With its extensively developed waterfront, overhead sky-walks, and numerous plazas and promenades, downtown Baltimore is ideally geared to the pedestrian tourist. Many visitors begin their tour of the city at Baltimore's Inner Harbor, easily the city's most picturesque area. A one-half-mile brick promenade along the water enables visitors to walk to the many attractions at water's edge.
The Maryland Science Center, set directly on the water, is especially popular with children. Three block-length floors of science exhibits, hands-on displays, and live science
One of the most spectacular sights at the Inner Harbor is the seven-level National Aquarium, whose unique glass pyramid roofs create dramatic reflections in the water. It is the city's top attraction and was rated one of the country's best family attractions in 2004, according to USA Today. More than 10,500 aquatic specimens and 560 species of animals are housed in the exhibits and the Aquarium is crowned by a 64-foot-high model of an Amazon rain forest that looks out over the harbor.
Port Discovery is Baltimore's children's museum and offers interactive exhibits and features a three-story urban tree house. Child magazine ranked it among the country's five top children's museums in 2002.
Visitors to Baltimore's Inner Harbor may take advantage of the Water Taxi, which from mid-April to mid-October shuttles between major points of interest around the harbor. For longer excursions, public and charter cruises, as well as brunch and dinner cruises, are available through Harbor Cruises.
Among Baltimore's many historical landmarks is the National Park at Fort McHenry, the unusual star-shaped fort that was the site of Baltimore's victory over the British bombardment during the War of 1812, and the inspiration for the U.S. national anthem. The fort's battlements have been carefully preserved. The Star-Spangled Banner Flag House, built in 1793, preserves the site where Mary Pickersgill sewed the 30-inch by 42-inch flag that flew at Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. A collection of early American art, Federal period furniture, and a unique map of the United States composed of stones from each state are presented.
Homes of several famous Baltimore residents are open to the public. The Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum offers exhibits commemorating baseball legend Babe Ruth and Maryland baseball history, with numerous photos and memorabilia of Baltimore's major-league teams, the Orioles. The childhood home of Babe Ruth is preserved as it was at the time of his birth in 1895. Continuing the baseball theme, the Baseball Center located in the Camden Station Passenger Terminal building at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. About four times the size of Babe Ruth's birthplace, the facility houses archives, classrooms, a baseball theater, a baseball-themed restaurant, and a main corridor that resembles a 1920s railroad car. The Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum on Banneker's 142-acre homesite commemorates this son of a freed slave and grandson of an African prince.
Edgar Allan Poe lived and wrote in Baltimore from 1832 to 1835. His home on North Amity Street is open to the public. Writer and journalist H. L. Mencken, locally known as the "Sage of Baltimore," lived in Baltimore for more than 68 years until his death in 1956. His nineteenth-century row-house overlooking scenic Union Square has been carefully restored with its original furniture and much of Mencken's personal memorabilia. The H. L. Mencken House is part of a seven-museum and park complex collectively known as Baltimore City Life Museums. Other historical buildings around Baltimore include the Baltimore City Hall, Shot Tower, The Washington Monument, and the George Peabody Library of Johns Hopkins University.
Baltimore has many public gardens and parks. The largest is Druid Hill Park, at 674 acres one of the country's largest natural city parks. One hundred fifty acres are devoted to the popular Baltimore Zoo, which features the largest captive colony of African black-footed penguins. Also in Druid Hill Park is the Conservatory, a remarkable glass pavilion similar in construction to the Victorian-era "Crystal Palace" built in 1888. Known as "The Palm House," the building contains an extensive collection of tropical and desert plants. Other gardens include Cylbyrn Arboretum, on the grounds of Cylbyrn Mansion, and Sherwood Gardens, located in the beautifully-landscaped neighborhood of Guildford.
Those seeking fine music, theater, and dance performances will not be disappointed in Baltimore, which has seen a recent renewal of interest in the arts, including new construction or major renovation of existing performing centers. The acoustically impressive Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall is home to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. In addition to its classical programs, which include a number of celebrity performers each year, the orchestra presents a Pops series. The Baltimore Opera Company performs full-scale grand opera at the restored Lyric Opera House, a replica of Germany's Leipzig Music Hall. Summer concert series are held at the Pier Six Concert Pavilion, a unique fabric-covered structure where jazz, country, and classical music, and musical comedy programs are presented by top-name performers. The Eubie Blake National Museum and Cultural Center, dedicated to the famous Baltimore-born pianist, fosters the development and sponsors performances of community artists. Classes are held at the center in music, dance, and drama. The Creative Alliance at the Patterson showcases a variety of entertainment in a 1930s movie theatre.
Baltimore theater-goers will find dramatic productions to suit every taste. The Morris A. Mechanic Theatre offers a wide range of pre- and post-Broadway productions. Center Stage is among the nation's top ten regional theaters and produces six classic and modern plays each year. Cockpit in Court Summer Theatre offers musicals, comedies, dramas and a children's each summer on the CCBC Essex campus. The Arena Players is one of the foremost black theater companies on the East Coast and the Theatre Project is known internationally for its experimental music, drama, and dance.
Baltimore's museums and galleries offer a variety of art and artifacts for viewing. The lifetime collections of Baltimore residents William and Henry Walters are gathered at the Walters Art Museum. Its treasures include more than 30,000 objects from 5,500 years of history—from pre-Dynastic Egypt to twentieth century Art Nouveau. Particularly resplendent collections are held in ivories, jewelry, enamels, bronzes, illuminated manuscripts and rare books. Baltimore's other major art museum is the Baltimore Museum of Art, designed by John Russell Pope, architect of Washing-ton's National Gallery. The museum's prize holding is the "Cone Collection," a large and valuable collection of paintings and sculpture by such European Post-Impressionist masters as Matisse, Cezanne, Picasso, and Van Gogh. The museum also has important collections of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American paintings, sculpture, and furniture, art from Africa and Oceania, and the works of Andy Warhol. One of Baltimore's newest museums, the American Visionary Art Museum, combines two historic buildings with modern museum architecture. Said to be the only such institution in the country, the museum was officially designated by the U.S. Congress as "the national museum, education and repository center, the best in self-taught, outsider or visionary artistry." The Contemporary Museum is part of an emerging "arts row" on Centre Street.
In the historical former residence of nineteenth-century Baltimore philanthropist Enoch Pratt is the Maryland Historical Society. The Society's Museum and Library of Maryland History are of particular interest to researchers; of general interest are collections of portraits by famous American artists, valuable nineteenth-century silver, furniture from 1720 to 1950, and Francis Scott Key's original manuscript of "The Star-Spangled Banner." Near the heart of industrial South Baltimore, the Baltimore Museum of Industry, housed in the former Platt Oyster Cannery, features recreations of turn-of-the-century machinery, printing, and metalworking workshops, as well as a garment loft.
The B & O Railroad Museum is designed around Mount Clare Station, which was built in 1830 for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad as the nation's first passenger and freight station. The original 1884 roundhouse, tracks, and turntable have been preserved. Among the more than 130 railroad cars on display here, both originals and replicas, is "Tom Thumb," the first steam locomotive. The Museum has renovated the roundhouse, added exhibits, train rides, visitor facilities and a museum store and had scheduled a grand reopening for spring 2005. The Baltimore Public Works Museum preserves the history of the city's public works with a collection of more than 2,000 items including early wooden water pipes, water meters, numerous photographs, and an early twentieth-century water-pumping truck. The museum itself was once a sewage pumping station, built in 1912. Much of the art collection of Baltimore's artistic Peale family can be seen at the Peale Museum, which has three floors of exhibits, including a floor dedicated to a history of the Baltimore rowhouse.
The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum is the first of its kind and represents black history and heritage through more than 100 historical wax figures as well as paintings, sculpture, and carvings. The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture, located at Inner Harbor, was scheduled to open June 2005. Its focus is on the lives, history and culture of African Americans in Maryland. It has partnered with the State Board of Education which has adopted a curriculum linked to the museum's programs. The Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park on the Fells Point Riverfront is also scheduled to open in the summer 2005. The $12 million park is sponsored by the Living Classrooms Foundation and features exhibits and monuments dedicated to the two entrepreneurs, a shipbuilding workshop, a working marine railway, outdoor amphitheater, dockage for historic ships, and other multicultural displays.
Most of Baltimore's festivals begin in late spring and continue on weekends throughout the fall. The colorful Maryland Kite Festival, held on the last Saturday in April, is a competition with homemade kites, judged for their beauty, flight performance, and design. Also in April is the highly acclaimed Baltimore International Film Festival, held for one month and presenting numerous entries in such categories as documentaries, movies by women or children, and animation. The Blues Fest is usually held in June. The African American Heritage Festival is held for three days in June at Oriole Park in Camden Yards.
Artscape is a lively outdoor festival held in July showcasing local artistic and musical talent. Baltimore's famous and very popular Showcase of Nations—a series of weekly ethnic festivals held from June through September—celebrates the heritage of many cultures through music, dance, crafts, and international cuisine.
September is the month of the Maryland State Fair, held at the Fairgrounds in nearby Timonium. The week-long state fair features livestock, produce, and equestrian competition from Maryland 4-H groups, as well as an amusement midway and horse racing. September also brings the Baltimore Book Festival, a celebration of the literary arts.
In October the Fells Point Fun Festival celebrates the historical waterfront neighborhood with two days of arts and crafts, entertainment, maritime exhibits, neighborhood tours, and music ranging from jazz and blues to Polish polkas. December's parade of lighted boats adds to the festive season and New Year's Eve Extravaganza offerings include parties at the convention center, ice skating demonstrations, live music and fireworks at the harbor (on January 1st).
Baltimore's American Conference East Division indoor soccer team, the Baltimore Blast, plays at Baltimore Arena; the team's season runs from October to March, with post-season play in April.
Professional football returned to the city with great fanfare after a 12-year absence when the newly christened Baltimore Ravens (formerly the Cleveland Browns and renamed in honor of the Edgar Allan Poe poem) played their first official National Football League game in 1996. The team now plays in the state-of-the-art M & T Bank Stadium. College football and basketball are represented by the University of Maryland Terrapins, Towson State Tigers, Johns Hopkins Blue Jays, and the Naval Academy Midshipmen at nearby stadiums.
Baseball fans come out to watch the American League Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Architects have praised its distinctive turn-of-the-century style, which is in keeping with its old urban neighborhood. The 48,000-seat stadium incorporates a landmark B & O Railroad warehouse that has been converted to office space for the ball club and the Maryland Stadium Authority. Another popular warm-weather sport is lacrosse, played by the champion Johns Hopkins University Blue Jays at Homewood Field; the Lacrosse Museum and National Hall of Fame is located adjacent to Homewood Field.
Thoroughbred racing, always popular with Maryland horse breeders and followers, can be seen at Pimlico Racecourse, Maryland's oldest racetrack. The famous Preakness Stakes, second jewel in the Triple Crown, is run here in May. In October on Maryland Million Day, thoroughbreds race at Pimlico Racecourse and purses total more than $1 million. Maryland's most famous steeplechase is the annual Maryland Hunt Cup, held in Baltimore County.
Baltimore's proximity to the Chesapeake Bay makes all sorts of water-related activities are favorite pastimes of many area residents. Sail- and powerboat regattas are held at the Inner Harbor, nearby Annapolis, and Havre de Grace throughout the summer months. Numerous marinas and yacht clubs dot the bay and river inlets near Baltimore, and local pleasure boats can be seen all along the Chesapeake on a clear day. Fishing, crabbing, and clamdigging are also very popular, even within city limits.
Numerous public and private golf clubs dot the Baltimore area. Art Links Baltimore is a miniature course designed by regional artists and architects. Art Links' 18 holes celebrate the culture of the Baltimore region, incorporating tracks of the B & O Railroad or depicting a crab feast, for example. Tennis courts are available in many of the city's parks, as are bike paths and swimming pools.
Most of the malls in the Baltimore area are located in Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties, close to the city, but many specialized shopping centers can be found within city limits, at Lexington Mall and along Antique Row, for instance. The twin pavilions of Harborplace and The Gallery offer shops and restaurants at the water's edge. Lexington Market, which underwent a revitalization in 2002, features more than 140 merchants selling fresh seafood, produce, and international delights. Lexington Market is part of Market Center, a bustling and colorful collection of more than 400 diverse shops. One of the oldest and most luxurious shopping districts in Baltimore is the Charles Street Corridor, where shoppers can find numerous art galleries, jewelers, stationers, furriers, and specialty boutiques; new stores are interspersed with enduring older ones.
As with many other aspects of Baltimore living, restaurant dining is greatly influenced by the city's proximity to the Chesapeake Bay. A wide range of Baltimore restaurants specialize in preparation of crabs, oysters, clams, mussels, and fish from the Bay. Many Baltimore restaurants also reflect the port city's rich ethnic heritage, and diverse international cuisines can be enjoyed throughout the downtown area.
Visitor Information: Baltimore Area Visitors Center, Constellation Pier, 301 East Pratt Street, Baltimore, MD; telephone (410)837-4636 or (800)282-6632. For information on group visits, Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association, 100 Light Street, 12th Floor, Baltimore, MD 21202; telephone (410)659-7300 or (800)343-3468; fax (410)727-2308