"Charm City" (population around 586,000), the state of Maryland´s biggest, hasn´t always has such a charming reputation in recent years, but urban renewal has made a huge difference, and crime is limited to neighborhoods well away from areas most visitors are interested in. Art lovers, history buffs, and foodies will have a field day in Baltimore´s museums, landmarks/historic sites, and a flourishing restaurant scene which ranges from seafooders specializing in the iconic local blue crabs, crab cakes, oysters, and ¨coddies¨ (cod-and-potato-cake sandwiches) to sophisticated international cuisine. And here are five spots not to miss:
Right on Chesapeake Bay, this has been one of the USA´s largest ports since the early 19th century, and later was also the site of much shipbuilding, steelmaking, and other heavy industry. These days it´s very visitor friendly, full of cultural, dining, shopping, an entertainment venues. You can get around on foot or by water taxi, and highlights include harbor cruises, the National Aquarium, the Maryland Science Center, the Port Discovery Children´s Museum, the mid-19th-century U.S. Navy sloop USS Constellation (a National Historic Site), and the nearby Oriole Park baseball stadium (see below).
When during the War of 1812 he was detained by the Britiah on a vessel in the bay during a battle lawyer poet, writer and lawyer Francis Scott Key spotted a flag with 15 stripes and stars rising above the fray, signalling the U.S. naval victory. The story goes that Key was inspired by this sight to compose a song which became this country´s national hymn. The site of the battle - as well as Key's moment of inspiration - is among the city´s most popular tourist attractions. The visitors´ center has a number of exhibits about the fort, and you can take both guided and self-guided tours..To get here, take the No. 1 bus from the main park gate and then walk for 100 meters to reach the visitor center (you can also get here from the Inner Harbor via water taxi).
Located in the Charles Village neighborhood, just north of downtown, Maryland´s largest art museum is about to mark its 100th annivesary next year, and is home to more than 95,000 artworks, including a dazzling Matisse collection in wing also exhibiting the likes of Cézanne. Degas, Gauguin, Picasso, Renoir, and Van Gogh. In addition, there are plenty of other works from Europe, Africa, Asia, and contemporary artists both emerging and established. You can grab a tasty bite at chic yet casual Gertrude´s, with a beautiful garden views, and by the way museum admission is F-R-E-E!
While not as well-known, this also no-cost, 89-year-old institution in the ritzy Mount Vernon neighborhood, also north of downtown holds treasures dating back to 5500 BCE. With three distinct sections, its holdings include works of the European Renaissance, Asia, Byzantium, and Ethiopia. Among other things, there´s a vast Egyptian collection, ancient Greek sculptures, and a gallery devoted to Europe´s Middle Ages, including impressive suits of armor.
If from April through early October you're walking through downtown in the early afternoon or evening, you're likely to see a plethora of fans wearing orange as they make their way towards Camden Yards, a short distance the Inner Harbor, Built in a retro style during the early 1990s, the ballpark is well-maintained and offers the full MLB baseball experience, as well as daily 90-minute tours (between 10 am and 1 pm Monday through Saturday and noon till 3 pm on Sunday during the regular season) during which fans can learn cool stuff about Baltimore's history in baseball and other historical characters such as baseball legend Babe Ruth, the home-town boy whose statue greets fans at the front in the arena (you can also visit his birthplace and museum two blocks away).
Named after the neighborhood in which it´s located, just south of downtown, this hillside spread of just over 10 acres (4.17 hectares) has been a public park since 1880 and offers sweeping panoramic view of the Inner Harbor and skyline. Utilized in both the Civil War and the War of 1812 as a key military outpost and watchpoint, it has several monuments attesting to that history along a pleasant plaza and promenade. There´s also a kids´ playground up here, as well as several eateries and bars.
Also in Federal Hill, this onetime whiskey warehouse is a magnet for those with diverse preferences, specializing in ¨outsider art¨ (also known as ¨art brut¨) mostly by self taught ¨regular people¨ (including some with mental illness). On entering, visitors are welcomed by a 55-foot tall "Whirligig" wind-powered structure which sets the mood for the quirky, sometimes downright bizarre works in here Topics covered include the influence of technology on our lives and the power of storytelling race, gender and race. Recent reviews have highlighted the vibrant multi-dimensional collection as appealing to both children and adults. They also love the interactive quality of some of the exhibits.
Sound interesting? Check out VisitBaltimore.org, and you can easily book your cheap flights to Baltimore with Lowest Flight Fares.