Baltimore/Inner Harbor

The U.S.S. Constellation, a part of the Maritime Museum

The Inner Harbor is the heart of Baltimore, and the standard-bearer of its industrial and maritime heritage. In the 1950s, the area became an industrial wasteland and the buildings were eventually replaced with parkland for public uses and events. In the decades that followed continued investment in the area has renewed the harbor. It now contains the lion's share of Baltimore's tourist attractions, and accordingly, its tourists.

Understand

The Inner Harbor's relatively shallow waters have long played second fiddle to Baltimore's deep water harbors in the south of the city. Unable to accommodate large freighters, the port received light freight and passenger traffic, but even in these categories, the Inner Harbor lagged behind the busier docks at Fell's Point. Consequently, despite its central location, the Inner Harbor always remained underdeveloped, and more than a little seedy.

In the 1960s, particularly after the 1968 riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr that devastated the city, the Inner Harbor sunk into decline with the rest of the city, leaving the waterfront dominated by abandoned warehouses, deteriorating industrial buildings, and open grassy areas for the occasional festival. In 1980, in what was considered nothing but hopeless folly, Mayor D'Alesandro Jr. came up with an expensive plan to revitalize the Inner Harbor, starting with the construction of the waterfront Harborplace, a big, attractive, indoor mall filled with shops and cafeteria dining. Shortly thereafter the city built the National Aquarium and Maryland Science Center, and lo' and behold, the plan was a spectacular success, and the Inner Harbor took off and hasn't looked back.

Today, the Inner Harbor is the city centerpiece, Maryland's number one tourist destination, and the single biggest economic boon for the city. The views across the harbor and its ships towards the old Domino Sugar Factory in the south and the skyscrapers, including the Maryland World Trade Center, in the north are the icons of the city. Restaurants and big hotels line the waterfront, and tourists fill the streets, promenade, and piers. The Inner Harbor is less popular with locals, however, so you would do well to get out a bit to other neighborhoods like Fell's Point and Midtown to get a better feel for the local culture!

Get in

By car

The most direct route to the Inner Harbor area from outside the city would be from I-95. Take exit 53, which dumps you on to Howard St. Parking can be messy and/or expensive, and garages will be the only option available. If you want to park on-street, you could try Fells Point to the east, which will leave you with about a 15-20 minute walk to the Aquarium.

By light rail

Light rail lines stop at Camden Yards, running north through Downtown and Lexington Market, and on to Penn Station; south to BWI airport.

By Circulator bus

The Circulator has two relevant routes. The orange line will take you east on Pratt almost to the edge of Fells Point, with a quick stop in Little Italy, before returning west on Lombard and running to the University of Maryland, Baltimore. The purple line runs south on Light St to Federal Hill and north on Calvert St to reach Charles St through Mt Vernon and Midtown.

By water taxi

Ed Kane's Water Taxi, +1 410 563-3901, stops at the Rusty Scupper, the Science Center, Harbor Place, the Aquarium, Pier 5, and Harbor East, with connections to popular tourist stops in South Baltimore, like Fort McHenry, as wells piers in Fells Point and Canton to the east. Day passes, adults: $9.00, kids under 10: $4.00. May–December only.

By bus

Visitors to the city don't really use the bus system, but if you are feeling intrepid, there are a handful of useful routes.

#11, if you pick it up on Pratt St on the harbor, will take you east to the heart of Fells Point, and then on to Canton. If you take it from Lombard St (one block north of the harbor), it will take you north up Charles St through the heart of Midtown and on to Johns Hopkins' main campus. The northern route returns to the Inner Harbor from Midtown via Cathedral Ave. #1 runs south on Light St through Federal Hill and on to Fort McHenry via Fort Ave.

See

The Inner Harbor is packed full of attractions, and is Maryland's destination number one for sightseeing. The most popular is without question the National Aquarium, which is almost an obligatory stop, but the ships and the Maritime Museum are a close second. The Maryland Science Center is a fantastic place to spend a half day with children, and the American Visionary Art Museum is an intriguing and unique gallery for anyone with the remotest interest in the arts.

Do

Events

Music

Film

Buy

Harborplace offers a ton of shopping right by the main hotels, but outside of the mall, you won't find a lot of shopping here. If you are interested in more local shopping—boutiques, local flavor, etc.—a good bet are the many shops to the east in Fell's Point

Eat

Pirates coming from Domino Sugars

You'll find many chain restaurants in Inner Harbor, ranging from the cheap like Potbelly or Chipotle to the more expensive McCormick & Schmick's or The Capital Grille; American and Canadian tourists will pretty much know what to expect. Don't bother with the food at Power Plant Live! just north of the harbor, as it's more overpriced for the quality of food you get. The majority of the really good options will be east of the Aquarium in the burgeoning and uber-yuppie neighborhood of "Harbor East." Further north in the Downtown district, you'll find more local fare at Lexington Market, as well as one terrific local steakhouse. Going east to Fells Point and Little Italy is without a doubt the best option for dinner if you don't fancy the options here.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Drink

The Inner Harbor is the worst place in Baltimore for nightlife, barring the barren and dangerous neighborhoods of East and West Baltimore. It's safe here, and within easy striking distance of the big hotels, but the nightlife is almost completely manufactured for tourism, and is accordingly overpriced, plagued by poor service, and won't give you much any idea of what local nightlife is actually about. Nonetheless there are a handful of decent options, and while a tourist trap, Power Plant Live can still be a good time if you know what to expect, and don't mind it being a bit touristy. The one real standout option that does bring in locals from other parts of the city is the wine bar in Harbor East, listed above, Vino Rosina.

If the nightlife here is not to your liking, it is easy enough to go local and leave the Harbor. Just east is Fell's Point, which is arguably the city's party central, absolutely full of bars and locals out for a good time. From the west end of the Inner Harbor, it's a short walk to Federal Hill, with another big concentration of bars.

Power Plant Live

Power Plant Live, 34 Market Pl,  +1 410 427-5483. A collection of bars, clubs, music venues, and restaurants (the most notable being the Ruth's Chris Steakhouse), manufactured to keep the Inner Harbor tourist machine rolling! As such, it is not representative of Baltimore culture, is a good deal cheesy (beware the suburban bachelorettes), and has pretty rotten service, but is nonetheless a good time with the right mindset. They have a large self contained outdoor square where you can escape the usual U.S. rules on open containers and drink outside to your heart's content. The outdoor Power Plant stage is host to an unending string of live music performances in the summer.

Watch your dress code here—panicky about Baltimore's more dangerous side spilling into tourist areas, the staff rigidly enforce the general no baggy clothing rules, and even sports apparel can cause problems here and there. Women can wear whatever they want. Men, aim for something preppy/classic.

Sleep

Rates are understandably on the high side in the Inner Harbor, and the cheaper rooms at hotels lack harbor views. Prices also vary widely depending on the season and rooms availability. If you find yourself priced out, consider a spot in Fells Point, or even up the light rail in Midtown. While the Downtown hotels are very close, keep in mind that the area is less safe to walk back to at night, and decidedly less family-friendly.

Mid-range

Splurge

Connect

The one option for internet (outside of your hotel) will be the giant Barnes and Noble in the historic Power Plant Building, 601 E Pratt St, ☎ +1 410 385-1709, M-Sa 9AM-10PM, Su 10AM-9PM. Free public WiFi. If you need a terminal, though, you are out of luck.

Go next

Routes through Inner Harbor

Hunt Valley Downtown  N  S  South Baltimore Linthicum
Midtown Downtown  N  S  South Baltimore END
Timonium Downtown  N  S  South Baltimore Glen Burnie


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, January 18, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.