Baltimore, aka “Charm City,” lives up to its nickname in every way possible. What used to be a critical seaport during the Revolutionary War is now a major East Coast city overflowing with culture, character, and some of the best things to do in Maryland!
If you’ve never been to this harbor town, you’re in for a treat. Maryland’s largest city has a lot to offer, from Inner Harbor trips and the best crab cakes in the US to Edgar Allan Poe-themed sites and The National Aquarium. Aside from being the birthplace of The Star-Spangled Banner, Baltimore is also home to world-class museums like The Walters Art Museum and The Maryland Science Center.
And that’s just the beginning. Charm City is also known for its fantastic food scene, top-notch breweries, and diverse neighborhoods that offer a little something for everyone. Munch on some Old Bay fries while strolling around Fells Point, explore the historic sites in Mount Vernon, or shop till you drop in Hampden.
Whether you’re bringing the kids or visiting solo, you’ll never feel like a stranger in Baltimore. Every local we met was friendly and more than happy to help us find our way around or make recommendations on what to see and do. They are definitely one of the things we miss the most about this city!
To help you make the most of your time in beautiful Baltimore, we put together this list of the absolute best things to do in Baltimore for you. Add one or all of them to your Baltimore bucket list, and you’re sure to have an amazing time in this corner of Maryland!
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15 Fun and Unique Things to Do in Baltimore
1. Tour The Peale Center, America’s First Museum
First stop: The Peale! Its official name is the Municipal Museum of the City of Baltimore, but no matter what you call it, this is one of the must-see Baltimore attractions for any history buff or museum lover.
Founded in 1814 by Rembrandt Peale, every inch of this place is oozing with early Americana. From the original 19th-century tools used by Edgar Allan Poe’s great-grandfather (a Baltimore resident) to a complete replica of the first US flag, there are plenty of fascinating exhibits to explore.
If you’re looking for a break from all the walking, you can also take a seat in the auditorium and watch one of the many educational films shown throughout the day. The Peale has special exhibits, too, so be sure to check their website before your visit to see what’s currently on display.
2. Enjoy the Charm of Baltimore’s Little Italy
No trip to Baltimore is complete without a stop in Little Italy. Set squarely in the heart of downtown Baltimore, this is Maryland’s answer to NYC’s Little Italy.
This neighborhood is a cozy haven of Italian delicacies and culture, with at least 20 Italian eateries and cafes (all authentic!). As you walk through the narrow streets, don’t be surprised to see evening bocce matches, outdoor movies, or Italian festivals in full swing.
If you’re looking for a bite to eat, we recommend visiting Sabatino’s, a family-owned restaurant that’s been serving up dishes like handmade ravioli for decades. The cabaret lineup at Germano’s Piattini is always a fun time, and you can’t go wrong with an espresso from Cafe Gia.
Want to make new friends? Walk to D’Alesandro Park and plop down on one of the many benches to feed the birds or people-watch. You’re sure to make some new friends in no time!
3. Hang Out Like a Local at The Avenue in Hampden
Hampden, Baltimore’s quirky little neighborhood, is one of our favorite places to spend an afternoon. This is the place to go if you want to shop at local boutiques, enjoy some homemade ice cream, or people-watch from one of the many cozy cafes.
Hampden’s main drag is 36th Street (better known as “The Avenue”), the epicenter of all the action. This is where you’ll find funky shops like Atomic Books (an indie bookstore that specializes in graphic novels) and Bazaar (a truly unique shop with bizarre finds).
If you get hungry, stop into one of the many great restaurants on The Avenue, like Dylan’s Oyster Cellar, Avenue Kitchen & Bar, or The Food Market. And don’t forget to save room for dessert! The Charmery is a local ice cream shop with some of the most unique flavor combinations you’ve ever tasted (we’re talking Old Bay caramel ice cream!).
Looking for more things to do in this part of Baltimore? The Avenue also has festivals as quirky as its shops! Time your trip during the holidays and catch the Miracle of Lights on 34th Street, an entire city block covered in over-the-top holiday lights. Or, come in June for HonFest, a celebration of working women and their towering beehive hairdos!
4. Check Out Cool Displays at the Maryland Science Center
The Maryland Science Center is one of the top Baltimore attractions if you’re traveling with the kids in tow. You’ll find the Science Center along Inner Harbor and right off Light Street, so it’s easy to add to your itinerary if you’re already exploring downtown.
The Science Center is beloved by locals and tourists alike for its three floors of interactive exhibits, IMAX theater, and planetarium. Kids will love playing around with the optics and physics of light at Science Aglow, touching clouds in Newton’s Alley, and learning about life on other planets in the Life Beyond Earth exhibit.
And don’t miss out on Dinosaur Mysteries, where kids can pretend to be paleontologists while digging in pits and marveling at the giant dinosaurs. Plus, there’s plenty for adults to enjoy, too!
5. See All the Ocean Marvels at the National Aquarium
The National Aquarium is definitely one of the top things to do in Baltimore, especially for families. Located on Pier 3 of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the aquarium is home to more than 16,500 animals representing 750 species from all over the world.
Just a few of the must-see attractions at the National Aquarium include the Australian Outback exhibit (where you can see kangaroos, wallabies, and crocodiles), the Atlantic Coral Reef exhibit (home to sharks, eels, and stingrays), and the Amazon River Forest exhibit (complete with a tropical rainforest and piranhas!).
Other awesome things to do at the aquarium include touching a stingray in the stingray petting pool, attending a live animal show, and taking a behind-the-scenes tour. Bring a souvenir or two home from the aquarium’s gift shop, and if you’re in the mood for a snack, grab a bite at the aquarium’s cafe.
6. Soak Up History at the Fort McHenry National Monument
Visiting Fort McHenry is one of the coolest things to do in Baltimore, especially if you’re a history buff. This is the fort where Francis Scott Key witnessed the failed British attack during the War of 1812.
In 1814, this experience inspired the talented Key to write what is now America’s national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner. The fort is now a National Monument that’s open to the public.
Fort McHenry is located on Locust Point, a short drive from downtown Baltimore. When you visit, you can take a ranger-led tour of the fort, which includes a visit to the barracks, hospital, and officers’ quarters. Learn about the fort’s role in American history, and see where key events from the War of 1812 took place.
You can do a DIY tour of Fort McHenry by exploring the self-guided walking trail, which takes you past the fort’s moat, walls, and bastions. Be sure to bring your camera so you can snap a few photos of the views from the fort!
7. Hit Baltimore’s Best Cultural Landmarks
Every corner of Baltimore is bursting with history, and there are plenty of cultural landmarks to visit if you’re interested in learning more about the city’s past.
One of Baltimore’s most iconic landmarks is the Washington Monument, which was erected in 1815 to honor George Washington. The monument is located in Mount Vernon Place, a beautiful public square that’s also home to the Baltimore Basilica and the Robert Garrett House.
While you’re in Mount Vernon, be sure to check out The Walters Art Museum, another Baltimore landmark. The Walters is home to an impressive collection of art, including Egyptian antiquities, old master paintings, and ancient sculptures.
Another historic landmark worth visiting is the Edgar Allan Poe House, which is located in the city’s West Baltimore neighborhood. This is the house where Poe lived from 1832 to 1835, and it’s now a museum that’s open to the public. Check out Poe’s bedroom, his writing desk, and some of the original furniture from the house!
Other historic Baltimore attractions include the Hampton National Historic Site (a former mansion that’s now open to the public), the B&O Railroad Museum (dedicated to the history of America’s railroads), and the Maryland Center for History and Culture (which houses a collection of artifacts from the state’s history).
8. Hop Aboard the Historic Ships’ Museums
Baltimore’s sea-faring history comes alive at the city’s Historic Ships, a group of four historic vessels that are now open to the public as museums. It’s one of the most unique things to do in Baltimore and one that should be on top of your list!
One of the ships is the USS Constellation, a sloop-of-war that served in the US Navy from 1854 to 1955. The Constellation is now docked at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, and you can walk its decks, explore its cabins, and learn about its storied history.
You’ll also see the USCG Cutter 37 in all its glory, along with the LV116 Chesapeake Lightship on Pier 3. And last but not least is the USS Torsk, a magnificent submarine that saw action in World War II and the Korean War. The Historic Ships also includes the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse, which is one of the oldest screw-pile lighthouses in America.
When you’re done exploring the ships, be sure to stop by Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park, a national heritage site that celebrates the role African Americans played in Baltimore’s maritime industry.
9. Grab a Drink at Baltimore’s Best Pubs & Distilleries
Baltimore is home to some of the most talented brewers and distillers in the country, so it’s no surprise that the city has a thriving bar scene. If you’re looking for things to do in Baltimore that involve grabbing a drink, you’ll want to check out some of the city’s finest pubs, distilleries, and breweries.
One of the most popular spots in town is The Brewer’s Art, a Belgian-style brewpub that’s located in the Mount Vernon neighborhood. The Brewer’s Art has a wide selection of beers on tap, but the most popular is the Resurrection, a rich and malty abbey-style ale.
If you’re in the mood for something stronger, then head to one of Baltimore’s many distilleries. Sagamore Spirit is one of the best, and it’s located just outside of town in the Port Covington neighborhood. Another great option is Old Line Spirits, which is located in the city’s Highlandtown neighborhood.
10. Relax at the 200-Year-Old Patterson Park
After a long day of sightseeing, there’s nothing better than relaxing in one of Baltimore’s beautiful parks. Patterson Park is one of the best, and it’s also one of the oldest. Think nearly 200 years old and still going strong!
It’s located just two miles from downtown, and it’s full of historical landmarks, including the Pagoda, which is a 19th-century structure that offers sweeping views of the park and the city. Other highlights include the Patterson Park Amphitheater, which hosts a variety of events throughout the year, and the Maryland Korean War Memorial, which pays tribute to the more than 1,600 Marylanders who lost their lives in the conflict.
Patterson Park is also a great place to go for a walk, jog, or bike ride, and it’s one of the best spots in town for bird watching. So whether you’re looking to breathe in some fresh air or craving an outdoor picnic, add Patterson Park to your Baltimore sightseeing list.
11. Feast on Blue Crabs at the Historic Lexington Market
Eating blue crabs is one of the must-do things in Baltimore! As a harbor town, the seafood here is sensational and something you shouldn’t miss. The best place to get your crab fix is at the historic Lexington Market, located in the heart of downtown. This market has been around since 1782 and is one of the oldest continuously operating markets in the country.
The Lexington Market is full of stalls selling all kinds of seafood, but the most popular is Faidley’s Seafood. This family-run business has been around since 1886 and makes some of the best crab cakes in town. They’re stuffed with lump crabmeat and deep-fried to perfection. Squeeze some lemon on top, and you’re good to go!
Other Lexington Market highlights include the Bertha’s Mussels stall, where you can get a heaping plate of steamed mussels in garlic sauce. Be sure to save room for dessert because there’s also a stall that specializes in handmade cream puffs.
12. Snack on Sweet Treats at Vaccaro’s Italian Pastry Shop
Vaccaro’s Italian Pastry Shop is a Baltimore icon and one of the yummiest ones at that! This family-run business has been around since 1956 and is located in the city’s Little Italy neighborhood.
Try their famous cannoli, which is a Sicilian pastry filled with sweet ricotta cheese and chocolate chips. Flavors vary depending on what’s in season, but some of the most popular include strawberry, raspberry, and pistachio. The pastries are made fresh daily, so you can be sure they’re always delicious.
In addition to cannoli, Vaccaro’s also sells a variety of other Italian pastries, including tiramisu, gelato, and biscotti. They also have a full coffee bar, so you can enjoy a cappuccino or espresso with your treat.
13. Attend Baltimore’s Famous Festivals
Some of the most fun things to do in Baltimore are attending the city’s many festivals. They’re spread throughout the year, so there’s no excuse not to join at least one!
One of Baltimore’s top events is Artscape, which is the largest free arts festival in the US. The Moonrise Festival is one of the biggest EDM festivals on the East Coast, so if you want to party, this is the event for you. Another can’t-miss event is AFRAM, which celebrates African-American culture through music, dance, and food.
14. Shop Till You Drop at the Inner Harbor
If you’re not sure what to do in Baltimore, just go to Inner Harbor, and you’ll be hitting all the major attractions. You’ll find the National Aquarium here, as well as the Maryland Science Center and the Port Discovery Children’s Museum. This is the city’s most popular tourist destination for a reason!
After you’ve worked up an appetite from all that sightseeing, stop by the Harbor East neighborhood for some shopping and dining. This trendy area is full of high-end stores, like Anthropologie, J.Crew, and West Elm, along with tiny boutiques. You can also find some great seafood restaurants here, like The Oceanaire Seafood Room and Loch Bar.
Still have space in your suitcase? Head to the nearby Baltimore Design School, which sells products made by local artists. More Baltimore shopping includes Hampden, which is known for its quirky shops, as well as the flea market in Fells Point, which is full of vintage finds.
15. Get a Taste of Baltimore’s Nightlife Scene
Once the sun goes down, Baltimore really comes alive! If you want to experience the city’s nightlife scene, start at Power Plant Live!, which is a complex full of bars, restaurants, and clubs. This is the perfect place to pre-game before heading to a concert or show at the nearby Pier Six Pavilion.
If you’re looking for a more low-key night, head to Federal Hill. This neighborhood is full of bars and pubs, like Mother’s Federal Hill Grille and The Rowhouse Grille. You can also find some great Baltimore restaurants here, like Blue Moon Cafe and the Pit Stop.
In the mood to dance? Head to Mount Vernon, which is home to some of the best nightclubs in the city, like Central.
Baltimore also has tons of hidden speakeasies, including The Owl Bar and the 13.5% Wine Bar. You’ll need to do some digging to find them, and when you do, reward yourself with a double whiskey, neat. Cheers!
There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Baltimore. What’s your favorite thing to do in Charm City?
Planning a trip to Maryland? Check out our favorite books and travel guides!