Best Things to Do in Baltimore

Fun, Fascinating, Unique Things to See and Do in Baltimore

Baltimore's history, great architecture, walkable neighborhoods and generous benefactors all contribute to a vibrant city with both classic and also ever-evolving things to do. Frequent visitors will find exciting additions to their favorite historic attractions that add to the enjoyment. The nation's first effort to memorialize George Washington is the most famous icon of the city. Indeed, the Washington Monument appears on the Baltimore flag on a field made up of the Calvert family arms.

Baltimore has been an integral part of America's past through every historic era. Early Americana fans and those yearning to learn about the elusive War of 1812 can check out such places as the Inner Harbor and Fort McHenry, which inspired Francis Scott Key – an ancestor of namesake F. Scott Fitzgerald – to pen the lyrics to our national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner."


Conveniently located at the Inner Harbor, just steps away from more than a dozen Baltimore hotels and even more attractions, Harborplace & The Gallery offers visitors a one-stop shopping experience. This indoor mall is right in the center of the action and is home to popular national retailers as well as some local shops. You'll find common items here as well as things unique to Baltimore. If you're looking for inexpensive dining options to re-appropriate some funds for your shopping, there are more than two dozen eateries and restaurants in the building to choose from. But don't get carried away indoors. Be sure to step out and take in the sights and sounds of the outdoor Inner Harbor. In the summer months especially, you'll stumble upon lively entertainment of some sort in the amphitheater.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Throughout the spring and summer months, the amphitheater between Harborplace's Light and Pratt Street pavilions is home to free entertainment from musicians, magicians, comedians and more.

Tom's expert tip: Both pavilions have a couple places, including the Irish pub Tir Na Nog, to grab a beverage of your choice and sit outside.

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Friedheim Music Library
Photo courtesy of Tamar Alexia Fleishman

Shh . . .get out of all the city's hustle and bustle for free, right in the shadow of the Washington Monument. Our nation's oldest music library is one of the largest. Its holdings include some of the rarest and earliest musical manuscripts, as well as sound recordings in every format. The public is welcome; books are brought to the reader by librarians. But it's the interior itself that's stunningly beautiful. Flooded with natural light from the skylight and adorned with Corinthian columns, this library is actually an extremely popular local wedding site. During the summer, as a matter of fact, the library's only open on weekdays.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: If you like going to places that are relatively unknown to most tourists, yet gorgeous and historic, check out this music library.

Tamar's expert tip: Take the Circulator right to the library for free.

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National Aquarium
Photo courtesy of E+ / drnadig

The National Aquarium is a very popular destination with visitors of all ages, so they stagger admissions to ensure everyone can see the marine life. You ascend the building on a slight incline, with low lighting. Exhibits start from fish and crustaceans that live in Maryland and expand to more far-flung, exotic creatures. Additionally, there are dolphin and shark exhibits. On the top floor, you'll find a tropical rainforest with the flora and fauna typical of that ecosystem. The museum has a special "after dark" program that includes interesting talks, exhibits and even local chef-created sustainable seafood dinners.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The building located on Baltimore's Inner Harbor has beautiful architecture, and you feel like you become part of the ocean once inside.

Tamar's expert tip: Get 1/2 price off General Admission on Fridays after 5 pm.

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Jewish Museum of Maryland
Photo courtesy of Tamar Alexia Fleishman

The Jewish Museum of Maryland is located in what was the original settlement of Baltimore's Jewish population during the Great Migration over 100 years ago. Their exhibits focus on the Jewish experience in America with a special emphasis on Baltimore. Fun and engaging exhibits have included Jewish fashion, Jewish food, Baltimore's department stores, Jews in cinema and Paul Simon. The openings of exhibits usually have a special speaker and kosher snacks. Admission tickets include the historic Lloyd Street and B'nai Israel Synagogues. There's also a small, but fantastic gift shop offering exquisite Judaica, perfect for house gifts during the holidays.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: You most certainly don't have to be Jewish to love the museum! The exhibits show Baltimore's history.

Tamar's expert tip: Get yourself on the museum's e-list to know about upcoming events, weather cancellations, etc.

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Ripley's Believe It or Not Baltimore
Photo courtesy of Tamar Alexia Fleishman

You're going to go to the Inner Harbor, of course. Before the marathon of eating and drink begins, or if it starts to downpour or boil, do something fun that invites conversation! Those with a quirky personality, love of trivia and history will be amazed at the weird and exotic exhibits. While not totally about Baltimore, some locally themed items give this museum a unique feeling. People of all ages will find themselves gasping, giggling and sharing stories with their friends. The 4D movie feels like an actual amusement park ride. The mirror maze will have you running around and dancing.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Ripley's is a fun place for everyone â€" and it's really great for first dates.

Tamar's expert tip: For just a few dollars more, you can get a package deal to see all the different exhibits.

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This exciting art museum has free admission every day. Collections are arranged both chronologically and geographically: be amazed at the sheer number of African, Asian and ancient Americas works of art. The BMA also has an outstanding contemporary art collection, rivaling collections in much larger cities. Two courtyard gardens are home to 20th century sculptures. In addition to its permanent collections, the BMA hosts a wide range of temporary exhibits. Their gift store has a wonderful variety of books on fine art as well as crafts, jewelry, clothing, stationery and other interesting curios.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: This stately building adjacent to Johns Hopkins University shows off its famous art collection with aplomb.

Tamar's expert tip: Check out the website for on-site restaurant Gertrude's.

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Green Mount Cemetery
Photo courtesy of Tamar Alexia Fleishman

Green Mount was where many of Baltimore's elite were buried. In the pre-museum era, cemeteries had the best sculptures, art and the finest gardens open to the public for free. Green Mount carries on this tradition beautifully. Also, because its stone gates are protective and the cemetery is raised above the surrounding landscape, the 68-acre "garden" cemetery is home to wildlife not commonly seen in any city, as well as providing an amazing view of downtown. Famous people buried here include Elizabeth "Betsy" Patterson Bonaparte, the abandoned socialite sister-in-law of Napoleon. It is also the final resting place of John Wilkes Booth.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: From amazing wildlife to graves of historical significance, Green Mount is an important and beautiful space in the Baltimore landscape.

Tamar's expert tip: Sign in with the front office when you arrive. For a nominal fee, they'll give you maps with historical graves marked. They can also look up ancestors' graves.

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Washington Monument and Mount Vernon Place
Photo courtesy of iStock / Sean Pavone

Baltimore was the first to start construction on a monument to George Washington. It's located in what was historically the toniest neighborhood in the city; its surrounding cross of green space is still a beloved gathering space. It's the site of fireworks and concerts for the Christmastime lighting of the monument, as well as Flower Mart. Head to the website to learn about walking tours and also to make arrangements to climb to the top. The 228-step spiral staircase to its apex more than rewards intrepid visitors with lovely views of the city skyline.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The Washington Monument, the icon of the City of Baltimore, hosts many free events.

Tamar's expert tip: It's a gentle uphill walk from the Inner Harbor, or take the Circulator right there for free.

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Walters Art Museum
Photo courtesy of Tamar Alexia Fleishman

What sorts of relics are you favorite? Egyptian mummies, Etruscan jewelry, Medieval coats of armor, ancient manuscripts? What about Baroque oil paintings on lushly colored walls? All these and more are on display to the public for free. The Walters does have special touring exhibits that do charge a fee, except for on Thursday nights. Also, check out their website well in advance for fun events and classes.They fill up early, so be sure to sign up as quickly as you are able.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Rare works of art, along with decorative works are sumptuously arranged in what was a private home. It doesn't feel like a traditional museum.

Tamar's expert tip: Make this amazing art museum one of your stops when you visit the Washington Monument. Ride the Circulator up from the Inner Harbor for free or take a pleasant walk down from Penn Station.

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Don't let the 3 seconds your history teacher spent on the War of 1812 color your decision about Ft. McHenry. The continued war against England was complicated and doesn't lend itself to an easy narrative. The US Park Service rangers at Ft. McHenry breathe life into the battle and how Baltimore safeguarded the freedoms we all enjoy today. Summer is an especially good time to visit the fort, with daily ranger talks and weekend living history. The Fort McHenry Guard performs drill, musket and artillery demonstrations. Fort McHenry was where the flag was still flying that inspired Francis Scott Key to write our national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: This is where it all began again. 1814's Battle of Baltimore allowed us to reclaim our nation.

Tamar's expert tip: Not only is Ft. McHenry historic and fascinating, but it's a beautiful piece of land as well. Locals can be seen jogging and enjoying picnics right outside the fort.

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