An Insider's Look at Baltimore
Baltimore: Dining in the City of Steamed Crabs
Haunted Places in Baltimore
Inexpensive Things To Do In Baltimore
The Baltimore Art Scene
An Insider's Look At Baltimore
by Carol Sorgen
...To get your bearings, start your visit to Baltimore atop Federal Hill at Warren Avenue and Key Highway. From the top of the hill, you can see a dramatic view of Baltimore's cityscape. The area was named after the city-wide celebration that followed the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, and has been a public park since 1879. If heights don't frighten you, don't miss another view of the city from the Top of the World Observation Level and Museum at 401 E. Pratt Street (410-837-4515). Let the high speed elevators whisk you to the top of the World Trade Center for a five-sided panoramic view of the harbor and audio-visual presentations of the city's proud heritage.
If you're a history buff, Baltimore's just the place for you to step back into the past. The next time you sing the "Star-Spangled Banner," think about the Fort McHenry National Monument (1790) and Historic Shrine at the end of E. Fort Avenue (410-962-4290). During the War of 1812, the successful defense of the fort inspired Francis Scott Key to write what was to become our national anthem. The 1840 House, part of the Baltimore City Life Museums at 800 E. Lombard Street at Fallsway (410-396-3523), offers a fascinating glimpse at Baltimore life more than 150 years ago through the eyes of wheelwright John Hutchinson and his family, the original residents of this reconstructed 19th century rowhouse.
At the Center for Urban Archaeology, also at 800 E. Lombard Street at Fallsway (410-396-3523), look at Baltimore's beginnings through "Archaeologists as Detectives: Solving History's Mysteries." This special attraction features a life-size excavation pit, as well as ceramics and glassware from 18th and 19th century homes, industries, and shops.
Don't overlook Fell's Point to see how Baltimore's past and present graciously coexist. Go east on Pratt Street to President Street to Aliceanna Street to Broadway Street and you'll arrive in one of the country's oldest surviving maritime communities. Now a national historic district, Fell's Point's cobblestone streets front charming shops, galleries, pubs, and restaurants. About 350 of the neighborhood's original residential structures, many dating to the early 1700s, have been renovated and are home to those who wish to take advantage of all that city life has to offer.
If you only have time for a quick overview of Maryland's fascinating heritage, don't miss the Maryland Historical Society Museum and Library of Maryland History at 201 W. Monument Street (410-685-3750). The museum is home to the original copy of the "Star-Spangled Banner," as well as one of the largest 19th century American silver collections in the world, the country's largest decorative arts collection, and the Radcliffe Maritime Museum. What would a visit to Baltimore be without shopping? For a break from business or to find that perfect gift, you're sure to find just what you're looking for in the city's many unique shopping districts.
Love antiques? Head over to Antique Row at 841 N. Howard Street (410-462-2000) where more than 75 dealers sell items from the 18th century through the Art Deco period. From Howard Street, stroll up the city's main corridor, Charles Street, and view Baltimore's 19th and 20th century architecture while browsing in the many shops, galleries, and museums that line the street. And if you're in town at the beginning of the month, don't miss "First Thursdays," Charles Street's own block party, held the first Thursday evening of every month when the galleries stay open late.
Developed by the Rouse Company, Harborplace and the Gallery are a shopper's paradise. Located at the water's edge, two glass-enclosed pavilions feature more than 130 shops, restaurants, and snack stands, while an above-ground walkway connects the Harborplace pavilion to the chic boutiques at the Gallery.
You might not think of Baltimore as a mecca for the transportation industry, but that it is. The B&O Railroad Museum, for example, at 901 W. Pratt Street (410-752-2490 or 752-2388), is located at Mt. Clare Station. The oldest railroad station in the United States, and the birthplace of the B&O Railroad, the museum boasts the most extensive collection of railroad memorabilia in the country. Railroad collectibles, including prints, relics, dioramas, and a model train garden, are also on display.
Over at the Baltimore Maritime Museum at Pier 3 on Pratt Street (410-396-3453 or 396-5528), the city's seagoing heritage is on display. Here you can visit the submarine U.S.S. Torsk, which sank the last warship during World War II, and also see the Lightship Chesapeake, which served as a floating lighthouse.
Two of the country's most prestigious art museums can be found in Baltimore. The Baltimore Museum of Art on Art Museum Drive at Charles Street at 31st Street (410-396-7100 or 396-6320) is located just a short distance away from downtown Baltimore, adjacent to the Johns Hopkins University Homewood campus. The museum features a permanent collection of more than 120,000 works of art including the renowned Cone collection of 20th century art by such painters as Matisse, Picasso, and Cezanne. In addition to the American Wing, the museum spotlights the art of Africa, Asia, and Oceania, and the recently opened wing for modern art is drawing praise for its striking architecture.
At the Walters Art Gallery at 600 N. Charles Street (410- 547-9000), more than 30,000 masterpieces covering 5,000 years of history are on permanent display. The Hackerman House, the museum's Asian art wing, boasts more than 1,000 works. If you're in town over the weekend, take the museum's free tour on Saturday, 11 a.m.-noon.
Baltimore's ethnic diversity is one of its charms. From Little Italy to Corned Beef Row, the city not only teems with the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of its "melting pot" population, but has also put together fascinating and educational displays to help resident and visitors alike get to know one another better.
At the Jewish Historical Society of Maryland, 15 Lloyd Street (410-732-6400), you'll find the Jewish Heritage Museum, as well as two of the oldest synagogues in the country, Lloyd Street Synagogue, built in 1845, and B'nai Israel Synagogue, constructed in 1876.
If life's a zoo, take a few hours off and visit the real thing at the Baltimore Zoo at Druid Hill Park (410-396-7102 or 396-6165). Baltimore's zoo boasts 1,200 exotic birds, mammals, and reptiles that can be seen by walking through the grounds or riding the zoo tram. The zoo also features the largest colony of African black-footed penguins in the United States. And if the family came along on this trip, there's an eight-and-a-half acre children's zoo for the little ones.
Haven't had your fill of animals yet. Then make your way to the National Aquarium at 501 E. Pratt Street (410-576-8300). The Aquarium is home to more than 5,000 aquatic animals, including sharks and dolphins. There are twelve major themed exhibits, including the Marine Mammal Pavilion.
And what would Baltimore be without baseball. The boys of summer may have cut their season short but you can still relive the game's glory days at the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Baseball Center, 216 Emory Street (410-727-1539). Now home to the second largest baseball museum in the country, the Babe Ruth birthplace has films, highlights, and exhibits on Babe Ruth, the Orioles, and Maryland's baseball history. And for a glimpse at baseball as it's played today (well, as it was being played) take a tour of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, 333 W. Camden Street (410-685-9800). Baltimore has been receiving kudos from baseball fans near and far ever since the 46,000-seat park opened. See for yourself what everyone's cheering about.
Out and About
If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, you're in luck. Hop in a car and in no time at all you can find yourself outside the city boundaries, enjoying the fresh air and scenic charms of Baltimore's surrounding counties.
In Howard County, you're just about 30 minutes away from downtown Baltimore, but in a different world. Columbia, the population center of the county, is one of the country's most successful "new towns." Developed by the Rouse Company (of Harborplace fame), Columbia is a completely planned community with different "villages" that incorporate housing, schools, recreation, ands shopping.
Just five miles from the town center of Columbia (which, by the way, has its own shopping mall if you're in need of a quick fix), lies the town of Ellicott City, formerly Ellicott Mills. Craft shops, art galleries, and restaurants line the historic district of Main Street. The town's old stone buildings have seen their share of misfortune--from fires to floods--but it seems that nothing can destroy the city for long.
In nearby Savage Mill, 8600 Foundry Street (410-4665-1449), a 19th century cotton mill has been renovated to showcase more than 35 specialty shops, 235 antique dealers, and 25 artists' studios. Between April and Halloween, pack a picnic lunch and drive out Jarrettsville Pike, north of Towson, to the Harvey Smith Ladew Topiary Gardens. The garden covers 14 acres and is known throughout the world for its extensive display of flowers, as well as a life-size fox hunt, birds, and seahorses, all of which have been carefully sculpted from the green shrubbery. The 11-room house, located on the grounds, contains Ladew's collections of fox hunting and equestrian memorabilia, as well as antiques, paintings, and silver.
In Baltimore County, just 15 minutes from downtown Baltimore, the town of Towson serves as the county seat. Established in 1685 as a stagecoach stop, Towson was one a thriving farm community. Today it's a bustling residential and shopping area. For a look at what once was though, visit the Hampton National Historic Site at 535 Hampton Lane (410-962-0688). A Georgian home begun in 1783 by Charles Ridgely, the Hampton House depicts the life of opulence in post-Revolutionary times. The 60-acre site features a 19th century garden, greenhouses, an ice house, stables, and the mansion, as well as a tearoom for refreshments.