Three Reasons to Plan a Visit to Fort McHenry
Get outdoors, enjoy the scenery and learn about the historic site that inspired our national anthem.
Fort McHenry is best known for its successful defense of the city during the famous Battle of Baltimore that inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover or just looking for something fun to do, here are three reasons why you should add this iconic destination to your itinerary.
1. It’s the birthplace of our national anthem
The first fort commissioned by the U.S. government, Fort McHenry was tested during the War of 1812 when the British attempted to take over Baltimore. Despite days of bombardment by British forces, the young fort prevented the enemy advance. Amateur poet Francis Scott Key wrote “The Defense of Fort McHenry” in tribute to the victory. The poem was later set to music and became our national anthem.
Immerse yourself in the history with re-enactments, flag talks, ranger programs and the opportunity to raise a replica of the original Star-Spangled Banner.
Here are a few more fun facts about Fort McHenry:
- Whenever a new flag is designed for use by the United States, it is first flown over Fort McHenry, over the same ramparts referred to in our National Anthem.
- The flag that flew over the fort during the War of 1812 was the largest garrison flag ever flown, measuring 30 feet high by 42 feet wide, so the British could not miss it. Want to know more about how that flag was made? Visit the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House.
2. It’s a great place to stretch your legs
Fort McHenry is a National Park site and the grounds surrounding it are open to the public for free. There is a path for walking, running or biking that circles the fort and lines the water’s edge, making for some amazing views while you get your exercise. There is also plenty of room for a picnic or playtime with the kids.
3. It’s a fun spot for events
Fort McHenry has a full calendar of events designed to bring history to life for visitors. Living history programs take place every weekend in the spring and summer months. And special events like fife and drum camp and junior ranger day teach children about the legacy of the fort.
Each September, Fort McHenry celebrates Defenders’ Day, honoring the success of the Battle of Baltimore. Participate in a weekend of parades, living history demonstrations, music and a fireworks show. They host an annual Star Spangled Spectacular benefit to raise money for and celebrate The Friends of Fort McHenry.
During Fleet Week, which happens every two years in Baltimore, Fort McHenry is a prime viewing spot for the air show. Bring a blanket or chair to watch from the lawn.
Frequently asked questions about Fort McHenry
How can I get to Fort McHenry?The park is located just three miles southeast of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and is accessible via car or bus. Maryland Transit Authority buses and the Charm City Circulator drop visitors off outside the main gate. See the park’s website for more details.
How much does it cost to visit Fort McHenry?It costs $15 to enter the historic area of Fort McHenry for children and adults aged 15 and older. Children under 15 can enter for free. This fee grants you 7-day access to the Fort McHenry National Monument and Shrine. As Fort McHenry is part of the National Park Service, you can also use an Interagency Annual Pass to enter the park for free!
What are Fort McHenry's visiting hours?The fort is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, with extended hours during the summer months. Pets are welcome as long as they are leashed and remain outside of the historic footprint of the fort. See the National Park Service website for more information.