Things to Do & Must-See Attractions in Maryland
Baltimore’s revitalized Inner Harbor features a scenic waterfront promenade and pedestrian district replete with shopping, dining, and entertainment options. Heralded by urban developers as a model for post-industrial waterfront land use, the area sits along the Patapsco River at the mouth of Jones Falls.
Baltimore’s National Aquarium is the star of the Inner Harbor and home to close to 20,000 creatures and more than 700 species. See slithering reptiles, a giant octopus, and all kinds of fish, from rays to sharks, in habitats including reef, rainforest, ocean, marsh, and beach. The aquarium also promotes conservation initiatives.
One of the oldest scientific institutions in the US, the Maryland Science Center has been attracting visitors of all ages since 1976. Also known as the MSC, the site features three floors of exhibits, hands-on activities and demonstrations designed to get folks excited about science. Highlights include more than a dozen full-size dinosaurs, a unique journey through the human body and an exhibit on blue crabs that focuses on the ecosystem of the Chesapeake Bay.
A mix of educational flicks and Hollywood blockbusters play daily on the 400-seat, five-story 3D IMAX Theater. The Davis Planetarium offers programs featuring everything from the night’s sky to shows aimed at young kids featuring popular Sesame Street characters.
Critical events changed the course of history at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, where soldiers successfully saved the city from British attack in 1812. Inspired by the sight of the American flag waving over the fort after the attack, Francis Scott Key was moved to write the United States’ national anthem.
Its prime location makes Baltimore’s Federal Hill a popular spot for visitors. Located just south of Inner Harbor, the neighborhood offers a large selection of city attractions within walking distance. Stroll to the National Aquarium, Harborplace, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and the Maryland Science Center, along with many other destinations. Plus, catch harbor views from its namesake hill.
Patterson Park covers more than 130 acres in Southeast Baltimore and offers a multitude of recreational activities for locals and visitors. The park’s icon, the Pagoda, was designed in 1890, and from the top of the tower you can see downtown, numerous Baltimore neighborhoods and the Patapsco River. Restored in 2002, the Pagoda is open on Sundays from spring through early fall.
Along with two playgrounds, there are almost three miles of paths for running, walking and biking, as well as 10 tennis courts. The outdoor pool is busy in the summer, but come winter the indoor ice skating rink is the place to be. The Boat Lake is a popular spot for catch and release fishing and wildlife watching. Local bird watchers say they’ve identified over 170 different species within the park.
Cobbled streets and a waterfront setting make Fell’s Point a must-see location in Baltimore. This charming neighborhood is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and maintains much of its maritime past. Dine on local crabs at the area’s seafood eateries, and don’t miss the nightlife—Fell’s Point is known for its bar scene.
This cozy neighborhood is located in downtown Baltimore in between the Inner Harbor and historic Fells Point. Millions of people visit Little Italy every year, and when they come, they eat well. The neighborhood is loaded with family-owned restaurants, serving dishes, they say, just like mamma used to make.
Little Italy is also known for its festivals and neighborhood events. From bocce ball games and tournaments to outdoor movies and pasta dinners, the neighborhood calendar is always busy. Don’t want to worry about a schedule? Its narrow streets are nice for strolling without a plan.
History buffs and train lovers won’t want to miss a visit to Baltimore’s B&O Railroad Museum, the world’s biggest museum devoted to locomotives.
There are historic trains galore at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad collection, along with artifacts, railroad buildings, railroad track and 250 examples of rolling stock.
The country’s first passenger train service rolled out of the roundhouse here in 1830, and you can learn more about the Birthplace of American Railroading on a tour of the immense complex.
Travel back in time to the early 1800s at the home and work place of Mary Pickersgill, the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House. It’s here that Pickersgill sewed the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key's poem that later became the national anthem of the United States.
Filled with original early 19th-century goods, and many personal family belongings, the house looks much like it did when Pickersgill called it home. In the Jean and Lillian Hofmeister Museum Building next door, visitors can see the original receipt for the Star-Spangled Banner, while the Discovery Gallery for Kids lets little ones learn while having fun with activities like designing your own flag and playing with popular toys from the past.
More Things to Do in Maryland
Baseball fans shouldn’t miss a visit to the birthplace of George Herman “Babe” Ruth in Baltimore. The well-preserved, humble row house includes the upstairs bedroom where the baseball player was born, plus displays of family memorabilia, sports paraphernalia, and Ruthian records. The museum also highlights the history of the Baltimore Orioles, Ravens, and Colts, and other regional sports teams.
Offering sweeping views of the Inner Harbor, the Hard Rock Café Baltimore is one of the city’s most historic and popular places for dining on the water. Though the restaurant itself was only established in 1997, it’s located inside the Pratt Street Power Plant that was built in in 1900. With its Neoclassical, terra cotta construction, the building is a famous Inner Harbor landmark that in 1987 was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Enjoy your meal on the outer deck with views looking out at the harbor, where Francis Scott Key, in 1814, was inspired to write America’s national anthem while imprisoned by British forces. The Americana lives on today through burgers and rock n’ roll, and memorabilia hangs on the walls from some of the country’s best artists. See one of Prince’s custom-tailored outfits or a flask belonging to Jimi Hendrix, as well as clothing from British rockers like Elton John and The Who. Pair the view and memorabilia with American food and live music, and the Hard Rock Café Baltimore becomes an experience and sight unto itself.
Spanning 184 miles (297 kilometers from Washington DC through Virginia and Maryland, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park was created in 1961 as a way to preserve the once bustling Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. Active from 1831 to 1924, the canal was a major industrial route used to transport coal and timber.
An historic Baltimore neighborhood situated on the Chesapeake Bay, Canton is an ideal stop for travelers that want a dose of outdoor recreation and easy access to the waterfront. The hub of the neighborhood is Canton Square, a patch of green surrounded by sophisticated restaurants, galleries, and shops.
A visit to the Edgar Allan Poe House & Museum is a journey into the mind of the famous American writer. Built in Baltimore in 1930, the unassuming 5-room row house is a shrine to Poe, who lived here for two years. The museum showcases Poe’s daily life and writings he penned in the home, while his grave is at nearby Westminster Hall.
The Smithsonian-affiliated Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center is the perfect meditative blend of natural forest, manicured landscape, and human-sculpted abstract art. Located in a leafy peninsular nook between the Patuxent River and the Chesapeake Bay, the 30-acre center contains dozens of permanent fixtures as well as installations on loan from the National Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian Intuition.
A quarter-mile elevated boardwalk meanders through the garden, where Stonehenge-like rock arrangements, gorgeous metal loops, contemplative human forms, and moss-encased natural sculptures sit spread among the leaf litter. Near the entrance, an indoor gallery and event space offers rotating exhibits.
Though open year-round, the best time to visit the garden is during spring and summer, when holiday-themed festivals and events bring the landscape to life. The gardens make a great day trip from Washington D.C. or downtown Baltimore, and can be visited on a relaxing tour of Solomons Island, with wine, lunch, and dinner included.
This scenic island off the coast of Maryland is home to fewer than 3,000 people and a popular destination for Baltimore and Washington, D.C. residents looking for a weekend escape. An expansive boardwalk, easy boat access and plenty of fresh seafood restaurants make this an idyllic Chesapeake Bay spot. An ancient lighthouse-turned museum provides a bit of historical context, and visitors can embark on harbor cruises or relax during one of the summer’s well-attended outdoor concerts. Art-loving tourists can check out the Annmarie Sculpture Garden and Arts Center, which is affiliated with the famed Smithsonian, then saddle up to the lively Tiki Bar, where tens of thousands of visitors gather each year to imbibe on delicious fruity cocktails with impressive water views.
In 1814, when the British Navy sailed up the Potomac to set Washington DC alight, they didn’t pass far from the site where the Calvert Marine Museum sits today. While that was one of the Chesapeake Bay’s more dramatic historical events, the entire maritime heritage of the region is on display at this family friendly museum. Here in the riverfront town of Solomons, visitors can learn the about coastal species such as skates, otters, and rays, or watch as coastal paleontologists help to clean and classify fossils. Take a walk through the “living classroom” at the museum’s coastal salt marsh, where children can learn about the marine ecosystem and everything that helps it to thrive. Crafters can stop in the wood carving shop to see exquisitely intricate boat models, or sailors can tour the Patuxent Small Craft Center with its collection of classic boats. The exhibits and fossils aside, however, the main draw of the Calvert Marine Museum is the historic Drum Point Lighthouse—a screwpile, cottage-type lighthouse that’s one of only three remaining in all the United States. Constructed in 1885 in a unique, hexagonal style, the lighthouse was moved in 1975 to the Calvert Marine Museum, and is now listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
Serfs, wenches, knights, horses, lances, swords, and falcons - they’re all a part of an action packed outing to Medieval Times Baltimore. Leave the modern city behind as you travel to the 11th century, enjoying the show as a guest of the King inside of his lavish castle. Prior to sitting down for the feast, wander the gruesome Torture Museum and learn about hunting with falcons, before settling in for a four course meal that you literally eat with your hands. When it’s time for the evening’s main show to begin, choose a knight you think will win the series of jousts and combat, where swordsmanship and horsemanship are impressively put on display. Join the crowd in raucously cheering - or booing - depending on the knight, and experience the thrill of a night on the town in the spirit of Medieval Spain.
Baltimore is known for its offbeat attractions, and the American Visionary Art Museum is one of its most idiosyncratic. The museum specializes in showing the work of outsider artists, those who typically have had no formal art education and work outside the mainstream art world. The museum taps guest curators for all its shows.