Welcome to Charm City
This town loves its crab cakes, Natty Boh, and bird-themed sports teams. It’s the birthplace of Michael Phelps, Old Bay seasoning, and The Star-Spangled Banner. Baltimore offers so much to see and do, from the bustle of the Inner Harbor to the beauty of Druid Hill Park—it’s part of why we’ve been running fun scavenger hunts here since 2005! These are just a few of our favorite museums and attractions in Baltimore, with a little bit about what makes them special.
With lovely views of the harbor and so many places to spend your day, the Inner Harbor is always a draw for sightseers and fun-seekers. Head to space in the Maryland Science Center’s planetarium or dive deep at the National Aquarium. The Power Plant Live! complex is always, appropriately enough, a lively stop for a bite to eat or a howl at the moon. One of our favorite things about the Inner Harbor is the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse. So unlike your typical tall, conical lighthouse, the squat, round, bright red Seven Foot Knoll was built in 1875 on a rocky shoal in the Chesapeake Bay. It helped ships navigate for more than 100 years, until in 1988 it moved to its current home and became a unique little maritime museum.
Speaking of the National Aquarium, its 2 million gallons of water, filled with more than 17,000 fish, sharks, turtles, coral, and more, make it the biggest tourist attraction in the entire state of Maryland. Everyone has their favorite exhibit, whether it’s the multi-story coral reef, the open-ocean shark tank, or the colony of dolphins—who might be moving to warmer climes in 2020. And of course there are the ever-popular bubble tubes, which enjoyed a makeover in 2011.
Oriole Park at Camden Yards is more than “just” the home of the O’s—plus off-season concerts and even the occasional college football game. Our founder Bret Watson has some thoughts on Camden Yards, his favorite ballpark: “I love its community feeling, continued after the game in the way that the celebrating (or commiserating) spills out into the local streets. The old brick warehouses beyond the outfield wall are a handsome, authentic backdrop.”
The historic waterfront neighborhood is known as a hip place to catch live music, visit an open-air street festival, grab a bite or simply have a drink. Especially that last one! Next time you visit, stop at the corner of Shakespeare Street and South Broadway to find the faded “Vote Against Prohibition” sign. It’s a vestige of Maryland’s fight against Prohibition in the ’20s and ’30s. Bootlegging was so popular here that Baltimore was one of the “wettest” places in America at the time.
Baltimore Museum of Art
Perhaps best known for having the largest Matisse collection in the world, the Baltimore Museum of Art is one of our favorite art museums anywhere. More highlights include Rodin’s famous The Thinker; a re-creation of the living room of Claribel and Etta Cone, sister art collectors whose vast art collection can be seen throughout the Cone Wing of the museum; and the quirky horse-race paintings and trophies of the British Sporting Art collection.
Walters Art Museum
A bit less staid is the Walters Art Museum, a private collection turned art museum that opened in 1934. You’ll see ancient art from Egypt, Greece, Rome, Mexico, and Central America; metalwork, sculpture, and stained glass medieval European; drawings and artifacts from Asia and the Middle East; and more. Our favorite room is the Chamber of Wonders, which feels like stepping into a 19th-century gentleman’s parlor full of weird art and artifacts—plus, there’s a stuffed alligator “crawling” on the wall.
Head up to northwestern Baltimore and Druid Hill Park to find the Maryland Zoo. Its 135 acres are home to African elephants, giant rabbits, prairie dogs, Arctic foxes, bears—both polar and grizzly—and lots more. The undeniable highlight is the zoo’s gorgeous renovation of the African Journey, where you’ll see lions and leopards and zebras and giraffes and okapis and lemurs and—well, you get the idea.
American Visionary Art Museum
If mind-bending, truly out-there art is more your speed, try the relatively young American Visionary Art Museum. Opened in 1995, this unique museum is considered the national home of so-called outsider, or self-taught, art. Guest curators present ever-changing, themed exhibitions, and AVAM’s founder boasts that her museum is “pretty un-museumy.”