Would any of us particularly care about Baltimore were we not Hopkins students? Despite recent promotion as a fun, exciting destination, our city has yet to appeal to the masses like Los Angeles or New York. And if you had previously visited Baltimore, it probably wasn’t to our neighborhood. For those who are tourists, the main draw of Baltimore is the Inner Harbor.
The Inner Harbor, just a quick ride down the Charm City Circulator Purple Line, includes both the actual waterfront and the surrounding area. As gimmicky as tourist hotspots often are, the Inner Harbor avoids the usual stereotypes. It’s actually quite exciting, with plenty of attractions and sights.
Perhaps you stopped by the Harbor with family during your Hopkins visit in high school. Or, depending on the luck of your First Year Mentor group on Orientation Week’s Baltimore Day, you may have visited just once as a freshman. As Baltimoreans (which we all become as Hopkins students, though some of us are enclosed in our bubble), it’s easy to forget that the touristy parts of the city are fun and full of history. The Inner Harbor is both a vacation destination and enjoyable for those have easy access to drop by.
I’ve visited the Harbor a few times since beginning at Hopkins last year. Each time has been a totally different experience, and I’ve only scratched the surface of what the Harbor has to offer. Among the highlights:
National Aquarium in Baltimore
One of the most notable structures in the Inner Harbor, the triangular-shaped glass building is part of one of the country’s largest aquariums.
I believe that once you’ve seen 30 kinds of fish, you’ve seen enough, but the aquarium has many other attractions as well. A Tropical Rainforest exhibit includes a walk beneath towering trees, surrounded by birds, while the Jellies Invasion room held me captive staring at the entrancing creatures. The dolphin shows in particular stand out — my friends and I once went to two shows in three hours.
If you’re truly committed, invest in a membership. You’ll be able to visit as much as you’d like for a year. Or use my strategy, which is befriending those who purchased family passes and are kind enough to let you tag along for free.
Historic Ships in Baltimore
No, I’m not referring to the dragon paddle boats (although my goal is to ride at least once before graduating). There are four ships of historical import to America docked in the Harbor. Each is now a museum.
Visitors walk above and below deck, learning about each ship’s battles and sailing conditions. Especially interesting are the submarine USS Torsk and the Coast Guard ship USCGC Taney. The tight size of the USS Torsk — not much more than 300 feet long — led to my amazement at the fact that 80 men were able to live and operate inside, while underwater, for any period of time. The USCGC Taney, the last surviving warship that fought in the attack on Pearl Harbor, was more spacious but stifling in a different way, with intense heat below deck (I’d advise not visiting the ships on the hottest day of the summer, as I did).
Get a Squadron or Fleet Pass, and you can tour either two or four ships, plus the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse, for less than $20.
Pratt Street Power Plant
Another of Baltimore’s notable landmarks, this structure was originally completed in 1909. The Power Plant was used by the City throughout the 20th century. Now the space is known to most as a large Barnes & Noble, with a massive Hard Rock Cafe guitar displayed before the out-of-use steam stacks. Hard Rock Cafe sits to the right of the bookstore, with Phillips Seafood to the left. Personally, I wish that the building still operated its indoor Six Flags Power Plant park, but it’s been shut down since 1990. Power Plant Live!, a nearby plaza with nightclubs and restaurants, is named after the Pratt Street location.
Camden Yards Sports Complex
Baltimore’s Major League Baseball team, the Orioles, play here in Oriole Park. With the baseball season nearing its end, now is the time to visit. A 20-minute walk from the Inner Harbor waterfront, catch a game to finish the day. Just be aware that you’ll likely be surrounded by angry fans — the season hasn’t been great for our City’s team. Best of luck, O’s!
Forget that this is the touristy area. When a place is enjoyable to visit, it’s worth visiting. The Inner Harbor has attractions for everyone, is a free bus ride away and easily provides a few hours’ escape from the school we call home.