Thursday, November 26, 2009
Baltimore’s waterfront offers dining, shopping, history and fun. By land or sea, Baltimore’s Inner Harbor reveals the allure of maritime life. By Susan Weissman
Water is Baltimore’s lifeblood: The focal point of that energy is concentrated in the Inner Harbor, where revitalization of the city’s gritty waterfront took hold in the 1970s to counter urban flight. Early on, development was concentrated along Pratt Street, between Light and President, with a waterfront promenade connecting the attractions. In came the National Aquarium in Baltimore, the swanky shops and eateries at Harborplace & The Gallery, and a 24/7 streetscape of energy and entertainment.
Longshoremen and sailors may be a rare sight nowadays, but the city’s nautical heritage is alive and well. Historic attractions thrive alongside the professionals who people the landscape today, making their way from the nearby financial district to the bustling waterfront for lunch or open-air jazz.
Explore Baltimore’s Inner Harbor aboard one of Ed Kane’s world-famous Water Taxis. For more than 25 years the company has ferried passengers—more than 16 million to date—between the many attractions located along the water. Water Taxis provide continual service from all landings every 15 to 20 minutes from April through October. Fewer boats operate during the winter.
Taste of the Chesapeake
Blue crabs define the flavor of Baltimore. The local preference is for hard-shells, a delicacy in season from April through November. Try the tasty crustaceans at Phillips at Harborplace or the Rusty Scupper. (Water Taxi stop 4)
Cobblestones and Barnacles
The oldest part of the city, Fell’s Point, is a 17th-century maritime village with cobblestone streets and row houses. Salty bars and quirky restaurants bring the neighborhood to life. Abolitionist Frederick Douglass came here as a slave to learn shipbuilding. He would remark later in life that “going to live in Baltimore laid the foundation, and opened the gateway, to all my subsequent prosperity.” A maritime park was established in his honor. (Water Taxi stop 11)
The National Aquarium in Baltimore is the city’s top attraction. The five-story glass building holds more than 14,000 animals. Flipper and friends perform daily at the Dolphin Amphitheater, and rainbow-colored frogs delight listeners with their operatic repertoire. For those who dare, don’t pass up an opportunity to sleep with the sharks, an actual sleepover that’s part of the aquarium’s premium tour series.
From Harborplace, catch the Water Taxi heading southeast to Fort McHenry, where an enormous American flag flies above the star-shaped fort. The defense of the fort by 1,000 Americans during the Battle of Baltimore inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
All Hands on Deck
The last all-sail warship built by the U.S. Navy, the USS Constellation is now a permanent fixture in the Inner Harbor. An on-board museum celebrates the city’s maritime history.