The Baltimore Museum of Art is one of Baltimore's premier cultural destinations is home to the Cone Collection, the largest Matisse collection in the world. In addition to the works within the walls that span centuries of prints and paintings, the grounds offer a sculpture garden, with gardens, fountains and 34 sculptures. On Sundays the museum hosts hands-on workshops and tours for families. The museum is also amid a $28 million renovation. The first project to be completed was the Contemporary Wing, offering three new exhibitions and murals by renowned Baltimore street artist Gaia, and more.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: World's largest collection of Matisse. Paintings and prints from world renowned masters. Contemporary works from new and emerging talents. All for free.
Tom's expert tip: Aim for a Sunday and have pick from an array of authentic Chesapeake Bay brunch dishes at Gertrude's, the BMA's restaurant.
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. Searching for bath and beauty, jewelry, kids apparel, books, and more? Not to worry - you'll find it here. And if you're looking for inexpensive dining options to re-appropriate some funds for your shopping, there are more than two dozens 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 outdoor amphitheater.
Recommended for Free Things to Do 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: The both pavilions have a couple places, including the Irish pub Tir Na Nog, to grab a beverage of your choice and sit outside.
The Baltimore Basilica is formerly named the The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and was the first Roman Catholic cathedral built in the United States. Its construction lasted from 1806-1821 and is not only a religious institution but also a cultural one. The Basilica is an impressive architectural masterpiece and is a National Historic Landmark. Mother Theresa and Pope John Paul II were the most famous religious visitors to the Basilica. Its restoration was controversial but it uncovered a number of secrets including balconies reserved for African-American Catholics and cloistered nuns as well as 24 skylights in the dome.a
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Being the first Roman Catholic cathedral built in the United States, the Basilica is as beautiful as it is historic.
Tom's expert tip: Located in Mt. Vernon, the Basilica is surrounded by great restaurants and other sights to see like The Walters Art Museum and the Washington Monument.
The Gwynns Falls Trail offers an opportunity to get outdoors and explore Baltimore's downtown and beyond. The trail begins at the I-70 Park & Ride trailhead and follows the Gwynns Falls stream to the Middle Branch and the Inner Harbor of the Patapsco River. The Gwynns Falls Trail provides access to a scenic and historic greenway stream valley in the City. Currently boasting 15 miles of asphalt and crushed stone pathway, the trail is ideal for runners, walkers, bicyclists, and pets. The trail winds through Baltimore, passing historic sites, the Inner Harbor, recreation and nature centers, and over 30 neighborhoods.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: This trail offers a scale of terrain, allowing you to trek 15-miles through the city and then out into the natural world.
Tom's expert tip: Bring a pooch. If you don't a pooch, borrow one. The trail is a great day outside and made better by a four-legged friend.
Located on Key Highway, just 3 minutes from the Inner Harbor, the American Visionary Museum displays works from "outsider artist," people that were inspired or bedeviled to create art. While the museum itself charges an admission fee, the building and grounds are free to wander around and are works of art themselves. The main building's facade is a mosaic of mirrored glass. Unique and curious sculptures fill the grounds, including the gigantic "Cosmic Egg." Metered parking lines Key Highway, as well as behind the museum on Covington St.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: The exterior of the American Visionary Art Museum is sprinkled sculptures and oddities to delight visitors and whet their appetites for what's in store inside.
Tom's expert tip: Stop in to the Sideshow @ AVAM. Whether you're picking up a souvenir or need to find a present, this gift shop is full of wonders, curiosities and all manner of fun treasures.
Open to the public since 1934, the Walters Art Museum houses works from the third millennium BC to the present. Within the walls of this world-class art museum, visitors can view works in many mediums, including ceramics and sculpture, in addition to unique pieces such as medieval armor and jeweled Faberge eggs. The Byzantine, Ethiopian, and Egyptian sections are particularly striking. The museum and other historic buildings are lined up along Mount Vernon Place, a beautiful public square. The Museum is free and open to the public. Certain special exhibitions do require a fee. Check the museum's website to see a full schedule of exhibitions and events.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: The Walters Art Museum boasts an internationally renowned collection of art that covers centuries of history and admission is free.
Tom's expert tip: The Walters has a number of great events for kids, including activity carts placed throughout the museum.
Pierce's Park is located on Pier 5 in Baltimore's Inner Harbors, just across the street from the Pier 5 Hotel. The park has "Seussian" quality with a musical fence and whimsical sculptures, including . It's a wonderful spot to take a breather from Inner Harbor fun, a short walk from the National Aquarium and other attractions. The Park is maintained by the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, which is focused on developing a "Healthy Harbor." In line with Waterfront Partnership's 'Healthy Harbor' Sustainability features in the park's design include indigenous trees, native plantings and rain gardens, that provide opportunity to educate children about the benefits of capturing water runoff.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Apart from a bit of an urban oasis, the park offers fun and free activities that are sure to capture the attention of little ones.
Tom's expert tip: Make sure you look down. The bricks in the pathways around the park are full of homophones.
Located just blocks from Baltimore's famed Inner Harbor, Power Plant Live! is a collection of clubs, bars, and restaurants, including Leinenkugel's Beer Garden, the Baltimore Comedy Factory, Howl at the Moon, and PBR Baltimore (complete with mechanical bull.) The area is also home to Ram's Head Live! one of the city's best music venues, playing host many national recording artists and local favorites. Hungry? Grab a bite to eat at one of several restaurants, like Joe Squared, Tatu, Ruth's Chris, or MEX. Power Plant Live! is never dull and attracts hundreds of visitors as well as residents on a weekly basis.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Live music. For free. Power Plant Live often has local and national acts take the stage, as well as other activities throughout the year.
Tom's expert tip: A little rain don't stop the rock. The stage and viewing area at Power Plant Live are covered by a roof.
Little landlubbers have a blast sailing Baltimore's Inner Harbor on the Urban Pirates family adventure cruise. Upon boarding, a crew of boisterous buccaneers transforms all sailors into swashbucklers with pirate gear, tattoos and face painting. Then, it's off for a high seas adventure, complete with singing, dancing and games led by the spectacularly entertaining crew. Petite pirates especially enjoy firing water cannons to reclaim the captain's treasure and take home a share of the loot. When the kids are all tuckered out and the sun goes down, it's time for the big kids to have their own fun on a B.Y.O.G. cruise. That's "Bring Your Own Grog."
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: The swashbuckling crew of Urban Pirates shares free tales of pirate history for the kids every Wednesday and Friday morning at 9am.
Tom's expert tip: Arrive early to take advantage of amazing restaurants scattered around Fell's Point.
Built on a peninsula, the star-shaped Fort McHenry has played role across American history. It served as a prison in the Civil War and a hospital during World War I. However, it is most notable for the crucial role it played in the Battle of Baltimore in September 1814, defending the Baltimore Harbor from an attack by the British Navy during the War of 1812. It was following the Battle of Baltimore that Francis Scott Key, inspired by the sight of the Star-Spangled Banner still flying about the Fort, penned the poem that would become the National Anthem. The Fort is part of the National Park service and the interior houses displays that mark different aspects of life there for commanding officers, troops, and prisoners. The Visitor Center offer an exhibit that tells the history of the Fort, as well as a gift shop.
Recommended for Free Things to Do because: While there is a fee to tour the interior of Fort McHenry, it is free to explore the grounds and various monuments commemorating its history.
Tom's expert tip: Take the Charm City Circulator Banner Route from the Inner Harbor to the Fort. It's quick and free and you don't have to worry about moving your car.