WELCOME TO BALTIMORE, MARYLAND
To be sure, Baltimore has warts, but it also has that elusive, easy to recognize, hard to describe quality called “Soul.” No other American city better integrates so many waterside attractions in a compact area that embrace you on foot, by water taxi, horse-drawn carriage and more recently, a downtown circulator shuttle. Thats fine, but Charm City is really known for its Seafood, crabs in particular, that anchors Soul Food, Barbeque, Creole, Italian, Jewish, French, Lebanese, Japanese, Chinese, Greek, Polish and Indian cuisine sprinkled throughout the area. During warm weekends, partake of a different ethnic festival at various places in the city. Several tradtional meat and produce markets dot the landscape -- one is more than 200 years old.
Culture hounds should begin their path at Fort McHenry, where Francis Scott Key wrote our national anthem as he watched the Battle of 1812 in Baltimore’s Outer Harbor. Travel northwest on Key Highway then, hike atop Federal Hill. From that pedestal, inhale the singular grand Inner Harbor vista.
The Inner Harbor anchors downtown Baltimore. The southern side of the Inner Harbor features Maryland Science Center, Planetarium and IMAX Theater. Harborplace is where you grab a sumptuous meal, check out street artists, and then scurry into the second part of Harborplace for memorabilia shopping. To your right is the 18th century USS Constellation battleship and the distinctive National Aquarium. Visit the Power Plant, which is home one of the world’s largest Hard Rock Cafes and the nation’s first ESPN Zone. Count yourself fortunate when you catch an outdoor concert at Pier Six. Tremendously popular Port Discovery is the third largest children's museum in the nation and was designed by Walt Disney Imagineering.
In Harbor East, Reginald Lewis Museum of Maryland African American Art & History, a stunning new attraction, is the nation's second largest museum of African American history and culture. Behind it, the Star Spangled Banner Flag House is where one of our nation's first flags was sewn. In the same district, ethnic restaurants populate Little Italy and Corn Beef Row and the small but precious Civil War Museum operate. The newest gem is a series of new A-List office and hotel skyscrapers surrounding the breathtaking Karyn Monument honoring Polish survivors from World War II.
Walk along the Inner Harbor East promenade, which is graced by the Public Works Museum, upscale condos, hotels, restaurants and a yacht harbor. Continue up to the cobblestone streets of Fells Point, where 19th century row houses, eclectic shops, galleries and niteclubs surround the Broadway Market in a public square. The great abolitionist Frederick Douglass worked, owned property, and no doubt, made love in this neighborhood. The Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Museum & Park, interprets Baltimore’s rich combination maritime history and Black folks role in it. And now the waterfront promenade is expanding its hotels, restaurants and maritime activities from Fells Point to Canton.
Baseball fans cherish the award-winning Orioles Park at Camden Yards, while rabid football fans patronize nearby M&T Bank Stadium for hard-hitting Baltimore Ravens games. All sports fans should visit the Sports Legends Museum located in America’s oldest train station in Camden Yards. It was also a station on the Underground Railroad. A short drive west, the B&O Railroad Museum provides ample evidence that American railroading began in Baltimore. Downtown’s Westside announces its own character with a fire station converted into an Arts Tower, an old movie palace transformed into the magnificent Hippodrome Performing Arts Center and the gastronomic delight of Lexington Market, a two-square block venue featuring the best meat, fish and produce in the region.
1st Mariner Arena also keeps downtown buzzing with pop concerts and athletic events. From there, walk north on Charles Street to explore its numerous specialty shops and cafes as you head towards Mount Vernon Square cultural district. The world's first Washington Monument is located in a verdantly landscaped garden. Walters Art Museum, Maryland Historical Museum, Contemporary Museum, Peabody Conservatory of Music, Lyric Opera House, and Meyerhoff Symphony Hall round out the cultural district, while the Baltimore Museum of Art, widely acclaimed for its French Impressionist collection, is a short ride north. Jada Pinkett Smith is also to be commended for her contribution to the arts scene - a $1 million donation to the Baltimore School of Arts in honor of her classmate, Tupac Shakur, when both attended BSA.
Baltimore is a Black heritage cornucopia. Soulful restaurants and nightclubs are sprinkled about the metro area. Many prominent Black churches date to the early 1800s. Visit the nationally renown Great Blacks in Wax Museum, the cherished Orchard Street Church with its Underground Railroad Station, a renewed Avenue Market, and the Arena Players theatre, where the great actor Howard Rollins culled his craft. Eubie Blake Jazz & Cultural Center features eye-catching galleries that every jazz-lover should include on the itinerary. Greater Baltimore is home to America’s first Black scientist, whose life is celebrated in the Benjamin Banneker Museum. Baltimore claims monuments to native-daughter Billie Holiday and native-son Thurgood Marshall, Frederick Douglass (2), Black Soldiers and the fully restored Hampton Plantation with slave cabins.
Reginald Lewis, the world’s first Black billionaire, played quarterback at Dunbar High School, which is better known for its distinguished basketball program. Today one of the nation's foremost African American Heritage Museums stands in his honor. At one point in time, Cathy Hughes' RadioOne maintained headquarters here. Morgan State University, Coppin State University and two historically Black high schools are reminders of our highest aspirations during the Jim Crow Era. The Murphy Fine Arts Center at Morgan State University ups the ante for it distinguished combination of Lewis Museum of Art and the Gilliam Concert Hall. Few Black Heritage districts have more designated historic sites than Pennsylvania Avenue or as locals call it, “The Avenue.” And there's another Underground Railroad Station at nearby Orchard Street Baptist Church.
Urban planners often cite Baltimore in case studies describing how to redevelop the assets of an old city. Decades of smart planning before public-private redevelopment has created a rising star in tourism circles. Convention planners relish meeting in Baltimore, because it delivers a multi-faceted experience within shouting distance the Inner Harbor, convention center and hotels. And in case you weren’t counting, Baltimore has six Black museums. No other American city can boast of so many Black museums, two Historically Black Universities, two Black fraternity headquarters, numerous Black historic sites, and the NAACP headquarters. With so many Black heritage sites bringing the flava’ to an American Heritage destination, its clear "The Map of Soul Runs Through Baltimore."