Top 12 Things to Do in Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimore offers a unique blend of history, arts and culture. This city on Maryland’s Patapsco River played key roles in events like the Revolutionary War and War of 1812, fueling the region with a strong sense of independence that persists today.

Inner Harbor & HarborplaceSightseeing hub with attractions and dining.
Fort McHenry National MonumentHistoric site and birthplace of the national anthem.
Center Stage TheaterMaryland’s largest professional regional theater.
Baltimore Museum of IndustryLegacy of the city’s shipping and manufacturing.
George Peabody LibraryOrnate architecture and vast collections.
Hampden’s 36th StreetShopping and dining in an eclectic neighborhood.
Hippodrome TheaterHistoric venue for Broadway musical theater.
Pier Six PavilionWaterfront amphitheater for musical acts.
Maryland ZooOver 2,000 animals in Druid Hill Park.
Sample Crab Cakes & SeafoodEssential Baltimore dining experience.
Watch an Orioles Baseball GameMajor League Baseball at Camden Yards.

Charm City also continues nurturing artists, musicians and innovators across its vibrant neighborhoods. These 12 attractions provide essential Baltimore experiences for first-timers and longtime locals alike.

Explore the Inner Harbor & Harborplace

Name and Location: Baltimore’s Inner Harbor area contains attractions like the National Aquarium along its scenic downtown waterfront, as well as Harborplace – a shopping/dining pavilion spanning 2 historic market buildings.

History and Significance: Transformed from an industrial port starting in the 1960s, Baltimore’s revitalized Inner Harbor drives tourism today as a hub of museums, shops, restaurants and sightseeing located around the picturesque waterway leading to the Chesapeake Bay.

What to Expect: Visitors enjoy harbor views along the brick promenade or from amphitheater seating while accessing National Aquarium exhibits, historic ships, unique stores/eateries inside Harborplace’s glass atrium buildings connected by a central plaza.

Visitor Information: The area offers free weekend events and lots of family-friendly programming year-round. Light rail stops provide transit access with parking garages nearby.

Baltimore’s famous Inner Harbor serves as the city’s hub for sightseeing. The waterfront area features great views of boats navigating the Patapsco River along with attractions clustered in the pedestrian-friendly Harborplace shopping and dining complex. Snap photos of the National Aquarium, browse museums dedicated to baseball and African American history and culture, or relax during an urban beach escape to the Inner Harbor sandscape filled with volleyball courts, mini golf and more.

Tour Fort McHenry National Monument

Name and Location: Located along Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, Fort McHenry National Monument contains the star-shaped coastal defense fort that successfully fought the British Navy in 1814.

History and Significance: Fort McHenry’s vital role protecting Baltimore Harbor during the Battle of Baltimore inspired Francis Scott Key’s words to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” America’s future national anthem. It’s a key history site.

What to Expect: Guests can take guided or self-guided tours of the fort’s buildings and grounds, envisioning the battle that saved Baltimore from occupation while helping inspire a song. An on-site visitor center expands on the context.

Visitor Information: The park is open daily with free admission. Regular hours are offered year-round, with additional evening programs in summer. Transit accessible via harbor shuttle buses and water taxi.

History buffs shouldn’t miss Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, birthplace of the national anthem. This star-shaped fort defended Baltimore Harbor against the British Royal Navy during the Battle of Baltimore, inspiring Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Costumed reenactors and exhibits featuring Revolutionary and Civil War artifacts bring the eras to life. Make sure to catch the video narrated by President Obama for fuller context before walking the scenic grounds dotted with historic buildings.

See a Show at Center Stage Theater

Name and Location: On Baltimore’s Mount Vernon cultural campus, the recently renovated Center Stage theater complex houses multiple intimate performance spaces showcasing professional plays and musicals.

History and Significance: For 60 years, Center Stage has delivered Baltimore premier theater as the city’s flagship resident company for contemporary dramatic arts. Venues were upgraded in 2016 to further community engagement.

What to Expect: Unique productions range from reimagined classics and provocative new works to musicals and comedies staged in the round. Seven plays run each season with additional community programming like readings and classes.

Visitor Information: Performances happen Tuesdays through Sundays year-round. Subscriptions or single tickets can be purchased online. Garage parking is available next door.

For top-notch performing arts, check out shows at Center Stage Theater. As Maryland’s largest professional regional theater, Center Stage delivers quality Broadway-style musicals, thought-provoking dramas and comedies staged in three unique theater spaces. Performances happen year-round thanks to popular programming like the Off Center Cabaret Series bringing more intimate, experimental productions to life in their Head Theater space after hours.

Watch Ships at the Baltimore Museum of Industry

Name and Location: The Baltimore Museum of Industry occupies a former cannery building along the city’s Inner Harbor as an educational museum focused on Baltimore’s industrial achievements.

History and Significance: Founded to preserve the site’s history, BMI utilizes its expansive collections, archives and exhibits spanning manufacturing equipment to skilled trades artifacts that fueled Baltimore’s growth as a major East Coast industrial port from the mid 1800s-1900s.

What to Expect: Interactive experiences like operating machine tools convey local innovations across sectors like garment-making, agriculture processing and shipping that visitors witness firsthand before observing massive cargo vessels continuing such enterprises at nearby docks.

Visitor Information: Open Tuesdays-Sundays year-round except select major holidays. Admission discounts and special events offered along with regular hours. Easy accessible from Inner Harbor.

The Baltimore Museum of Industry tells the story of the city’s legacy as a bustling shipping and manufacturing hub. Interactive exhibits feature iconic brands like Domino Sugars, toolmaker McCormick and the world famous spice company founded here. See machinery in action during live demonstrations showcasing everything from printmaking to can manufacturing. The museum also hosts community events like silent film screenings accompanied by live music on their pipe organ.

Tour the George Peabody Library

Name and Location: The George Peabody Library is a lavishly decorated research library containing over 300,000 volumes across multiple floors of a gorgeous Beaux-Arts atrium space near Baltimore’s Washington Monument.

History and Significance: Funded by 19th century financier and philanthropist George Peabody as a free institution for the public, the library’s stunning architecture rivals European cathedrals with ornamented iron balconies ringing neoclassical stacks soaring 61 feet.

What to Expect: Visitors admire the hub’s beauty with self-guided tours providing headphones that detail aspects like symbolism carved into the marble and origins of displayed rare manuscripts spanning religion, philosophy and more dating back before the 1500s.

Visitor Information: Free guided tours also available on select days. Library’s regular hours are weekdays 10am-5pm. Photography prohibited. ID access required to use scholar resources.

Even if you’re not looking to check out a book, bibliophiles will want to visit the George Peabody Library. The 19th century research library inside Johns Hopkins University impresses sightseers with its ornate architecture more reminiscent of a palace than book repository. Magnificent stacks rise over 60 feet under a skylight ceiling, making you feel tiny next to over 300,000 volumes. Free public lectures and events also happen regularly.

Shop Along 36th Street in Hampden

Name and Location: The Hampden neighborhood’s ever-eclectic West 36th Street commercial area contains a variety of hip boutiques, cafes, galleries and emporiums consistently drawing dedicated shoppers to north Baltimore.

History and Significance: By the mid 1990s, 36th Street organically grew into a hub for eccentric art, antiques and fashion bazaars within converted rowhomes. Despite some turnover, many pioneering original shops remain while new ones carry on traditions.

What to Expect: Past rock shops, retro toy sellers, tattoo parlors and specialty grocers, browsing 36th Street offers exposure to Baltimore’s funkier tastes via vendors plying wares ranging from campy kitsch, records and handcrafted oddities to tattooing and taxidermy all on vibrant display.

Visitor Information: Shops typically open around 11am daily, with extended evening hours on weekends when pedestrian activity peaks. Parking can be tight, but the commercial strip is easily walkable.

North Baltimore’s Hampden neighborhood wins visitors over with its independent boutiques, galleries, eclectic eateries and colorful rowhomes. Its main drag, 36th Street, offers prime opportunities for unique local shopping. Browse antiques shops, retro and vintage clothing stores, record stores packed with vinyl, and galleries selling original artwork. Stop for coffee, cocktails or a meal as you explore the funky neighborhood made famous by movies and TV shows like “Hairspray” and “Veep.”

See a Show at the Hippodrome Theater

Name and Location: On Baltimore’s vibrant Westside downtown corridor, the 2,200-seat Hippodrome Theatre at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center hosts large touring Broadway musicals and plays.

History and Significance: Originally constructed in 1914, the beautifully restored Hippodrome served as Baltimore’s premier vaudeville/movie venue before closing in 1990. An extensive $65 million renovation project resurrected the cultural landmark in 2004.

What to Expect: Showcasing smash hits straight from New York seasons, the elegant theater’s Broadway lineup aims to entertain the masses with premium productions and A-list stars gracing the Hippodrome’s spotlit stage Tuesday through Sunday evenings, plus matinees.

Visitor Information: Individual and season ticket plans available. Offering validated parking and concessions. Call box office or buy online in advance for best seat options.

Since 1914, Baltimore’s historic Hippodrome Theater has been delighting audiences with live entertainment, now primarily touring Broadway musical theater after a major renovation. This cultural landmark evokes old-world splendor with its French Renaissance facade. Inside, the striking restoration reveals a 12-story auditorium where phenomenal acoustics and intimacy make you feel part of award-winning shows. Enjoy classics like “Wicked” or cutting-edge new musicals alongside charming venue architecture.

Attend Free Shows at Pier Six Pavilion

Name and Location: Pier Six Pavilion is an open-air concert venue and events facility located along Baltimore’s Inner Harbor specializing in booking a diverse music lineup with some free summer shows.

History and Significance: Constructed in 1981 as part of Baltimore’s intentional harbor revitalization efforts, Pier Six became a premier outdoor entertainment destination hosting major concerts and festivals for over 30 years.

What to Expect: Warm weather brings free shows to Pier Six’s 4,000-person capacity grounds from swing bands to reggae groups perfect for dancing by the water after grabbing drinks from onsite bars with tables lining the perimeter to enjoy America’s largest free concert series.

Visitor Information: Ticketed shows also occur for bigger touring acts. Nearby garages charge for events. Boating dock access available. Fall through spring closed.

Pier Six Pavilion hosts musical acts under the stars right on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Throughout the summer concert season, the 4,500-person waterfront amphitheater attracts major touring performers across genres. Fans soak up views of boats sailing by as they enjoy rock, country, pop and hip hop favorites up close. Beyond ticketed concerts, the venue also programs family-friendly free shows and movie nights allowing more affordable entertainment.

Tour the Maryland Zoo

Name and Location: Spanning over 130 acres in Baltimore’s Park Heights neighborhood, The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore contains diverse exotic species exhibits focused on conservation and education.

History and Significance: Founded in 1876, it is the third oldest zoo in the country. Extensive modern exhibits like the award-winning African Journey highlight wildlife native to Maryland and from around the world across naturalized habitats.

What to Expect: Guests observe over 2,000 animals like North American black bears, African penguins, Komodo dragons, giraffes and more while enjoying interactive talks/feedings. Special events and seasonal activities also occur regularly.

Visitor Information: Various combination ticket options. Some exhibits have separate fees. Arriving early on weekends advised for ample parking. Trip planning details on website.

The Maryland Zoo sits within historic Druid Hill Park offering families fun opportunities to get close to over 2,000 exotic and native animals. Say hello to African penguins, enter the elephant house, and watch the gorilla troop play while learning about conservation efforts supported by the zoo. Combo tickets provide discounts on extras like camel rides, a wild bison herd tour and the zoo’s high-adventure zip line course offering scenic woodland panoramas.

Sample Crab Cakes & Seafood

Name and Location: Baltimore is renowned as a seafood hotspot boasting iconic cuisine like Maryland blue crab-based dishes served at area restaurants and markets across the city’s diverse neighborhoods.

History and Significance: Thanks to its location along Chesapeake Bay offering access to fresh regional catches, Baltimore developed an affinity for quality local seafood, especially tasty blue crab preparations perfected by generations of chefs.

What to Expect: From chilled whole crabs cracked open with mallets to specialized cakes blending jumbo lump crabmeat with binding agents then fried or broiled, visitors can sample renowned Baltimore seafood specialties prepared using traditional regional flavors and techniques.

Visitor Information: Some top spots near downtown include LP Steamers and Captain James Landing. Lexington and Fells Point also contain excellent restaurants specializing in fresh local seafood dishes.

No trip to Baltimore is complete without feasting on Maryland blue crab piled high on buttery buns or tucked into the city’s famous crab cakes. Harborplace’s Phillips Seafood Restaurant claims fame as the first ever crab cake spot. Or try lively Thames Street Oyster House found in the historic Fells Point neighborhood, once the main shipping port, brimming with seafood houses. Locals typically pair local oysters, shrimp, fish and more with signature Chesapeake Bay spice blends, corn and coleslaw.

Watch an Orioles Baseball Game

Name and Location: The Baltimore Orioles Major League Baseball team plays 81 home games over the season at iconic Oriole Park at Camden Yards located downtown.

History and Significance: In the retro ballpark hailed for sparking stadium design changes since opening in 1992, the O’s look to recapture glory last seen with World Series Championships in 1966, 1970 and 1983 behind stars like Cal Ripken Jr. anchoring the team for decades.

What to Expect: Fans soak up the major league atmosphere while bonding over Baltimore’s shared baseball heritage – reliving memories of legends decked out in black and orange jerseys dashing across Camden’s green grass field striving to craft fresh championship moments.

Visitor Information: Tickets start around $15. Guided ballpark tours and game packages also available. Light rail recommended for easiest park access.

Baseball fans are treated to Major League action without breaking the bank by catching the Baltimore Orioles at picture-perfect Camden Yards. Regarded as ushering in contemporary ballpark design, Camden Yards impresses sightseers with views of the Bromo Seltzer Tower and downtown skyline from lower deck seats. Enjoy a hot dog and cold National Bohemian “Natty Boh” beer – the quintessential local brew dating back to 1885 – as you cheer the O’s run around the diamond.

Baltimore rewards visitors with opportunities to understand the culture shaping its revolutionary roots, working class grit and creative community. Maritime sights, educational museums and performing arts venues make touring the city entertaining and inspiring. Use this list to guide your Baltimore travels for an immersive introduction to Charm City.

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