Baltimore might be a long way from its old, glorious heyday.
While most people see the city as just another stop on the train line from Washington, D.C. to Philadelphia, its numerous neighborhoods are home to a dizzying variety of cultures, thanks to its former status as the second leading port of entry for immigrants.
The city has since shifted over to a service-based economy, and is constantly reinventing itself. In fact, Baltimore is an underrated vacation destination.
Here are seven reasons you should visit Charm City.
1. Baltimore is the second largest seaport in the Mid-Atlantic region, and the local cuisine features a lot of seafood. The local markets, including Cross Street Market and Belvedere Square Market, are great places to slurp some oysters and down some crab cakes. Feeling a little adventurous? Order some raccoon or muskrat at Faidley’s at Lexington Market.
2. The beer scene in “Balamer” is more than just Natty Bo (although you have to admit it’s pretty good beer). Fells Point is the day drinking center of the city, with dozens of pubs. Choose from among 100 beers on tap at Max’s Taphouse, which has been in operation for more than 30 years. Max’s was ranked 22nd in RateBeer’s “Top Beer Destinations in the World” list and is still recognized as a top beer bar in the country. Quite a long way from the times when the old Max’s on Broadway hosted the likes of the Smashing Pumpkins and Hunter S. Thompson, although you could still partake in some karaoke on Friday nights.
3. A visit to the National Aquarium should be on your list of must-dos when you’re in the city. The aquarium is home to over 600 species of fish, marine mammals, reptiles, and birds, including blacktip reef sharks; Calypso, a 500-pound green sea turtle; golden lion tamarins; and Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. While the National Aquarium is almost always packed, the best times to visit are before 11 AM and after 3 PM. Visit after 5 PM on Fridays and pay just half the price of admission.
4. Baltimore’s image as a hard-nosed, gritty town will forever be associated the TV series The Wire. Although the series has aired its last episode more than a decade ago, fans of the series flock to Baltimore to trace the steps of Detective Jimmy McNulty. While there are no formal guided tours inspired by the series, you could visit several Baltimore landmarks that featured heavily in the series, such as Bethel Church, The Block, and Greenmount Cemetery.
5. Baltimore is a regional arts center, and institutions like the Baltimore Museum of Art keep the flames of culture alive in the Mid-Atlantic. Feast your eyes on artworks by Pablo Picasso, Paul Gaugin, Vincent Van Gogh, and Paul Cezanne, including the 1897 masterpiece Mont Sainte-Victoire Seen from the Bibémus Quarry. You don’t have to pay any entrance fees either; since 2006, admission to the museum has been free year-round.
6. If you’re a bibliophile, visit the George Peabody Library located on the Peabody Institute campus. The library holds more than 300,000 books, most of which were published in the 19th century or earlier. That is, of course, you could keep yourself from looking up at the library atrium’s majestic ceiling, which hangs more than 60 feet in the air, or the ornately designed floors, columns, and book shelves.
7. As a city located on a harbor of Chesapeake Bay, Baltimore has a long and rich seafaring tradition. The Historic Ships in Baltimore, located in the Inner Harbor, contains a collection of museum ships, including a World War II submarine, the sloop-of-war USS Constitution, a U.S. Coast Guard cutter, and a long-serving lightship. The Seven Foot Knoll Light, a decommissioned lighthouse, is also part of the exhibit. Sign up for a tour of the museum ships or book an “Overnight Adventure”, complete with meals and an overnight stay in a bunk.
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