Not long ago, while catching up with a friend of mine, our conversation shifted from work and family to travel (as conversations with both Adam and I so often do!). She was considering an east coast road trip, and we plotted out some of the cities she wanted to visit over the course of a couple of weeks. Boston was quickly added to the list, as were New York City and Philadelphia, but I interrupted her when she mentioned Washington, DC as her next destination. Her route would take her through Baltimore, a city that merits some exploration. She disagreed; I asked her why.
“It’s not exactly the safest city to visit,” she said, continuing on to describe a scene where shady characters sold drugs on street corners before scattering into dilapidated houses surrounded by chain link fences at the first sound of a siren. Her description sounded eerily familiar.
“Have you seen The Wire?” I asked her. She had, she said, and I smiled: she had quite accurately described some of the show’s infamous clips from its intro.
Although Baltimore is somewhat infamous for serving as the backdrop to one of the best crime drama shows in TV history, you may be surprised to find it is also a terrific city to host your next vacation. Over the years we have spent many days exploring the town known as Charm City, enjoying trips for baseball games and occasionally making the trip up 95 just for lunch on the weekend. Just two days is enough to uncover the food, sights, and culture that makes it unique, and its location just an hour north of Washington, DC makes it a great addition to your Mid-Atlantic travels. Whether you have a whole weekend or just a few hours to spare, here are some of our favorite things to do in Baltimore.
Things to Do in Baltimore
With so many things to do in Baltimore, there’s a good chance you’ll find the perfect activity for your vacation. From sightseeing to museums to sports, there is plenty to keep you entertained—here are some of our favorites!
► The National Aquarium
We’ve visited aquariums all over the world, from Sydney to Seattle, but the National Aquarium in Baltimore ranks as one of the best experiences we have had! Located on Pier 3 in the Inner Harbor, the aquarium has more than 750 species to discover, and it’s the most visited tourist attraction in the state of Maryland. Visitors can watch live shows, learn about sea life with hands-on activities, and discover interactive exhibits with a focus on topics like Amazon river forest, sea cliffs, coral reefs, and native Maryland species. Shows and talks given by staff throughout the day provide a great opportunity for a more formal introduction to some of the exhibits, and it’s a terrific choice if you are traveling with children or friends—the National Aquarium has a little something to spark anyone’s interest.
More Information: Aqua.org
► The Inner Harbor
Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is the heart of the city and one of our favorite places to spend our time. If you have just a few hours to spend in the city, it’s a great destination because it’s closely connected to some of the city’s biggest attractions, including the aquarium, the science center, and plenty of restaurants and shopping. Don’t miss the historic ships exhibit in the waterfront, where four military vessels, including the USS Constellation, welcome visitors with tours, events, and hands-on exhibits to let you experience what life was like at sea in the 19th century. If you plan your visit just right, you may even witness a live cannon firing! The Inner Harbor is one of the city’s most visited spots, and your Baltimore itinerary won’t be complete without including some time there.
► Ravens and Orioles GamesLike all cities, Baltimore loves their professional sports teams, and catching a game is a great way to immerse yourself in the city’s culture if your visit coincides with baseball or football season. We especially love summer baseballs games at Camden Yards, home to the Baltimore Orioles. Camden Yards is one of the best and most impressive ballparks in Major League Baseball. Built in the 1990s, its combination of fan friendly layout and retro design elements make it an example that other baseball teams look to when they plan to build or upgrade their ballparks. Tickets are often available and often have budget-friendly options, so it can make for a fun way to spend a few hours when considering things to do in Baltimore. In the fall, Baltimore Ravens football games are the highlight of most Sunday afternoons, although they may require a bit more planning if you hope to incorporate a game into your Baltimore itinerary as tickets can be harder to get and more expensive than those available for baseball games.
More Information: MLB.com/Orioles | BaltimoreRavens.com
► The Walters Art MuseumIf you’re looking for a world-class museum experience, look no further than the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. The Walters Art Museum showcases a wide range of items including pieces from ancient Egypt as well as Greek and Roman artifacts, medieval armor and weaponry, ancient Middle Eastern items, Renaissance art, and Asian ceramics. Impressively, the museum’s collections were amassed privately through American art collectors: father and son William Thompson Walters and Henry Walters. When Henry Walters died in 1931, he donated his collection and the buildings that housed it to the city of Baltimore as a gift to the public. Admission is free, and its location just north of the business district in Baltimore makes it an easy stop to add to your visit.
More Information: TheWalters.org
► Babe Ruth Museum
If you’re a baseball fan and an Orioles game at Camden Yards is on your Baltimore itinerary, be sure to check out the nearby Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum. Certainly, no baseball enthusiast needs an explanation of who George Herman “Babe” Ruth was, but the man commonly regarded as one of the greatest to ever play baseball was born in Baltimore. His home at 216 Emory Street is now a museum that is open to the public. Galleries, exhibits, and souvenirs pay homage to one of the first American sports heroes, and its location just three blocks from Camden Yards makes it a must-see for baseball fans.
More Information: BabeRuthMuseum.org
► George Peabody LibraryWe love visiting libraries when we travel to new cities. Although we aren’t typically looking for a book or even a quiet place to read, libraries often represent some of a city’s most exquisite architecture. The George Peabody Library is part of The Johns Hopkins University Mt Vernon campus, and it’s commonly listed among the most beautiful libraries in the world. When you visit, it won’t be hard to see why; the golden hues, cast-iron balconies, and classical architecture house more than 300,000 volumes of books over five floors, and it has welcomed the public since its opening in 1878. Admission to the George Peabody Library is free, but you may want to check their website for hours or events. On a cold or rainy day, it might even provide a great place to seek shelter and enjoy some reading or reflection.
This link shares an interactive 360-degree view of the library to help you picture what you can see when adding the library to your list of things to do in Baltimore.
► Fell’s Point
If the Inner Harbor is Baltimore’s famous central spot, especially from a tourist standpoint, Fell’s Point is a nice option to get a taste of the city’s more local experience. Shops, restaurants, and bars make this a fun part of town to visit if you’re looking for entertainment without the kinds of crowds you’ll encounter in the Inner Harbor. It’s also a great place to take a closer look at the city’s history. One of our favorite sites in Fell’s Point is the old Vote Against Prohibition sign on the side of the building at 1698 Shakespeare Street. The weathered sign dates back to the 1920s, and it remains a testament to Baltimore’s resistance to the outlawing of alcohol during that time period. In fact, Baltimore and much of the state of Maryland fought anti-alcohol legislation and resisted pressures to enact laws that would strengthen penalties for consuming it. Although prohibition is long behind us, it may seem fitting to you to toast to its demise at a local bar, especially after a long day of sightseeing!
► Green Mount CemeteryVisiting a cemetery might not be high on your list of things to do when you’re on vacation, but Green Mount Cemetery has a couple of truly interesting gravestones, especially if you’re looking for one of the quirkier things to do in Baltimore. Baltimore was home to Elijah Bond, otherwise known as the man who created the Ouija Board, and his final resting place is located in Green Mount Cemetery. Naturally, his headstone is decorated with an actual Ouija Board, making it a destination for those interested in the supernatural and paranormal. The cemetery has somewhat limited hours, but the headstone is worth seeking out if you have flexibility in your schedule.
Another fascinating grave to visit in Green Mount Cemetery is that belonging to John Wilkes Booth. As the man who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln, his place in history does not lead people to pay respects at his final resting spot. Instead, visitors typically leave a penny on top of his headstone. The US penny features Lincoln’s bust, and leaving a one-cent coin allows people to pay tribute to the president while simultaneously shaming the man who ended his life. Whether or not leaving a penny appeals to you, it’s interesting to see the pile of pennies and remember the life of one of the nation’s leaders.
More Information: Atlas Obscura
► Edgar Allen Poe House & Museum
One of America’s most well-known authors, Edgar Allen Poe, has become one of Baltimore’s favorite sons. Although he was born in Boston, Massachusetts, grew up in Richmond, Virginia, and spent time in Philadelphia, New York City, and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, he died in Baltimore. Over the years, Baltimore become the city most people would associate with the writer. In fact, the Baltimore Ravens NFL team named their franchise after the bird made famous in one of Poe’s most well-known poems.
Poe enthusiasts can stop by the Edgar Allen Poe Museum at 203 North Amity Street and tour the building where he was once lived. Exhibits and artifacts help tell his story and provide visitors with a fascinating glimpse into what his life was like. If you’d like to pay your respects to the man himself, Poe’s tombstone is located just a few blocks away at 515 West Fayette Street, outside of Westminster Hall.
More Information: PoeInBaltimore.org
This video from the Edgar Allen Poe House & Museum provides a great preview of what you can expect during your visit.
► Fort McHenryFort McHenry played a major role in the War of 1812, when it was used to successfully defend Baltimore Harbor against the British navy. During the battle, an American flag was flown directly over the fort as the bombardment reached its apex. The site of the flag inspired a man named Francis Scott Key to write a poem he called “Defence of Fort M’Henry,” which would later be renamed “The Star Spangled Banner,” set to music, and adopted as the USA’s national anthem.
Fort McHenry is listed as a National Monument and Historic Shrine, and it is open to the public for self-guided tours and educational programs. The visitor center provides a great 10-minute introductory video, and admission is $15 per adult.
More Information: NPS.gov/fomc
What to Eat and Drink in Baltimore
Baltimore is full of great places to eat and grab a drink—you won’t go hungry in Charm City! Here are a few of the places we always like to include on our list of things to do in Baltimore.
► Eat Blue Crab
Blue crab is plentiful in the Chesapeake Bay, the estuary that crosses through the states of Maryland and Virginia, and crab is an iconic menu item that you’re sure to find in any seafood restaurant within the region. The traditional way to eat crab in Baltimore is to order them steamed, dump them onto your table, and dig into the crabs with your hands, mallets, and other tools to crack the shells and extract the meat. Locals love “picking crabs,” and it’s similar to how you might eat a lobster when visiting Maine. Blue crabs are typically in season from April to December, and one of the best crab houses in Baltimore is Locust Point Steamers (aka L.P. Steamers), which offers a fantastic menu.
More Information: LocustPointSteamers.comAnother popular way to enjoy blue crab is to order crab cakes, either on their own or in a sandwich. An easier, less messy, and less time-consuming way to try blue crab, many people find it to be their preferred method of sampling the delicacy. If you’ve never had an authentic Chesapeake crab cake, we recommend stopping by Faidley’s in Baltimore’s historic Lexington Market. The crab cakes at Faidley’s have been listed as some of the best by multiple publications, and some people have even made it a bucket list item to try their famous baseball sized cakes.
More Information: FaidleysCrabCakes.com
Whether you enjoy the hands-on experience of picking steamed crabs or you prefer the lump crab cake, you’re sure to find plenty of great crab options on menus around Baltimore. Just remember to enjoy it with some local Old Bay Seasoning and you’ll be good to go!
► Natty Boh
Although we typically opt for a craft beer when visiting Baltimore, it’s only fair to mention that the city is often synonymous with Natty Boh. National Bohemian hails from Maryland, and although it is no longer brewed in the state its biggest and most loyal following can often be found in Baltimore. Natty Boh was first brewed in the city in 1885, and it remains a beloved brew of choice for residents of Charm City to this day. You’ll find it on tap in many restaurants, and any local will tell you it is the perfect beer to pair with crab and anything seasoned with Old Bay.
More Information: NationalBohemian.com
► Attman’s DeliYour Baltimore adventure will require some serious fuel, especially if you plan to do plenty of walking, and a sandwich might be just what you’re craving. If that’s the case for you, stop by Attman’s Deli during your visit to Baltimore. Located at 1019 East Lombard Street, the deli has been serving Baltimore residents since 1915. The menu is loaded with traditional deli options, but we loved the Specialty Reuben featuring latkes (potato pancakes) in place of bread. For a local specialty, you’ll want to be sure to try the Coddies during your visit as well. Coddies are made with fried potato cakes, salted cod, and seasonings, and when paired with mustard between two crackers they become a quick and easy snack to go.
More Information: AttmansDeli.com
► The Horse You Came in On Saloon
Edgar Allen Poe famously died in Baltimore, and you can visit the spot purported to be his “last stop” before his passing. Located in Fell’s Point, The Horse You Came In On Saloon proudly displays signs that claim they served the ill-fated writer his last drink on the night he was found dead. The building opened in 1775, and the bar actually remained open during the prohibition era of the 1920s, making it both the oldest bar in Baltimore and possibly the most defiant.
There is some dispute over the claim that the saloon was the last place Poe was seen the night he died, but there does appear to be evidence that he enjoyed frequenting the location in the time leading up to his death. Either way, the modern-day saloon is a fun place to check out when you’re in the Fell’s Point area, especially if you’re a fan of Edgar Allen Poe.
More Information: TheHorseBaltimore.com
Map of Things to Do in Baltimore
If you’re planning a trip to Baltimore, it can help to visualize where the destinations of interest to you are located so you can plan your most effective itinerary. We hope this helps as you plan your own list of things to do in Baltimore!
Hotels in Baltimore
Like all cities, Baltimore offers a wide range of hotels from budget-friendly to luxurious. When we make hotel plans, we use Booking.com to research and reserve. Booking.com has some terrific options to help you narrow your search to specific neighborhoods, hotels with your preferred amenities, and the room features that will keep you comfortable and rested. Take a look at Booking.com to see if you are able to locate a hotel that compliments your Baltimore vacation!
Of the cities we have visited, Baltimore certainly has some of the biggest surprises to offer. It’s much more than the visuals and storylines that you might have seen on TV. It’s even more than the tourist destinations that draw millions of visitors every year to its city limits. Baltimore has a culture and personality that set it apart from other destinations within the Mid-Atlantic. Baltimore has a kind of fierceness and resiliency that defy its portrayal in the media as well as the kind of charm that will intrigue you before you visit and welcome you when you do. No matter how much time you have to spend in Baltimore, you will be glad you added it to your vacation itinerary.
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