Retro is a way of life in Baltimore—and not just for the guys in period regalia who re-enact the 1812 Battle of Baltimore. Just look at Camden Yards, home of the Orioles, which pioneered the retro-classic style of baseball stadium design in the early ’90s. Or the annual HonFest in the Hampden neighborhood, where locals do up their hair in ’60s-style beehives and parade through the streets. As its seaport and manufacturing industry have declined, Baltimore’s artistic community has found ways to repurpose the city’s old warehouses into pop-up gallery spaces and makeshift music venues.
The Inner Harbor
Though Baltimore’s days as a thriving seaport are past, its Inner Harbor still hums with activity. This tourism epicenter is close to Camden Yards and full of museums and restaurants. Re-live the city’s maritime days by taking a dinner cruise—or, if you prefer, a pirate cruise—at many outfitters just off the harbor.
- National Aquarium: The most-visited attraction in Maryland. Aquariums are known for undersea species, but here, some of its best exhibits highlight land-dwelling creatures: a replica of Australia’s Umbrawarra Gorge includes a 35-foot-high waterfall and birds that fly in front of you.
- Fort McHenry monument: The Battle of Baltimore marked the end of the War of 1812; at Fort McHenry, soldiers in full regalia re-enact the victorious battle, which inspired Francis Scott Key to pen “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
- Outsider-artist museum: The American Visionary Art Museum displays the works of self-taught artists on the fringes of the art world. A fascinating glimpse into some idiosyncratic points of view.
- Where to stay: Guests praise the impeccable service at the five-star Four Seasons Baltimore hotel; if you’re looking for something more budget-friendly, Brookshire Suites hotel has views of the harbor from its 12th-floor club level.
Beyond the Harbor: Neighborhoods of Baltimore
- For a glimpse into history: A bronze cast of Francis Scott Key holding a manuscript of “The Star-Spangled Banner” is the centerpiece monument of Bolton Hill; in nearby Mount Vernon, you’ll find 19th-century mansions and the other Washington Monument: a 180-foot Doric column and tribute to the first president that predates the DC version.
- For quirkiness: John Waters’ Hairspray was shot in Hampden, a pleasantly kitschy ’hood full of retro diners, alternative bookstores, and junk shops. It’s also home to the popular Miracle on 34th Street, in which townhouses compete to have the craziest holiday displays in their yards.
- For scenic views: Some of the best views of Baltimore and the harbor are from the park in Federal Hill. You’ll also get a history lesson: Baltimore was split between Confederate and Union allegiances in the Civil War, and the cannon at the top of the hill was pointed at the central business district as a not-so-subtle hint to pay allegiance to the Union.
- For nightlife: Walk along the cobblestone streets of Fells Point and get great crab cakes at Duda’s Tavern. Legend has it that The Horse You Came In On Saloon is the last place Edgar Allan Poe went to get a drink before his death, and is said to be haunted. Mostly, though, it’s an area known for live music.
- Where to stay: The Wyndham Peabody Court Hotel embodies Mount Vernon’s old-fashioned elegance while maintaining modern amenities.