It’s been over a decade since I’ve been to Baltimore, Maryland and since then, just like its sister city Washington, D.C., it experienced a makeover. Old and decrepit buildings were demolished to give way for modern condominiums and hotels, while many of the city’s historic neighborhoods saw the early onset of gentrification. Despite all these aesthetic changes, Baltimore remains an offbeat and very casual town, where eccentricity is celebrated, often with a pint, at one of its many, many dive bars. If you only have 48 hours in Baltimore, Maryland to spare, check out the list of places to visit below, all of which represent the city with gusto.
48 Hours in Baltimore, Maryland: Where to Go
Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine
Baltimore’s history runs deep since it was founded in 1729 but it forever made its mark in American history during the pivotal War of 1812, when soldiers stationed at Fort McHenry defended the city of Baltimore from the formidable British navy in September 1814. The Americans and the British traded cannon fire for days during the Battle of Baltimore. A grueling 24 hours of continuous fighting ensued but the locals fought gallantly and prevailed. The American flag, made up of 15 stars and stripes, flew high above the fort and became the inspiration for Francis Scott Key’s now infamous poem, the “Star Spangled Banner”.
Check out the visitor center exhibits and then head out to the fort where you can relive the fort’s transformation over time. In addition to serving as a prison during the Civil War, it also served as a hospital and an immigration center during the 19th century. At about half an hour before the fort closes, visitors will have the opportunity to help park rangers take down and fold a historic American flag. It’s a pretty unique experience that any traveler staying in Baltimore shouldn’t miss.
American Visionary Art Museum
This is not exactly the Louvre, both in size and collection, but it does carry an eccentric collection of well-crafted pieces of art made by self-taught artists, many who also suffered a form of mental illness at some point in their lives. The American Visionary Art Museum, located in the Federal Hill neighborhood, specializes in what scholars refer to as outsider art or raw art and offers free admission to the public. The museum also presents constantly changing exhibitions courtesy of its many guest curators. I would highly recommend visiting this quirky museum during your 48 hours in Baltimore, Maryland especially if your interest in art goes beyond the conventional.
Swimming black tip sharks, dozens of silky jellies, and penguins are just some of the highlights at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, one of the favorite spots for visitors with young children. Its striking building stands out among the red bricks along the historic Inner Harbor and its many interactive exhibits give visitors plenty of opportunity to learn about local and international marine life. The aquarium features close to 20,000 species of animals including reptiles and birds.
Fun fact: The aquarium also offers a guest diver program for adults who are PADI Open Water Diver certified and includes a 30-45 minute dive in their Atlantic Coral Reef exhibit.
The Battle Monument
A visit, not even just the 48 hours in Baltimore kind, will be complete without stopping at the Battle Monument. The structure was erected to commemorate the lives lost in defense of Fort McHenry and North Point during the Battle of Baltimore. The monument, which sits in the heart of Battle Monument Square, located near North Calvert Street, combines both Egyptian and Classical architecture elements and has been the official symbol of the city for almost 100 years.
Oriole Park at Camden Yards
Baltimore isn’t exactly a sports crazed city but Baltimoreans, and to a degree, some Washingtonians, have a certain loyalty to the Orioles, the city’s major league baseball team. The “Birds” or the “O’s”, as they are affectionately known, play their home games at Camden Yards, considered by many baseball enthusiasts as one of the best baseball stadiums in the country. Upon entry, you’ll see a statue of Babe Ruth, one of the city’s most famous sons. The stadium was one of the early stadiums built with a retro-classic architecture and has since influenced the designs of a number of other ballparks around the country. Its clever notion to incorporate part of the structure of an old warehouse, which now towers over the right field wall, is one of the ballpark’s most striking features. Many seats, including the inexpensive ones, also have great views of downtown Baltimore. Finally, Camden Yards has some of the best concession stand offerings, ranging from classic favorites such as Boog’s BBQ sandwich to the Baconater.