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Mt Vernon Place, Baltimore
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The 14 best things to do in Baltimore

Check out Charm City with our guide to the best things to do in Baltimore, from festivals to museums and parks to pubs

Written by
Sarah Medina
Julekha Dash

There is more to Baltimore than The Wire, otherwise known as the greatest television show in the history of television shows (opinions may vary). What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Charm City? That nickname, for one, although maybe thoughts immediately turn to the picturesque Inner Harbor or delicious steamed crabs dusted with Old Bay spice. Everyone has their own picture of Baltimore.

The best things to do in Baltimore bridge the divide between fascinating American history and modern boutique shopping, with a fantastic restaurant scene nestled next to brilliant bars, street markets, quirky festivals, and more. It can take years to truly know Baltimore, but these magnificent experiences should be your starting point. 

Best things to do in Baltimore

The quirky neighborhood that had a starring role in John Waters’ films remains a favorite hangout spot, especially along The Avenue. It’s also famous for its annual festivals: Honfest, which celebrates women who sport beehive hairdos, and The Miracle of Lights on 34th St., an extravagant, kitschy holiday light display held on one city block every December. The street is also home to some of the city’s best restaurants and bars, including Dylan’s Oyster CellarThe Food MarketAvenue Kitchen & Bar, and The Bluebird. Afterward, stop by the Charmery for Old Bay caramel ice cream.


It may surprise you, but the world’s largest Matisse collection isn’t in Paris or Nice. (Can you see where we're going with this?) Yep, it is in the Baltimore Museum of Art. The museum boasts more than 1,000 works by the French Fauvist painter and sculptor. With six Doric columns gracing the front, the elegant building designed by John Russell Pope is also a work of art. Stop in the sculpture garden, which sometimes hosts jazz concerts, after brunching in the museum restaurant.


Built in the shape of a five-pointed star, Fort McHenry defended the city during the Battle of Baltimore in 1814, which inspired Francis Scott Key to pen the Star-Spangled Banner. The informative and entertaining exhibits and ranger programs offer a great history lesson, while the 42-acre park, which juts into the harbor, presents brilliant opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. Walk along the sea wall trail or lounge on a picnic bench next to the water.

Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park and museum honors the legendary abolitionist Frederick Douglass and other African Americans who contributed to Baltimore’s shipbuilding industry. The interactive exhibits recount the life of Douglass and Myers, who founded America’s first African-American-owned shipyard. The lovely waterfront setting makes a good starting point for exploring the historic Fells Point neighborhood.


Sandlot is the perfect spot to lounge around on the beach with friends (just don't jump in the water). Grab a boozy slushie or a local beer or cocktail from the airstream trailer and some locally sourced munchies from James Beard Award-winning Spike Gjerde’s restaurant group. Sandlot is also a great spot to snag a pic of Baltimore’s iconic neon Domino Sugar sign. Note: Sandlot is seasonal.

Baltimore is home to several noteworthy museums, but AVAM is the only spot that displays a 14-foot- tall pink poodle, Fifi. The mascot makes her public entrance during the annual Kinetic Sculpture Race, where contestants power works of art to race them over 14 miles on land and in water. The museum’s quirky exhibits include a statue made from 5,000 tombstone-shaped marshmallows, titled "Edgar Allan Peep."


If you go to Baltimore and don’t eat crabs, did you even really visit? This crab shack in a Locust Point row house is the spot to pound a mallet into an Old Bay-slathered crustacean. Enjoy crab, steamed shrimp, and other seafood delights on the deck, where you’ll enjoy a view of the harbor. For a perfect pairing, wash it down with a pitcher of Baltimore’s favorite beer, Natty Boh.

The central plaza in Baltimore’s cultural center, Mount Vernon Place is home to the Washington Monument. Climb the 227 marble steps to be rewarded with a stunning view of the neighborhood’s elegant 19th and 20th-century rowhomes built in Beaux Arts, Greek Revival, and Italianate styles. The square also makes a good launching point for exploring the Mount Vernon neighborhood, which contains many architectural marvels: a Norman-Gothic church, the Palazzo-style Walters Art Museum, and the George Peabody Library. In the summer, the surrounding parks hold outdoor events for the whole family to enjoy. 


Baltimore is home to many great breweries and brewpubs, but this should be your first stop. Located in the Mount Vernon neighborhood, The Brewer's Art crafts its Belgian-style beers in-house and offers several destinations under one roof—a turn-of-the-century mansion, a low-lit cavernous basement, and a wood-paneled formal dining room. It's also a prime example of how developers have converted elegant rowhomes into one-of-a-kind eating and drinking establishments. 


Sagamore Spirit distillery offers tours and interactive exhibits highlighting Maryland’s history of rye whiskey production. The massive waterfront complex shows how whiskey is made, showcasing the fermenters, bottling process, and 40-foot tall mirrored copper whiskey still. With outdoor concerts and other events, the distillery has become a must-stop destination. After an hour-long tour of the distillery, enjoy whiskey cocktails during a 30-minute sunset tour with Baltimore Water Taxi.


With a long legacy of treating the nation, you can be sure to find a dessert at Vaccaro’s that will satisfy your sweet tooth. Yep, we're talking indulgent snickers volcanos, death by chocolate, mouthwatering slices of cannoli cake, and cheesecake topped with gelato, hot fudge, and whipped topping. Looking for a signature? If you only try one thing, put on your roomiest trousers and make a beeline for the pastry shells stuffed with sweetened ricotta and chocolate chips. 

Artscape, an annual outdoor summer arts extravaganza, held the third weekend in July, features dance, theater, and concerts on three stages. Billed as the largest free arts festival in the U.S., the jam-packed weekend has featured well-known musical headliners, including Wyclef Jean, Sheila E, and Common. Purchase jewelry, crafts, and one-of-a-kind objet d’arts for your abode from more than 150 artists and food and drink from local vendors. It attracts more than 350,000 attendees. 

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