical Maritime Museum where everything is kept under glass and you feel afraid to touch anything. This is a hands-on interactive experience in history. With four ships and one lighthouse to explore set out on four different piers, make sure you allow yourself the time to enjoy this museum. Choose to buy your admission based on visiting one, two or all of the ships.
Start off at Pier 1 where you can purchase your tickets and explore the USS Constellation. A complimentary audio tour wand will make your experience more enjoyable. Check out the “plan of the day” which tells you all of the daily activities such as when the next firing of the cannons will be. There are over four decks to explore and this is the most popular of the historic ships. Talk to the uniformed crew, participate in the gun drills and take a tour of the ship. Other ships and the lighthouse are located on Pier’s 3 and 5 and encourage visitors to explore the many decks, rooms and talk with crew members.
2. Patterson Park Ice Rink
If you happen to be in Baltimore in the winter and you are tired of the indoor museums or shopping malls and want to enjoy the outdoors there’s no better place to head than Patterson Park Ice Rink or Dominic Mimi Dipietro Family Skating Center as it’s now called. Located in the heart of the historic Patterson Park, it’s the best place to lace up those skates and hit the ice. The best part about this rink is although it is located right on the bay; it’s enclosed keeping the wind and snow away from you.
Heated change rooms, a snack bar and no wind; could a skating rink get any better? Throw in a few hockey games, some broomball and outstanding views of the Inner Harbor and being in Baltimore in the winter just got a lot better. Admission is cheap and skate rentals are available making it the perfect way to spend a snowy winter afternoon.
1. Carrie Murray Nature Center
Located in the heart of Baltimore City lies a hidden gem known as the Carrie Murray Nature Center. Home to the original raven that makes the sound every time the Baltimore Ravens NFL team score a touchdown; this nature center is full of interesting facts and animals. Along with birds of prey, reptiles and insects the staff here truly care about making your experience the most enjoyable.
The animals are all rescues, whether from the wild or from people who can no longer take care of them and the staff have had quite the time naming them. From anacondas named Fluffy and Muffin to a black rat snake named Cruella; it’s clear these animal lovers know how to have fun. Explore the nature centre with its books, exhibits and native and non-native creatures. See the one of a kind bug house or the permanent house of their raptor residents. Trek the trails and discover the art works that have been made out of nature. The Carrie Murray Nature Center is a beautiful place to get away from the bustle of the city and learn more about the rescue and rehabilitation efforts they put forth.