Our recent travels saw us heading Stateside and exploring the Maryland / Virginia / West Virginia area while visiting Laura’s parents. Our week long trip was jam-packed with highlights that we will share over the coming posts but to get started we wanted to give a shout out to Baltimore. Or as a Hairspray fan maybe that should be ‘Good Morning Baltimore’.
We spent two days of our trip visiting Baltimore and wished it could have been more. The city has a vibrant port area and drive a few streets in and you will find bustling districts with unique things to offer. Based on our trip here’s what we recommend you check out if you are heading to Maryland’s biggest city:
Start at the port area known locally as Inner Harbor. The reason being this is where you will find the tourist information centre (Visit Baltimore) packed full of informative guides and friendly staff ready to make suggestions and tell you what’s happening at the time of your visit.
We spent the whole day in and around the harbour. Top things to do there include:
The Aquarium: You need at least half a day and a comfortable pair of shoes to explore this multi-floored attraction. It is impressive! From the rain-forest on the roof to the massive glass walled aquariums that allow you to feel as if you are walking to the depths of the sea this is sensory overload.
We promise you will be picking your mouth up off the floor on more than occasion.
The observation space is somewhere we could have sat for hours. Annabelle was entranced and the serene atmosphere allows you to stand and watch so many varieties of fish just doing their thing. From the tiniest specs to the sharks and giant turtle there was so much to see.
The dolphin show included dolphins they are preparing to transfer to their new home and was educational as well as entertaining. While we aren’t fans of watching animals perform you could certainly tell these were well looked after dolphins with a brighter future ahead of them.
The jelly fish room was utterly mesmerising and area where you could touch a variety of fish had us all lining up to put our hands in. You had to be brave as lurking in the tanks were helmet crabs, sting rays and jelly fish. It was well worth the time we spent and we even spotted the sloth hanging out in the rain-forest before we left!
Baltimore Historic Ships: Dotted around the port are ships of all sizes and each with an interesting history. Sadly time wasn’t on our side to complete the tours on-board each ship but we were able to read a brief history as we approached each one. The stories tell of a historic port central to Baltimore’s importance in early American history.
Once you head away from the Inner Harbor you have a number of districts to discover. We opted for Charlestown for it’s quaint painted ladies, Hampden and a quick stop in Graffiti Alley.
Hampden: If you are a Hairspray fan this will bring back memories of the film. Here you will find brightly colour buildings, shops offering quirky wares, cafes with intriguing menus and The Charmery (as Baltimore is known as Charm City) offering unique flavours of ice-cream.
Stroll around the streets and you’ll see walls filled with murals and shop fronts painted with stunning designs. Then once you are hungry stop by Cafe Hon. Home of #HonFest a celebration of all things ‘hon’ or ‘honey’ – a term of endearment for a certain type of lady in Baltimore (think Hairspray’s main characters). The food is delicious, the crab soup is worth trying even if you don’t like crab and the burgers are cooked to perfection – pink on the middle! Oh and it’s reasonably priced.
Charles Town: a suburban part of the city filled with reasons to smile. If you find the right street (E 31st St) the buildings are painted in bright colours as far as the eyes can see – on one side! Known as the gay village the vibe here is friendly and upbeat.
Graffiti Alley: Not far from Charlestown and up from Station North is a collection of streets (1901 N Howard St) with buildings completely covered in graffiti and artwork. Annabelle’s eyes lit up and while it’s not the most child friendly area she loved running around the coloured streets and pointing at the designs.
Baltimore and Ohio Railway Museum: Regardless of how you feel about trains this museum should be on your to-do list. We honestly didn’t expect to say that and when it was put forward as a suggestion to check out we naysayed it. We were wrong to. This interactive museum provides an interesting insight into the first chartered railway in America. You get to see actual trains that have run through the decades. Riding a train out to the ‘first stone’ that was laid to start the track you are given an audio guide to what happened to make the railway a success. Ultimately it proved an economic boost to the struggling city and opened up a successful trade and passenger route on the East coast.
We spent hours exploring everything on offer, from being in the engine room of a giant locomotive, playing with the discovery boxes to understand what life was like on the trains, bouncing around the caboose and admiring the train set constructed in a train carriage. The history was fascinating – Baltimore had the second highest amount of immigrants after New York – and it was visually a stunning place to be.
For art lovers, history fans, city explores or anyone who wants to visit somewhere different we would definitely recommend checking out Baltimore. With a thriving art and food scene and plenty of variety when it comes to things to do this city has a lot to offer!
And so to finish, if the above didn’t get you interested here is what else Baltimore is famous for, as well as being the birthplace of the USA National Anthem it lays claim to the first:
- Washington Monument
- First Telegraph line
- First railroad passenger service
- First cathedral
- First Post Office system
- One of the first thirteen colonies
- One of the first to free Black slaves
We home you are charmed by Charm City in the same way we were!
*We were gifted a Visit Baltimore Pass that allowed us free entry to the Aquarium and B&O Museum, however all opinions are our own.