Economically, geographically and culturally, Baltimore is an amalgam. One of early America's busiest seaports, it was also home to the country's first important railroad terminal and was a leading manufacturing center, renowned for shipbuilding as well as airplane production.
Baltimore's air of acceptance inspired waves of Polish, German, Irish, Italian, Greek and other immigrants. The various enclaves these newcomers established made Baltimore a collection of diverse neighborhoods.
Any tour of Baltimore should start with the Inner Harbor. For years the area was at the heart of Baltimore's port facilities. As the city's shipping business declined in the post-war years, the Inner Harbor did too. By the mid-1970s, it was a long stretch of dilapidated docks and abandoned warehouses, but the end of the 1970s saw the start of a concerted effort to revitalize Baltimore. A key part of the plan was the creation of
In 1729, about 60 years after the first colonists settled in the area, Charles and Baltimore streets were built. Today, the intersection of these two roads is at the heart of Baltimore's business district, where you'll find the city's financial and banking institutions, international trade organizations, medical research companies, as well as law, engineering and architectural firms. A grid of roughly 25 blocks, the business district is easy to navigate and is within walking distance of most of the downtown hotels.
To the North
Walk up Charles Street about 10 blocks and you'll find Mount Vernon, one of the city's loveliest neighborhoods. Its chief feature is a park of shrub-lined lawns and flowerbeds, laid out in the form of a cross. The 178-foot tall
Just above Mount Vernon is Bolton Hill. Known as the "Gin Belt" during the 1920s, this area was home to the city's Jazz Age bohemian community. F. Scott Fitzgerald made his home here for a while, and Tender is the Night was published during his stay. Today, the area is home to the Maryland Institute College of Art, Meyerhoff Symphony Hall and the University of Baltimore.
Still farther up Charles Street lies well-groomed Charles Village, home of Johns Hopkins University. Just next door is Hampden, a funky blue-collar/alternative district made famous by independent film director John Waters. Continue north, and you'll find Guilford, which features Mount Washington, a quiet, tree-lined neighborhood with lots of great restaurants, like
To the South
Just south of downtown is Federal Hill. One of the most popular residential areas in the city, its streets are lined with stately 19th century row homes, and peppered with great restaurants like
To the East
Immediately east of downtown is Little Italy, one of the city's most cherished neighborhoods. Settled in the 1840s by Italian immigrants seeking work on the city's railroads, the area is now known for its many restaurants. At last count, the 12 square blocks of Little Italy had 20 restaurants, from old favorites like
Just past Little Italy is Fells Point. This was once the chief Colonial shipbuilding center, where frigates known as Baltimore Clippers were launched. Today Fells Point is known for its craft and antique shops, restaurants, bars and coffeehouses. During the weekend the neighborhood is jammed with college-age revelers who flock to the many party-oriented dance clubs. Young urban professionals enjoy dining at restaurants
Just above Fells Point is Butcher's Hill, an area once home to dozens of butchers who sold their wares at Fells Point's
Just to the east lies Canton. Originally an industrial area populated by Welsh, German, Polish and Irish immigrants, Canton today is a lively residential area known for its friendly eateries like
To the West
A quick trip west from the Inner Harbor will take you into Pigtown, originally an area of stockyards manned by German and Irish immigrants. It's now a residential neighborhood, filled with classic Baltimore-style rowhomes with marble steps and formstone facades. Pigtown is now home to the
The most blue collar of American cities started as the most blue blooded. Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore, hoped to reproduce England as perfectly as possible. But by the end of the 19th century, the city built as a seat for landed gentry had become a collection of fiercely solid working class neighborhoods.
Cecil appointed his brother Leo as the first governor, and, on November 22, 1632, the Ark and the Dove set sail from England with about 140 settlers, a mix of Protestants and Catholics. By March 25, 1633, the Feast of the Annunciation, they had established their first Maryland landing on the island of St. Clement's.
Maryland's early years were a rich time for landed gentry, with rolling estates, rich hunting and fishing, and a good port. Black slaves and indentured whites were doing the work and it was very much like Lord Baltimore's vision of an idyllic England, except that Catholics and Protestants were trying to live in harmony. This religious mix was highly unusual at the time--within a few years the religious tensions back in England would lead to civil war. During this period, in 1689, Anne Arundell Town was named Maryland's capital, but was renamed Annapolis in 1695.
In the colony's early years, 80 percent of the land was controlled by about 10 percent of the population. The town of Baltimore was chartered on August 8, 1729 as a place to put the colony's new customs house; eventually it became the chief port, and today it is the fifth busiest port in the United States.
By the 1750s, the main export crops were cereal grains and flour, ground in the new mills of Baltimore. Indentured servitude came to an end, and these new freemen opened a series of small farms across the state. Trade with the other colonies and with Europe was the principle industry of this seaport town, and the forces that propelled America into the Revolutionary War were keenly felt here. Baltimoreans raided British merchant frigates under officially sanctioned "privateering" laws.
Despite frequent skirmishes, progress continued. In 1808, Mother Elizabeth Seton opened a school for girls on Paca Street and in 1812 the University of Maryland was founded. Mother Seton was later canonized as the first American saint, in 1975.
During the Napoleonic Wars, Baltimore ships proved adept at skirting British blockades to supply France. Eager to take another crack at the ex-colonies, Britain declared war. During the War of 1812, the British burned Washington D.C. and General Andrew Jackson made a name for himself defeating the British in the Battle of New Orleans. Then, in 1814, British troops advanced on Baltimore, planning to burn the town and destroy the core of the American merchant fleet in the harbor. On Sunday, September 11, 1814, they attacked the harbor defenses at Ft. McHenry.
The battle raged for 12 hours. Eight miles away, aboard a British vessel, an American watched the bombardment. Francis Scott Key was a lawyer negotiating the release of a client when a British officer detained him for the duration of the battle. As evening fell, Key could plainly see the American flag, 80 feet long and 40 feet high, above the fort. The sight inspired Key to write "The Star Spangled Banner," which was later declared the official national anthem of the United States. Though the lyrics are Key's, the tune comes from an old British drinking song.
By the end of the Civil War, Baltimore started to resemble the city it is today. The landed gentry of Lord Baltimore's time were long gone. The rising cities of New York and Boston and Philadelphia had become the new centers of culture, and many of the rich had moved on.
The end of the 19th century marks the beginning of baseball. The Baltimore Orioles was among the first teams. Babe Ruth was born here in 1895 and his father ran a pub on a spot in what is now Camden Yards. The Orioles' Cal Ripken, Jr., is a legend here, and everywhere that baseball is followed.
Modern Baltimore began at the end of World War II. As the new suburbs developed, downtown fell on hard times. By the 1960s, Baltimore faced the same sort of abandonment and blight as most American cities. This changed in the 1980s with the development of the Inner Harbor and Camden Yards, the new home of the Orioles.
Once you arrive from Interstate 95 or the Baltimore-Washington International Airport, you'll have your choice of accommodations. In the metropolitan Baltimore area, there are several options, ranging from rural campgrounds to downtown luxury hotels. You can choose to stay in the most convenient, most scenic, or most affordable parts of town.
Many people think of the Inner Harbor as the most popular destination in Baltimore. For those who want to stay at a hotel in the middle of the action, there are several options. The Harbor Court Hotel is a luxury waterside hotel, reminiscent of an old English manor. It's just blocks from the business district and the city's vibrant Inner Harbor. The Renaissance Harborplace Hotel is also a good choice. Just steps from the Inner Harbor, it has a wonderful restaurant, a shopping mall, and rooms with views of the water. The Inner Harbor area is also home to the Hyatt Regency Baltimore, a fixture in downtown Baltimore for more than 14 years, the Baltimore Marriott Inner Harbor, the Omni Inner Harbor Hotel and the Holiday Inn - Inner Harbor.
If you find the idea of a more reclusive setting appealing, you might prefer to stay at the Crosskeys Inn in North Baltimore. The inn, located in a park-like setting, offers easy access to the upscale Village of Cross Keys shopping center. It's far removed from the hustle and bustle of downtown, yet it's still convenient to all that Baltimore has to offer. A free shuttle takes guests to and from the Inner Harbor.
The Mt. Vernon neighborhood is also a very pleasant place to stay. Located just north of the downtown business district, it's a central location, within walking distance to the Peabody Institute and the Walters Art Gallery, and a short ride south to the Inner Harbor or north to the world renowned Johns Hopkins University. There are many excellent shops, restaurants and hotels in the area, and a wonderful assortment of 19-century architecture. It's also less expensive than staying at the Inner Harbor. The hotel of choice in this charming neighborhood is the recently renovated Clarion Hotel Mount Vernon Square.
If you'd prefer to stay in one of Baltimore's historic districts, Fells Point is a good option. The waterfront community is just east of the Inner Harbor, within easy walking distance of the city's major attractions. In this maritime neighborhood, you'll find the delightful Admiral Fell Inn, a collection of centuries-old buildings. The rooms aren't fancy, but they're comfortable. If you'd like something a little more luxurious, reserve a room at Celie's Waterfront Bed & Breakfast. Most rooms have views of the harbor or the inn's landscaped gardens, and each is decorated with antiques and collectibles.
Many business travelers in search of comfort and convenience often choose to stay at one of the many hotels by the Baltimore-Washington International Airport, 20 minutes west of the city in suburban Baltimore County. The Comfort Inn Airport hotel, a 10-time winner of Choice Hotels' “Gold Award,” offers comfortable rooms with free shuttle service to the airport, Light Rail and Amtrak. The Sheraton International Hotel is the only hotel on BWI grounds, making it extremely convenient for business meetings. It offers spacious rooms and monitors that provide up-to-date flight information. Other hotels close to the airport include the Holiday Inn, Microtel Inn & Suites - BWI, and the BWI Airport Marriott Hotel. For visitors who plan to stay in Baltimore for an extended period, Candlewood Suites - BWI is worth looking into. Every guest room is equipped with a kitchen; some have separate living and sleeping areas.
Outside the City
For visitors who wish to explore outlying areas, there are several hotels to choose from. Northwest of Baltimore, you'll find the Days Inn Westminster, located on Route 140, the main thoroughfare through Carroll County. It's convenient to nearby attractions, including the Carroll County Farm Museum. Many visitors to Howard County, about 20 minutes west of Baltimore, choose to stay at the Sheraton Columbia Hotel, a lakeside retreat on a 10-acre wooded estate, or the serene Hilton Columbia. Visitors to historic Annapolis can choose to stay in the heart of the state capital, at the Annapolis Marriott Waterfront, or at the Loews Annapolis Hotel, the bayside city's only four-star hotel.
Of course, if you prefer the great outdoors to luxury accommodations, a well-equipped campground is a wonderful option. Consider staying at the Maple Tree Campground. Located in rural Western Maryland, it features eight tree houses and four tree cabins, as well as several tent sites.
As you can see, Baltimore and its surrounding suburbs feature a great many fine hotels and other accommodations. So, browse through this Web site and decide where you'll be spending most of your time; there's sure to be a wonderful place to stay nearby.
Baltimore offers endless entertainment options, from live music and museums to stage, screen and sports events. Visitors often begin their stay in “Charm City” with a trip to the Inner Harbor, which offers a wonderful preview of all that Baltimore has to offer. The area is home to many restaurants, shops and museums, as well as the waterfront Pier Six Concert Pavilion.
For classical music, of course, there is always the Baltimore Symphony and recitals, opera, and new work at the Peabody Institute. In the summer, the Symphony performs at Oregon Ridge Park in suburban Cockeysville (Baltimore County). The outdoor venue offers visitors a wonderful opportunity to enjoy great music in a serene atmosphere. Visitors who enjoy opera will love the historic Lyric Opera House, home of the Baltimore Opera Company.
Live music on a smaller scale is easy to find in bars and restaurants around town, or on summer nights by the Harbor. For classic rock-n-roll, the most famous room around is Fletcher's, in the historic waterfront neighborhood of Fells Point. This outdoor club plays booming music and attracts a mostly college-age crowd. If Fletcher's is too crowded, or you don't like the music, just walk through Fells Point until you find what you want; it's there somewhere, in one of the many bars along the cobblestones. At Bertha's, in the heart of Fells Point, you're likely to find a live jazz or folk band playing. There's also plenty of Irish music performed at other restaurants in the neighborhood, if you want something lively but not as loud.
For sports, the city offers everything from biking and hiking to baseball, football and golf. The Baltimore metropolitan area also has horse racing at Pimlico Race Course on the city's northwestern border, indoor volleyball courts at Volleyball House in nearby Columbia and swimming at Arundel Olympic Swim Center in Annapolis.
There's major league baseball at the downtown Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles. At nearby PSINet Stadium, fans of the National Football League can watch the Ravens play. Both stadiums are within easy walking distance of the Inner Harbor and downtown business district.
If biking or skating is more your style, be sure to take advantage of the Baltimore & Annapolis Trail in beautiful Anne Arundel County, about 20 minutes south of Baltimore by car. The 13-mile paved trail stretches from suburban Glen Burnie to Annapolis, affording bicyclists, skaters and walkers a respite from the hustle and bustle of Baltimore's encroaching suburbs.
Hikers will enjoy spending a day at the Earth Treks Climbing Center in Columbia (Howard County). It is the East Coast's largest indoor climbing center, featuring a state-of-the-art, 13,250-square-foot climbing surface that resembles a southwestern canyon with 44-foot high cliffs.
If you prefer to spend time outdoors, try golfing. You'll find a range of courses, from the city's Carroll Park Municipal Golf Course, a 12-hole, par 40 course, to the more challenging Diamond Ridge 18-hole, par 71 course owned and operated by Baltimore County.
Theater and Cinema
Film buffs will relish Baltimore's landmark theaters: The Charles Theater and the Senator Theater. The former has been a fixture of the city's cinema scene since 1939; the latter has been named one of the top four theaters in the country.
If stage performances are more to your liking, try to catch a performance at Center Stage in downtown Baltimore. This respected regional theater consistently offers high-quality productions on its two stages, the Head Theater and the Pearlstone Theater.
Museums and Galleries
The Baltimore region is home to many museums and art galleries. No matter what your interests—sports, western, Asian or African art, the Civil War or even dentistry—you're likely to find a museum in or near Charm City that's dedicated to it.
No trip to Baltimore would be complete without a visit to the Walters Art Gallery. This downtown gallery boasts a collection that spans nearly the entire history of Western art. The Walters also houses one of the largest collections of traditional Asian art in the United States. Fans of modern American artists will delight in the nearby Baltimore Museum of Art.
If African art peaks your interest, you won't want to miss the African Art Museum of Maryland in Columbia, a 20-minute drive from downtown Baltimore.
Civil War buffs will enjoy spending an afternoon at the Baltimore Civil War Museum. It chronicles the story of the first casualties of the Civil War, as well as Baltimore's role in the underground railroad.
Sports fans will love the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum. It features Babe's boyhood bat, the score card from his first professional game and Orioles team memorabilia.
Visitors with more eclectic interests might enjoy visiting the National Museum of Dentistry, Mud and Metal, which sells alternative art objects, or the smaller art galleries in Baltimore. Many, including the Watermark Gallery and the Art Gallery of Fells Point display the work of local artists. The Baltimore Streetcar Museum and B & O Railroad Museum are also worth visiting.
Charm City is a wonderful place to bring the kids for a day of fun. Be sure to visit Port Discovery, where children can climb, crawl and slide through a treehouse or learn to make their own jewelry. A trip to the National Aquarium in Baltimore is also sure to be a hit with the young and young at heart. Entertainment at this Inner Harbor attraction includes a simulated rainforest and regularly scheduled dolphin shows. The nearby Maryland Science Center will inspire curious children with interactive exhibits that focus on physics, marine biology and astronomy.