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Top 10 Things to do in the Baltimore Inner Harbor

You can find all of the best things to do in the Baltimore Inner Harbor, from museums and historic ships to nightlife and cultural events.

Once an industrial hub for shipbuilding and steel mills, the Baltimore Inner Harbor is now one of the state’s most popular destinations for museums, maritime history, and of course Maryland crab. Many historic brick buildings have been revived from their industrial era and converted into new trendy restaurants, hotels, and attractions. 

Just 1 hour north of our nation’s capital, the Baltimore waterfront makes for a great day trip from Washington DC. Years ago, we would visit solely for the nightlife and crab cakes. Now with 2 kids, we have found ourselves visiting the area more frequently to rediscover some of the family-friendly activities like the Aquarium and the Children’s Science Museum.

Whether you are traveling with family, friends, or solo, you’re sure to have a great time visiting this part of the city. In this article, we cover the top things to do in the Baltimore Inner Harbor including popular attractions, what to eat, and where to stay. 

Best Things to do in the Baltimore Inner Harbor

1. Climb aboard a historic ship

A collection of Historic Ships docked along the harbor is one of Baltimore’s iconic landmarks.  There are four ships permanently on display: An 1854 sloop-of-war designed by the U.S. Navy, a U.S. Coast Guard cutter from the 1930s, a WW II submarine, and a 1930’s lightship formerly used with the U.S. Lighthouse Service.

Visitors can view the ships from the boardwalk, or for a nominal fee climb aboard and tour their interior. The Historic Ships institution also cares for the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse, which was in operation until 1948.

In preserving and sharing these historic sites with the public, the institution hopes to honor those who served aboard the ships while serving as a cultural and educational resource for the community.

If you are sightseeing in Baltimore, make sure to add these historic ships to your itinerary.

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2. Explore the National Aquarium

Thousands of people come to the Inner Harbor each year just to see one of the best aquariums in the country, Baltimore’s National Aquarium.  Home to over 20,000 animals, the attraction includes nine species of mesmerizing jellies, a colony of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, and a 225,000-gallon shark exhibit. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide a deep look at life below the surface: Stingrays and sea turtles glide gracefully through the water as brightly-hued bony fish swim through coral.

A Living Seashore interactive experience allows guests to discover sea creatures including horseshoe crabs, Atlantic stingrays, and moon jellyfish with their fingertips. For an additional cost, guests can enjoy a film in the 4-D theater, walk the catwalk above sharks, or participate in a private Dolphin Training Session. The National Aquarium offers half-price admission every Friday night.

Baltimore Maryland Inner Harbor - National Aquarium

3. Experience the Baltimore Inner Harbor by boat

What better way to explore a harbor than by boat? The Spirit of Baltimore cruise is one of the most popular tours in the Inner Harbor. After enjoying an extensive buffet meal, guests can head to the observation deck for live music and panoramic views of famous landmarks including Federal Hill, Fort McHenry, and the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

If you are looking for something a bit more romantic, you can also book a sunset cruise on board an authentic working schooner. Grab your favorite bottle of wine, and enjoy gliding across the Chesapeake Bay while taking in the sunset.

Those traveling with kids will want to check out the urban pirate ship and the colorful paddle and electric boats operated by the Living Classrooms Foundation. The Chessie Dragon paddle boats and electric Pirate Ships of Baltimore are popular family-friendly attractions and provide employment to youth and young adults. Proceeds from ticket sales support hands-on education and training programs. Since 1985, the Living Classrooms Foundation has served over 30,000 Baltimore children, youth, and adults.

4. View Baltimore from above

It seems as if no big city is complete without an opportunity to view the skyline from above. Baltimore is no exception. Top of the World is located on the 27th floor of the city’s World Trade Center. For around $6 USD, visitors can visit the 27th floor of the World Trade Building for a spectacular view of Baltimore’s skyline, the Inner Harbor, and more.

If you want to go even higher, this Urban Helicopter Tour is one of the coolest things to do in Baltimore. A pilot will take you on an aerial voyage through the city providing breathtaking views of the Inner Harbor, Camden Yards, and other iconic landmarks.

5. Catch a sunset from Federal Hill

Federal Hill is arguably the best place in the Baltimore Inner Harbor to watch the sunset. Once a lookout point during the War of 1812 and the Civil War, the hill is now a public space for visitors to enjoy the surrounding views of the city: the inner harbor and skyline to the north, M&T Stadium, and Camden Yards to the west, and the iconic Domino Sugar building to the east.

During the day, Federal Hill is filled with picnickers, and families enjoying the playgrounds. By night, the site is filled with star-gazers and romantics hoping to catch the last glimmer of a setting sun. Paying tribute to the site’s historical significance, Federal Hill Park also has several monuments and artifacts including cannons that were used at Fort Federal Hill during the Civil War.

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6. Learn something new at one of the Inner Harbor’s museums

There are enough museums around the Inner Harbor to keep visitors busy for a few days.

The American Visionary Art Museum “specializes in original thematic exhibitions that seamlessly combine art, science, philosophy, humor, and especially social justice and betterment”. It is not what you would expect from a typical art museum. Works on display are eclectic and unique, and will challenge your notion of how “art” should be defined. 

The Baltimore Museum of Industry commemorates the industrial legacy of Baltimore through exhibitions, programs, and events. Permanent exhibitions include a 1906 steam tug boat and the Cannery, a display of the 1865 Platt and Company oyster cannery which once occupied the same historic building.

The Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture is the largest African American museum in Maryland covering over 400 years of history in its permanent collection. Visit the museum and discover over 11,000 documents, objects, and resources celebrating the contributions of African American Marylanders.

The Port Discovery Children’s Museum is ranked among the top five children’s museums in the country and is a popular family-friendly activity in the Baltimore Inner Harbor. Located inside the historic Fish Market building, the museum contains three floors of interactive exhibits promoting learning through play. It is a multi-sensory experience for kids ages 0-10 with age-appropriate activities for each age group. 

A four-story “SkyClimber” allows older kids to test their climbing skills. Inspired by Baltimore’s maritime history, the “Port” exhibit is designed like a 3-story ship encouraging kids to take on the role of captain and other members of the crew. For the toddler to Pre-Kindergarten group, there is a creative arts studio for children to express themselves through painting, sculpting, and other art forms.

Believing it is never too early to start learning, the museum even has a number of activities for babies and infants. These include a soft play area for young minds to explore textures and other new sensations. 

7. Enjoy the Night Life at Power Plant Live

While the waterfront is the more popular attraction during the day, Power Plant Live! is where you want to be at night. See how well you can aim a hatchet at Kraken Axe Throwing – because ax throwing and alcohol always sound like a good idea. 

Test your sleuthing skills while trying to escape from the Charm City Clue Room. Take bets on how long you can ride a bucking bull at PBR. Dance the night away at Mosaic nightclub. Just want to enjoy a cold beer? Head to Leinie Lodge & Beer Garden where you can imbibe under a glass pavilion, by the outdoor fireplace, or while enjoying a few lawn games.

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Power Plant Live - Baltimore Inner Harbor md

8. Catch a game at M&T Bank Stadium or Camden Yards

M&T Bank Stadium and Camden yards are two of the top Maryland attractions.

M&T Bank Stadium is home to the Baltimore Ravens NFL team. Fun fact: The Ravens are named after a poem by Edgar Allen Poe, who died and was buried in Baltimore. Adjacent to the stadium is Oriole Park at Camden Yards, home to the Baltimore Orioles baseball team. Check the respective websites to find the game schedule and purchase tickets. Both stadiums also offer tours. 

9. Experiment at the Maryland Science Center

The Maryland Science Center makes science fun through interactive experiences and hands-on learning opportunities. Three levels of exhibits explore topics ranging from astronomy and engineering to physics and anatomy. The creative exhibits and engaging demos present science concepts in a way that is not only easy to understand but also enjoyable to learn. 

Lie on a real bed of nails to explore the topics of physics and anatomy. Walk through dinosaur footprints and excavation sites to learn about paleontology. Practice chemistry in a real science laboratory where you can create and observe real chemical reactions.

The Maryland Science Center also features a 50-foot planetarium and a rooftop observatory to explore the night sky and ponder life beyond Earth.  The observatory is free to the public on Friday nights. If you are looking for fun things to do in Baltimore, add the Maryland Science Center to your list.

10. Watch classical theatre with the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company

The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company is one of the largest theatre companies in the state of Maryland with three venues in Baltimore and Ellicott City. The Inner Harbor venue is located in the historic Mercantile Trust and Deposit Building – an 1886 bank turned nightclub, now turned Shakespearean Theatre. 

An adjacent Studio hosts acting courses and workshops for both adults and youth. In addition to Shakespearean productions, the company also puts on an annual adaptation of A Christmas Carol, set in 19th-century Baltimore.

For those willing to travel beyond the Inner Harbor, the Ellicott City location offers a program called “Chesapeake Shakespeare Company In-The-Ruins”. Guests can enjoy an outdoor theatrical production set against the backdrop of the ruins of a 19th-century girls’ school. This family-friendly experience is free for anyone under the age of 19. 

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Where to eat in the Baltimore Inner Harbor

crab cakes baltimore inner harbor

For ambiance, there is no better place to eat than right on the harbor. Phillips Seafood serves up award-winning crab cakes alongside an extensive menu of classic dishes. You can also order the official Maryland Dessert from Smith Island, a 9-layer coconut cream cake.

The restaurant is located within the Pratt Street Power Plant which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987 and also forms part of the Inner Harbor skyline.

Diners can also choose to enjoy their Maryland crab on the outside “crab deck”, an overwater dock sitting directly in the Baltimore harbor. 

For amazing food with “insta-worthy” food presentation, check out Miss Shirley’s Cafe. The menu features eclectic Southern-inspired dishes like Chicken ‘N’ Cheddar Green Onion Waffles and the Pratt Street Pulled Pork BBQ Grilled Cheese.

Don’t miss out on Miss Shirley’s signature dish “Get Your Grits On”. Jumbo blackened shrimp are served over fried green tomatoes, stone-ground grits with diced bacon and roasted corn, and dusted with a delicate cajun spice. It is quite possibly the best variation of Shrimp and Grits you will find.

Miss Shirley’s Cafe has been featured on Diners, Drive-ins, & Dives, and voted “Maryland’s Favorite Restaurant” making this one of the most popular restaurants in the Baltimore Inner Harbor. They do not accept reservations so arrive early to beat the line – yes, I promise you there will be a line.

Hang out with the locals at one of Baltimore’s dives. From the Inner Harbor head north along Light Street until you hit the cross-section with Water Street. There you will find three Inner Harbor staples illuminating the alleyway: Peter’s Pour House, Water Street Tavern, and Key West Patio Bar. These three dive bars serve typical greasy pub fare, happy hour specials, and heavy pours. Given its somewhat hidden location, you are more likely to mingle with the local Baltimore crowd as opposed to out-of-towners on a weekend getaway. 

If you prefer to mix your food with lively crowds and entertainment, head over to Power Plant Live. This fun collection of bars and restaurants has plenty of outdoor seating allowing you to enjoy your libations in the middle of all the action. Grab a seat at any of the outdoor patios for people-watching or a prime view of entertainment on the main stage.

Try a hand-crafted beer while playing lawn games at the Leinie Lodge & Beer Garden. Support local musicians at the Tin Roof.  Watch a UFC fight on one of the big screens at the Vegas-themed Luckie’s Tavern. Whatever your mood, there is something for everyone.

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Where to stay in the Inner Harbor, Baltimore

1840s Carrollton Inn Baltimore hotel

The 1840s Carrollton Inn is a historic gem hidden amongst the abundance of chain hotels in the Inner Harbor. This boutique hotel is comprised of a series of interconnected row homes dating back to the early 19th century. Each room is uniquely styled with antique and decorative furnishings including four-post canopy beds, marble fireplaces, and tapestry drapes.

The 1840s Carrollton Inn is just a few feet away from both Power Plant Live and the National Aquarium.

Marriott Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel

For views of the Inner Harbor, you cannot beat the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel. Located directly across the street from the harbor, this hotel is in a prime location for exploring the area. It also has several on-site amenities including an indoor pool, restaurant, and fitness center. If you are traveling with a pet, this is the hotel for you.

Frequently Asked Questions: Visiting the Baltimore Inner Harbor

What are some free things to do in Baltimore Inner Harbor?

Most activities and attractions in the Baltimore Harbor area cost at least a nominal fee. The exception to this is The Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture which is always free to visit.

Aside from this museum, the best way to visit the Inner Harbor on a budget is to explore the area on foot. The Baltimore Waterfront Promenade takes you along the perimeter of the harbor, passing along several points of interest including the Knoll Lighthouse, the USS Torsk, West Shore Park, and Jake’s Skatepark.

You can also wander up to Federal Hill to explore the monuments and enjoy panoramic views of the harbor.

Where can I go shopping in Baltimore Inner Harbor?

Harborplace pavilions were once a top destination in Maryland for shopping. Today, the waterfront buildings sit vacant, waiting for a new development to take its place. While we wait anxiously to see what new business will take up residence at the waterfront, head over to Harbor East for 12 blocks of walkable shops.

Is it Safe to Swim in the Inner Harbor?

Growing up, I always heard horror stories of how polluted the waters were. You would never catch me dipping a toe into the harbor.

For over a decade, the Healthy Harbor Initiative has been championing the goal of a swimmable, fishable Baltimore Harbor. After billions of dollars and substantial infrastructure improvements, the water testing shows that the harbor regularly meets the state’s standard for swimming beaches. This means that during the swim season, the Inner Harbor is safe for swimming. The Waterfront Partnership recommends that swimming only take place during scheduled events at designated locations.

How do I find parking in Baltimore Inner Harbor?

Using a parking garage is your closest, and more importantly, your safest bet. While the Inner Harbor is substantially safer than downtown Baltimore, I would still recommend exercising caution, especially at night.

The SpotHERO app and website is a great resource for finding parking in Baltimore. Not only does it provide a map of nearby parking garages with prices, but it also allows you to book a spot in advance. This is helpful during busy times like games or half-price days at the Aquarium.

If you do not want to pay for a parking garage, you might be able to find metered parking in the “Little Italy” neighborhood.

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This Post Has 36 Comments

  1. Linda (LD Holland)

    We have often travelled close to Maryland but never stopped to enjoy Baltimore and its inner harbour. Always love to visit the aquarium at a harbour city and get a view of the local sea life. We would definitely get out on the water to see the city from another perspective. A sunset cruise with live entertainment sounds fun. And who can miss the great seafood options in a harbour city like Baltimore!

    1. Lovicarious

      The Aquarium in Baltimore is definitely one of the bests. What other aquariums have you been to? We are actually hoping to visit the Atlanta aquarium in the fall!

  2. Raksha

    That’s an awesome list of activities to do while in Baltimore. I have never been there but would love to visit it someday. I like the historic boat sailing, will be an awesome way to enjoy the harbour and learning about the history. I would definitely consider visiting the aquarium as well for sure.

  3. Hannah

    Wow, it looks like there are so many great things to do! I’d love to visit the aquarium – your photograph looks stunning! Sunset at Federal Hill sounds magical! Thanks for the great guide!

    1. Lovicarious

      You’re welcome! Capturing beautiful photos at Baltimore’s Aquarium is easy, all of their exhibits are so well done! It is a must for when you visit the Inner Harbor.

  4. Petsitter Barbara

    Look at you with your beautiful baby! I’ve been to Baltimore, but one thing I haven’t done is hang with the locals on Water Street. I can’t wait to pet sit my way back there so I can!

    1. Lovicarious

      Aw thank you! We just welcomed this beautiful baby boy into our lives in March! This was his first big road trip and we think he had a good time…including on Water Street. 🙂

  5. Lisa

    I know nothing about Baltimore so I enjoyed reading this! You had me at crab cakes and your photos of the food, it sounds incredible! I’m a sucker for a good sunset, so I’d take your advice and go to Federal Hill. A great itinerary for Baltimore Inner Harbor!

    1. Lovicarious

      Federal Hill is a great place to spend the afternoon. You’ll see plenty of people playing in the park, enjoying a picnic, riding their bikes, etc. while they wait for the sun to set.

  6. Mike

    We are actually heading to the inner harbor later this year…so your blog is super timely. And that hotel RL looks super hip. Ok, but to be honest it’s that trifecta of dive bars that really caught my eye, we LOVE a good dive!

    1. Lovicarious

      Then you must check out that bar-filled alley! We were going to the 7-11 across the street when the street lights from the bars caught our eye. Exploring dives always make for a good time!

  7. Nish

    I never knew there was so much to do in Baltimore! Watching classical theatre would probably be my favorite activity!

    1. Lovicarious

      Honestly, I am surprised so many of our readers are fans of classical theatre! I am happy to learn that! Scott has the entire Shakespeare collection at home and I think we have watched maybe 3 Shakespearean plays together including one at London’s Globe Theatre!

  8. Bliss

    These are some great recommendations! I’ve pinned for later.

    1. Lovicarious

      Thanks for saving our article. Glad you found it helpful 🙂

  9. Natascha

    Harbor areas are always a great way to explore the history and culture of a city. I think I could spend several days at the Baltimore harbor area – it would be difficult to decide which museum to visit. The Aquarium would be definitely on top of the list. But also the History museum and the Museum of American African History and Culture would be interesting. And of course the FOOD!!

    1. Lovicarious

      You are right about the food. Feasting on Maryland crab is an absolute must whilst visiting the harbor!

  10. Subhashish Roy

    A wonderful list that appealed to my heart. Baltimore looks like a beautiful place. Anything to do with harbors has always appealed to me. An experience on a Historic Ship would be one of my priorities. And watching a theater a close second option. Thanks for this refreshing journey.

    1. Lovicarious

      There are several historic ships to choose from at the Inner Harbor. They have an all-in-one pass that allows you to board all of the boats for one price. It is a great opportunity to learn a little history while exploring some pretty neat ships.

  11. Agnes

    I haven’t been to Baltimore Inner Harbor yet, but it seems an exciting place. For sure I would like to visit National Aquarium as I love to photograph amazing fish and other fabulous water habitats. As a photographer, I would love to catch a sunset from Federal Hill for sure. Nightlife at Power Plant Live is a perfect idea for the end trip to Baltimore. I enjoy your guide and also like the restaurant’s recommendations.

    1. Lovicarious

      If you like to photograph fish then you MUST go to the National Aquarium. Their exhibits are so well done particularly the jellyfish exhibit. Colorful jellies are contrasted with a bright blue background accentuating all the colors and movements. Scott took a photo of me and the baby in front of one of these jelly exhibits and it is his new favorite photo.

  12. Kay

    I’ve heard AMAZINGGGG things about The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, but I actually had no clue it was in Baltimore!! Hahah. I really know nothing about Maryland, but it looks like a great summer destination! I hope I can visit soon, thanks for all of the new ideas!

    1. Lovicarious

      Oh wow, I’m glad you’ve already heard about the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company. The event they have in the ruins sounds like such a unique and memorable venue to watch a play. Baltimore is pretty large but this specific neighborhood (the Inner Harbor) is a great travel destination.

  13. Carol Colborn

    We did Fort McHenry and the American Visionary Arts Museum. But regret that we missed the National Aquarium. The Inner Harbor Cruise must have been awesome around Chesapeake Bay!!!

    1. Lovicarious

      The National aquariuam is so well done. I especially love their jellyfish exhibit. The bright blue background really contrasts with the jellyfish allowing you to see every movement. It is a great place to visit!

  14. Jan

    I love aquariums and harbors. I have visited the Baltimore inner harbor many years ago and also checked out a WWII submarine. It was an awesome experience. Your images look lovely especially the food image looks inviting! 🙂

  15. Trea

    I can’t get over how much there is to do there. I love how you also include the websites and locations on your post. That is so helpful. I’ve been to the Victoria Inner Harbour but it is nothing like this. Seems to be quite family friendly too! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Lovicarious

      The Baltimore Inner Harbor is very family-friendly. Our son was only 3 months when we went, so still too small to ride in those cute dragon boats. Next time though!

  16. Jill

    I had no idea there was so much to do at the harbor! The Power Plant Live and a sunset on Federal Hill sound so cool! Thanks for the guide 🙂

    1. Lovicarious

      We watched the sunset from Federal Hill and it provides such a great view of Baltimore and the Inner Harbor below. Hope you enjoy your trip to Baltimore!

  17. Bea

    Thanks for sharing all these tips. I’m going to be spending a lot of time in the US this year including Baltimore so it will come in very handy!

    1. Lovicarious

      Glad to hear it! Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is a great place to visit. Definitely don’t miss out on the Maryland crab cakes while you are here. It’s a must!

  18. Kate

    Baltimore Inner Harbor sounds like a great place to visit! I would love to check out the views from Top of the World and also to see the aquarium! The food all sounds so good too!

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