I promised and have delivered. The post last week contained a promise that a post about the Inner Harbor in Baltimore would be forthcoming, so without delay here it is.
The city of Baltimore’s harbor area wasn’t always the tourist mecca it is now. The smelly water, crumbling chemical plants and rusting hulks left over as all of the new, larger ships moved to a port about a mile away made it a place you wanted to avoid. A massive, but slow, rehabilitation project began in the 1950s to change the purpose of the harbor from industrial to recreational, and the creative destruction began. 64 years later it’s considered a model for redevelopment of post-industrial waterfronts.
So what should you do on a visit to this model waterfront? Here are a few suggestions.
I would suggest staying somewhere close to the harbor so you don’t have to deal with the city traffic and pay for parking.
The two nicest budget options are the Lord Baltimore Hotel ranging from $141-$161 a night and the Hampton Inn at $118-$200 a night. Both are within walking distance of the harbor. There are plenty of hotels in along the waterfront with names like Hilton, Renaissance and Monaco, but their per-night prices start at $200 and up.
You’re relaxing, so don’t get up early. Walk to Miss Shirley’s for — as they say — “brunch reinvented”. You might want some southern dishes like fried green tomatoes made with lemon-herb seasoning, aioli and chow chow (and because it’s Baltimore you can add 2 ounces of jumbo crab meat at market price) or try their berry fresh waffle sampler: blackberry, blueberry, raspberry and strawberry for $11.99.
You’ll want to walk off all those calories, so head over to Fort McHenry. You know, the place on the hill under the massive star spangled banner. You can take a self-guided tour of the 18th century fort, catch a living history demonstration and hear all about the 1812 battle that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen his poem “Defense of Fort M’Henry” that was eventually adopted and renamed the “Star Spangled Banner”.
The National Aquarium in Baltimore is a massive nonprofit conservation and education organization. The great tank located in the inner harbor hosts 750 species of animals. The aquarium had a massive renovation to its shark exhibit and opened the Black Tip Reef about a year ago. I’ll wait here while you click that link. It’s amazing.
This the part where I tell you to visit Oriole Park at Camden Yards and watch a ballgame at the stadium that started the renaissance of stadium construction and architecture. GO O’s
I really do suggest taking a tour of tall ship. The USS Constellation sits in the harbor now, but spent its early years as part of the Africa Squadron, stopping slave ships before the Civil War. If you’ve ever wanted to get a real feel for the rigging and close quarters of a ship, this is your chance. She still sails, and is not just a museum piece. You can pay $11 for visiting just the Constellation or pay $18 and visit a retired Coast Guard cutter, the USCGC Taney, the USS Torsk a WWII sub, and a light house ship called Chesapeake, all right there anchored in the harbor.
All this walking around is probably bringing your appetite back, so here are two good choices for a bite to eat. The first mention is Chiapparellis in Little Italy, only about a 15 minute walk from the aquarium. You can eat well at this Baltimore staple for a moderately expensive price. Soup is $6, lasagna $18, or go for an entree like chicken Giuseppe (breaded chicken breast, crab, prosciutto, spinach and provolone with a Marsala wine sauce) for $29. The prices are well worth it according to the community and Zagat.
The second place you should consider is Phillips Seafood. It can be pricey, but it’s a Baltimore must. The city prides itself on crabs — so much so that it’s surprising neither of the sports teams are the red-steamed beauties. The price of crab varies daily, so you’ll have to check the board out front for the current price. No matter what the going rate happens to be, the view of the Inner Harbor is great from the Crab Deck, and sitting in the sun and having a cold beer with some steaming crabs is a truly great Baltimore way to spend an afternoon.
So there you have it, my ode to Baltimore — and we only scratched the surface.