Being a significant American city in terms of both history and commerce, there is much to see and do in Baltimore. While it is not the capital of the state of Maryland (Annapolis, located 30 miles to the southeast has that honor), it is its largest city by far, and as such, it boasts a wide range of cultural attractions that will keep museum lovers busy for days on end.
Baltimore is seared into the consciousness of patriotic Americans, as it was the subject of an intense bombardment by the British in the War of 1812, and the city was ground zero of the first death logged in the American Civil War. Through trial and tragedy, this architecturally stunning metropolis has endured, and with the increasing trend of urban gentrification, it is rising again from its latest fight: the economic stagnation and suburban flight that plagued it and other cities across the USA in the latter half of the 20th century.
As a result of this trend, the Inner Harbor and downtown core of Baltimore is a happening place these days, with tonnes of attractions and cultural institutions that will appeal to just about anybody. So don’t let anybody scare you off with talk of Baltimore’s bad reputation: while there are neighborhoods that have seen better days, the troubles of the past are fading away with each passing year, leaving an increasingly attractive city in its wake. Spend a few days here, and we think you’ll agree!
While the many attention grabbing attractions of the Inner Harbor will tempt you to stay within its confines, take a water taxi over to Fort McHenry first, as this fortification bore the brunt of a 25 hour assault by the British Navy during the war of 1812. The well-provisioned fort contained a massive assortment of cannons and guns on its ramparts, preventing the British naval attackers from advancing any closer than the mile and a half from the harbor mouth that they could approach without being shredded to pieces by Fort McHenry’s artillery.
Today, the grassy expanses of the fort contain many of the guns that were used to defend Baltimore during this siege, and with its position across from the downtown core, it is an excellent place to snap photos of its skyline.
The Inner Harbor area contain a number of culturally significant sites among the more contemporary attractions that they compete with. The most prominent would have to be the USS Constellation, the last surviving warship left from the Civil War era. Moored together with other famous ships from wars in America’s past, like USCGC Taney, which was the only ship left floating after the attack on Pearl Harbor in World War II, and the USS Torsk, a submarine that sank several Japanese vessels in the same conflict.
Fans of experimental art should also check out American Visionary Art Museum while they are in the Inner Harbor area, as it contains works that ride on the bleeding edge of inspiration. From wildly blinged-out school buses, to evocative sculptures, you’ll be eagerly anticipating what awaits you in the exhibit in the room ahead throughout your entire visit.
Moving away from the Inner Harbor, the Walters Art Museum will introduce you a massive collection of fine art that was assembled by its namesake. Spending several years overseas in exile due to the Civil War, he brought back an impressive range of paintings, sculptures, pottery, jewelry and much more.
The collection proved to be too much for their primary residence, causing them to build a palatial structure on Charles Street to house their collection in a more spacious setting. Today, that building is home to one of the best art museums in the city, and with 22,000 pieces to admire, it is an ideal place to hide from rain, snow, or excessive humidity during your time in Baltimore.
If you simply cannot satiate your hunger for art after the two prior attractions, then perhaps the Baltimore Museum of Art might do the trick. Founded in 1914 in a magnificent Roman-inspired building, it contains over 90,000 pieces of paintings, prints, and sculptures from around the world, including the largest collection of Henri Matisse works on Earth.
While he also called Philadelphia, New York City and Boston home, Edgar Allan Poe has had an even stronger connection to Baltimore, as he married his wife, lived and ultimately died here. The Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum preserves one of the houses where he lived during his life, and while much of it is unfurnished, it lends to a creepy vibe that fits with the poet’s reputation as a writer of dark literary works.
Finally, if you an enthusiast of religious landmarks, then visiting the Baltimore Basilica will likely appeal to you. This neoclassical structure departs what you would envision when thinking about what a Roman Catholic Church should look like, as its Greek-like facade and twin domes make it appear to be the child of a Hellenic temple and a Ukrainian Orthodox church.
Returning to the Inner Harbor, there are a plethora of non-cultural attractions that are well-worth seeing. The National Aquarium is one of largest aquatic zoos in North America, with over 750 different marine and tropical species inhabiting its 2.2 million gallons of water space and in the adjoining tropical rainforest habitat, which house many different birds, reptiles, and amphibians.
Geppi’s Entertainment Museum celebrates all things relating to pop culture, ranging from cultural memes that emerged in newspapers as early as the 17th century, straight through to the present day, covering the effects that comics, video games, movie and television have had on our modern day culture as a whole.
Baseball fans will love taking in a game at Camden Yards, where the Baltimore Orioles challenge all comers from across Major League Baseball, and if you are here while the O’s are out of town, then time spent exploring the Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards will keep the sports nut busy all day discovering the deep sports culture that imbues this harbor city.
Check the concert listings when you arrive in Baltimore; chances are you’ll be able to catch a show at Pier Six Pavilion in the Inner Harbor, as it is a venue that hosts the best in rock, pop and jazz music throughout the spring/summer/fall season, with an outstanding view to boot!
While the Washington Monument you are likely thinking of can be found in Washington DC,the original commemoration to America’s 1st president can be found here in Baltimore. While it is like the modern one in DC, the similarities end there, as it is a round pillar with a small sculpture of the man himself standing on a pedestal at the top.