Bright lights, big city; that's what you get when you cruise up the Patapsco River to Charm City, otherwise known as Baltimore or, in the local parlance, "Balmer". There is so much to do here, whether with a family or on your own, that even with a week to kill you'll barely make a dent. Museums, music, sports, history, performing arts, diverse neighborhoods and culinary exploration, they're all here and within walking or water taxi distance of the first class marinas in Baltimore that have sprouted in and around the Inner Harbor over the last 15 years.
On the national stage Baltimore is probably best known as the place where Francis Scott Key penned the words to "The Star-Spangled Banner," which came to him after witnessing a battle at Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. It's also raven territory, as in The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe. Every year on his birthday a mysterious visitor leaves three red roses and a partly filled bottle of cognac. Poe's famous poem gave the eponymous football team its name: The Ravens. Baltimore is also home to baseball's Orioles and the Preakness which runs each May at Pimlico Park as the second jewel in horse racing's Triple Crown. It's also known for the Inner Harbor, which was one of the first major waterfront revitalizations in the country and draws millions of visitors to major attractions like the National Aquarium in Baltimore.
But there's a more local, down-home side to the city on the streets of its neighborhoods like Canton, Fells Point, Little Italy, Harbor East, and Federal Hill. Here you'll find terrific restaurants, markets and music venues, and plenty of people who aren't shy about calling you "Hon." Baltimore has always been rich in character and kitsch, and you'll find these traits most prevalent when you get off the beaten tourist paths of the Inner Harbor. It's a big city, that's true, but if you spend enough time here you'll find it's easy to kick back and get into a "Hon" frame of mind.
Things to See and Do
The Inner Harbor is the logical place to start your visit. The marinas in Baltimore are located conveniently throughout downtown to make it easy to access the major attractions. The major attractions here, all within shouting distance of each other, are the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland Science Center, Port Discovery, The Children's Museum, the Top of the World Observation Level at the World Trade Center, the U.S.S. Constellation and the Baltimore Maritime Museum.
If you're planning to visit even a few of these attractions, consider buying a Harbor Pass to save some serious clams. You can buy a Harbor Pass at the visitors center on Light Street at the Inner Harbor or by calling 1-877-BALTIMORE or purchasing online at www.baltimore.org.
The National Aquarium in Baltimore is a consistent source of wonder and amazement, from its tropical rainforest (that's the towering, pointed glass roof you see as you cruise into Inner Harbor) to its Animal Planet Australia exhibit. Since opening in 1981 the aquarium has continually evolved. You can watch a dolphin performance or study poison dart frogs, look for tree sloths in the rainforest or crocs in the Australia exhibit. Because it's so popular, the aquarium can get extremely crowded, especially on weekends..
Another great attraction for families is the Maryland Science Center. Nearby (and you sure can't miss it with its three towering spars) is the USS Constellation. Built in 1853 at Gosport Naval Yard near Norfolk, the 186-foot Constellation was the last all-sail ship designed by the Navy. She served in the Civil War and intercepted slave-running ships. You can walk her decks, admire her guns and on weekends kids over six can participate in "powder monkey tours," when activities and demonstrations show the "recruits" what life was like for young people on a Navy ship in the 19th century. For more history you won't want to miss Fort McHenry (410-962-4290), though you'll need a water taxi to get you here.
Just south of the Inner Harbor near Baltimore Marine Center at HarborView, the Baltimore Museum of Industry (410-727-4808) and its hands-on exhibits let you explore the nitty-gritty of the businesses that made Baltimore an industrial giant. There's the 1910 Bunting Pharmacy, where Noxema was invented, the 1865 Platt Oyster Cannery, the Print Shop, which examines the early days of typesetting and printing, and the amazing Machine Tool Shop. Outside, visit the coal-fired SS Baltimore, a National Historic Landmark and the only operating steam tugboat on the East Coast. If you walk back toward Inner Harbor from here along the base of Federal Hill you'll see the American Visionary Art Museum (410-244-1900) look for the four-story whirligig that centers its outdoor Sculpture Plaza. This unique nationally acclaimed museum is dedicated to artists who have no formal training and yet who create extraordinary works arising from their own concepts of art. The artwork here is wild, joyful, powerful, intense and most of all approachable.
Baltimore has dozens of museums, among them the B&O Railroad Museum, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Walters Art Museum. For the maritime minded, an obvious stop is the Baltimore Maritime Museum. This museum, located next to the aquarium, is comprised of the World War II submarine USS Torsk, the Coast Guard cutter Taney, the lightship Chesapeake and the Seven-Foot Knoll Lighthouse.
For the big kids with a sense of play, make sure to check out the Baltimore Orioles' schedule to see if there's a game at the classic Orioles Park at Camden Yards. And if it's fall and football is your thing, see what the Baltimore Ravens are up to. The stadiums are within an easy walk of the waterfront. The Power Plant Live is almost a destination unto itself, especially if you're young, like rowdy crowds and want to dance all night. Located on Pier Five, you can't miss this huge building with six restaurants and nearly as many bars including Ruth's Chris Steak House (410-783-0033). And of course, also in Inner Harbor is Harborplace & The Gallery, where you can shop 'till you drop.
When you finally tire of the well-trodden tourist paths of the Inner Harbor, grab a water taxi over to Fell's Point. This intriguing neighborhood, a National Historic District just east of Inner Harbor, was founded in 1763. Between 1784 and 1821 some 800 ships were built at shipyards here. In 1784 the Broadway Market was opened; today you can still stop here and find fresh foods and local merchants. With its cobbled streets and funky blend of stores, pubs, restaurants and homes, Fell's Point is a wonderful place to spend a day or a whole weekend far beyond the madding crowd of Inner Harbor.
Another great place to get some distance from the crowds is Federal Hill, on the south side of Inner Harbor. Walk up here and enjoy the view and the breeze, then stroll through the neighborhood and its tree-lined streets and federal-style townhomes. Like Fell's Point, Federal Hill is a destination in and of itself, with plenty of local shops, eateries, pubs and musical venues to keep you busy for at least a weekend.
Speaking of music, it's all over the place here in Baltimore. Marinas are near the Pier Six Concert Pavilion (www.piersixpavilion. com), and the new big-act musical venue Rams Head Live (410-244-1131) at the Power Plant. For smaller, more intimate spaces try The 8 X 10 in Federal Hill (410-625-2000), Cat's Eye Pub (410-276-9866) and The Horse You Came In On (410-327-8111) all in Fell's Point.
Restaurants and Provisions
It's a good thing you'll do lots of walking when you're visiting Baltimore because there's plenty of eating too. Where to begin? Let's start with neighborhoods adjoining the Inner Harbor. In Federal Hill you have upwards of three dozen eateries and bars to check out around Charles, Cross and Light streets. Try Ryleigh's Oyster Bar where Ostreaphiles (oyster lovers) enjoy their fill at the Old Slate Oyster Bar (410-539-2093). For Mexican and Southwestern fare (not to mention tequila) try Blue Agave (410-576-3938) also offers traditional regional Mexican cuisine. The Cross Street Market between Light and Charles streets offers everything from deli meats to kielbasa to fresh baked goods, flowers and butcher shops. This is a great place for provisioning off the beaten path.
In Fells Point the options are equally broad and interesting. Start with Bertha's (410-327-5795), sip some Oxford Ale or Woodpecker Cider in the narrow, comfortable bar, then pop in the restaurant for some of the famous mussels and go home with the equally famous "Eat Bertha's Mussels" bumper sticker. Max's Taphouse (410-675-6297) takes it to the extreme with somewhere around 300 brands of beer, more than 60 on draft.
A local landmark is Jimmy's Restaurant (410-327-3273) where you can find rib-sticking homestyle food from breakfast onward, and there's takeout here too. Head to the historic Broadway Fish and Produce Market (410-675-1466) for your food provisioning needs; here you'll find fresh baked goods, meats, seafood and dairy. You can't talk about food in Baltimore without mentioning Little Italy, which sits between the Inner Harbor and Fells Point. Don't miss Ciao Bella (410-685-7733), Della Notte Ristorante (410-837-5500) and Germano's Trattoria (410-752-4515), which specializes in Tuscan regional cuisine.
If you want to stay at a marina in the Baltimore Inner Harbor there's plenty here to keep you fed and busy as well. The Rusty Scupper (410-727-3678), next to BMC's Inner Harbor is a solid standby. When it comes to all things crab, Obrycki's Crab House (410-732-6399) is a Baltimore institution, as is Phillips Harborplace Restaurant (410-685-6600). Over near BMC Harborview Marina, don't miss Little Havana (410-837-9903) for an out-of-the-way spot on the water with outstanding Cuban specialties.
Navigation and Anchorages
From the Upper Chesapeake, there are two ways to approach Baltimore Harbor. At the southern end of the Tolchester Channel, head west up the Brewerton Channel Eastern Extension. It will take you into the Patapsco River and Baltimore. Or, you can bypass the length of the main shipping channel and break off east of Pooles Island and head southwest through the marked channel. At R "2B" Q R this channel intersects the Brewerton Channel just south of North Point at the mouth of the Patapsco River.
From the south and Annapolis, follow the various angles of the Craighill Channel north. Just north of Q G "25," this channel intersects the Brewerton Channel. Head west-northwest into the Patapsco River.
CAUTION: The heavy commercial traffic near the intersection of the Brewerton and Craighill channels creates large waves near Seven Foot Knoll.
The Brewerton Channel runs west-northwest up the Patapsco River. The channel swings northwesterly and passes Fort Carroll (an abandoned fort), and then under the Francis Scott Key fixed bridge (vertical clearance: 185 feet).
CAUTION: This is a very busy river and port, full of ships and tugboats moving to various anchorages and terminals on the Patapsco and its tributaries. Monitor Channel 16 & 13 to listen to tug and ship traffic. At night, the backlighting from the city and the myriad navigation lights make this a challenging place to navigate unless you have been here before.
North of the bridge, the Fort McHenry Channel continues to Baltimore. The Curtis Bay Channel branches off to the west. As you near Fort McHenry, the channel splits again. Take the northern fork into Northwest Harbor East and West Channel, where you'll find the majority of the facilities, as well as Fells Point to starboard. You'll pass Anchorage Marina and other large facilities and commercial piers on your way to the head of the harbor, where Inner Harbor Marina, among others, offer slips in the heart of it all. There is a small anchorage in Inner Harbor right off the submarine Torsk by the National Aquarium in 20-plus feet of water. You can dinghy in to the small dock near the Torsk from here. Another option is the public pier on the harbor's northwest side in front of the Visitor's Center. This is first-come, first-served and is available depending on what visiting ships and boats are in town. Call the harbormaster for information at 410-396-3174.
South of Fort McHenry, Ferry Bar Channel East Section leads west toward Baltimore Yacht Basin and Middle Branch Moorings. Be aware of the shallow flat that runs east along the southern edge of the channel between G "9" just east of Q G 15ft 3M "13." Many outdrives get damaged here.
Shoreside and Emergency Services near Baltimore
Baltimore Airport 410-859-7100
Baltimore 410-576-2525 or VHF 16
Police, Fire, Ambulance:
Lynks Drivers 800-935-9657
Yellow Cab 410-752-1096
Baltimore Water Taxi 410-563-3901
Sea Tow 800-4SEATOW or VHF 16
TowBoatU.S 800-391-4869 or VHF 16