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Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine

#5 in Best Things To Do in Baltimore

Fort McHenry picture in Baltimore
Jon Bilous / Shutterstock

Key Info

Details

  • Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing Type
  • 1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
4.1
Overall
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Scorecard

  • Value
    4.0
  • Facilities
    3.0
  • Atmosphere
    4.0

Read about how we rank Things to Do.

While detained on a ship in the Chesapeake Bay during a battle in the War of 1812, lawyer, poet and writer Francis Scott Key saw a flag of 15 stars and stripes soaring above the fray, signaling the Americans success in holding of a British naval attack. As the story goes, this sight inspired him to write the country's national anthem. Today, the site of the battle — and Key's moment of inspiration — is one of the most popular tourist haunts in Baltimore.

Admission to the general park area is free, but there is a $7 fee for visitors ages 16 and older to enter the historic star-shaped fort. At the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, spectators can partake in a variety of programs, including the Fort! Flag! Fire! series from Wednesday through Sunday in July and August, which invites spectators to enjoy guided tours and even assist in the changing of the 42-foot flag. After the history lesson, relax on the grounds and enjoy a picnic with the family. Recent visitors say their favorite part of the tour was soaking in the scenic views of the water and brushing up on American history with "flag talks" given by highly informative park rangers. "The park rangers are very knowledgeable and give impromptu insights and tours," explains one TripAdvisor user. 

To reach the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historical Shrine, take the No. 1 bus to the main park gate, and walk 100 yards to the Visitor Center and Star Fort. Or, if you're planning to visit from the Inner Harbor, you can take a Baltimore Water Taxi; all-day tickets cost $12 per adult passenger.

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#1 Baltimore Museum of Art Situated in Charles Village, just north of the downtown area, the Baltimore Museum of Art claims the title of largest art museum in Maryland. Filled with 90,000 art pieces ... Read more » Stephen Spartana / Courtesy Baltimore Museum of Art

#2 The Walters Art Museum Although not as famous as the Baltimore Museum of Art, this free Mount Vernon museum covers art across a 5,000-year time span. Since it opened in 1909, the museum ... Read more » angela n. / Flickr

#3 Oriole Park at Camden Yards If you're downtown during a game day, you're bound to see droves of fans flashing orange as they head to Camden Yards. Located just a few blocks from ... Read more » Brandon Vincent / Shutterstock

#4 Patterson Park A marble fountain, swimming pool, lake, pagoda and dog park can be found in this 300-year-old park, where locals and visitors congregate for seasonal events and concerts. The Pagoda atop ... Read more » Jon Bilous / Shutterstock

#5 Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine While detained on a ship in the Chesapeake Bay during a battle in the War of 1812, lawyer, poet and writer Francis Scott Key saw a flag of 15 stars ... Read more » Jon Bilous / Shutterstock

#6 American Visionary Art Museum This Federal Hill art museum, which was once a whiskey warehouse, beckons to those with eclectic tastes. Upon entry, visitors are greeted by a 55-foot-tall "Whirligig," wind-powered configuration, which sets ... Read more » sneakerdog / Flickr

#7 Federal Hill Park For some of the best views of the Inner Harbor and Baltimore skyline, head to Federal Hill just south of downtown. According to one TripAdvisor reviewer, "The climb to the ... Read more » Marcin Wichary / Flickr

#8 Inner Harbor Many of the attractions in Baltimore — including the National Aquarium, the Maryland Science Center, the USS Constellation and the major sports stadiums — are centered in the Inner Harbor. Since the ... Read more » Jon Bilous / Shutterstock

#9 USS Constellation The USS Constellation, which is currently docked at pier 1, along the Inner Harbor, was first launched in 1854 and has had a tenuous history throughout its active life. The ... Read more » Shutterstock

#10 Maryland Science Center This 200-plus-year-old Maryland Science Center is one of the oldest scientific institutions in the country. Originally a meeting place for amateur local scientists to discuss papers, the museum has transformed ... Read more » twbuckner / Flickr

#11 National Aquarium in Baltimore One of the most well-known attractions in Baltimore, the National Aquarium is made up of more than 16,000 animals representing more than 660 species. The aquarium revolves around a ... Read more » sneakerdog / Flickr

#12 Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum Step inside the this brick house-turned-museum on 203 Amity Street, and you'll stumble upon a cornucopia of Poe pieces — from a telescope to a portable traveling desk — preserved from ... Read more » Camrocker / Getty Images

Baltimore Museum of Art picture in Baltimore
Walters Art Museum picture in Baltimore
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Fort McHenry picture in Baltimore
American Visionary Arts Museum picture in Baltimore
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Inner Harbor picture in Baltimore
USS Constellation picture in Baltimore
Maryland Science Center picture in Baltimore
National Aquarium in Baltimore picture in Baltimore
Edgar Allen Poe house picture in Baltimore
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Camden Yards picture in Baltimore
Patterson Park picture in Baltimore
Fort McHenry picture in Baltimore
American Visionary Arts Museum picture in Baltimore
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USS Constellation picture in Baltimore
Maryland Science Center picture in Baltimore
National Aquarium in Baltimore picture in Baltimore
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The Baltimore Museum of Art houses an impressive array of paintings from renowned artists like Matisse, Renoir and Andy Warhol. Stephen Spartana / Courtesy Baltimore Museum of Art

The Walters Art Mueum offers an extensive collection of art, spanning from pre-dynastic Egypt to 19th- and 20th-century America and Europe. angela n. / Flickr

Home of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team, Camden Yards is also open for tours of the dugout and JumboTron areas. Brandon Vincent / Shutterstock

Impressive, unobstructed vistas of Baltimore can be found from the iconic Pagoda crowning Hamstead Hill in Patterson Park, Jon Bilous / Shutterstock

This star-shaped fort earned its reputation during the War of 1812 when it successfully defended Baltimore Harbor from an attack by the British navy in the Chesapeake Bay. Jon Bilous / Shutterstock

To experience Baltimore's quirkier side, head the the American Visionary Arts Museum, which features non-traditional exhibits. sneakerdog / Flickr

Apart from cobbled walks, colorful public markets and charming shops, Federal Hill also offers picturesque vistas of the Inner Harbor and Baltimore's skyscrapers. Marcin Wichary / Flickr

Heavily visited sites like the National Aquarium, Baltimore Maritime Museum, Power Plant Live! and Maryland Science Center are concentrated at the Inner Harbor. Jon Bilous / Shutterstock

Step back in time aboard the USS Constellation, where visitors can don replica 19th century sailor uniforms. Shutterstock

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One of the most popular sites on the harbor, the National Aquarium in Baltimore is home to more than 16,000 animals and a spectacular dolphin show. sneakerdog / Flickr

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