Top 8 Attractions in Baltimore

Last Updated on February 11, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Nicknamed “Charm City” for its friendly vibe, Baltimore captivates visitors with an eclectic blend of historical sights, cultural attractions, and modern amenities. From the nostalgia of Inner Harbor to fascinating museums chronicling American history, sports fanatics revelry, and innovative art installations, Maryland’s largest city delivers memorable experiences around every corner.

AttractionDescription
National AquariumPremier aquatic center with over 20,000 sea creatures.
Fort McHenry National MonumentHistoric site pivotal in the War of 1812 and national anthem.
Baltimore Museum of ArtHouses a vast collection, including the largest public holding of works by Matisse.
Maryland Science CenterInteractive exhibits on STEM topics for all ages.
The Visionary Art MuseumShowcases works by self-taught creators across various mediums.
B&O Railroad MuseumChronicles the history of American rail transport.
Sports Legends MuseumFeatures memorabilia from Maryland’s athletic history.
American Visionary Art MuseumFocuses on innovative art by self-taught artists.

When planning your Baltimore itinerary, narrowing down what to see and do among the long list of possibilities can be overwhelming. To help make the most of your time exploring this distinctive East Coast destination, we compiled the ultimate list of must-see Baltimore attractions. From the National Aquarium’s marine life marvels to historical ships in the harbor, these are the top sights and activities you won’t want to miss.

National Aquarium

Name and Location: The National Aquarium is located right along the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, Maryland and focuses on aquatic life and marine biology.

History and Significance: Founded in 1981, the National Aquarium was the first major public aquarium in the Baltimore area. It plays an important role in marine conservation and education on the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

What to Expect: Guests can observe over 20,000 aquatic animals in natural recreated habitats representing rivers, reefs and rainforests, including sharks, dolphins and rescued sea turtles. Immersive exhibits offer close-up encounters.

Visitor Information: General admission tickets include access to all exhibits. Timed-entry tickets help manage capacity. Combination and family packages are available with discounted pricing for added experiences.

Dominating Baltimore’s Inner Harbor with its gleaming glass pyramid design, the National Aquarium stands as one of the nation’s foremost aquatic attractions. Step inside its multiple levels of exhibits to discover over 20,000 sea creatures and interactive encounters showcasing global aquatic ecosystems.

The aquarium’s venues impressively recreate regional settings from tropical rainforests to Pacific coral reefs, housing everything from playful African penguins to toothy sharks gliding through open tanks. Don’t miss the Atlantic Coral Reef’s floor-to-ceiling views either, allowing kids to feel immersed alongside brilliantly-colored species sailing past the glass. Altogether it makes for an unforgettable introduction to life underwater right in Baltimore’s backyard.

Fort McHenry National Monument

Name and Location: Located in Baltimore along the city’s Inner Harbor, Fort McHenry National Monument preserves the historic coastal fortress that defended Baltimore Harbor during the War of 1812.

History and Significance: Fort McHenry’s successful defense against the British inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner” which later became America’s national anthem. The site commemorates this pivotal time in history.

What to Expect: Guests can take ranger-guided tours or self-explore the fort’s buildings, providing insight into soldier life. An interpretive center details the Battle of Baltimore with films, artifacts and more immersing visitors into history.

Visitor Information: All entrance fees are covered by an individual park pass. Certain areas have limited accessibility. Living history demonstrations and evening programs occur seasonally, check website for details.

As the birthplace of America’s national anthem, historic Fort McHenry National Monument delivers a patriotic pilgrimage just beyond Baltimore’s harbor. Dating back to the Revolutionary War era, Fort McHenry defended Baltimore against invading British forces during the War of 1812. The battle inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that became “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Explore the fort’s buildings and grounds to visualize 1814 soldiers’ lives. See cannons poised along the ramparts lining the perimeter of the start-shaped structure and learn how the fort repelled assault. Don’t miss the on-site visitor center’s artifacts chronicling the birth of the nation’s enduring anthem as well – from the 30-foot-by-42-foot garrison flag that inspired Key to his original scribbled lyrics.

Baltimore Museum of Art

Name and Location: In Baltimore’s Art Museum District north of downtown, the esteemed Baltimore Museum of Art houses an expansive collection of over 95,000 pieces spanning a variety of genres, eras and artists.

History and Significance: Founded in 1914, recent renovations and reinstallations have made the museum more open and visitor-friendly while highlighting its significant holdings like Matisse and historic collections.

What to Expect: The galleries feature an array of painting, sculpture, prints, textiles and decorative art from the Renaissance to today by influential artists like Andy Warhol alongside antiquities. New media, outdoor art installations and regular events occur too.

Visitor Information: Free general admission. Guided group tours are offered for a fee. The museum is typically closed on Mondays and major holidays. Validate parking in on-site garage.

Boasting one of the largest Matisse collections in the world, 95,000 works spanning centuries of creativity fill Baltimore Museum of Art’s galleries. Spanning two architecturally impressive buildings, exhibits range from antiquities and modern sculptures to African art plus the country’s largest public holding of Henri Matisse works.

Beyond the great 20th-century European painters, don’t overlook standout collections highlighting Maryland African American artists, New Mexico modernists, illuminated manuscripts, art deco furnishings, and pioneering contemporary installations. Outside, be sure to explore the sculpture garden and always-blooming sensory garden too, for an all-around inspirational arts experience in Baltimore.

Maryland Science Center

Name and Location: Conveniently located right at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the Maryland Science Center is a multilevel, interactive museum promoting science learning through hands-on exhibits, demonstrations, and immersive spaces.

History and Significance: First opening in 1976, the educational museum has remained dedicated to engaging visitors of all ages in relevant scientific content across fields like physics, space, earth science, biology and more through constantly updated galleries and programming.

What to Expect: Guests can explore interactive science displays and Innovation Lab tinkering space, watch films in the 3-story IMAX theater, view aquatic life or enjoy discounts and special member events promoting STEM accessibility in the community.

Visitor Information: Ticket options include general admission plus add-ons like IMAX movies and special exhibits for additional fees. Tickets should be booked online in advance when possible, especially for the planetarium shows.

With tons of interactive science exhibits spread across three floors, the Maryland Science Center allows kids and adults alike to joyfully explore STEM topics. See massive dinosaurs, a walk-through human body, planetarium shows in the converted 1929 theater dome, and live demonstrations making scientific principles fun.

Current events and pressing challenges also inspire timely attractions like the center’s climate challenges gallery. Catch a giant movie in the five-story IMAX theater, touch tidepool creatures in the marine estuary hall, have a ball conducting physics experiments – and you may just trick your mind while discovering something new traversing the three fascinating floors housing the Maryland Science Center’s ever-evolving exhibitions.

The Visionary Art Museum

Name and Location: Located in Baltimore’s Federal Hill neighborhood, The American Visionary Art Museum specializes in self-taught art made by creative visionaries typically outside the mainstream.

History and Significance: Founded in 1995, it was dubbed “the official national museum for self-taught art” by Congress for its one-of-a-kind architecture and nationally-renowned collection celebrating raw innovation and unique perspectives.

What to Expect: The bright, whimsical galleries feature painting, sculpture, mosaics and more made by self-taught artists across various mediums and unconventional materials. Installations range from thought-provoking to mystical. Special events also occur.

Visitor Information: Open year-round except major holidays. General admission tickets include access to most exhibits. Combo tickets add entry to special installations. Validated parking available in nearby garage.

Dedicated to artists historically marginalized from mainstream institutions, Baltimore’s uniquely contemplative American Visionary Art Museum offers an antidote to traditional fine art encounters. Half museum, half mind-expanding philosophical experiment, the converted warehouse space spotlights self-taught creators’ works spanning paintings to sculptures utilizing everything from tree roots to bicycle tire treads.

Psychadelic colors, provocative themes, complex formations, and staggering intricacy make these visionary works shine. You may puzzle over implied meanings or find clarity gazing at an inspired piece speaking to you. Either way, be prepared to see creativity from an eye-opening new perspective unlike any other museum during a visit to the one-of-a-kind American Visionary Art Museum.

Fort McHenry National Monument

Transporting visitors back to the 19th century, Maryland’s preserved railroad terminal-turned-history museum named B&O Railroad Museum chronicles early innovations in American railway systems. Train car exhibits boast vintage locomotives and rail cars you can climb aboard – including rides on real track circling the museum.

See interesting oddities like Abraham Lincoln’s personal train car and trace early 20th century advances in railcar design during America’s golden age of rail transport. Kids gleefully explore interactive model train layouts as parents inspect the roundhouse’s full-sized steam engines dramatically on display. Expect a heavy dose of late 1800s nostalgia during this extensive look at rail heritage courtesy of Baltimore’s exceptional railroad museum.

Sports Legends Museum

Name and Location: At Baltimore’s Camden Yards adjacent to Oriole Park baseball stadium, the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Sports Legends Museum celebrates the legacy of Baltimore native baseball icon Babe Ruth alongside Maryland’s sports history.

History and Significance: First opened in 1974 then relocated to its current site in 2005 coinciding with what would have been Ruth’s 100th birthday, the expanded museum profiles the Sultan of Swat, his legacy and the rise of baseball alongside Maryland sports heroes and events.

What to Expect: State-of-the-art exhibits showcase Babe Ruth memorabilia including artifacts from milestones like his 60th home run ball and jersey from his 1934 “farewell” address speech. Rotating exhibits highlight other notable Maryland sports figures too.

Visitor Information: Tickets include same-day admission to the museum and adjacent Babe Ruth’s Birthplace. Timed-entry ticketing helps regulate capacity. The museum store offers official merchandise and exclusives. Combination deals with stadium tours are also available.

At Baltimore’s Sports Legends Museum, the legends, artifacts, and memorabilia connected to Maryland’s athletics history impress almost as much as thecoefs two-story cobblestone atrium housing them. As the official state sports hall of fame too, see Babe Ruth’s first pro contract alongside Olympic hero Michael Phelps’ swimsuit in exhibits highlighting local icons.

Interact with scores of artifacts and multimedia experiences celebrating Baltimore’s web of sports stories – from Johnny Unitas’ Colts jersey to vintage baseball stadium blueprints. Sports memorabilia abounds, whether you browse signed collectibles for sale or absorb fascinating facts about the Baltimore athletes, teams, and moments preserved at this one-of-a-kind regional sports shrine.

American Visionary Art Museum

Name and Location: Located in Baltimore’s Federal Hill neighborhood, The American Visionary Art Museum specializes in self-taught art made by creative visionaries typically outside the mainstream.

History and Significance: Founded in 1995, it was dubbed “the official national museum for self-taught art” by Congress for its one-of-a-kind architecture and nationally-renowned collection celebrating raw innovation and unique perspectives.

What to Expect: The bright, whimsical galleries feature painting, sculpture, mosaics and more made by self-taught artists across various mediums and unconventional materials. Installations range from thought-provoking to mystical. Special events also occur.

Visitor Information: Open year-round except major holidays. General admission tickets include access to most exhibits. Combo tickets add entry to special installations. Validated parking available in nearby garage.

Beauty surrounds visitors to Baltimore Botanical Gardens as flowers and fauna thrive across outdoor areas and inside grand vintage greenhouses. Nature’s live art fills formerly private gardens opened to the public in 1977 to impressive acclaim from conservation organizations worldwide ever since.

Seasonal blossoms explode everywhere from spring’s tulip garden to summertime’s lavender patches and rose skies towering overhead. Themed spaces like the Japanese rock garden and bonsai treees showcase specialized collections too. Meandering along cascading waterfalls, bamboo arches, and lilypad ponds under glass, the gorgeous gardens embody zen serenity just minutes from Baltimore’s bustling metropolis.

Conclusion

With no shortage of incredible attractions and activities, Charm City keeps visitors captivated day to night. From the national treasures commemorating America’s national anthem at Fort McHenry to interactive science adventures at the Maryland Science Center and visionary artworks nearby, Baltimore’s premier destinations showcase the city’s rich history and culture around every corner.

Use this local’s guide covering Baltimore must-see spots to maximize your own visit. Discover beautiful parks and gardens, world-class museums, delectable foods, sports nostalgia, harborfront fun, and more waiting to charm you at every turn across this vibrant East Coast destination.

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