Although much of Baltimore's business takes place along Charles Street, the city's focal point for tourism is the Inner Harbor, home of the Baltimore Convention Center, Harborplace shopping pavilions, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, M&T Bank Stadium, National Aquarium, Pier Six Concert Pavilion, and Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture. That having been said, Baltimore is also still a working deepwater port. Boats from all over dock just beyond the Domino Sugar sign. At the Inner Harbor sea wall, it's not unusual to see naval vessels and tall ships and their crews from around the world.
Money-Saving Harbor Pass
Baltimore's top tourism spots have teamed up with Harbor Pass. For $57 for adults and $38 for kids, visit the National Aquarium, Maryland Science Center, Port Discovery or American Visionary Art Museum, Sports Legends at Camden Yards, and Top of the World Observation Level. The passes are valid for 4 consecutive days, but only one visit per location. Order in advance for a 20% discount at tel. 877/BALTIMORE (225-8466) or www.baltimore.org. Or pick them up at the Inner Harbor visitor center.
Only in Baltimore, Hon!
- Cannoli at Vaccaro's. All the desserts are divine, but the cannoli is a tradition. Skip dessert wherever you're having dinner and head straight to Little Italy afterward, or stop by the annex at the Light Street Pavilion.
- Seventh-Inning Stretch at Camden Yards. The crowd of 45,000 unites for a rousing rendition of John Denver's "Thank God I'm a Country Boy."
- Spring in Sherwood Gardens. This community garden at Highfield Road and Greenway Street, in the Guilford neighborhood of northern Baltimore, is out of the way and hard to find -- but it's an oasis in May, when the tulips are in bloom. You'll also go through lovely neighborhoods that tourists seldom see.
- View from the Glass Elevators at the Hyatt. Short of a harbor-view room, this is the best view in the city, especially at night -- and it's free.
- Water Taxi Ride to Fell's Point and Little Italy. It's an inexpensive way to see the harbor -- and a great way to avoid the hassle of parking.
Coming Soon -- A Star-Spangled Bicentennial
The bicentennial of the War of 1812, and especially the Battle of Baltimore and the writing of the "Star-Spangled Banner," will be celebrated here with 2 years of exhibitions, fireworks, and Tall Ships visits. Mary Young Pickersgill is expected to make appearances throughout the state during those 2 years. Marylanders faced the British in 1813 and 1814 in skirmishes and battles from Havre de Grace to St. Michaels and finally at Fort McHenry. Official commemoration will begin with a 2-week celebration, starting on Defender's Day, September 12, 2012. Other signature events will be held throughout the next 2 years, when a final celebration will conclude the weekend around September 12, 2014. A few of the Baltimore locations sure to be must-sees during the bicentennial are:
Fort McHenry, end of East Fort Avenue (tel. 410/963-4290; www.nps.gov/fomc), is the site of the Battle of Baltimore, where Francis Scott Key was inspired to write "The Star-Spangled Banner." A new visitor center and revamped exhibits are planned.
The Star Spangled Banner Flag House and Hofmeister Museum Building, 844 E Pratt St. (tel. 410/837-1793; www.flaghouse.org), was the home of Mary Young Pickersgill, the flag maker, whose flag inspired the writing of "The Star-Spangled Banner." Exhibitions planned will include "Family of Flag Makers," due to open in 2012.
The Maryland Historical Society, 201 W. Monument St. (tel. 410/685-3750; www.mdhs.org), houses Maryland artifacts including Key's original composition, and plans special exhibits.
Fell's Point Visitor Center, 1724 Thames St. (tel. 410/276-1561; www.preservationsociety.org) will commemorate the waterfront neighborhood's role during war.
A website has been set up for those interested in keeping up with the star-spangled bicentennial: www.starspangled200.org.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.