7 Fun Things to Do in Baltimore, Maryland
I find that all too often these days people only bring up Baltimore when talking about crime. Sure, parts of the city have that in spades. But when I recently took a train up from Richmond to Baltimore, I found a wildly walkable city with an incredible amount of history, nightlife, and safe areas to explore.
I’d love to share some of my experiences with you. Read on for 7 Fun Things to Do in Baltimore, Maryland!
1. Walters Art Museum
If you have any kind of interest in art history or archaeology, you really need to go to the Walters Art Museum.
With a collection focusing more on sculptures and physical artifacts than paintings, even people who may not historically like art museums will be fascinated by the exhibits. There is an emphasis on Ancient Egyptian and Sumerian items, and you’ll find objects there that are well over 5,000 years old. These include Sumerian clay stamp rollers dating back to 3200 BCE and clay blocks with symbols that actually predate written language.
Another thing I like about the Walters is that it’s one of the best museums I’ve been to when it comes to putting everything into context. Even in the European art sections–which some might consider “trite”–there is plenty of information to tie everything together. You’ll learn a lot here, on top of just having a feast for your eyes.
600 N Charles St, Baltimore, MD 21201
2. Inner Harbor
The Inner Harbor is a heavily revitalized part of Downtown Baltimore, which I include on this list because it will appeal to many travelers, though certainly not all.
If you’re looking for a safe, interesting, gentrified area to explore, the Inner Harbor will be right up your alley. If you are looking for the “real” Baltimore, it may be a little touristy for your liking.
The Inner Harbor is nice to walk around, and features a variety of restaurants, shopping venues, and attractions. Chief among them is the National Aquarium, as well as the USS Constellation, the last surviving sail-powered warship from the Civil War.
You can access the Inner Harbor by the Camden Yards stop on the Yellow Line of the Light RailLink.
Even if the Inner Harbor itself is not quite what you’re looking for, anyone can appreciate a view of it from the park atop Federal Hill across the water.
3. Edgar Allan Poe Grave
For fans of the great American writer Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), you can visit his final resting place in the small churchyard of Westminster Cemetery in Downtown Baltimore.
Edgar Allan Poe was a highly influential writer, the genius behind such stories and poems as “The Raven,” “The Masque of the Red Death,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” and “The Fall of the House of Usher.” He wrote incredible contributions to the horror genre and is even credited with inventing the detective story. He was also a noted literary critic early in his career.
The circumstances surrounding his death are as mysterious as his stories. He was found extremely intoxicated outside a tavern, and perished soon after. His body was kept in the church’s basement for years before a relative demanded that his body be buried in more dignified circumstances.
Although born in Boston and raised in Richmond, Poe always considered Baltimore to be his one true home. Today the city of Baltimore has established strong ties to Poe’s legacy, even going so far as to name their football team The Ravens.
515 W Fayette St, Baltimore, MD 21201
(SE corner of W Fayette & N Greene)
4. American Visionary Art Museum
If you want an art museum of shall I say a different breed, you’ll love the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM). Historically a vanguard of “outsider” art (aka art made by the mentally ill, or just plain “bad art”), the AVAM has recently focused on pieces showcasing minority artists and their experiences, as well as contemporary issues such as the environment and even the importance of sleep.
I will tell you right now that the museum has a very clear and very proud left-leaning personality, to the point where even I was raising my eyebrows at certain exhibitions (for example, a plaque explaining how Daylight Savings Time causes deaths). Regardless, it is a very unique art institution and certainly worth a visit.
800 Key Hwy, Baltimore, MD 21230
Note: Backpacks are not allowed in the museum.
5. Mount Vernon
This historic urban neighborhood, as well as the adjoining Belvedere, offer a lot of lower-cost lodgings, and you can’t swing a stick without hitting somewhere nice to eat or enjoy. I would recommend The Helmand, which serves delicious Afghan fare. While it has outdoor seating, it’s close enough that you can bring your food to one of the many tables set up in Washington Square. Here you can have a wonderful al fresco meal beneath the watchful gaze of both the Washington Monument and the exquisite United Methodist Church.
For one of the best cups of coffee you’ll ever have, check out Red Emma’s, a combination cafe and bookstore. I would recommend getting your brew of choice with a shot of lavender flavor, and then walking across the street to Pearlstone Park to enjoy it.
The Walters Museum of Art is a quick walk down the street from here, as is the picturesque Peabody Library. If you’re arriving by train, Mount Vernon is within walking distance of Baltimore Penn Station. If you’re looking for a little bit of nightlife, The Civil offers good food and a fun atmosphere.
6. Crab Cakes
Baltimore is known for a lot of food, but their standout are crab cakes.
A good spot I can vouch for is Phillip’s Seafood in the Inner Harbor, housed inside a refurbished former power plant.
I will say that crab cakes are, like a lot of seafood, not necessarily cheap. Phillip’s is one of the less expensive options that offers good food. If you want a less expensive option, go for the crab cake sandwich.
7. The Last of the Arabbers
Once upon a time, horsedrawn carriages selling fresh fruits and vegetables were a common sight in American cities coast to coast. Today, there is only one place where they still operate: Baltimore!
These arabbers (it is pronounced “ay-rabbers”…yes, I know) are named for their similarity to Middle Eastern vendors. They patrol the streets of Baltimore, particularly on the West Side, just as they have been for the past 150 years.
Note: Unfortunately, in the time of COVID-19 you may be less likely to actually see the few remaining practitioners of this ancient art. However, there is a good reason for this: the arabbers have concentrated their efforts on low-income neighborhoods hit particularly hard by the pandemic. The men and women and horses are making sure that people in negatively impacted communities still have access to healthy food.
I hope this article on Baltimore points you in the right direction. Even though COVID-19 continues to keep a lot of us stuck in country, at least there are plenty of incredible spots within our own borders.
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