Known as ‘Charm City’, Baltimore sure lives up to its name!
Just over an hour from the United States capital, Washington DC; Baltimore is often by-passed by those travellers as they visit the East Coast. Mixing history, art, sport and food; Baltimore is sure to have something to please every type of traveller, and plenty of charming locals who will go out of their way to make sure you have a great time in their city!
Long known as one of the USA’s most important seaports, as the birthplace of the ‘Star Spangled Banner’, America’s national anthem, and the resting place of Edgar Allen Poe; Baltimore has been a city that many skip when visiting the east coast of the USA but what are the best things to do in Baltimore?
With only a one night stop in Baltimore, Vickie, my former housemate and one of my best friends, pulled out all the stops to show me what makes her hometown great.
Just a quick note: I visited in February – the middle of winter – so most of the activities we wanted to try were only available from Wednesday – Sunday, so I’ve asked some great bloggers to share their favourite activities to do in Baltimore too!
What to do in Baltimore, Maryland
Wander the Inner Harbour
Baltimore has been a major U.S. seaport since the 18th century, but after an economic decline in the 20th century, the beautiful old harbour area has been adapted as focal points to reconnect citizens and visitors with their waterfront; filled with public spaces, tourism, business, and housing, exploring the waterfront is one of the best things to do in Baltimore!
Alongside restaurants, shopping, hotels and apartments, you’ll find the National Aquarium (more on that below!), Maryland Science Center and the Baltimore World Trade Center, with the best view of the city in every direction from the “Top of the World” Observation Level on the 27th floor.
It’s not a harbour without ships! Be sure to check out the Historic Ships of Baltimore including the USS Constellation (the only Civil War-era ship still afloat which you can tour), USCGC Taney (last fighting ship still afloat that survived the attack on Pearl Harbor) and the USS Torsk (a Tench-class submarine which was the last ship to sink enemy vessel in World War II).
Take an Inner Harbour Cruise
The Inner Harbour is the heart of Baltimore, so take to the water for a tour!
There are dozens of options for cruises, but I went with Spirit of Baltimore cruises on one of their easy 60-minute tour filled with all the cities highlights.
As a guide shared their expert insights into the city, I stayed safely tucked indoors hiding from the cold weather but could imagine it would be simply beautiful on deck come summer time.
For a cruise with a bit more flavour, check out their Gospel Cruises each Saturday complete with lunch; or consider a SeaDog cruise if you feel the need for speed along sightseeing!
Discover Life Under the Sea at the National Aquarium
The National Aquarium in the Baltimore Inner Harbor is consistently ranked as one of the top three aquariums in the country and is Maryland’s biggest paid attraction. It’s easy to understand why it’s so popular when you visit!
Traversing several floors of gigantic, glassed-in aquatic habitats for every conceivable kind of water creature will take your breath away. Walking out into the atrium, filled with rainforest flora, and scarlet ibises and various types of tropical birds flitting through the trees (pro tip: don’t stand in any one place too long, or you might be a target!), will fascinate and boggle you. Moving quietly through a giant room full of various types of gently floating jellyfish will lull you into a wonderfully relaxed state, which you can quickly get rid of by coming face to face with some incredible sharks the next floor down! So, bring your kids, bring your camera, and bring your sense of wonder – the National Aquarium is where it’s at in Baltimore!
– Meagan from Two Restless Homebodies
Enjoy warm cookies and milk at Insomnia Cookies
While these cookies started in Pennsylvania, all the locals raved about these famous cookies!
There are a few Insomnia Cookie stores in Baltimore but I recommend visiting the one in Fells Point. The beautiful cobbled streets are home to dozens of small boutiques, plenty of bars (many offering live music nightly), and restaurants.
I personally loaded up on Snickerdoodles (a sugar and cinnamon cookie) and their Deluxe Triple Chocolate Chunk which was so gooey and sickly, but totally delicious. Vickie is a fan of the Chocolate Chip Brownie and Red Velvet, but told me a Peanut Butter Cup is a must on my next visit!
You can also see the historic ‘vote against prohibition’ sign on the side of the Insomnia Cookie building; a small reminder that Baltimore was one of the ‘wettest’ states during the Prohibition in the 1920s.
Go to the Under Armour Factory Outlet
Did you know Under Armour is from Baltimore? The sportswear and casual apparel brand most well-known for their moisture wick clothing began with humble beginnings by University of Maryland Special Teams Captain (that’s NFL football) Kevin Plank in 1996 and today, the business is headquartered here and make for great practical souvenirs – hint hint!
Venture out to the Under Armour Factory House in Curtis Bay, around a 20-minute drive from downtown Baltimore. Here you’ll find a seriously huge range of the brands best clothes, shoes and accessories for cheap. I’m talking up to 80% off retail price!
While I didn’t scope out any of their sold-out ‘Project Rock’ collections with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, I did manage to score a bargain in their shoe department! My bestie and I both scored a pair of sneakers that were originally US$120 down to just $40!
If you don’t have a car or don’t want to take a drive out to Curtin Bay, Under Armour have a Brand House (their version of an outlet) downtown right on the Harbours edge!
Eat fresh crab cakes
There’s one question any Baltimorean will be able to answer without thinking twice: where’s the best crab cake in Baltimore?
Here’s three I’d try again:
- Faidley Seafood – 203 N. Paca St, Downtown
- Duda’s Tavern – 1600 Thames St, Fells Point
- Flash Crabcake Company – various locations as it’s a food truck. Check out their website!
Just don’t season the delicate crab meat with too much Old Bay, no matter how good it is!
Take yourself to a Ball Game at Oriole Park
Baltimore’s rich sports history invariably leads to Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The city comes alive when thousands of people flock to the games to cheer on their beloved team.
Don’t miss out on the tradition in singing the National Anthem, Orioles-style. Shout “O” during the line “Oh say does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave.” Baltimore can be forgiven for taking liberties with the anthem. After all, Francis Scott Key wrote it in the city’s harbour back in 1814.
Grab yourself a beer and burger at Pickles Pub inside the stadium, a pre-game tradition. Don’t fancy the sports bar scene? You can get basic hot dogs, peanuts and Cracker Jacks, and Maryland’s famous gourmet crab cakes in the concourse. Try the crab fries!
While watching the game, there is always an opportunity to get your free t-shirts, hats, and tons of other merchandise. Finally, cap off your great game experience with fireworks over Downtown Baltimore above the stadium.
– Halef from The Round World Guys
If baseball isn’t your style, don’t forget the city is home to the Baltimore Ravens! M&T Bank Stadium is just a short walk from the Inner Harbour and games run from August/September each year through March.
Get sky high with the view from Baltimore’s World Trade Center
You’ve seen it from the harbour now see it from above! By far one of the best things to do in Baltimore – especially for a first time visitor – is to get a glimpse of the city from the Baltimore World Trade Center.
Known as ‘The Top of the World‘, the enclosed observation deck on level 27 provides a 260-degree panoramic view of the harbour and city. With information on the history of the city and art exhibits.
Share a hubcap margarita with friends at Nacho Mama’s
My friend, Vickie, had raved about them while she was in Australia, and now it was my turn to tuck into one of Nacho Mama’s famous hubcaps.
Bring a friend – or three – to share one of this huge drinks served up in what resembles a real hub cap, complete with colourful bendy straws, while you scoff down a serving of cheap-and-cheerful Mexican.
Oh, and while you are waiting to be served by one of the charming waiters, take a moment to gaze around at the dozens of pieces of artworks featuring none other than Mister Elvis Presley in every medium you can think of.
It makes for a delightfully kooky and kitsch way to end your trip to Charm City!
How to get to Baltimore:
Baltimore is served by BWI International Airport (also the airport you’d likely use when flying to Washington DC). If you do choose to fly, I recommend you check Skyscanner for the best prices as BWI does have quite a lot of low-cost airlines flying into the city.
From BWI, the most convenient way to get from the airport to your accommodation is with a SuperShuttle. Costing less than $20, these comfortable shared-ride vehicles run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is far cheaper than an Uber or taxi.
While I love to fly, I prefer to travel on Amtrak when I’m travelling along the North-East corridor of the US. The city centre-to-city centre experience is fantastic and relatively hassle-free compared to flying – American airports are pretty intense experiences!
By the time I worked out the time it would take to travel to the airport, wait around the airport, and then finally fly and repeat the process, it was an easy decision to simply hop on the train at Penn Station (NYC) which was less than two blocks from the hotel I was staying at.
Where to stay in Baltimore, Maryland:
For a boutique getaway that won’t break the bank: Kimpton Hotel Monaco Baltimore Inner Harbour
The past meets the present in this boutique hotel considered by many as the best hotel in Maryland. Set in the historic B&O Railroad headquarters near the waterfront, with just 202-rooms in the boutique hotel, you are sure to get personal service.
Their rooms are spacious with city views, plush linens, and animal print bathrobes – yes, seriously! It’s a touch of old world charm coupled with all the modern amenities you could ask for, including really good water pressure and organic options in the mini bar.
If you aren’t content with the ordinary, Kimpton goes above and beyond with free PUBLIC bikes you can rent to explore the city, hosted wine evenings nightly between 5-6pm, and even earphones (with extra ear pads!) to use in their fitness centre.
Be sure to sign up as an IHG Rewards Club member to take advantage of complimentary WiFi!
For luxury digs right on the Harbourfront: Hyatt Regency Baltimore Inner Harbour
The location couldn’t be more perfect. Located across the road from the sights and delights of Baltimore’s Inner Harbour, the Hyatt Regency allows guests to mix work and play effortlessly.
Choose between harbour or city views, but skip the Club Rooms – they really don’t offer much more than a standard room (save for better view) and the Club Lounge is nothing special. This property is all about the central location.
Hyatt’s are well-known for having some of the best beds in their business thanks to their Grand Bed toppers and plush duvets, so you’ll sleep easy and in comfort.