I spent a week looking for fun things to do in Baltimore, and it wasn’t difficult. As I journeyed up the east coast on my long road trip, I looked for places with history, charm, art and architecture, and Baltimore did not disappoint. This historic harbor town provided all of that and more. Plus, it reminded me of my home – Detroit, Michigan, where I was born and raised.
The historic town on the water used to be an industrial shipping community, but now much of the industry has been converted into cultural activities, living spaces and small businesses. Here are a few of the things to do in Baltimore that I enjoyed.
1 GEORGE PEABODY LIBRARY
As an avid reader, author and book lover, I was excited to see the George Peabody Library. If you like books, you’ll find it’s the Instagram-worthy library of your dreams.
Built in 1878, the stacks comprise five tiers of ornamental cast-iron balconies that stretch up toward a massive skylight 61 feet above the floor with books all the way to the top. It is, in a word, stunning.
Those floors combined hold about 300,000 books, mainly from the 19th century, including rare Edgar Allan Poe books, original letters and an extensive collection of musical settings for his writings. It is easily one of the most beautiful library spaces in the United States and one of my favorite things to do in Baltimore.
Find it inside the Peabody Institute at 17 East Mt Vernon Place
2 EDGAR ALLAN POE HOUSE AND MUSEUM
Speaking of Poe, we are in Baltimore and practically obligated to visit. The Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum are a must-do when considering things to do in Baltimore. Even if you’re not a big reader, the history of his mysterious death, his notoriety as America’s first novelist, and his macabre stories make learning more about him mandatory. There’s no better way than by visiting his former home.
The Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum are where he lived in with his aunt Maria Clemm and her daughter, Virginia, during much of the 1830s. It’s now a museum and displays exhibits about the writer’s life.
Each room has artifacts and information detailing Poe’s life in Baltimore, but the attic is the best. You reach it by a tightly winding staircase so narrow you nearly must crawl into the room at the top. The ceiling slopes dramatically on either side, like the letter A. There was a rough cot bed, a chair and a chest with pair of men’s boots next to it. A book, candle, quill and ink well sat on the chest, where he likely penned many stories. A black raven perches in the window, watching.
Find it at No. 3 Amity, Baltimore.
Read more about Edgar Allen Poe in this story.
3 EDGAR ALLAN POE GRAVE(S)
Poe not only lived in Baltimore, but it’s also where he died and was buried and then was re-buried after dying mysteriously.
On Sept 26, 1849, Poe set sail on a boat from Virginia with a stop in Baltimore. There is no record of anyone seeing him again until Oct. 3, when people at a tavern in Gunner’s Hall in Baltimore believed him severely drunk and had him taken to a hospital. Poe was delirious and wild mad at the hospital, where he continued nonsensical raving and could not tell anyone what had happened. After four days of madness, he died.
His family buried him in a family plot in the back of the Westminster Burying Grounds, in an unmarked grave. Over the years, the site became derelict, so supporters had Poe exhumed and buried under a large memorial marker at the front of the church. The square granite monument is 6 feet on each side and features a bas-relief bust of Poe, with the dates 1809 and 1849.
Fun fact: Walk around the back of the cemetery if it’s open, and you can also see his original grave, now marked with a stone featuring a Raven.
Find it at 519 West Fayette Street in Baltimore.
4 GREEN MOUNT CEMETERY
While we’re on cemeteries, I have one more on this list of things to do in Baltimore. You knew I was a taphophile, right? That’s someone who visits cemeteries, and I’ve been to some of the best cemeteries in the world, so I couldn’t pass up a chance to see this one.
The Green Mount Cemetery was one of the earliest garden cemeteries in the country. It was the start of getting the burial ground out of the downtown, populated areas. Because of the time, many famous people lived near Baltimore and are now buried in this cemetery, including philanthropists Johns Hopkins and Samuel Ready and Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth, among others.
But the person whose grave I went to see was Elijah J. Bond. Never heard of him? Bond was the inventor of the famous “mysterious oracle,” the Ouija Board.
Bond and some cohorts created the board at 529 North Charles Street in Baltimore, and it’s still sold today. Bond’s grave in Green Mount looks like an Ouija Board, complete with all the letters, yes, no, and of course, goodbye.
Fun Fact: The place where he created it is now a 7-Eleven store, but there’s a plaque on the wall commemorating the Ouija Board.
You can see Bond’s grave and dozens of others using a map in the cemetery office. Aside from famous graves, the cemetery is filled with ornate statuary, beautiful landscaping and historical detail. Guided tours are offered as well.
Fun fact: John Wilkes Booth is buried in an unmarked grave in his family plot; fittingly, visitors have covered it in shining copper pennies.
Find the cemetery at 1501 Greenmount Ave, Baltimore.
5 WASHINGTON MONUMENT
I bet you thought there was only one Washington Monument, and it is in Washington, D.C. well, you and I would both be wrong. The original Washington Monument is in Baltimore, in – wait for it – the Mount Vernon neighborhood. The creators laid the cornerstone on July 4, 1815. It was the first monument in the country dedicated to President George Washington. The D.C. version was dedicated on July 4, 1848.
Now, it’s the centerpiece surrounded by four parks in the Mount Vernon National Historic Landmark District, and it’s. For an $8 fee, you can go inside the monument and climb 227 stairs to the top, looking out over the whole of Baltimore to the harbor.
Fun Fact: In front of the monument is a statue of a man on a horse. It’s Revolutionary War General Marquis de Lafayette.
Find the monument at 699 N. Charles St., Baltimore.
6 BALTIMORE MUSEUM OF ART
After all that history, I think it’s time for some art culture. This free museum has over 95,000 objects, but if you’re interested in modern art like me, it’s the 1,000-piece Henri Matisse collection that is irresistible when looking for things to do in Baltimore.
Curators have filled several rooms with art from the French painter known for using bold color and almost abstract imagery on par with Picasso. While I adore most post-Impressionist art, I’m always a little perplexed by Matisse. I find him intriguing because while some of his work seems so sloppy and careless, he’s quite careful in others. It’s almost to show us he can do it but chooses not to. Of course, there’s also much of his sculpture, which drives home his diverse talent.
Aside from Matisse’s work, the Cone Collection of modern art includes work from Pissarro, Renoir, Monet, Seurat, Degas and van Gogh. Further, there’s a great selection of prints, drawings, photographs, collections of African and Asian art, contemporary artists, European and American paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, and more.
Find the Baltimore Museum of Art at 10 Art Museum Dr, Baltimore.
7 STROLL THE BALTIMORE INNER HARBOR
One of the fun things to do in Baltimore is to stroll the harbor and see how it so wonderfully blends the past with the future. I hailed from Detroit and lived in Chicago, so I know that a city with a waterfront is the best city, don’t you agree? But there’s nothing more pleasing than seeing old industry converted into new uses and repurposed for modern people. Where Baltimore’s ship building and steel mills once stood, you’ll now find a busy harbor filled with fun activities and events.
The inner harbor has about three miles of waterfront that you can walk while finding lively entertainment, restaurants, shops, museums and tourist activities. If walking isn’t your bag take an electric scooter – it’s how I got around town all week! Otherwise, try the following:
- A Baltimore Water Taxi comes at goes at designated stops and has regular schedules. You can buy a pass or pay per ride when you jump aboard.
- Go on a Pirate Ship and sing bawdy songs while sailing the ocean blue, er, at least a tiny bit of it. These interactive adventure ships sail out of the Ann Street Pier in Fells Point daily.
- If you’d instead get a bit of a workout, rent a Chessie Dragon Paddle Boat and pretend your atop a beast like the Loch Ness monster.
- Still want history? Try a floating museum. The U.S.S. Constellation crew offers tours of the 1854 Navy vessel. It’s the only surviving ship from the Civil War!
8 EXPLORE FELLS POINT NEIGHBORHOOD
Undoubtedly, you’ll want to spend some time in Fells Point. The neighborhood was established in 1763 and is a National Historic District waterfront neighborhood. It’s so historical; more than 300 buildings are on the National Register.
While strolling the cobblestone streets, you’ll feel like you’re on a historical movie set, but it’s real! Bring good walking shoes because those cobblestones are original stone bricks brought over by European trade ships, and they’re tough to walk on.
Fell’s Point was once home to jazz singer Billie Holiday and abolitionist Frederick Douglass. It’s also where Edgar Allan Poe liked to drink. Check out “The Horse You Came in On Saloon;” it opened in 1775 and is the city’s oldest bar.
9 CAPTAIN JAMES LANDING RESTAURANT
Baltimore has a rich ship-building history, so it makes sense that its buildings look like ships too. No, wait, that doesn’t make sense, does it? Regardless, if you like seafood and want a novel experience with your things to do in Baltimore, check out Captain James Landing Restaurant. You can’t miss it; it looks like someone parked a massive ship in the middle of the street.
A Baltimore landmark since 1978, the restaurant has got to be the most unique eatery in Baltimore because it’s shaped like a merchant’s vessel. When I first saw it, I was so confused! It really looks like a ship.
Inside the circular windows, look out tower in the center of the dining room, and the nautical theme makes you feel like you are on a big boat. How fun!
Fun fact: Oprah and Stedman ate there so you obviously should too!
Find it at 2127 Boston St., Baltimore.
10 MR. TRASH WHEEL AND FAMILY
This is my favorite family in all of Baltimore; if you can call a series of trash wheels a family, and I think you can. When I was scootering past the harbor one day, I saw an odd water vessel that appeared to have a face on it. Upon closer inspection, I found it did have a face! An internet search told me I was looking at Mr. Trash Wheel! Say what?
Mr. Trash Wheel is part of a water-powered harbor trashing collection family. He (It? They?) is a semi-autonomous trash interceptor. Once positioned at the end of a river or stream, it collects trash from the water. This sustainably powered wheel uses solar and hydropower with containment booms, so garbage flowing down the river is funneled into Mr. Trash Wheel’s mouth. An underwater skirt captures the trash as it tries to pass, while rakes lift litter out of the water and onto a conveyor belt. From there, it dumps it in an attached dumpster! Mr. Trash Wheel is strong enough to lift anything that comes down the river, including tires, mattresses, and even trees! Why aren’t these all over the world yet?!
Fun fact: There are four trash wheels around Baltimore named Mr., Professor, Captain and Gwynnda, the Good Wheel of the West. They’ve collected over 2,004.47 tons of trash out of the Baltimore waterways.
11 FORT MCHENRY NATIONAL MONUMENT
Let’s get back to history. Did you know “The Star-Spangled Banner” was written in Baltimore? Yep, and you can visit the place that inspired it. Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine are best known for opening a can of whoop on the British during the famous Battle of Baltimore. At that time, Americans flew a giant U.S. flag – with 15 stars and 15 stripes – and Francis Scott Key said the sight of it inspired him to write the song.
Fun Fact: That flag is at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
One more Fun Fact: The Star-Spangled Banner was a poem titled “Defence of Fort M’Henry.” Later it was put to music to become a song.
That concludes my list of fun things to do in Baltimore. Certainly, there are many more museums, locations and places to visit, but you’ll need more than a week to do it. Have fun!