It’s tough to decide at which time of day Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is most spellbinding. At sunrise the waterway is bathed in gentle pastels as the area is still and quiet waiting for the bustle of morning activity. Late in the day the water is a deep blue, accented by the golds and reds of the setting sun as small commercial boats slip back to their docks for the evening. Then at night, the harbor is like a wealthy lady decked out in diamonds as slivery lights sparkle against the midnight blue water.
The glorious ever-changing scene from the window was enough to make me not want to leave my Renaissance Harborplace Hotel room with its panoramic view of the harbor.
But when I left the room to explore the area, the rewards were bountiful. From the hotel, one can walk directly into Harborplace The Gallery with 120 shops, 13 restaurants and seasonal waterfront entertainment. If that doesn’t offer enough shopping options, there are plenty more in the immediate area that range from high-end to bargain basement.
Outside, brick walkways recall the colonial days of one of America’s oldest major cities. The Inner Harbor, which is home to many small boats but too shallow for ships, has been a busy area since the colonial era. It underwent revitalization in the 1970s and thrives today as a popular cultural, recreational and business center.
Although the famous World Trade Center in New York was lost in the painful events of Sept. 11, 2001, there is still a World Trade Center in Baltimore. Built during the 1970s renewal period, it has 32 floors, towers 405 feet above the harbor and boasts of being the world’s tallest equilateral five-sided building. Those who weren’t fortunate enough to get a hotel room with a magnificent harbor view might want to consider going up to the center’s Top of the World Observation Level. Tickets are $5 for those 13 through 59 years old. They’re $4 for those in the military and adults older than 60. For children 3 through 12 years old, tickets are $3; children younger than 3 are admitted free.
Another way to see the harbor is on one of the cruises offered in comfort-conditioned boats year round. One may opt for a narrated tour cruise without a meal, starting at $19.82 or for a lunch (starting at $37.90) or dinner (starting at $50.90) cruise.
For a less expensive way to experience the harbor by boat, take a water taxi for $9 ($4 for children) as a fun way to cross the harbor or sprint out to historic Ft. McHenry, where during the War of 1812 the events that inspired The Star Spangled Banner occurred.
The baseball fan in me was excited to see
Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles. And, I wish I had had time to explore the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum as well as the Sports Legends Museum.
I did have time to visit an attraction that has delights for young and old—The National Aquarium. I’ve seen a lot of aquariums in my life and frankly wasn’t sure this one would have much to charm me—but it did. I’ve seen live action dolphin shows before, but these critters kick it up a notch, putting on a truly entertaining show. In addition to the dolphins, there are rays, jellies and tropical fish—more than 16,000 creatures of the deep.
There are lots of Inner Harbor restaurants, and seafood lovers can’t go wrong. I sampled the shrimp and grits at Miss Shirley’s and found the huge spicy shrimp paired with creamy stone-ground grits a yummy way to start the day. I’ve heard that Oprah Winfrey, once a resident of Baltimore, has crab cakes flown in from there. If it’s true, it’s totally understandable. I’ve never tasted crab anywhere to touch the sweet juicy variety found in Baltimore.
Here are a few other highlights of the Inner Harbor.
• Power Plant Live might be called Baltimore Inner Harbor’s answer to Underground Atlanta. It’s a dining and entertainment district that features a variety of restaurants and nightclubs surrounding a common plaza.
• The Maryland Science Center has loads of exhibits and hands-on activities as well as an IMAX theater and a planetarium.
• The Maritime Museum has among its other attractions the USS Constellation, the only Civil War ship still floating today.
• The Holocaust Memorial and Statue pays tribute to the more than six million Jewish people who lost their lives under Germany’s Nazi regime.
• The National Katyn Memorial Foundation recalled the Polish officers killed by the Soviets in 1940 and is dedicated to all mistreated prisoners of war.
• The Baltimore Public Works Museum explores the technology behind clean drinking water, recycling, tunnels and more.
• The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture focuses on the African-American journey as related through photographs, documents, art and artifacts.