Baltimore City’s Top Tourist Attractions

The World Trade Center and National Aquarium in Baltimore's Inner Harbor
Baltimore’s Inner Harbor

Most people when they travel to a place for the first time generally want to know what’s there to see and do. If you are heading to a big city, answering that question can lead to so many possibilities your head will start spinning. Nevertheless, almost every city has a Top 10 list of tourist attractions. Baltimore is no different, except that this is a Top 15 list with ideas for other places nearby you will also want to check out. What can I say, when it comes to Baltimore City’s top tourist attractions, it is just so darn hard to decide what to include.

Below is my list of Baltimore City’s top tourist attractions in no particular order. Maebh and Moose like hanging out in front of these places looking for pets (really treats). Many of these places are accessible via Baltimore’s free Circulator. As you probably already know, the first two hours of parking is the most expensive. The circulator lets you keep your car in one place and still get around. Better yet, take the lightrail from the airport and just use the circulator while you are in town. Links to all attraction websites are at the bottom. If you have something that should have been included, let me know in the comments.

Baltimore’s Big 5 Tourist Attractions

Fort McHenry National Historic Site and Shrine

Maebh and her moose at Fort McHenry. A popular tourist attraction in Baltimore.
Maebh and Moose at Fort McHenry

First on the list of Baltimore City’s top tourist attractions is Fort McHenry. This national historic site is the only one of the 421 national park units designated a National Shrine. Fort McHenry, which has had many uses over the years, is best known for its role during the War of 1812. The fort kept the British fleet from landing and burning Baltimore.

The fort also inspired Francis Scott Key to pen that “Oh can you see…” song. Or, if you prefer, the National Anthem. During the Civil war, the Fort was a garrison and prison. In World War I, it was a hospital that treated returning soldiers. In World War II, the U.S. Coast Guard turned it into a training facility. Today, it is a great place to spend the day soaking up some history followed by a picnic along the water. Don’t forget to get your Junior Ranger Badge! 

While you are there:  Check out the Immigration Museum in Locus Point. This free museum tells the story of the people who immigrated to the U.S. through our port. Back in the day, Baltimore was the 3rd busiest immigration port in the nation. The museum has digital records of everyone who came through Baltimore. Why not do a little genealogy research while you are there? 


Maryland Science Center

Science is fun for everyone at the Maryland Science Center, including Maebh and her moose.
Maebh and Moose do science.

With the slogan, “Let’s Do Science,” the Maryland Science Center is a great hands-on roll-up your sleeves and start figuring things out kind of place. Newton Alley is a blast for learning about forces and physics. The dinosaur area lets young diggers try out their archeological skills. The Your Body exhibit offers a fascinating look into how you work on the inside. The Shed is the learn a new skill area and there is always something bubbling up on the Demo Stage. 

You do not need to be a kid to go. If you are at all curious about the world around you, this is the place. Additionally, there is an IMAX theatre with a new show every couple of months. Finally, the planetarium features themed presentations of what is happening in the night sky. Pro tip: Join your local science center so you can see this one for free. Or, if ours is cheaper, wait to get here and then buy a membership. Most of the science centers in the U.S. are reciprocal. Many around the world are too. Click here to see the list of places participating in the ASTC Travel Passport program. 

While you are there:  Take a stroll along the harbor promenade. It is a fantastic place to people-watch. Be sure to drop into the Visitor’s Center to get an update on the latest happenings around the harbor and throughout the city.


National Aquarium

You never know what will pop out of the water at the National Aquarium in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.
Heads up at the National Aquarium

The National Aquarium in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor has gone through several iterations over the years, but the current configuration is perfect. Sea life is grouped by theme. The rainforest is packed with birds and monkeys. The shark tank is eerie and mesmerizing. The coral reef is the perfect place to chill out and watch the beauty of the oceans. If you are lucky, you can spot a diver working with the sharks or feeding the massive turtles. A word of caution:  In order to get a better view of what is on display, much of the place is a bit dark. Therefore, it is super easy to trip over a little one running off to check out the next neat thing. Pay attention to who is at your feet and you should be fine.

While you are there:  If being around all that water has made you thirsty, head east to Baltimore’s infamous Fells Point where beverages abound. On your way back, you might want to drop into the Baltimore’s Civil War Museum. It may look small on the outside, but the inside is jammed packed with the stories that made this City such a pivotal player in the war.


Maryland Zoo in Baltimore

The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore is a great place to hang out.
Maebh with her giraffe ears and Moose with a baboon masks at the Maryland Zoo

Much has changed at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore over the years, but one thing has remained constant. Its dedication to providing the best environment for the critters in its care. Go visit, you will see what I mean. The children’s zoo includes a secret tree house, playful otters, and a working farm where kids of all ages can get up close and personal with the animals. There are keeper talks, penguin feedings, and “natural animal behavior” on full display. 

While you are there:  Head over to the Rawlings Conservatory (it is the Victorian era glass building). Inside, you can explore the five themed gardens, including one on succulents and another on orchids. Spring through Fall you can explore the outdoor gardens for free, but they do ask for a $5 donation. If you happen to have a Frisbee on hand, you might want to play a round of Frisbee golf. The course is on the other side of the zoo.


Port Discovery

The climbing gym at Port Discovery is a fan favorite.
The climbing gym at Port Discovery

Port Discovery is Baltimore’s Children’s museum and is geared to the 10 and under crowd. There are specialty areas for babies and toddlers to explore without the older kids hogging all the stuff. Parents will have fun helping their kids through the climbing gym, playing the drums, making art, or splashing in the water course. Although waterproof gear is provided, you may want to plan on bringing a second set of clothes just in case you have a Scooby “ruh roh” moment. Your ticket allows for all day re-entry on the day of purchase so come early and keep heading back.

While you are there 

  • Head over to the winter home of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, “the last living and only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence.” For some reason, this extra verbiage is required.  At the house, you will get a feel for how the richest man in America at the time lived. You will also discover the post-Carroll years when the house was transformed into a saloon, an immigration center, and several other uses before being restored.
  • A couple of blocks north you will find the Phoenix Shot Tower. Here you learn about the process of making mini cannon balls. Hint: molten blobs of metal are dropped from 200+ feet up into a bucket of water below.
  • Finally, about a quarter mile east of the shot tower is the Jewish Museum of Maryland. The museum celebrates the Jewish experience and contribution through interactive stories of the past and the present. Here you will find out what life was like for Baltimore’s early Jewish immigrants, as well as thematic stories like the Jewish connection to space and astronomy. New stories are on display all the time making this more than a one and done place to visit.

Baltimore’s Big Boats

Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is home to four historic ships. One ticket gives you a whole year to see them all!

U.S.S. Constellation

The U.S.S. Constellation in Baltimore's Inner Harbor has five decks to explore and a canon that fires every so often.

The U.S.S. Constellation is a war frigate that dates to the Revolutionary War era. Onboard, visitors can experience life on the ship. There are five decks to check out and if you time it right, you will be able to watch them fire off one of the canons on the top deck. Hold your ears it is loud! 

While you are there:  Head over to the Top of the World in the World Trade Center building (it is the tall one on the promenade). Check out the magnificent views and learn something about the buildings you are seeing on the skyline. A permanent memorial exhibition honoring those who perished in the 9/11 attacks dovetails with the memorial in the plaza below.


The U.S.S. Torsk

The U.S.S. Torsk is submarine full of all sorts of fascinating things.

The U.S.S. Torsk plays neighbor to the Aquarium. The submarine has the distinction of sinking the last enemy ship during World War II. However, if you have claustrophobia issues, this may not be your thing. The cramped interior does promote an appreciation for the crew’s living conditions. Do not forget to read up on how the sub worked, firing the torpedoes, and the only crew member with daily shower privileges (it is not who you think). I highly advise taking the tour but if you choose to go it alone, please adhere to the warning signs. Most importantly, be careful around the well-marked live electrical panels.


The Lightship Chesapeake

The lightship Chesapeake was literally a light house on the water.

Located behind the U.S.S. Torsk is the red-hulled Lightship Chesapeake. If you are wondering just what a lightship is, it is basically a floating lighthouse. Why a lightship? Well, back in the day, land-based lighthouses could not be built any old place. Enter the Lightship. On board, you learn how these ships kept boats from running aground. The stories about the sailors who served on this ship are also fascinating.


U.S. Coast Guard Cutter (U.S.C.G.C.) Taney

Soogie escapades and Pollywog trials are just two of the fascinating things on the Coast Guard Cutter Taney.

The Tawney is located two piers over from the Aquarium on the other side of the ESPN Zone. The Tawney has the distinction of being the last ship still afloat that survived the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Below deck is the story of the ship’s and her crew’s service during World War II, the Vietnam War, and her life in the Coast Guard. Tawney tales include, Soogie escapades and Pollywog trials.

Baltimore’s Art Museums

We have three world-class art museums in Baltimore. Each collection has a different focus so between the three, you are bound to at least find one to your liking.

Baltimore Museum of Art

The Baltimore Museum of Art has an extensive collection, including A Quick Nap by Walter Henry Williams.
A Quick Nap by Walter Henry Williams

The first of Baltimore’s art museums in the Baltimore Museum of Art, which sits next to the campus of Johns Hopkins University. The museum has an extensive collection and includes pieces from all the major periods from antiquity to today. Above all, the museum houses the Cone Collection, one of the most important art collections anywhere. These pieces where collected by Baltimore sisters Etta and Claribel Cone and include works by Monet, Picasso, Matisse, Degas, and more. The museum also has an outdoor sculpture garden that features work from the famous and the less well known. The garden sits in an idyllic wooded dell, making it a great place for a picnic lunch on a sunny day. Forgot to bring you lunch? No problem. The museum’s café is also a great place to grab a tasty bite if you get hungry.

While you are there:  Take a stroll through the campus of Johns Hopkins University and stop by the Homewood Mansion. This extravagant home was owned by Charles Carroll, Jr. Jr. was the ne’er-do-well son of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the only Catholic and last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence. While there, you will learn about Jr.’s wife, Harriet Chew, and the enslaved Conner and Ross families who took care of them. 


Walters Art Museum

The Walters Museum is free Baltimore art museum and has large Asian collection that includes many antique snuff bottles.
Antique snuff bottle

The Walters is a free museum that houses the collections of William Thompson Walters (1819-1894) and his son Henry Walters (1848-1931). The collection includes works from antiquity through the mid-eighteenth century. Moreover, displays showcase art and artifacts from the peoples of the Americas, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. Frequent rotation of the pieces on display means there is usually something new to see. New works are conveniently labeled as “new.” If you start feeling creative, head to the family art room and have at it.

While you are there: Head over to the Peabody Library, a truly magnificent space, or the Washington Monument, where for $6 you can climb to the top. The climb consists of 227 marble steps that spiral through nine rotations. For you vertigo sufferers, check out the nifty displays for free in the lobby. Tell your friends to leave room in the picture for you to be Photoshopped in. No one will be the wiser.


American Visionary Arts Museum

Baltimore's American Visionary Arts Museum is easy to find - just look for the giant whirly-gig.
Maebh mesmerized by the AVAM’s whirly-gig

The American Visionary Arts Museum or AVAM as we like to call it, sits behind the Rusty Scupper in the Inner Harbor. The museum is dedicated to showing the works of “self-taught” artists, which is a change of pace from that “stuffy” stuff (just kidding) at the Walters or the BMA. Exhibits at the MVA change often so there is every reason to keep going back. As a bonus, a giant whirly-gig sits in the courtyard and is great to watch as you chill-ax after being blown away by what you have just seen. As even more of a bonus, the barn holds entries from AVAM’s Kinetic Sculpture Race. These crazy “vehicles” are a hoot to see.

While you are there: Climb to the top of Federal Hill for a spectacular view of the harbor. As an added bonus, you can channel your inner Mark Walberg as he checks out potential Presidential assassination spots in the movie “The Shooter.”

Baltimore’s History and Culture Museums

Baltimore has a niche museum for just about anything that may interest you. I have included many of Baltimore’s history and cultural museums throughout the “While you are there” suggestions. While I would certainly recommend visiting these smaller attractions, these three should be on everyone’s must see list.

Museum of Industry

So many things are invented in Baltimore. The Museum of Industry housed the collection and more.
Maebh and Moose are ready to weld at Baltimore’s Museum of Industry.

The Museum of Industry celebrates Baltimore’s industrial and manufacturing past, as well as the drivers of our current economy. For instance, visitors can learn about making motors, smiting iron, and typesetting, as well as many other Baltimore born technological innovations. Did you know that the umbrella was invented in Baltimore? The museum even has a gaming exhibit that will help you learn how to develop your own web-based game. 

While you are there: Head over to Little Havana one of the filming locations for the movie “The Replacements.” While you are waiting for your nosh, play a round of foosball, pool, or indoor shuffleboard. You might also try a personal favorite Southside Diner just up the hill.


Reginald L. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American Culture and History

The Reginald L. Lewis Museum of African American Culture and History showcases the incredible number of contributions of this community.
Maebh and Moose getting ready for winter hiking by channeling their inner North Pole explorer Matthew Henson

The Reginald L. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American Culture and History is the newest kid on the block, relatively speaking. The museum tells the stories of Maryland’s more famous African American citizens including, famed North Pole explorer Matthew Henson and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, as well as a whole lot of other women and men who made significant contributions to the city, the state, the country, and the world. Additionally, the museum hosts changing exhibitions highlighting African American artists and various cultural themes.

While you are there: Head next door to the Flag House where you will learn about the making of the famous flag that inspired our national anthem. You can also check out the home of Mary Pickersgill, the woman who brought the flag to life.


B&O Railroad Museum

The B&O museum showcases the countries first major railroad and its many contributions to history
Maebh and Moose taking a ride on a B&O train.

Baltimore can lay claim to many firsts, but arguably one of the most important “firsts” is the railroad. The B&O Railroad, now CSX, is not only the oldest railroad in the nation but also the first common carrier. Our railroad played a major role in developing the country beyond the Appalachian Mountains and was a key player in the Civil War. Best of all, that infamous Tom Thumb race took place on these tracks. Who remembers that old film from school?

While you are there: Head one block north and check out the Irish Railroad Workers Museum or the Edgar Alan Poe House. Along the way, go check out the Babe Ruth Museum, the Nursing Museum, the Museum of Dentistry, and the spooky catacombs in the Westminster burial grounds. 

Want to know more about Baltimore? Check out the Baltimore and Beyond article series here.

Baltimore has so much for everyone that finding the right fit for your interests can be challenging. I can help.

Attraction Information

Name & AddressContact
American Visionary Arts Museum
800 Key Highway
Baltimore, MD 21230
Phone: 410.244.1900
Website: AVAM.org
Map: ?
Location: Inner Harbor
Babe Ruth Museum
216 Emory Street
Baltimore, MD 21230
Phone: 410.727.1539
Website: BabeRuthMuseum.org
Map: ?
Location: West Harbor
Baltimore Museum of Art
10 Art Museum Drive
Baltimore, MD 21218
Phone: 443.573.1700
Website: ArtBMA.org
Map: ?
Location: Charles Village
Baltimore Museum of Industry
1415 Key Highway
Baltimore, MD 21230
Phone: 410.727.4808
Website: TheBMI.org
Map: ?
Location: South Harbor
Carroll Mansion
800 E. Lombard Street
Baltimore, MD 21202
Phone: 410.605.2964
Website:  CarrollMuseums.org
Map: ?
Location: East Harbor
Civil War Museum
601 S. President Street
Baltimore, MD 21202
Phone: 443.220.0290
Website: 
PresidentStreetStation.org
Map: ?
Location: East Harbor
Dr. Samuel D. Harris National Museum of Dentistry
31 S. Greene Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
Phone: 410.706.0600
Website:  dental.umaryland.edu/museum
Map: ?
Location: University of Maryland
Edgar Allan Poe House
203 N. Amity Street
Baltimore, MD 21223
Phone: 410.462.1763
Website:  PoeinBaltimore.org
Map: ?
Location: West Baltimore
Federal Hill
300 Warren Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21230
Website:  Federal Hill
Map: ?
Location: Inner Harbor
Fort McHenry National Historic Site and Shrine
2400 East Fort Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21230
Phone: 410.962.4290 x250
Website: https://www.nps.gov/fomc/index.htm
Map: ?
Location: Locust Point
Frisbee Golf
Crow’s Nest Road
Baltimore, MD 21217
Website: Frisbee Golf
Map: ?
Location: Druid Hill Park
George Peabody Library
17 E. Mount Vernon Place
Baltimore, MD 21202
Phone: 667.208.6715
Website: Library
Map: ?
Location: Mount Vernon
Homewood Museum
3400 N. Charles Street
The Johns Hopkins University
Baltimore, MD 21218
Phone: 410.516.5589
Website: https://museums.jhu.edu/homewood-museum/
Map: ?
Location: Charles Village
Howard Peters Rawlings Conservatory
3100 Swann Dr.
Baltimore, MD 21217
Phone: 410.396.0008
Website: RawlingsConservatory.org
Map: ?
Location: Druid Hill Park
Immigration Museum
1308 Beason Street
Baltimore, MD 21230
Phone: 443.542.2263
Website: ImmigrationBaltimoe.org
Map: ?
Location: Locust Point
Irish Railroad Workers Museum
918 Lemmon Street
Baltimore, MD 21223
Phone: 410.347.4747
Website: IrishShrine.org
Map: ?
Location: West Baltimore
Jewish Museum of Maryland
15 Lloyd Street
Baltimore, MD 21202
Phone: 410.732.6400
Website: JewishMuseumMD.org
Map: ?
Location: East Baltimore
Lightship 116 Chesapeake
Pier 3
501 E. Pratt Street
Baltimore, MD 21202
Phone: 410.539.1797
Website:  HistoricShips.org
Map: ?
Location: Inner Harbor
Little Havana
1325 Key Highway
Baltimore, MD 21230
Phone: 410.837.9903
Website: LittleHavanas.com
Map: ?
Location: South Harbor
Maryland Science Center
601 Light Street
Baltimore MD 21230
Phone: 410.685.5225
Website: MdSci.org
Map: ?
Location: Inner Harbor
Maryland Zoo
1 Safari Place
Baltimore, MD 21217
Phone: 410.396.7102
Website: MarylandZoo.org
Map: ?
Location: Druid Hill Park
National Aquarium
501 E. Pratt Street
Baltimore, MD 21202
Phone: 410.576.3800
Website: Aqua.org
Map: ?
Location: Inner Harbor
School of Nursing Living History Museum
655 W. Lombard Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
Phone: 410.576.3800
Website: nursing.umaryland.edu/museum/
Map: ?
Location: University of Maryland
Phoenix Shot Tower
801 E. Fayette Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
Phone: 410.605.2964
Website  CarrollMuseums.org
Map: ?
Location: North Harbor
Port Discovery
35 Market Place
Baltimore, MD 21202
Phone: 410.727.8120
Website: PortDiscovery.org
Map: ?
Location: North Harbor
Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture
830 W. Pratt Street
Baltimore, MD 21202
Phone: 443.263.1800
Website: LewisMuseum.org
Map: ?
Location: North Harbor
Southside Diner
893 E. Fort Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21230
Phone: 410.727.7067
Website: EatatSouthside.com
Map: ?
Location: South Harbor
Star Spangled Banner Flag House
844 E. Pratt Street
Baltimore, MD 21202
Phone: 410.837.1793
Website: Flaghouse.org
Map: ?
Location: East Harbor
Top of the World
401 E. Pratt Street, 27th Floor
Baltimore, MD 21202
Phone: 410.837.8439
Website: ViewBaltimore.org
Map: ?
Location: Inner Harbor
USCGC Taney
Pier 5
501 E. Pratt Street
Baltimore, MD 21202
Phone: 410.539.1797
Website:  HistoricShips.org
Map: ?
Location: Inner Harbor
USS Constellation
Pier 1
501 E. Pratt Street
Baltimore, MD 21202
Phone: 410.539.1797
Website:  HistoricShips.org
Map: ?
Location: Inner Harbor
USS Torsk
Pier 3
501 E. Pratt Street
Baltimore, MD 21202
Phone: 410.539.1797
Website:  HistoricShips.org
Map: ?
Location: Inner Harbor
Visitor’s Center
401 Light Street
Baltimore, MD 21202
Phone: 1.877.Baltimore
Website: Baltimore.org
Map: ?
Location: Inner Harbor
Walters Art Museum
600 N. Howard Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
Phone: 410.547.9000
Website: TheWalters.org
Map: ?
Location: Mount Vernon
Washington Monument
699 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
Website: mvpconservancy.org
Map: ?
Location: Mount Vernon
Westminster Catacombs
515 W. Fayette Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
Phone: 410.706.2072
Website: WestminsterHall.org/tours
Map: ?
Location: Mount Vernon

By Carolyn

Carolyn is a seasoned traveler who finds amazing things to explore wherever she goes. Carolyn has explored all 50 states in the U.S. and has traveled widely throughout Canada and Europe, including Iceland. For over 15 years, Carolyn has been helping people make the most of their get-a-ways by personalizing their travel adventures. She believes "tailored to you" is the only way to make the most of your next adventure.

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