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Did You Know … ?
- The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company was the first public carrier railway in the U.S. (1828).
- “The Star-Spangled Banner” was originally entitled “Defense of Fort M’Henry.”
- Besides taking a poem’s name, the Baltimore Ravens call their three mascots Edgar, Allan and Poe.
- Samuel F.B. Morse sent the world’s first telegraph message (“What hath God wrought?”) from D.C. to Baltimore (1844).
- When the U.S. designs a new flag, it is first flown over Fort McHenry.
Baltimore, Maryland’s largest city and economic hub, sits on a deep harbor on the Patapsco River, a tributary of Chesapeake Bay. The city has several claims to fame, but the big one stems from the War of 1812.
Baltimore shipyards had been turning out “Baltimore schooners” armed as privateers, which created havoc for British shipping. British commanders meant to punish this “nest of pirates” and seize the ships in Baltimore’s harbor.
Fort McHenry, which guards the harbor, resisted a 25-hour bombardment in the fall of 1814. When the garrison raised the American flag as the British withdrew, Francis Scott Key was inspired to write a poem. The rest is history — although Americans generally recall the event more for the national anthem than for its military significance, which was considerable.
These events and the city’s geography suggest the natural starting points for a Baltimore visit. Several sites, including museums, monuments, cemeteries and battlefields, are associated with the Battle of Baltimore, but the centerpiece is Fort McHenry itself.
Other aspects of Baltimore’s past come to mind when visiting the several historic ships in the Inner Harbor or the Baltimore and Ohio Railway Museum. Also, prominent former residents are remembered at an Edgar Allan Poe residence, Babe Ruth’s birthplace and the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum. The latter museum includes Baltimore-born entertainer Billie Holiday and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
The city appeals to culture lovers with its world class Baltimore Museum of Art, musical entertainment — from jazz to orchestral — and a summer Artscape event. The Peabody Conservatory of Music features students as well as guests.
About the geography: The city achieved early commercial success due to its deep harbor. But, its up-and-down history culminated most recently in debilitating suburban flight, followed by a dramatic rejuvenation starting in 1979. The centerpiece in this instance is the revived Inner Harbor, formerly a rundown warehouse district and now home to restaurants (with seafood a key feature), shops, attractions (especially, the National Aquarium) and access to nearby and new sports stadiums.
From here, visitors may branch out to additional distinct neighborhoods, which have seen their stars rise, too.
Things to do for Venturers
- Climb the 228 steps of Baltimore’s Washington Monument. It is America’s oldest monument to the first president (completed 1829) and its designer, Robert Mills, also designed the taller and better-known D.C. monument.
- In autumn, run the Baltimore Marathon, or enter one of several other races that are part of the Baltimore Running Festival.
- Take a helicopter tour for a bird’s-eye view of Baltimore and its harbor.
- Charles Street is officially the Charles Street National Scenic Byway. Follow it to the Station North Arts and Entertainment District, an area in transition with the arrival of new galleries and restaurants — and a collection of outdoor murals.
- Tour the Baltimore Tattoo Museum. Wear your souvenir home.
- Jog across the Inner Harbor before shops open, or go sailing in Chesapeake Bay.
Things to do for Centrics
- Tour the USS Constellation, the last ship to survive from the Civil War. It is docked in Baltimore. There are other historic ships to see, too.
- Attend the Preakness Stakes, the second of the three races that comprise thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown.
- Pursue food, fashion and fine art at July’s Artscape.
- For history buffs, plan a self-guided itinerary dedicated to the War of 1812 and events leading to and encompassing the Battle of Baltimore. Carry that further and follow the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail, a 560-mile land and water route in Maryland, Virginia and the nation’s capital.
- If the timing is right, take in any of hundreds of free dance, music and theater performances on offer as part of Free Fall Baltimore October.
- Walk all over the place but choose a theme. Guided tours are available that focus on food, literature, local heritage, ghosts — even fitness.
Things to do for Authentics
- Appreciate the importance of rail transport to America’s development with your visit to the B&O (Baltimore and Ohio) Railroad Museum.
- Go to the movies for free in July and August. Options are Films on the Pier (Wednesdays), Flicks From the Hill (Thursdays) and Cinema al Fresco (Fridays).
- There are several ways to see and experience Baltimore from the water, including narrated cruises focusing on the history and others designed for wining and dining.
- See the live marine life at the National Aquarium on the Inner Harbor. But, also, sample seafood beginning with crabcakes or oysters.
- Set aside time for the Baltimore Museum of Art. While there, look for Renoir’s “On the Shore of the Seine,” which was stolen in 1951 and recently discovered (2012) and returned (2014).
- Visit the Edgar Allen Poe House, a National Historic Landmark. Or, the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum.
For more information, consult Visit Baltimore at www.visitbaltimore.org