Things to do in Baltimore, MD

Get Your Bearings in Baltimore

By Tawanna Browne Smith
Baltimore Expert

See & Do
Stay
Eat
Party
Shop

Things to See

The crux of Baltimore's best attractions are centrally located in a dense and purposeful area of the city: the Inner Harbor. There's no shortage of things to do with kids, especially in the warmer months. Fill two days of exploring the city's early history via its historical sites, the most notable of which are the Flag House and Star-Spangled Banner museum as well as Fort McHenry.  If you're looking for a nearby beach, you'll definitely need a car.

Avoid:

Avoid the field trip crowds at the aquarium and other kid-focused attractions on weekdays during the summer.

Take It or Leave It:

Daily rates for parking lots closest to the water (and major attractions) will run anywhere between $15-$21 per day.

Where to Stay

It makes sense that many of Baltimore's hotels are located downtown, within walking distance from the city's most popular attractions. If you're looking to avoid city traffic and parking, your best bet is to book a room at one of Baltimore's best downtown hotels. Where you may not save money on room rates at most of these hotels, compared to staying at a hotel near the airport, you save on commuting stress and inconvenience.

Hot Tips:

Hotels closest to the water will cost you the most money.

What to Eat

Reflective of its population, Baltimore has a diverse mix of restaurants, many of which you will find right downtown and in the Inner Harbor area, in neighborhoods such as Fells Point, Little Italy, and Harbor East. And if you're looking for them, crab cakes are everywhere. However, if you're willing to drive away from downtown, your options expand even further and you get to see even more of the city. The Mt. Vernon, Hampden, and Hopkins-Homewood neighborhoods also serve up art, history and iconic Baltimore culture with their restaurants' meals.

Avoid:

Avoid popular Inner Harbor restaurants during prime dinner hours in the summer.

Take It or Leave It:

If you want to eat like a true local, roll up your sleeves and dig into some fresh steamed crabs (or any other seafood) at a downtown seafood restaurant.

Be Sure to Sample:

Crab cakes, Berger cookies, pit beef.

Places to Party

Locals love a good drink and party, so there's no shortage of pubs, lounges, bars, or clubs in Baltimore. When it's warm outside, you'll find live music right on the steps of the Inner Harbor during the day or at Power Plant Live during the night. Irish pubs house many local bands while Rams Head Live pulls in musicians from all over. For something more soothing, find classical music at Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall or check out a touring show like the circus or Disney on Ice at First Mariner Arena.

Caution:

Power Plant Live tends to attract a younger and more raucous crowd.

Take It or Leave It:

If gambling is more your speed, the area's casino called Maryland Live!, is located 20 minutes away in the very popular Arundel Mills mall.

Where to Shop

Baltimore has great shopping throughout the city. Harborplace and the Gallery are right in front of the Inner Harbor and are where you'll find many big name stores. Walk through the neighborhoods of Harbor East and Fells Point for plenty of boutique shopping. Major shopping malls can be found just outside the city in Towson, White Marsh, Columbia and Hanover. If your eyes are set for something a little older, travel fifteen minutes by car, north of the Inner Harbor and just a few blocks west of 83, to Antique Row - the oldest antique district in the United States.

Avoid:

Avoid Arundel Mills mall on Friday nights and the weekends when the casino is the most populated - parking is impossible.

Take It or Leave It:

Harbor East is where you'll find some of the city's more upscale and higher-priced retail stores.

Best Local Souvenir:

Anything Ravens-related or a jumbo lump crab cake.

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Things to do in Baltimore


Baltimore is known for...

Five of Baltimore's most unique features and characteristics.

1. Seafood:

Steamed crabs and crab cakes are probably Baltimore’s greatest claim to fame and it’s not difficult to see “best crab cakes” written on just about every other menu in the city. And although there are viable contenders, there is no definitive bearer of that crown. The fun of it all is researching amongst the hundreds of restaurants that call Baltimore home and offer some of the finest seafood in the MidAtlantic region.

2. The Inner Harbor:

The relatively new and centrally located Inner Harbor is the nucleus for Baltimore tourism and a major landmark. Many of the city’s popular and larger hotels populate the Harbor along with award-winning restaurants and ethnic eateries. And although there are other excellent places to rest and refuel in smaller neighborhoods throughout the city, the Inner Harbor is a one-stop spot where it can all be done within walking distance. The Harbor and streets within its immediate vicinity are home to shopping, dinner cruises, nightlife, outdoor entertainment, museums, the National Aquarium, and other area attractions.  

3. John Hopkins:

On the academic landscape, Baltimore is best known for the esteemed Johns Hopkins University. With its collection of campuses and divisions sprinkled throughout the city, Hopkins is well-renowned for its academics and medical research. The institution’s presence adds educational distinction to the city.  Johns Hopkins Hospital is world renowned.   

4. Charm City:

Traditionally known for its blue-collar population, Baltimore has worked hard over the years to change its identity, and make its city ever more travel and tourist-friendly. A 1970s tourism campaign where Baltimore worked to rebrand itself was successful in coining the city “Charm City”. The city is still affectionately known as B-more for short, however, over the years the “Charm City” nickname did stick while its downtown area moved towards rebirth and revitalization.

 

5. Pop Culture / TV & Film:

Film directors and hometown boys Barry Levinson and John Waters consistently keep Baltimore on the screen.  A handful of Levinson’s most wholesome movies – Liberty Heights, Avalon, Tin Men, and Diner – were set in Charm City.  Quirky director Waters (who forever elevated the cultural status of beehive hairdos and cat glasses) featured the Hampden, Pigtown and Canton neighborhoods in his iconic film Hairspray.  He’s shot all his films in Baltimore, including Pink Flamingos, Polyester, Cry-Baby and Serial Mom.  The city’s darker side was featured in television hits such as NBC’s mid-late 90‘s police drama Homicide: Life on the Street; HBO’s 2000 miniseries The Corner; and the 2002-2008 drama The Wire, all based on the writings of former Baltimore Sun police reporter David Simon.  2007 musical film HairSpray depicted a 1962 segregated Baltimore wrought with the beehives and cat glasses of residents from the Hampden, Pigtown and Canton neighborhoods.