A new addition to the scene, the National Pinball Museum, featuring a 140-year history of pinball games, will be a nostalgia trip for some and a new experience for those raised on computer games. Admission includes the chance to play on the machines in the Pinhead Gallery upstairs.
Camden Yards, the home of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team, is another family lure. The retro look of the stadium celebrating its 20th birthday this year has set the standard for every ballpark since. Fans young and old enjoy the Sports Legends Museum next to the park and a visit to the nearby home where baseball legend Babe Ruth was born.
Baltimore’s neighborhoods can occupy many a pleasant afternoon. For a superb view of the harbor and the busy working port of Baltimore, climb the stairs behind the Science Center to the Colonial streets of Federal Hill. This is where 4,000 citizens celebrated Maryland’s ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788. Restored homes and a spate of new shops and cafes make for a pleasant stroll.
Fells Point, the oldest port area of the city, still looks remarkably like the seafaring and shipbuilding community that was laid out in 1763, with cobbled streets and many well-preserved period homes. The restored Robert Long House, circa 1765, is the oldest in the city. Take a walk around the compact area to admire the architecture, the sea views from the landing, the inviting, small shops and the many restaurants and pubs that make this a favorite nightspot for young Baltimoreans. A Water Taxi provides scenic transportation to the Inner Harbor.
For a change of scene, head to the top of hilly Charles Street to Mt. Vernon Place, a square of parks and fountains laid out in 1827 and centered by a 160-foot Washington Monument that predates the one in the nation’s capital. The 22 buildings around the square and in some 40 surrounding blocks are the cream of Baltimore’s late 19th and early 20th century architecture and include the homes of some of the city’s elite early residents including Johns Hopkins and George Peabody. The noted Peabody Conservatory of Music is found on Mt. Vernon Place and next to it, the Peabody Library, a five-tiered, skylighted Victorian beauty maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The Walters Museum is also nearby.
Occupying a full block in this area is the Maryland Historical Society, where the original manuscript of the Star-Spangled Banner is on display, and where an expansive exhibit on the War of 1812 has just opened.
How to see it all? Better plan to stay a while — or start planning to return.