Baltimore Neighborhoods & Towns
You'll probably spend much of your time in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. But if you have some extra days, you should also explore the area's less touristy neighborhoods.
The most tourist-heavy area in the city is the Inner Harbor. Writers describe the National Aquarium in Baltimore, one of the focal points in the Inner Harbor, as one of the best in the country. The tropical rain forest exhibit, bottlenose dolphins and huge shark tanks are highlights. Due to the aquarium's popularity, writers recommend arriving early to avoid long entry lines.
The nearby Harborplace on Pratt Street contains several levels of restaurants and specialty shopping, including souvenir stores. Just a stone's throw away, writers say that both the interactive Maryland Science Center and the quirky American Visionary Art Museum are also worth a visit. Experts say that kids in particular will flock to the USS Constellation, the Navy's last all-sail warship.
East of the Inner Harbor is Little Italy, home to some of Baltimore's oldest buildings. Old World restaurants and charming homes dominate the neighborhood. Every Friday in the summer, the neighborhood hosts Cinema al Fresco, during which the streets become an outdoor theater playing Italian and Italian-themed films.
Farther east of Little Italy is Fells Point. A shipyard in its early days, Fells Point now has streets lined with bars, restaurants and shops. You can get to Fells Point easily by car or water taxi from the Inner Harbor. While you're there, writers recommend taking in the Fells Point Maritime Museum, the Robert Long House Museum and a few of the many pubs that host live music nightly. In this history-rich part of town, writers say you feel as if you have been transported to another time. To take advantage of that feeling, the city offers the Baltimore Ghost Tours, which lead you through the neighborhood's narrow streets.
Federal Hill, located across the bay from the Inner Harbor in South Baltimore, also has a multitude of bars and restaurants to kick back in during the evening. Nearby is Camden Yards, home to MLB's Baltimore Orioles, as well as M&T Bank Stadium, home to the NFL's Baltimore Ravens. Fort McHenry, the brick fort where Francis Scott Key wrote "The Star-Spangled Banner," is only a short drive or water taxi trip away. There are exhibits, as well as a daily changing of the flag, which has 15 stars and stripes like in Key's day. A park (ideal for picnicking) surrounds the fort.
One of the newest trendy spots in the city is the former working-class Canton neighborhood in Baltimore's southeast. The area's rehabilitated buildings are now condominiums, apartment complexes, shops and restaurants. The Maryland Korean War Memorial is here at the Canton Waterfront Park.
One of the most fashionable neighborhoods in Baltimore is Mount Vernon, north of the Inner Harbor. The neighborhood's Walters Art Museum has an impressive collection of art ranging from ancient Greek artifacts to impressionist paintings. Many experts say it's a must-see if you make a stop in this part of town.
Mount Vernon is also known for its large concentration of gay bars, and the neighborhood hosts the Baltimore Pride parade and block party every year. In addition, the neighborhood shelters the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, the third oldest zoo in the country. Writers also suggest stopping by the Washington Monument nearby, which was the first monument to be dedicated to America's first president. Experts say the spectacular view is worth the climb (of 228 steps to the top).
Over the years, Baltimore has had a less-than-stellar reputation as far as safety is concerned, perpetuated by television shows like The Wire and nicknames like "Bodymore." Although some parts of town might live up to those portrayals, the main tourist areas are generally safe for visitors. While tourists will most likely not encounter any kind of violent crime, especially in busy areas like the Inner Harbor, Mount Vernon, Fells Point and Federal Hill, it's still wise to use common sense as you would in any large city. Stow away your valuables and stick to busy streets, especially at night. If you're unsure of where you are going, we recommend that you take a cab or drive yourself, since neighborhoods can quickly change from block to block.