Baltimore is the largest city in Maryland and an important seaport on the wide estuary of the Patapsco River. Its place in American history was won in 1814, when British forces bombarded Fort McHenry for 25 hours without its surrender. The sight of the American flag still flying over the fort on the morning after the bombardment inspired Francis Scott Key's poem The Star Spangled Banner, which became the text of the national anthem. Baltimore's Inner Harbor is the focal point of the city, surrounded by several outstanding museums and the busy Harborplace, with its pavilions, shops, restaurants, and promenade. Moored here are several historic ships that are open for tourists. Baltimore's distinct neighborhoods are part of its attraction to visitors - lively Fell's Point, sedate Mount Vernon, Little Italy, and hip Hamden. Between these, the many museums, historic sites, and cultural activities that include a renowned symphony orchestra, Baltimore offers plenty of things for visitors to see and do.
ATTRACTIONS TO VISIT IN Baltimore
1. Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine
One of America's foremost historic sites sits just three miles southeast of the city center. Fort McHenry, built between 1798 and 1803 to command the harbor entrance, is revered as the place that inspired the National Anthem, The Star Spangled Banner.
In 1814, during the battle of Baltimore, it withstood a 24-hour bombardment by a British fleet of 10 warships, five bomb ketches, and a rocket vessel, thus saving Baltimore from capture and occupation. In the fort's visitor center are displays and a film on the history of the fort, and you can tour the casemates and grounds to learn about the fort and its history through ranger talks and living history demonstrations. The original of the famous flag now hangs in the Museum of American History in Washington, DC.
2. Walters Art Gallery
In a city with more than its share of excellent museums, The Walters Art Museum, located in the Mount Vernon Cultural District, is a standout. This internationally renowned institution is one of only a few museums worldwide to present a comprehensive history of art from the third millennium BC to the early 20th century. Among its thousands of treasures are a fine collection of ivories, jewelry, enamels, and bronzes, and a large reserve of illuminated manuscripts and rare books. The Walters' Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Ethiopian, and western medieval art collections are extensive, as are the museum's holdings of Renaissance and Asian art. Every major trend in French painting during the 19th century is represented by one or more works in the collection. The museum is especially notable for the many ways in which it makes its exhibits and collections accessible to children, with special activities, puzzles, treasure hunts, and more ways to engage young minds.
3. National Aquarium
The most frequently visited attraction in Baltimore is the National Aquarium, in a striking building overlooking the Inner harbor. Exhibits in this huge complex explore Atlantic and Pacific coral reefs, the open ocean environments, a kelp forest, Amazon river forests, hidden sea life, life on the seashore, Australian aquatic life, and more. Of particular note is the Tropical Rain Forest, a complete environment five stories high, where visitors can tour from the forest floor to the treetop canopy and see all kinds of birds, frogs, and a variety of larger mammals, such as sloths and monkeys. Elsewhere, visitors meet sharks and dolphins and the hundreds of exotic species found in the Atlantic Coral Reef Exhibit.
4. American Visionary Art Museum
Baltimore's most unusual art museum by far is the American Visionary Art Museum, which displays the work of self-taught artists from around the world. This is not just a gallery of paintings and drawings, but a lively - and frequently changing - celebration of the creative spirit. Exhibits could include sculptures made from toothpicks, fabric collages, intricate embroidery, costumes created for a neighborhood festival, folk art from around the world, or art by people who are incarcerated. The exhibits all have an exuberance that is contagious, and there is always something thought provoking.
The main building's architecture is also an artistic creation, winning many international and national awards for its design and beauty. The sculpture barn, formerly the Four Roses warehouse, houses towering exhibits that might include an entire dragon from a Chinese New Year parade. If you are looking for unique gifts of souvenirs, be sure to save time for the museum's delightfully quirky shop.
5. Baltimore Museum of Art
The Baltimore Museum of Art is the largest art museum in Maryland with art from around the world, covering a broad spectrum of periods and styles. The permanent collection includes the world's largest collection of works by Matisse. Other notable artists represented include Picasso, Cezanne, van Gogh, and Andy Warhol. Along with modern art; one of the nation's most important African collections; and impressive collections of American painting, sculpture, and decorative arts; the museum has a sculpture garden representing a century of modern and contemporary works. Admission to the museum is free.
6. Inner Harbor and Historic Ships
So many of Baltimore's top attractions and popular things to do surround the Inner Harbor that tourists could spend several days in this area alone. A highlight is the collection of historic vessels moored here, all of them open for tours. The oldest is the sloop-of-war USS Constellation, a three-masted sailing ship that saw action in the Civil War. You can also tour the submarine USS Torsk, a US Coast Guard Cutter, and the Lightship Chesapeake.
Harborplace, an attractive modern complex with two glass-enclosed pavilions in historical style, is both a shopping center and market, with a large number of shops, restaurants, and open spaces. Street artists display their skills in the Amphitheater on the Promenade.
7. Oriole Park at Camden Yards
Oriole Park at Camden Yards is the official home of the Baltimore Orioles, the city's Major League baseball team. The one-time railroad center is only two blocks from the birthplace of baseball's most legendary hero, George Herman "Babe" Ruth. The modest home is now a museum, and a statue of Babe Ruth is a favorite photo stop just outside the park. You can tour Oriole Park for a look behind the scenes in the press box, club levels, and dugout.
8. Fell's Point
Fell's Point is a historic area along the waterfront that has been beautifully restored. This old harbor quarter was once the shipbuilding district of Baltimore, with places of entertainment for the seamen. Today, behind the many restored brick buildings are restaurants, cafes, and shops, making it a popular place to meet. The lively market building has stalls selling local foods. Water taxis connect Fell's Point to the Inner Harbor.
9. Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum
Pratt Street runs west to the Mount Clare Railroad Station of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, from which the first passenger train in the United States ran west to Ellicott's Mills in 1830. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum takes in the Mount Clare Station (1851), the Print Shop (1884), and a roundhouse that now houses an excellent collection of historic locomotives. The centerpiece is the turntable, which connects with 22 lines containing locomotives and coaches. With only a few exceptions, all the exhibits are originals and in working order. In front of the building is a large open area with more locomotives. There is also a miniature railway system.
10. Maryland Science Center
At the southwest corner of the Inner Harbor is the modern Maryland Science Center, with a planetarium. The scientific displays that fill its three floors are geared primarily to engage young visitors, but the museum will also interest adults as they explore physics, space travel, and other subjects.
Full size dinosaurs roam through the Dinosaur Mysteries exhibit, where kids can be paleontologists in the dig pits, field lab, and excavation sites. One of the most innovative exhibits is a Baltimore-inspired "street" of brick row-house storefronts, each store with related challenges and activities: how gears work at the Bike Shop, sound experiments at the Music Store, or designing and flying paper airplanes at the airport.