Baltimore, the largest city in the state of Maryland, was once the second leading port of entry for immigrants to the United States. The city itself has hundreds of identified districts, earning it the nickname “a city of neighborhoods.” Baltimore has more public statues and monuments per capita than any other city in the country and almost one-third of the city’s buildings are designated historic landmarks. Home to Frederick Douglass, Babe Ruth and the resting place of Edgar Allan Poe, Baltimore is truly an all-American city, and one that always respects its heritage while reinventing itself.
With a lively waterfront, countless historic sites, unique shopping opportunities and a vibrant food scene, Baltimore is an ideal destination for NPMA PestWorld, and for those looking to extend their visit, it is only a short distance from our nation’s capital.
EXPLORE THE NEIGHBORHOODS. For American history buffs, a trip to the Star Spangled Banner Flag House is a must. Built in 1793, the Flag House was the home of Mary Pickersgill, who sewed the flag Francis Scott Key saw flying over Fort McHenry, thus inspiring him to write our National Anthem, the “Star Spangled Banner.” The home has been transformed into a small museum and showcases many early 19th century objects that belonged to the family. There are various featured exhibits located in the adjacent museum building and a permanent gallery highlighting the role of Baltimoreans in the War of 1812. You can even view a fragment of the original “star spangled banner,” along with other artifacts.
If you’d rather explore life beneath water, the National Aquarium is a must. Built in 1981 as part of the Inner Harbor redevelopment project, the National Aquarium is the largest paid tourism attraction in the state of Maryland and contains more than 20,000 aquatic specimens. The Aquarium aims to educate visitors on the importance of regional and global conservation initiatives, and they also have rescued and rehabilitated hundreds of marine mammals since opening. There are countless immersive exhibits to explore within the aquarium, including an Amazon River Forest, an Atlantic Coral Reef and a Tropical Rain Forest. Visitors can come face to face with several species of sharks or even spend some time with the aquarium’s seven dolphins. Educational tours are also available, allowing visitors to learn how various animals are cared for or take a behind-the-scenes look at aquarium operations.
STEP BACK INTO HISTORY. Baltimore is a city rich in history, which shouldn’t come as a surprise, given that it was founded in 1729. If you want to learn more about the famous men and women who once wandered these streets and hear exciting stories of days gone by, consider taking a Baltimore walking tour. Wicked History Baltimore offers several different tours, with options for both adults and children. Embark on a pub tour and visit the Fell’s Point or Mt. Vernon neighborhoods. You’ll hear fascinating tales of Baltimore’s more scandalous past, and learn about the most esteemed members of Baltimore society, including famous residents like Billie Holiday and Edgar Allan Poe. The all-ages tours include many of the same stories, but omit some of the less child-friendly anecdotes.
While you’re touring the city, make it a point to find Mr. Poe’s gravesite at Westminster Hall and Burial Ground. The cemetery, one of the oldest in Baltimore, surrounds a restored historic church and is also the final resting place of James McHenry, the namesake of Ft. McHenry. Edgar Allan Poe’s gravesite has understandably become something of a tourist attraction. For decades, up until 2009, there have been legends of the “Poe Toaster,” an individual who leaves a bottle of cognac and a single red rose on his grave on the anniversary of his birthday.
Continue your tour through the past by taking a water taxi to Fort McHenry. The star-shaped fort is best known for its role in the War of 1812, when it defended Baltimore Harbor from an attack by the British navy. The fort was first constructed in 1798 and used continuously by the United States Armed forces through World War II. The grounds house both a visitor’s center and a museum featuring military memorabilia, interactive exhibits and a film explaining the history of the fort. Visitors can also witness daily flag changes and take self-guided tours.
CHARM CITY SHOPPING. After you’ve completed your sightseeing, take a break with some shopping. For a unique local experience, head to Fell’s Point. This historic waterfront community is only a 15-minute walk from the Inner Harbor. Established during the colonial era, Fell’s Point is home to countless shops, coffee bars, and pubs and has the character of a seafaring town, along with a rich history due to its large and diverse immigrant population.
For a trendier shopping experience, make your way over to Harborplace. The shopping destination is comprised of two multi-story pavilions, each containing a variety of shops and restaurants. The pavilions surround the Harborplace Amphitheatre in the center, where you can see various live performances throughout the year while simultaneously taking in views of the harbor in the distance.
If you’d rather focus on food, The Lexington Market is the place to visit next. The market has been in operation since 1782 and is the oldest continually open public market in the United Sates. It is home to more than 100 vendors, offering a wide variety of delicious eats. Be sure to stop at Faidley’s Seafood for a famous jumbo lump crab cake. Faidley’s has been named Baltimore’s best crab cake so many times, the award actually had to be changed to allow other winners to grab the title. Currently, the market is going through a bit of a transitional period, as plans have been announced to break ground on a new building next door to update and modernize the market. The original Lexington Market will continue operations in the meantime, so don’t miss your chance to visit this landmark while you can.
SAMPLE SOME SEAFOOD. After touring the city, you’re bound to be hungry. Luckily, Baltimore is known for its mouth-watering seafood, among other delicacies.
Jimmy’s Famous Seafood is a popular spot with the locals. The restaurant, which has been featured on The Food Network, is known for its “colossal crab cakes.” They offer several other inventive seafood dishes, as well as a fine selection of steaks. For a more affordable meal, head over at lunchtime to sample fried crab macaroni and cheese balls, an order of mussels or a cup of cream of crab soup. If you’re adventurous, order the Seafood UFO, a sandwich consisting of a crab cake, stacked with fried shrimp, fried oysters and shrimp salad on a homemade bun with lettuce, tomato and Chesapeake mustard.
Oyster fans should head to Thames Street Oyster House, a quaint eatery that has been consistently ranked on Baltimore Magazine’s yearly “Best of Baltimore” list. The menu features many seafood staples, including lobster rolls, oyster po’ boys and scallops. The raw bar features oysters, clams, and crab claws, among other delicacies, as well as shellfish towers, which change daily and feature a mix of several different options from the raw bar. Thames Street also offers a fine selection of draft beer, wine, and classic cocktails, along with fun Oyster shooters.
For those who love to dine with a view, Boathouse Canton can’t be missed. The BoatHouse offers both indoor and outdoor waterfront dining, as well as the expansive DockBar throughout the spring, summer and early fall. The large patio provides unparalleled views of the harbor and is stunning both day and night. Inside, the large curved windows showcase the waterfront, while the sleek wooden countertops and brick walls keep the interior looking clean and modern. The menu offers casual fare, focused mainly on seafood, including shrimp and grits, a salmon BLT and crab dip, but they also offer some unique sandwich options, along with favorites like BoatHouse wings and Carolina pulled pork nachos. The DockBar offers more snack foods, including an extensive selection of tacos and sandwiches, as well as a raw bar and various drink options. Brunch lovers should also be sure to stop by on the weekend to enjoy some cinnamon challah French toast or lump crab eggs Benedict along with a fresh mimosa.
Once you’ve grown weary of seafood, head to Joe Squared Pizza, a family-owned award winning restaurant that has been featured on the Food Network and specializes in coal-fired thin crust sourdough pizza and 25 varieties of risotto, a slow cooked Italian rice dish. The pizza dough is made using a 200 year old sourdough starter and then charred in a 900-degree oven before being brought to your table. If you’re feeling creative, build your own pizza. Or, try one of their countless signature varieties, like the chicken, corn and apple, bacon and clam or the Coalhouse, featuring fresh mozzarella, roasted garlic cream, coal roasted tomatoes, eggplant, artichokes and black olives. They even have vegan and vegetarian pizzas on offer. The risotto options are practically endless, ranging from venison risotto to crab avocado. Additionally, all risotto recipes are naturally gluten free and can be made vegan with coconut milk and vegan cheese.
A DRINK AFTER DINNER. For a classic cocktail in a charming setting, cap off your night at Bookmaker’s Cocktail Club in the Federal Hill neighborhood. Bookmaker’s offers several "old school" cocktails, as well as an extensive list of inventive modern creations with playful names.
If you’d like to hear some live music in a laid back setting, head to Tin Roof Baltimore. Tin Roof is located in the Power Plant Live neighborhood, which includes a large selection of bars, restaurants and entertainment venues conveniently located in the Inner Harbor. The establishment prides itself on creating a fun, welcoming atmosphere and providing a place where musicians can feel free to perform for a lively audience most nights of the week. The décor is typical of a dive bar, with Christmas lights strung overhead and a random array of kitsch on the walls, and the beers on tap are all of your classic American favorites.
The city of Baltimore has gone through numerous transformations over the years and received countless nicknames, from America’s Comeback City to the Crab Cake Capital of the World. One nickname that still seems to fit quite aptly is simply, Charm City. Take the opportunity to look a little closer, and you will see a vibrant urban center filled with rich history, quaint neighborhoods, delicious food and yes, a lot of charm.
The author is a Cleveland-based contributing writer.