Baltimore is a popular tourist destination in Maryland, in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States of America, near Washington (D.C.). It is perhaps most famously known as the city where Francis Scott Key wrote the lyrics for the Star Spangled Banner, and today has become a major center for tourism and travel.
It lies on the juncture of the Chesapeake Bay. With continuous nightlife, temperate climate, and plenty of hospitality, any time of the year is a great time to visit.
Baltimore has a very long and rich history. It is perhaps most well-known for being the site of the historic Battle of Baltimore. During this battle, the British invaders bombed Fort McHenry with rockets as Francis Scott Key wrote the American national anthem. Baltimore was also the site of the first casualty of the American Civil War.
Baltimore is also known for its diversity. It has a large African-American population that plays an important role in its history. African Americans have had a major presence in Baltimore since the Revolutionary War. During that time they were brought to Baltimore as slaves from Africa. Baltimore was also one of the hotbeds during the American Civil Rights movement and famous African-Americans such as Thurgood Marshall and Kweisi Mfume have made Baltimore their hometown. R&B artists such as Tupac, Dru Hill and Mario have also emerged from Baltimore. Currently, African-Americans form a majority (within the city limits) at 64%.
Baltimore lies in an arm of the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the world. The eastern two-thirds of the metropolitan area lie on the Atlantic Coastal Plain, between 15 and 50 feet above sea level, and contain many peninsulas jutting out into the bay. The western third of the city slowly rises into rolling hills, and leads to the piedmont region. It is located about 40 miles from Washington (D.C.), and approximately 100 miles from Philadelphia. The Atlantic Ocean lies about 2 hours to the southeast.
Baltimore's climate is primarily affected by three factors: its proximity to a warm marine estuary, its low elevation, and the wall of mountains to the west and northwest. These factor's make the area's climate milder and less extreme than other U.S. cities at this latitude. Summers are humid and hot, but not extremely so, with highs reaching the 80-90°F and lows in the 60-70°F. Winters are cool and moist, with highs in the 40-50°F and lows in the 30-40° F. Temperatures in the winter will wander into the high 10°F on a rare occasion, and it is almost never below 10°F in the city proper. Light snow can sometimes fall in winter, although some years there is no significant accumulation and once every 4 or 5 years a coastal storm can dump over 8 inches on the city. Spring and fall bring pleasant temperatures in the 50s-70s(°F), and southern breezes.
Greyhound serves most major cities, and the stop in Baltimore's downtown is a few blocks south of the Inner Harbor
Also check out Apex Bus if you're travelling from New York. They offer pretty competitive rates especially if you are travelling on a shoestring budget.
Car parking is expensive in the inner city, roughly $5/hr around the harbor area. The 395 turn-off from the I95 will take you right into the harbor area, but traffic can be slow in the center of the city at rush hour and on game days.
Amtrak offers frequent services into Baltimore. The main station (Penn Station) is on Charles Street in the center of the city, but a considerable distance from the harbor area. However, a spur of the light rail system connects to the train station, and you can ride it to the convention center, three blocks from the harbor. Some Amtrak trains also stop at the BWI (airport) station which is a few miles south of the main Penn Station.
The MARC train system provides inexpensive service between Baltimore and Washington (D.C.) (and from Washington to Frederick, Maryland and Martinsburg, West Virginia). It is, however, meant to be a commuter system, and runs mostly during work days/hours. Check to be sure it is available when you need it.
The Baltimore-Washington International Airport is located a few miles outside of the city and is accessible by car or light rail. Shuttles connect BWI to an Amtrak train station just off the airport grounds.
BWI has a somewhat unique car rental system. Car rental facilities are located in a centralized facility located away from the airport. Airport shuttle buses must take travelers to and from the facility and it is advisable to plan an extra 10 to 15 minutes to get out of the airport. Also, if heading to Washington DC, the signage from the airport's car rental facility is very poor and confusing, especially to Route 495. However, all roads ultimately lead to highway access in either direction (North or South).
Public transportation in Baltimore is nothing spectacular. The buses are slow and unreliable, and the light rail system is meager. However, most sights you'll probably be seeing can be walked to.
The light rail system is far more useful for getting into the city than getting around it. You may wish to park outside the city (for free!) and take the light rail in.
There is also a single line subway which runs from Johns Hopkins hospital, through downtown, and out to the northwest suburbs of Pikesville and Owings Mills.
Parking is plentiful near all major sights, usually with pay lots and garages charging parking rates commensurate with most major cities. The harbor area and the public transportation systems are safe and patrolled.
One of the most popular (and unique!) modes of transportation in Baltimore is the water taxi system. The water taxi is an especially nice way to get around during the warmer months, and offers unique views of the Baltimore skyline. $8.00 buys you unlimited rides all day long, and you can hop on and off at any of the stops throughout the harbor area (which covers areas like Fort McHenry, Fells Point, Little Italy, the Science Center and Aquarium). Hours of operation vary throughout the year; check the schedule for details.
Cabs can be expensive, but are safe.
The excellent market place, near the harbor, is full of fresh seafood and great food bars to eat with the locals. (Although, obviously, locals do not frequent the Inner Harbor, preferring the neighborhoods surrounding it) Little Italy and Fells Point, Federal Hill, etc. all feature local and international cuisine. Maryland is known for its steamed crabs, which used to come from the Chesapeake Bay, but due to over-fishing, the catches are diminished each year, so crabs are frequently brought in from Louisiana and Texas.Maryland is also famous for crab cakes, which originated in Maryland.
Lexington Market is an especially popular lunchtime destination, with countless vendors selling all kinds of food imaginable. There are standing tables in an open area on the ground floor, as well as a large seating area on the upper level above that.
Fine dining can be had at Windows, the restaurant in the Renaissance Harbor Side Hotel. Get a window table for a view of the U.S.S. Constellation docked at the inner harbor. It looks down on the pavilions at the harbor.
If you enjoy Mexican food, Nacho Mama's (2907 O'Donnell St) is a great place to check out. Fun atmosphere, surrounded many "priceless artifacts" representing everything Baltimore.
If big food is your thing, you might want to drive out to the eastern suburbs, to the town of Dundalk, and visit Captain Harvey's Sub Shop - 3435 Dundalk Ave, or 1543 Merritt Blvd. Probably the biggest and best cheese steak sub you'll find anywhere on the planet.
Vaccaro's in Baltimore's Little Italy is a place to die for when it comes to desserts. This intimate Italian bakery is a little on the high side but features some of the best desserts found anywhere in the world. Located two blocks from the inner harbor area at the corner of Albemarle and Stiles street.
The two neighborhoods with the largest concentrations of drinking establishments and clubs are Fells Point and Powerplant Live!/Inner Harbor. Other areas are Canton Square, Mt. Vernon, Federal Hill, Hampden, and the Station North Arts and Entertainment District.
Fells Point has dozens of options for both eating and drinking, it is located about a 15 min walk from downtown, or a short cab ride.
The DuClaw Brewing Company has an excellent selection of locally made craft beers, with rotating styles depending on the season. The Greene Turtle is an acceptable sports bar. Max's on Broadway has one of the best selection of beers from around the world. Dozens of beers on tap and even more in bottles. If you are looking for a hard to find beer, Max's is your place in Baltimore.
Powerplant Live! is an area just off of the harbor in downtown that has two blocks of nothing but bars, clubs and restaurants. It has an outdoor area that has music and other events during good weather.
Brewer's Art on Charles Street specializes in Belgian ales. Cross Street Market in Federal Hill has a sushi and raw bar, and an excellent happy hour on Friday.
. Surround yourself with the best of Baltimore at the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel. Connected to the Convention Center and a brief walk from the magnificent Inner Harbor and Oriole Park at Camden Yards, it is convenient to many attractions.
. Perfectly located, this AAA Four-Diamond Inner Harbor hotel offers a luxurious haven in the midst of the city's premier attractions. Stroll to Camden Yards, the National Aquarium or the Baltimore Convention Center, and then return to this downtown Baltimore harbor hotel to enjoy its distinctive features.
. Discover a jewel situated just steps from the areas most unique sights and attractions. Experience the rich culture of Charm City in a place that's destined to delight you. Modern, sophisticated, and stylish, this four-star Baltimore hotel offers upscale amenities and services in a distinct atmosphere, where fresh impressions and new experiences unfold at every turn.
. For business and pleasure, this hotel is the premier choice among Baltimore Inner Harbor hotels, offering elegant accommodations in a landmark setting. Located along the picturesque waterfront, this downtown Baltimore hotel is within walking distance of the business district and many popular attractions. Treat yourself to impeccable guest service and European-style elegance in a superb location.
. This 37-story all-suite hotel is 1 block from Charles Street’s businesses, shops, and restaurants; the Inner Harbor, National Aquarium, and Baltimore Convention Center are within 8 blocks. Within minutes of exciting shopping, dining, and historical sites.
. Step into a place in history. Where folklore, fantasy and more than a few ghost stories thrive in the historic waterfront village of Fell’s Point, a charming neighborhood full of eclectic shops, restaurants, and taverns. And in the middle of it all is the Admiral Fell Inn, a quaint, European-style hotel that boasts stately rooms, an intimate pub, and a new innovative food experience.
. As you pull up Harbor Magic Drive and pass the Power Plant entertainment complex and the National Aquarium, you’ll realize just how fabulous the Pier 5 Hotel’s waterfront location really is. The Pier 5 Hotel is an enthralling blend of comfortably hip designs, vibrant colors and some gorgeous harbor views.
. Brookshire Suites is the perfect place to revel in the beauty and magic of Charm City. In the heart of the city’s famous Inner Harbor, Brookshire Suites is just steps away from many of Baltimore’s fabulous attractions, restaurants and the thriving business district.
. Built in 1928, the 22-story hotel is three blocks from the National Aquarium and Hioppodrome theater and directly across the street from the Metro station.
. Enjoy its historic atmosphere, stunning architecture, warm hospitality and accommodations. Since 1907, the Mount Vernon Hotel has been providing visitors with distinctive lodging with easy access to the city’s cultural sites and attractions.
. Ideal for those who enjoy a location within walking distance to curio shops, pubs and restaurants... yet seek a peaceful, quiet retreat. With an abundance of attractions and activities, experience the incomparable charm of this modern masterpiece.
It is undeniable that Baltimore has a high murder rate. While most of the murders are related to the illegal drug trade and rarely affect the downtown area, the rate of armed robberies is still high. As a visitor, you should be safe if you are prudent and know where you are going and how you are getting there. Common sense and precautions should be taken when walking around at night: walk in groups; do not carry large amounts of money; and avoid poorly lit and seedy neighborhoods.
Cabs can be expensive, but are safe.