Baltimore is known for a lot of things, perhaps most famously though, for it’s warm and welcoming namesake, Charm City. Well I am happy to report that it lives up to it’s name when we had the opportunity to spend a few weeks exploring this fine city and it’s surrounding areas. With it’s beautiful inner harbor, diverse neighborhoods, and variety of attractions it’s no wonder Baltimore is Maryland’s top tourism destination. Check out our Baltimore Travel Guide and Trip Planner for lots of “Rambler certified” activities and attractions.
Things to Do When You’re Visiting Baltimore
Downtown and the Inner Harbor
One of our favorite things to do in any large city is spend some time walking through their downtown area. With it’s combination of historic buildings, attractions, and tons of restaurants and bars it’s easy to spend a full day just walking through the Inner Harbor area and taking in all the sights. Looking for a nightcap? The Power Plant Live area of downtown is host to lots of concerts and other goings on, just be on the lookout for the “tourist tax” at some of the establishments there. tip: While you’re there don’t miss the inside of the old power plant, now converted to a bookstore. They did their best to restore the building while also making it a retail space and pulled it off fantastically.
The National Aquarium
Perhaps the anchor to the Inner Harbor area, the National Aquarium is Maryland’s top tourism destination. Home to over 17,000 different animals there’s a lot more than just fish to see. They feature mammals, birds, and reptiles and have one of the coolest indoor rain forests we’ve ever seen. For more information take a look at our full review of the National Aquarium.
Maryland Science Center
The MSC stands out as one of the most interactive and engaging science museum’s we’ve visited. The staff at the Maryland Science Center makes it a point to constantly engage with visitors of all ages including adults. With a large Planetarium, IMAX theater, and a cool hands on science lab, you can easily spend 4 -5 hours learning and having fun. tip: While you’re there look for the staffers wandering around with mini experiments, they are very hands on and lots of fun. Check out our Maryland Science Center review for more details about our trip there.
American Visionary Art Museum
The AVAM is perhaps one of the most unique attractions Baltimore has to offer. Home to a vast collection of art work, the American Visionary Art Museum is unique in the respect that it only features works from self taught artists with no formal training. The result is an eclectic display of fascinating works that mix media and other techniques to produce stunning results. The Museum is made up of several buildings and can easily take up 2 – 4 hours of your day depending on how long you spend in each gallery. tip: Don’t miss the AVAM gift shop, The Sideshow. With a huge collection of unique items it’s practically a destination on it’s own. For more insights on this destination check out our American Visionary Art Museum review.
The Maryland Zoo
Conveniently located right outside of Baltimore’s downtown area, The Maryland Zoo is definitely one of Baltimore’s hidden gems. Smaller than a lot of other zoo’s they make up for their size with some high quality exhibits and some opportunities for animal interaction that you don’t get at larger zoos. tip: The zoo has an option to take a tram from it’s entrance to exhibit area, take the walk (at least one way) and you’ll enjoy a lovely 10 minute stroll through a pretty quiet wooded area. For more info click here for our Maryland Zoo review.
Take A Food Tour
Baltimore has tons of little named neighborhoods, and is also home to a rather diverse group of ethnicities. Because of this, it has a pretty deep food scene with a lot of variety to offer. While we were in Baltimore we had the chance to take a food tour and we feasted on pierogis, tapas, crab cakes, and found out what a Baltimore Martini was! A food tour is definitely a great way to spend a late afternoon. tip: If you plan to have some drinks on a tour, bring cash as alcohol isn’t included. Check out our Charm City Food Tour review for more info.
The Maryland Renaissance Festival
It’s not often that we’ll recommend an attraction that isn’t available year round, but the Maryland Renaissance Festival is definitely an exception to that rule. Why? The festival is HUGE! It’s so big that it’s the second largest Ren Fest in the US. The festival grounds cover over 25 acres, and the festival runs over the course of nine weeks! tip: Make sure to bring your camera because you are guaranteed to see a huge variety of outfits from medieval to sci-fi while you’re there. For more info and dates check out their official website here.
Get Inked at Charmed Life Tattoos
Getting tattoos isn’t necessarily something to do while you are on vacation, but if you are looking for some fresh ink Charmed Life is the place to go. Darl and Mike were such an awesome team, we trusted them to custom draw tattoos for our 10-year wedding anniversary. Charmed Life is more than just a tattoo shop though, it’s also an art gallery. Featuring a collection of pieces from the local community, it’s a great place to pick up a custom souvenir for your trip. Want to see our anniversary tats? Check out our Charmed Life Tattoo review.
Learn to Sail with Annapolis Sailing School
Learning to sail is something that typically takes a few different courses to really master. If you’re interested in figuring out whether or not sailing is for you though, you can take a sailing class with the Annapolis Sailing School. Known as the Sailing Capitol of America, Annapolis has several options for learning to sail, but the Annapolis Sailing School is the nation’s oldest and arguable the best school for learning. So why not combine a morning out on the water while learning a new hobby while on our next vacation? See our full review of Annapolis Sailing School.
Where to Eat In Baltimore
Paper Moon Diner
Have you ever been to a restaurant where you just can’t decide what you want to eat because everything on the menu looks fa-mazing !? That’s Paper Moon Diner in a nutshell. With an absurdly eclectic menu offering things like Shrimp & Grits, Chipped Beef, Vegan Nachos, and a full page of Burger options, it’s comfort food taken to the extreme. Heck there is even a section of the menu featuring classic “TV dinners ” like meatloaf served with a side of creamed spinach and mashed sweet potatoes! You want to hear something crazy though? The food isn’t even the best part, it’s the atmosphere. The entire restaurant looks like the inside of a schizophrenic child’s toy box – it’s completely wackadoozee and wonderful. If you’re in Baltimore, you must eat here… more info
While I normally stay away from larger chains or restaurants that have become more touristy than high quality, Phillips Seafood is the exception to that rule. Known as Maryland’s “Crab Ambassadors”, this seafood packing company turned restaurant chain, hasn’t forgotten a thing about its roots. If you are looking for a romantic evening out on the town or just want to try the mother of all crab cakes (pictured below) you’ll be in for a treat at Phillips. For more info check out our restaurant review.
DuClaw Brewing Company
With several locations across the Baltimore Metro area you’re more than likely to cross paths with this brew pub & restaurant. A local Marlyand favorite since 1996, the ream at DuClaw have managed to develop quite the following for both their brews and their grub. Perhaps the most famous and unique is the Sweet Baby Jesus, a Peanut Butter Porter is best tasted on draft and is a standout beer when it comes to quality and creativity. If you are looking for a great spot to chill, watch a game, and enjoy some pints, DuClaw should definitely be on your list.
Tapas Adela has brought casual and fine dining together in the Fells Point district of Baltimore. With large pub tables and an open concept the environment is great for groups of friends to get together and share away. The food also stands out as authentic, as we didn’t try one selection that wasn’t satisfying.
Where to Stay in Baltimore- Pet Friendly Hotels
With the right combination of hip and cool atmosphere and spacious comfortable rooms it’s hard to go wrong with aloft hotels. We’ve stayed at several aloft properties and have always been happy with the locations. The staff at aloft is fun and friendly and they include a cute welcome kit when you stay with your fur baby that has treats and other fun stuff. The staff at the Arundel Mills location, did a superb job on our visit and truly made us feel special. Read our aloft hotel review to see what a great job they do as a chain. Check rates for the Baltimore aloft here.
Kimpton Hotel Monaco
If you are looking for a luxury pet-friendly option in downtown Baltimore, I highly suggest you look into the Hotel Monaco. Every Kimpton property we’ve stayed at gives you the top notch service you’d expect from a luxury property and are extremely pet friendly. What makes Kimpton really stand out though are the finer details you’d look for in a lux property like Wine Happy hour from 5 – 6 in the lobby. Check Rates for Hotel Monaco
La Quinta Inn
With 4 Locations in the Baltimore Area, La Quinta is a value priced pet friendly hotel choice. Their combination of no pet fee, comfortable rooms, free breakfast, good wi-fi, and reasonable price point make them a good choice for the budget minded traveler. Also their rewards program is pretty generous and they always guarantee the best rate if you book directly from their website. La Quinta Locations in Baltimore
Easy Day Trips From Baltimore
Even though it’s located only 30 miles south of Baltimore, Annapolis has a totally different vibe than the surrounding area. Steeped with Colonial American history, you can easily spend a whole day there. I recommend starting your day with a short tour of Annapolis, then spending the rest of the day on foot wandering around enjoying the architecture and the warm vibe. Finish up your day in Annapolis with a few drinks on the water at pubs that have been there longer than the city itself.
With the Nation’s Capital just an hour south, Washington DC is definitely worth a day trip if you are spending any time in Baltimore. Whether you immerse yourself in the Smithsonian Museums, get lost amongst the monuments, or visit the Panda’s at the National Zoo, you’re sure to find something fun to do in DC.
Located about an hour and a half north of the city, and just across the state border, Gettysburg, PA is an opportunity to relive a critical part of America’s history. A trip through the Gettysburg National Military Park will walk you through one of the most critical battles of the Civil War.
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