Three Cool Places to Visit in Baltimore

Situated right off the Chesapeake Bay in central Maryland lies the city of Baltimore. Founded in 1729 as a seaport and now home to over 600,000 people, this is a metropolis boasting some pretty serious history. And quite a few neat places to visit, for that matter. These three stops made up my trip to Charm City, and I found them to be both engaging and educational in learning all about this city and what it had to offer.

George Peabody Library

My first stop was at a library. “A library? While on vacation?”, you might ask. Well, this is not your ordinary plain ole’ municipal building. In fact, some would regard the George Peabody Library as one of the most beautiful libraries in the world.

picture of peabody library exterior
The George Peabody Library.

Opened in 1878, the Peabody was founded by George Peabody, a philanthropist wanting a library for the citizens of Baltimore to use. It is a part of the Peabody Institute, a leading music and fine arts school also started by Mr. Peabody. In the 80s, both the library and the institute became a part of Johns Hopkins University.

picture of peabody library interior
The amount of books here is unbelievable.

The Peabody’s collection is comprised of over 300,000 books, many focused on religion, British art, geography, travel, among others. Visitors are welcome to explore the ground floor but are not allowed to go upstairs. Still, there is plenty to see here, with lots and lots of books on the first-floor collection that you can sift through.

picture of peabody library staircase
Unfortunately, visitors are only allowed on the first floor.
picture of peabody library book
picture of peabody library catalog

Once you are gone gazing at the magnificent architecture(and perhaps flipping thru a Latin book and trying to remember what you learned in high school), be sure to check out the small exhibit right outside, talking about the history of the library. Mementos and artifacts showcase the Peabody’s 141 years of operation.

picture of peabody library exhibit
picture of peabody library exhibit

All in all, this is a very neat stop, whether you choose to just look around or decide to stay for a few hours to dig into the stacks. Especially if you are a book lover!

Parking = Free, available alongside East Mount Vernon Plaza.

Admission Fees = None, keeping in line with Mr. Peabody’s vision of a library “for the free use of all persons who desire to consult it.”

Helpful Tip = There are no public restrooms available, so plan accordingly.

Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine

Situated on 43 acres, Fort McHenry is considered to be the birthplace of our national anthem. This former military complex sits at the mouth of the Baltimore Inner Harbor – and is a definite must see.

picture of Fort McHenry flag
The historic zone at Fort McHenry.

Upon arriving, things start in the Visitor’s Center with a short video talking about the role this place had in the conception of the Star Spangled Banner. After the video is over, you can explore on your own, or opt for one of the ranger-led tours and discussions.

picture of Fort McHenry sign
picture of Fort McHenry guided tour
Staff lead guided tours around the complex.

The center of this place is the historic zone – comprising of several different buildings, all open for exploration. These buildings were the ones used when Fort McHenry was in operation. Here, history comes alive as you crawl thru narrow staircases to see an old ammunition storage area, and look at a dining quarter used by military officers. As someone that loves exploring “ruins” and buildings from times gone by, I enjoyed it thoroughly!

picture of Fort McHenry ammunition storage area
An ammunition “magazine”, or storage area.
picture of Fort McHenry sleeping quarters
The barracks.

There are even old jail cells used to house prisoners that are now open for you to walk thru.

picture of Fort McHenry jail
picture of Fort McHenry jail cell
Inside of a jail cell that housed Confederate POWs during the Civil War.

Cannons are set up in their defensive positions, giving you a glimpse of what it looked like back in the days of the War of 1812.

picture of Fort McHenry cannons

After getting done touring the historic zone(which took me around 45 minutes), be sure to get in a walk along the perimeter. Here, you’ll get a good view of the Patapsco River, which connects out to the Chesapeake Bay. Due to rapidly darkening clouds in the sky, I could only trek about halfway. However, from what I saw, it’s worth the extra 20 minutes or so, time permitting. Looking all around you and realizing that the buildings you see played such a crucial role in our nation’s history is pretty amazing.

picture of Fort McHenry perimeter
Walking around the perimeter, you can see the various ships that traverse the Inner Harbor area.

Wrapping things back up in the Visitor’s Center, there are also some exhibits inside talking about the War of 1812, among other historical events significant to Fort McHenry’s history. Before leaving, a gift shop allows you to pick something up to remind you of your visit here.

Parking = Free. Plenty of spaces are available right outside the Visitor’s Center.

Admission Fees = None to walk around the perimeter, $15 for adults to enter the historic zone. (highly recommended!)

Helpful Tip = Don’t feel like driving? The Baltimore Water Taxi stops here!

Johns Hopkins University

Located on the north side of town, Johns Hopkins University is a name synonymous with top-tier research, and its campus does not disappoint. This private university has one beautiful campus that’s pretty neat to explore.

picture of Johns Hopkins University entrance
One of the entrances to Johns Hopkins University.

After parking in the underground garage, start off in the Decker Quad, where you’ll be surrounded by the bio-engineering and computer science buildings. A glass window shows a mock operating room-lab that JHU students are doing research on. Walk in, and display panels line the walls which talk about the research accomplishments here.

picture of Johns Hopkins University lab
This mock operating room is used by the engineering students at JHU.
picture of johns hopkins whiting school of engineering building
Inside the Whiting School of Engineering.
picture of Johns Hopkins University engineering hall
The exhibit inside the Engineering hall, which shows the accomplishments of JHU students and alumni.

One thing I really like about Hopkins is all the open green space and courtyards present in the midst of the buildings. Lawn chairs placed by the school allow for some studying(or relaxation) in a peaceful environment. it reminded me of my visit to Iowa State University but on a much grander scale.

picture of Johns Hopkins University campus
picture of Johns Hopkins University campus

The buildings themselves are also quite impressive. Great attention to detail was given during the design process, from the marble columns to the roof tiles.

picture of Johns Hopkins University building
picture of Johns Hopkins University campus

Inside the various halls, small classrooms are the name of the game.

picture of Johns Hopkins University classroom
picture of Johns Hopkins University classroom

The Milton Eisenhower Library, located close to the east gate, is pretty well-done for a university of this size and is also open to the public with a valid photo ID. Although no photography was allowed inside, there were plenty of seating areas and study rooms that fostered a nice and peaceful atmosphere.

picture of Johns Hopkins University library
JHU’s library. Much of their stuff is stored underground, as there is no second floor.

That was pretty much the extent of my visit to JHU, however, there is definitely more to see on campus, such as the Baltimore Museum of Art. A school isn’t a typical place one thinks of when they visit someplace, however, in my eyes a university is usually a great representation of a city. Especially a well-known one, like Johns Hopkins!

picture of Johns Hopkins University campus art
A piece of campus art depicting the school’s mascot, the blue jay.

Parking = Visitor’s parking is available in the underground garage off Bowman Drive, next to the south gate. Two hours cost me $9.

Admission Fees = None. The Baltimore Museum of Art, located on the grounds of the university, is free as well.

Helpful Tip = Looking for the bookstore? It isn’t located on campus, rather right across from it off St. Paul and 33rd. Inside, you can find JHU apparel, school memorabilia, as well as a cafe.

In Conclusion…

There is a lot to see in Baltimore, and this list is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to things to do in Charm City. While traffic isn’t too bad here, it’s not a bad idea to give yourself some extra time between stops just in case of a backup. Additionally, as with much of the East Coast towns, it can get pretty humid here from all of the bay moisture, so dress accordingly. Plan it right, and you’re sure to have a good time. And we aren’t even talking about all the other places to visit in the region, including Washington, D.C. down south or Delaware off to the east!

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