America’s East Coast is populated with many historically significant areas where people can visit and connect with the past. One such city not only played a significant part in helping write America’s story, it has also evolved into a shining example of an area where history and cultural diversity are preserved in a modern setting. If you are thinking about making plans to visit Baltimore, here are 5 of my favorite reasons why you won’t be disappointed.
1. Fell’s Point
Once a prominent immigrant and ship building area, Fell’s Point is a marvelous collection of pubs, coffee shops, antique stores and restaurants located in southeastern Baltimore along the waterfront. Many of the residents have thrown a considerable amount of money into restoring the homes and businesses in the area, resulting in a quaint, sometimes nostalgic community complete with cobblestone streets and 18th century architecture. The locals are friendly and quirky, and depending on the time of year, you can experience one of the annual festivals including the Fell’s Point Fun Festival and the Fell’s Point Privateer Festival.
Fell’s Point Fun Festival
History: Celebrates the original 1960s fundraiser to save Fell’s Point from proposed construction of I-95 Freeway through the area.
Fell’s Point Privateer Festival
History: Celebrates the history of the Privateers, a local collection of ships used with the permission of the government to help fight off the British during the War of 1812.
2. The National Aquarium, Baltimore
If you are into aquatic life (actually, even if you’re not) Baltimore has one of the most extravagant aquariums on the East Coast. Since its opening in 1981, the National Aquarium has been considered one of Baltimore’s top attractions and currently entertains over 1.6 million visitors a year.
Housing over 17,000 creatures, the Aquarium boasts one of a kind attractions like Blacktip Reef, an Indo-Pacific reef replica with specialized pop-out windows that bring the audience as close to the action as possible. The dolphin show and the 4D Immersion theater are definite crowd pleasers, although you will have to pay a little extra for those. (Note: if you want to avoid getting wet during the dolphin show, steer clear of the clearly-marked ”splash zone.”)
Tickets are reasonably priced. Also, the Aquarium and parking are centrally located so visitors can experience many of the city’s other attractions with minimal travel. If you plan to visit all of the exhibits I would suggest allotting at lease 2-3 hours. Try to visit on a weekday during the school year in order to guarantee the smallest crowds possible.
Full Admission (admission + 4D show + Dolphin show)
3. Fed Hill
Overlooking Baltimore’s breath-taking and historic Inner Harbor, Fed Hill is a Charm City community of pubs, specialty shops, and restaurants that’s sure to have something for everyone. It is the same spot to which over 4000 patriots climbed and celebrated the ratification of the U.S. Constitution over 200 years ago.
Many people travel to Fed Hill by climbing the steep hill next to it. When they reach the top, they are greeted by arguably the best view of B’more on solid ground. There is a fenced play area in the park where children can blow off some steam while the adults take in the view.
Once the sun goes down, the freaks come out (that’s not always a bad thing.) Pubs and restaurants line the area in a way where people can casually come and go as they visit the different themed establishments. Although there are more than I can possibly name here, here are two suggestions:
Mother’s Grill - if you plan on making a night of it, this is a good place to start. The $5 margaritas and $3 Heinys are hard to beat and the food is great. Also, if you are a trivia buff like me, bring a group on Tuesdays for free trivia with cash prizes. I’ll warn you, the competition is stiff.
MaGerks – Opened by two Philly boys, MaGerks is a relaxing spot which accommodates Eagles fans as well as fans of local teams (a definite plus in my book), and their menu is pretty extensive. (Yes they have cheesesteaks, and yes, they will rock your face.) MaGerks also offers trivia on Monday nights, during which domestic beers are a mere $2.
4. Walters Art Museum
First established in 1931 from the private collection of father and son William Walter and Henry Walters (respectively), the former Walter’s Art Gallery situated on Charles Street and all of its contained works were left to the city of Baltimore following the death of Henry Walters. Since then, the gallery’s 22,000 items have increased to showcase 30,000 pieces of art spanning 55 centuries. The museum exhibits some of the best collections of Ancient American and World art you’ll find anywhere, as well as Asian, Medieval, Islamic, and Renaissance exhibits.
Two of the areas many people rave about are the Faberge Collection and one of the rare copies of the original Mona Lisa (apparently it is the best one in existence.) My favorite is the Egyptian exhibit. I challenge you to see it and not have your mouth gape open at least once.
Admission is absolutely free and the staff is exceptionally courteous and helpful. Parking can be a little tricky depending on when you decide to go so plan accordingly.
The History of Walters Art Museum
5. Power Plant Live!
Named after the old power plant on Pratt Street, Power Plant Live is an entertainment complex situated on Market Place in downtown Baltimore, just one block away from the Inner Harbor. Once visitors pass through the front gate, they are free to roam about and discover the many different themed establishments which cater to your every eating, drinking, and musical pleasure.
One of the most popular areas includes PBR, a country-themed bar complete with “Coyote Ugly” style bar dancing and a mechanical bull. (They do play other music besides country, including a strange once-a-night insertion of Will Smith’s “Prince of Bel Air” theme song into the rotation.) PBR is somewhat of a hybrid as it also features many televised sports competitions on its several flat screens, and there is an outside portion complete with a beer tub for convenience.
Another popular stop is The Comedy Factory which hosts stand-up from some of the funniest comedians around. Recent performers include Keith Robinson, Skiba, John Witherspoon, Brad Williams and Iliza Shlesinger, who also holds the title of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing.”
Power Plant Live tends to draw the younger crowds (21-30) so brace yourself for a safe yet somewhat boisterous night. Also, if you arrive to the complex before 10 p.m. there is no cover charge. After 10 p.m. there is usually a 5-10 dollar cover than must be paid by credit/debit card.
Other places of note:
Fort McHenry – This Baltimore stronghold was instrumental in repelling the British attack during the War of 1812. On September 14, 1814, following over 24 hours of continuous bombardment, the British were unable to take the harbor and were forced to retreat. It was during this event that Francis Scott Key penned the words that would later become the lyrics to America’s national anthem.
The Fort remains today and is a popular attraction for history buffs. In September the city holds a celebration at the fort (Defenders Day) which includes a weekend of special events and a fireworks display.
Maryland Live and Horseshoe Casinos – Maryland Live Casino, completed in 2012, is located just south of the city and offer 174 live action table games, a poker room, over 4300 slot machines, and two High-Limit rooms. The Horseshoe Casino, currently finishing construction and scheduled to open sometime this year, is located downtown on Russell Street. This two-story attraction will include a 122,000 sq. ft. gaming floor, a 20,000 sq. ft. Market Place featuring a food outlet, and a World Series of Poker room.
Bo Brooks – If you want to experience one of the best examples of fine dining B’More style, look no further than Bo Brooks. Located in Canton at Lighthouse Point, this is arguably one of the best seafood places in the city. As I said, this is fine dining so bring your wallet, but I guarantee you won’t leave disappointed (or hungry.)
Another one of my favorite establishments is Fogo de Chao, the Brazilian Steakhouse chain that has only 23 locations nationwide. What should you try there? Everything.
Today there are more reasons than ever to take in the sights of Baltimore. So next time you are planning a trip to the area be sure to check out these and many of the other attractions The Monument City has to offer. And while you’re there, don’t forget to try the crabs!
Baltimore, MD, USA
The Land of the Ooooooos
Amazon Price: $79.99 $74.99 Buy Now
(price as of Mar 30, 2014)