A city of neighborhoods built on strong ethnic foundations, Baltimore has achieved an incredible downtown renaissance in the past 20 years.
As the largest independent city in the U.S., Baltimore offers much more than a day’s worth of exploring. But with its grid-like layout, navigating through the best of the city is easy as picking out a Maryland blue crab.
To start your day-long tour of the Crab Cake Capital of the World, make your way to Miss Shirley’s for a hefty breakfast. Though there is a location in the Inner Harbor, opt for the restaurant in tony Roland Park. This residential area is home to some of the state’s top prep schools, which also happen to have some of the best lacrosse teams in the country. (Lacrosse is the official team sport of Maryland, after all.) After you’ve passed through the streets of beautiful brick homes, grab a seat at Miss Shirley’s and order up a Maryland omelet, full of jumbo lump crabmeat.
Once you are full of energy and protein, venture downtown. You are on your way to one of the most historic sights in the country. March up to Fort McHenry, where the Americans held off the British for more than 25 hours during the War of 1812.
The real fame of the star-shaped fort comes from Francis Scott Key. After the treacherous day of fighting, he looked up to see the huge American flag still waving and was inspired to pen our national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Whether you just stroll the grounds, pop into the visitor’s center or explore the fort, this is a must-see on a trip to Baltimore.
After a dose of history, you are bound to be hungry for lunch. Make your way to the Lexington Market. Step inside the two-block market for a hefty helping of local history (the market is more than 230 years old) and make a beeline for Mary Mervis Deli for one of the best shrimp salad sandwiches you’ve ever tasted.
Stomach full and taste buds satisfied, head down to the historic Inner Harbor. Baltimore has been a thriving seaport for more than two centuries, so it’s no wonder that this is one of the hottest spots in the city. Locals and tourists gravitate to this urban port lined with museums, restaurants and shops.
Curve your way around the harbor for an underwater adventure at the National Aquarium. Sneak a peek at the stingrays in the pool below you as you make your way up the escalator and don’t forget to look at the life-size humpback whale model soaring above you. With 16,000 creatures, the aquarium has an exhibit for everyone — from the shark fanatic to the seahorse fans.
By this point, you’ve gotten your American history and your Baltimore culture, but not much of the Charm City’s own history. So scoot on over to Fell’s Point. Home to a shipbuilding center that dates back to 1730 and more than 350 original residential structures, this historic waterfront neighborhood overflows with shops, restaurants, pubs and even a vibrant nightlife.
Next, return to the Inner Harbor to catch a sports game. During the fall or winter, go to M&T Bank Stadium for a Ravens game. Football fan or not, the Ravens fans decked out in purple body paint and sipping on purple beer will fill you with team spirit.
If you are visiting the Greatest City in America during the spring or summer, watch an Orioles game at Camden Yards. The picturesque ballpark carries quite the legacy, including icons such as pre-Red Sox Babe Ruth and Cal Ripken Jr. The red-brick stadium is just two blocks from the Inner Harbor, showcasing some amazing views of the Patapsco River.
Grab a locally brewed National Bohemian — or as the locals call it, “Natty Boh” — and cheer on the O’s.
Afterward, partake in one of the state’s greatest contributions to mankind: blue crabs. Producing more than 50 percent of the United States’ harvest of hard-shell crabs, the nearby Chesapeake Bay offers an experience unique to Maryland. Visit the Riverside neighborhood just past Federal Hill for a meal of a lifetime.
Crab newbies will need some help to learn the picking method that is instilled in Marylanders from birth. Order up a dozen or two jumbos and let the feast begin.
If the scent of Old Bay sticks on your hands and clothes, then you know your full-day Baltimore tour is complete.