We have been to Baltimore numerous times, Nancy especially as it was part of her sales territory with Parade Magazine many years ago, and the location of countless conferences for decades. It’s a city filled with great history and spirit. One of the cities most notable historic events is that the battle to defeat Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore in 1814, that inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star Spangled Banner” here. When you approach Baltimore by water from June 1 – November 1, there is a special buoy (nicknamed “the Star Spangled Buoy”) placed near the Francis Scott Key Bridge with red and white stripes and a blue star-spangled top. The buoy is placed in the harbor (starboard side after you go under the bridge) to mark the spot Key wrote the anthem. He was a prisoner aboard a British barge, and during the battle, he was looking for the flag above Ft. McHenry.
Francis Scott Key Bridge
Baltimore Harbor is bustling! There’s a large Coast Guard station and repair yard, numerous industrial plants, a huge marine terminal for all of the cargo ships, not to mention ferries, water taxis, cruise, tour and recreational boats.
Scenes from Baltimore Harbor
The city has, and continues to undergo an amazing renaissance all around the harbor. The waterfront promenade runs along the Inner Harbor for nearly 7 miles from Fort McHenry to the Canton Waterfront Park. We biked everywhere, despite the rain! Loving our new folding bikes!
After settling in at Harbor East Marina (great spot, more on that later!), we took a short 1.6 mile bike ride to Edgar Allen Poe’s grave. Poe is buried on the grounds of Westminster Hall and Burying Ground, now part of the University of Maryland School of Law.
Edgar Allen Poe’s Grave
Harborplace, the area at the center of the Inner Harbor is undergoing a major renovation, and much of it is empty. In the past, there were numerous restaurants and shops, and it was always filled with activity. Hopefully Harborplace comes alive again along with the rest of the waterfront. The walk or bike ride around the harbor is a highlight of the city, as there are great attractions all around.
We were on the fence about going to the National Aquarium, as we have been there before. But, the weather was pretty bad our entire stay in Baltimore, which led to our extended visit. It stormed periodically, and rained at some level pretty consistently. So we went, and we’re thrilled we did! They have a few 4D films, and we opted for the dolphin film. It was well done and fun…expect a few surprises!
And, yes, in addition to fish, dolphins, sharks and rays…there are a LOT of jellyfish! This was breathtaking…these amazing orange jellies against a blue background in the tank.
More Jellies on the left, and a cool ceiling art installation in the aquarium depicting Jellies.
The layout of the aquarium is essentially a spiral (not as crazy as the Guggenheim, but a spiral path nonetheless!) where you meander through tanks of fish, and walkways and balcony’s that offer some cool views of various pools from above.
September 11 affected so many in this country and across the world. Baltimore has a memorial featuring twisted metal from one of the Twin Towers in the plaza of their World Trade Center Plaza along the harbor. It honors all affected by that horrible day, most especially those from Maryland. You can take an elevator to the top to get a birds eye view of the harbor, which was pretty cool.
The USS Constellation sits in the center of the harbor. This beautifully restored sloop was constructed at the Norfolk Navy Yard, and was commissioned on July 28, 1855. She had a colorful life, having been commissioned and re-commissioned several times. You can purchase tickets to some or all of the historic ships in the harbor at several spots near the ships, or online. We chose those we hadn’t yet seen, but can say that they’re all fascinating.
The tour is self guided, but you can opt for a guide, and there are docents throughout the ship.
The Lightship Chesapeake was in service from 1930 – 1970, when she was replaced by a Coast Guard offshore light tower built on pilings designed to withstand the toughest storms. The Chesapeake was acquired by the National Park Service in 1971, and has been part of the Baltimore Maritime Museum since 1982.
We lived among submarine veterans and their families when were in Portsmouth this past winter. It’s an incredibly difficult life, and exploring the USS Torsk illustrates how tough life under water can be. The USS Torsk was commissioned in 1944 and arrived in Baltimore to serve as a museum and memorial in 1972.
Commissioned in 1936, WSCGC Taney (white ship on the right) is known for the key role she played during the attack on Pearl Harbor. She repeatedly engaged Japanese planes flying over Honolulu, where she was tied up. When the attack subsided, she commenced anti-submarine patrols off Pearl Harbor.
Built in 1855, the Seven Foot Knoll is the oldest single screw lighthouse in Maryland. It was located in the Chesapeake Bay until it was replaced by a modern navigational aid and relocated to Baltimore Harbor in 1988.
Seven Foot Knoll
We didn’t make it out to Ft. McHenry this visit due to the relentless rain. This is at the top of our list when we return in the fall as we head south again.
Harbor East Marina was a great place to stay. The entire marina, offices and baths are new. Out on the docks they’ve created large gathering areas with tables and chairs. The staff is young, enthusiastic and extremely professional. The views of the city skyline, especially at night, are beautiful.
There are a number of cute boutiques and more practical stores (Verizon) within a couple of blocks of the marina. Nancy’s personal favorite: Whole Foods. Small towns in the Chesapeake don’t always have great provisioning opportunities without a car. We desperately needed produce. The rain kept us in Baltimore for 3 days, and Nancy made 4 trips to Whole Foods!
With the rain throughout our stay, we didn’t venture out to eat much, and we had a full fridge from Whole Foods! We did enjoy a completely decadent breakfast at Miss Shirley’s. The food was amazing, but again, decadent. I’m not even going to say what we ate, because it was that decadent!
We were going to have dinner at the Black Olive, a wonderful Greek restaurant in Fell’s Point, but it was pouring and we didn’t want to venture that far. Fortunately, Lebanese Taverna, a restaurant we’ve enjoyed in Washington, D.C., has a place across the street from the Marina. Great food, a ton of it, fun space and good service. We were happy!
Baltimore Harbor sits at the bottom of a hill. With the rain, comes washout from the streets above. Sadly, garbage is a constant problem in the harbor, but we saw plenty of evidence of clean-up. We spotted clean up boats out in the harbor on several occasions, the marina staff tries hard to stay on top of it, and the city has installed garbage catchers, like this one, to trap garbage before it hits the harbor.
We’re looking forward to stopping in Baltimore again in the fall, and hope to enjoy more outdoor activities without rain!