Must-Do Baltimore Experiences for First-Time Visitors
New to Baltimore? Find out where to sleep, eat, play—and everything in between—on your first trip to Charm City.
So you’re headed to Baltimore for your first-ever visit—welcome! Our city is loaded with fascinating history, world-class attractions, picturesque waterfront scenery and plenty of charm, and we invite you to experience all of it. There’s enough to do here to fill several visits—but here’s our must-do list for any first-time visitor to Charm City.
Where to Stay During Your First Trip to Baltimore
If you’re new to Baltimore, what better way to lean into the charm of this city than with a stay along the scenic waterfront? If you can swing the splurge, book a night or two at the Sagamore Pendry. A reinvention of Fell’s Points’ historic 100-year-old Recreation Pier, this glamorous hotel is home to an outdoor pool deck overlooking the harbor and an Italian steakhouse called Rec Pier Chop House, with products from Baltimore food and drink distributors in the minibars.
You’ll also have an opulent experience at The Ivy, a Black-owned luxury hotel in the historic Mount Vernon neighborhood. This stunning converted 1880s mansion features 18 spacious rooms, a complimentary car service to bring you to the hotel, a library, a conservatory and more.
Looking for something a little more homey? Check out one of Baltimore’s B&Bs. The 1840s Carollton Inn is a historic boutique hotel composed of connected 19th-century row homes. Its 13 rooms feature cozy amenities like fireplaces with ornate wooden mantles, crystal chandeliers and whirlpool tubs. Rachael Dowry’s Bed and Breakfast also has an impressive history—it hosted George and Martha Washington in 1798. Located in downtown Baltimore, it is a short walk from the Convention Center, Inner Harbor, Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium.
Eat This, Then That...
Start your day with a hearty breakfast from Miss Shirley’s, a renowned, family-friendly favorite, featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives. We recommend the pancake or French toast of the month, made from seasonal flavors such as pumpkin or egg nog. If you tend toward the savory side, you won’t want to miss the Chicken ‘n Cheddar green onion waffles or the eggs benedict with crab cake and fried green tomatoes.
Baltimoreans know how to brunch. See a full list of our favorite breakfast spots around the city.
No trip to Baltimore is complete without blue crab. We can teach you how to pick ’em, but no worries if you don’t want to get your hands dirty! Maryland crabs come in many forms, whether they’re seasoned with Old Bay, woven into a pasta dish or sprinkled on top of french fries.
For lunch or dinner, head to Faidley’s Seafood in Lexington Market, the country’s oldest continuously running public market. Dig into a massive crab cake made from jumbo lump and backfin combined with a saltine crust—third generation co-owner Nancy Faidley-Devine still makes each by hand. While you’re there, pick up a Berger cookie from Berger’s Bakery; the fudge-and-shortcake treat is a local tradition.
As a city on the water, you’re never too far from fresh seafood in Baltimore. See our guide to the best seafood Charm City has to offer.
Grab a Baltimore-Brewed Beer
Baltimore was once known as a wet city due to its aversion to Prohibition rules, so it’s safe to say we have no shortage of watering holes. Here, you can enjoy a beer in a converted church or try a cocktail in an award-winning speakeasy. We’re also home to the only stateside Guinness brewery, Open Gate, as well as a host of local craft breweries and distilleries. Whether you’re looking for a place to pregame a Ravens or Orioles game, enjoy a romantic evening or try something experimental, there’s a Baltimore bar for every occasion.
Spend the Day by the Bay
There’s a reason why the Inner Harbor is Baltimore’s crown jewel. Along the seven-mile promenade you’ll find gorgeous views of the water, delicious eateries and several classic Charm City attractions. Start by booking tickets to the National Aquarium, one of the city’s most popular (and impressive) tourist attractions, where 20,000 sea animals swim and play. At the Living Seashore exhibit, you can get up close and personal with underwater creatures like stingrays and moon jellies.
You can also spend the day with animals at the Maryland Zoo in Druid Hill Park, just a 15-minute drive from the Inner Harbor. In addition to an award-winning African penguin exhibit and other adorable animals, the Zoo also hosts family-friendly events like paint nights, yoga and breakfast with the animals.
From there, take a Water Taxi to charming Federal Hill, where you can view historic row houses, Belgian block stone streets and cozy shops and restaurants. If you have the time, ponder the creativity of self-taught artists on display at the American Visionary Art Museum, itself a work of art with its glittering mosaic of mirrored tiles. If you visit in May, be sure to catch the Kinetic Sculpture Race; it’s a wonderfully wacky Baltimore tradition more than 20 years in the making! Keep your eyes peeled for Mr. Trash Wheel, the semi-autonomous machine that’s helped collect 1,760 tons of trash and debris from the Inner Harbor to date.
Visit Baltimore's Must-See Museums
No matter what you want to know, Baltimore has a little something to satisfy any curiosity. History buffs can take a tour of Fort McHenry, where Francis Scott Key was inspired to write the national anthem during the War of 1812. You can then see the original, hand-written manuscript of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the Maryland Center for History and Culture in Mount Vernon.
Artsy types are also in luck: Baltimore has several free art museums, including the Baltimore Museum of Art in Charles Village (home to more than 1,000 Matisse originals!) and the beautiful Walters Art Museum in Mount Vernon.
Get hands-on at the Maryland Science Center, where the whole family can dig for dinosaur fossils, identify constellations and sit on a bed of needles.
As a predominantly African American city, Baltimore has a rich Black culture and heritage. To learn more about all aspects of this legacy, visit the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, the National Great Blacks In Wax Museum or the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Museum. Use our free BoP pass to get exclusive discounts to these attractions and more!
Read our comprehensive guide to discover more about Baltimore’s African American culture.
Support Baltimore's Makers and Entrepreneurs
Baltimore boasts a thriving creative community, so your souvenirs are bound to be anything but boring. You’ll find hidden vintage gems at Hampden’s Hunting Ground, Milk & Ice Vintage and Wishbone Reserve. While in the neighborhood, bibliophiles should stop by Atomic Books, which offers “literary finds for mutated minds.” This eclectic bookstore serves as the fan mail collection center for famed Baltimore native, artist and filmmaker John Waters and features a cozy bar in the back for hosting events.
Highlandtown is the place to find one-of-a-kind art pieces designed by local creatives. Hit up Night Owl Gallery, Highlandtown Gallery and Springsteen Gallery. As you wander, be on the lookout for the neighborhood’s numerous public art installations and murals—the 14-foot BUS sign outside Creative Alliance is a local favorite.
Baltimore’s Black-owned businesses infuse the city with culture, knowledge, creativity and style. Our African American entrepreneurs provide tasty homemade treats, hand-poured candles, paper goods, couture fashions and more, and new businesses are opening up all the time.
Want More Can't-Miss Experiences?
There's always something to discover in Baltimore. On your next trip to Charm City, consider:
- Enjoying live music at Rams Head Live, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra or The Lyric. From classical, to rock-n-roll and showtunes, we’ve got it all!
- Rooting for the home team(s)—the Ravens, the Orioles and our championship indoor soccer team, the Baltimore Blast—at M&T Bank Stadium, Camden Yards or Royal Farms Arena. No matter the season, you’re in for a great game.
Walking, jogging or biking your way around the city. We’re home to 4,000 acres of public parkland and hiking paths, so you can spend your whole weekend outdoors.
- Spending the day on the water. It doesn’t get more Baltimore than the Chesapeake Bay, so hop on a Water Taxi, paddleboat or kayak to soak up some Vitamin D.
- Doing nothing at all! We get it, some vacations are meant for rest and relaxation. Luckily, we’ve got a host of spas and wellness centers waiting to pamper you. Go ahead, book the massage and the facial – you deserve it.
Exploring by neighborhood. Each offers a distinct personality all its own with even more restaurants, shops and attractions. Check out our neighborhood guide to see where to begin.
Know Before You Go
Get answers to the most frequently asked questions about Baltimore
Is Baltimore safe?Like any major city, you need to be aware of your surroundings. We recommend that visitors follow best safety practices including: plan your route before you go, avoid walking alone in unlit areas and keep your valuables out of sight. Baltimore City Police Commissioner, Michael Harrison, and Visit Baltimore’s President & CEO, Al Hutchinson, talk about maximizing safety in an urban city in this short video.
What forms of public transportation are available in Baltimore?The Maryland Transit Authority (MTA) operates commuter and local bus routes, Metro Subway, Light Rail, and weekday MARC train service between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Call the MTA 410-539-5000 or visit www.mtamaryland.com for more information about MARC and our other services. Click here for more information about other transportation options.
Where can I find parking in Baltimore?
Where is the Visitor Center located?The Baltimore Visitor Center is located at 401 Light Street on the west shore of the Inner Harbor Promenade. Find out more about what’s available at the Baltimore Visitor Center and hours of operation.
Can I visit Baltimore on a budget?Visiting Baltimore doesn't mean you need to break the bank! From museums to historic landmarks to local breweries, there's so much to explore for under $20. Want it even cheaper? See our favorite things to do in Baltimore for free.
Do you have a visitor guide?
How is the city handling COVID-19?Baltimore is ready to welcome back visitors, and we're doing our part to keep you safe and healthy during your trip. Our restaurants, attractions and hotels are receiving GBAC STAR accreditation (an internationally recognized standard for cleaning and sanitization) to show their commitment to protecting you while you're here. For more information regarding public health protocols and safe attractions, see here.