The vibrant, walkable city of Baltimore attracts more than 23 million tourists each year and it’s no wonder they call it “Charm City.”
The waterfront community, with its laid-back vibe, appeals to all ages and offers a little something for everyone. Read on to discover Stephanie’s top five reasons to visit Baltimore for a getaway that extends beyond the ordinary.
- INNER HARBOR (photo above)
Inner Harbor attracts sightseers like a magnet due to the sheer amount of activities available. Shopaholics can shop till they drop at the sprawling mall, known as The Gallery at Harborplace. The retail complex is home to an array of retail shops and restaurants that provide shoppers with the opportunity to refuel and people watch.
During the summer, the bay is busy with paddle boats and sightseeing excursions and for those who prefer to incorporate educational activities into their getaway, there are plenty of choices there as well.
My advice is to stop at the Baltimore Visitor Center located at 401 Light Street to purchase tickets for events and attractions and gather more information to make the most of your visit.
Sightseeing and dining are two of my favorite activities and tourists can do both onboard a Harbor Dinner Cruise. Guests can enjoy dinner while taking in fabulous views of the Harbor and the many photo opportunities available.
Both parents and children are likely to absorb oodles of information at the Maryland Science Center, which attracts more than a half a million visitors per year. Founded in 1797 as the Maryland Academy of Sciences, the Center has the distinction of being one of the oldest scientific institutions in the United States and touts three floors of interactive exhibits that are designed to educate both young and old. “The Universe inside us,” “Dinosaur Mysteries,” and “Follow the Blue Crab” are just a few of the fascinating displays. Especially popular is “Your Body, The Inside Story,” a 7,000-square-foot exhibit that enables guests to walk inside a “giant, beating human heart,” chart their “health age” and learn about changes their bodies experience over time.
A 5,000 square-foot kids’ room located on the third floor is designed to entertain and enlighten children up to eight years of age and enables them to explore the world through various educational activities.
The National Aquarium is yet another Inner Harbor Favorite that has been wowing visitors since opening in 1981. The Aquarium features more than 11,000 aquatic animals representing 70 species and is a favorite of young and old alike. Amphibians like blue poison dart frogs, birds such as puffins and kookaburras, and colorful clown triggerfish join a variety of sharks and other animals under one roof and few fail to amaze and enthrall.
- HISTORIC FELLS POINT
History lovers, in particular, flock to Fells Point, located just east of Inner Harbor. Established by William Fell back in 1730, Fells Point was the first neighborhood in Baltimore to be listed on the National Register of Historic Districts. It is home to Baltimore’s oldest residence—The Robert Long House, which dates back to 1765 and is open for tours.
Also located in Fell’s point is the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park, where visitors can learn more about African-American maritime history, along with the story of Frederick Douglass’ early life in Baltimore and Isaac Myers’ journey to becoming a national leader.
The small, quaint, walkable neighborhood, with its cobblestone streets, is one of the more popular areas and is home to many pubs, restaurants and independently owned boutiques. Many visitors choose to reach Fells Point by boarding one of the many “water taxis” available at Inner Harbor.
It's in Fells Point that you'll also find my hotel recommendation. The Admiral Fell Inn is a charming hotel bedecked with 18th century furnishings. It's just steps from the waterfront leaving visitors excellently placed to enjoy the city.
- BALTIMORE’S CUISINE
Zagat ranks Baltimore as number two in the top 10 restaurant cities in the United States and there is no shortage of diverse places to dine.
“Charm City” is best known for its outstanding seafood and fans of blue crab will be especially delighted with the specimens available in Baltimore. You could conclude that many are spoiled for life after returning to the anemic crab offered back home. At least that’s how I felt.
For crab lovers like me, Baltimore Magazine recommends Bo Brooks restaurant located in the waterfront neighborhood of Canton for hefty, succulent crabs, stating, “Unlike many crab houses, here the crabs come true to size. The mediums have some heft and two colossal have so much meat they make a meal on their own.”
Baltimore offers so much more than seafood, however. For tapas, consider Bond Street Social in Fells Point, for steak The Prime Rib in Mount Vernon is an excellent choice and for upscale Italian, try Aldo’s Ristorante Italiano. Located near Little Italy, Aldo’s is touted as the highest Zagat-rated Italian restaurant in the state of Maryland and is a recipient of the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence.
- SHOPPING OPPORTUNITIES
Shopping opportunities abound, from small boutiques, to national retailers. In addition to Inner Harbor’s Gallery at Harborplace, there is the Harbor East neighborhood, which is fast becoming the city’s upscale shopping destination featuring stores like Lululemon, Anthropologie, Brooks Brothers and Warby Parker to name a few.
Antique lovers can enjoy a treasure hunt by taking a stroll down Howard Street to “Antique Row,” located in the Mount Vernon neighborhood, which also serves as the cultural center of Baltimore.
- THE ART SCENE
Baltimore is home to a vibrant arts scene as evidenced by Station North Arts & Entertainment District, which was the first area in Baltimore to receive the state designation back in 2002. Station North serves as a national model and is home to 15 different theaters and performance venues including the historic Charles Theatre and Artscape, the nation’s largest free public arts festival.
Two world-renowned art museums open their doors free of charge for area visitors. The Walters Art Museum, located at 600 North Charles Street in Mount Vernon features 55 centuries of art, including Egyptian mummies, Greek sculpture, medieval armor and 19th-century masterpieces. The Baltimore Museum of Art, which opened in 1914 with just one painting, now includes 95,000 works of art, including the largest collection of Henri Matisse in the world and offers free admission as well. Visitors can also enjoy an outdoor sculpture garden.
These are just a few ideas to make the most of your visit to “Charm City,” an area that will charm its way into your heart.