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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.


Flag flying over Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine.

Fort McHenry flies a replica of the same flag from the War of 1812 with 15 stars and 15 stripes.

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