Fun Things to Do in Baltimore That Don’t Cost Much
Baltimore is a great place for a vacation that doesn't have to break the bank. This guide will help you choose from affordable activities that everyone will enjoy.
Baltimore is a city rich in history, with attractions and activities to fit just about any budget. While some of the popular attractions can be expensive, there are plenty of free and low-cost activities to enjoy without breaking the bank.
Baltimore, which was founded in 1729, is one of the largest seaports in the United States, and it’s a great city for a family vacation or a long weekend trip. Baltimore has countless attractions, good transportation options, and a harbor that attracts millions of visitors each year. Even if you’re on a strict budget, it’s still possible to enjoy many of these attractions in the city. This guide will help you decide which of the cheap and even free activities to enjoy.
For Edgar Allan Poe Fans
Edgar Allan Poe was one of Baltimore’s most famous residents, and you can visit his original graveside. Located at the Westminster Burying Ground, this is the site of burial for Poe, his young wife, and his wife’s mother. For a small fee ($5 for adults), you can also tour the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum in Baltimore. Edgar Allan Poe reportedly lived in the house from 1833 to 1835.
America's First Cathedral
America’s first cathedral is located in Baltimore. The Basilica of the National shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was completed in the year 1821, and it was a symbol of the newfound religious freedom of the United States. This church was also the center of the country’s first archdiocese. The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (http://americasfirstcathedral.org/) is an amazing piece of architecture. Guided tours are available, or you can opt for an unguided tour, but because it is a church that is still in use by parishioners, there are specific hours for visitors.
Baltimore is known for its great number of historic monuments. Self-guided tours of these monuments are free to the public, and you can explore at your own pace. The Washington Monument was the first monument in the United States to honor George Washington, and was completed in 1829, long before the more famous Washington Monument in Washington, DC, was built. It is located in the Mount Vernon Place National Historic Landmark District, and you can climb all 228 steps to the top. Ft. McHenry, the fort known for its role in the War of 1812, was the inspiration for The Star-Spangled Banner. This fort in the shape of a star was used to defend Baltimore against the attack of the British Navy in the War of 1812. The Battle Monument also commemorates the War of 1812, and more specifically, the Battle of Baltimore. Another tribute to the War of 1812, the Armistead Monument is a bronze statue of Colonel George Armistead, and is located at Ft. McHenry. Moving on to a different war, the Lee-Jackson Monument is a tribute to the famous Confederate generals in the Civil War.
The Fallsway Fountain Monument is a somewhat unusual monument, in that it commemorates the building of the Fallsway, a roadway and sewer project from the 1920's that covered up the Jones Falls stream. The Jones Falls stream regularly flooded the area, so the project eliminated the common downtown flooding and made travel safer. There is also the Francis Scott Key Monument, which honors the famous composer of The Star-Spangled Banner. This monument is located in the Bolton Hill section of Baltimore, and there is another Francis Scott Key Monument at Ft. McHenry.
In addition to the many monuments located in Baltimore, there is the Federal Hill Historic District. This area of Baltimore is home to several hundred homes that date back to the 1700s, and many places that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. This district displays classic Baltimore architecture. You can wander through the neighborhoods, and there are approximately 30 historic sites located in the district.
The Inner Harbor
The Inner Harbor of Baltimore is a very popular place for tourists. It’s free to wander around the Harbor, and if there are visiting ships from foreign countries moored in the Harbor, you may be able to tour them. These ships from other countries are fascinating to tour, and they occasionally hand out small souvenirs. There is also a lighthouse that you can tour, free of charge. There are numerous restaurants and shops along the Harbor, too. At the Harborplace Amphitheater, there are live music and street performances throughout the year that are free of charge to the public. For those who enjoy spectacular views, check out the Top of the World Observation Level at Baltimore’s World Trade Center. The admission fee for the observation level is only $6 per adult.
The Lexington Market
The Lexington Market is a historic tradition in downtown Baltimore. This is an open air market, where you can find lots of restaurants, but you can also buy fresh fish, produce, and meats. You can even watch butchers at work. The Lexington Market is one of the longest-running markets in the world. There are a number of affordable restaurant options if you can’t resist the delicious smells of the market.
Parks and Green Space
Baltimore is known for its great, family-friendly parks. Pierce’s Park is located on the waterfront and features a musical fence, a living willow tunnel, and original art sculptures. One of these sculptures is a giant, stainless steel horn sculpture, which also doubles as a slide for children. Druid Hill Park is among the oldest landscaped public parks in the United States. It was also Baltimore’s first large public park. During the summer, there is a farmers’ market to browse, and there are ballfields, a disc golf course, and a pool to enjoy. Druid Hill Park is also the host to several festivals throughout the year. The Cylburn Arboretum is another popular park. It’s open Tuesday – Sunday, and it’s free of charge to the public. Dogs are also welcome, as long as they are leashed. You can find an extensive collection of trees, along with flower and vegetable gardens and trails.
Enoch Pratt Free Library
If you like to read, you’ll definitely want to make a trip to the Enoch Pratt Free Library. The central branch of the library system is located just north of downtown Baltimore and takes up almost an entire city block. The Enoch Pratt Free Library is one of the oldest free public library systems in the United States.
Museums and the Arts
Perhaps one of the best things about Baltimore is its low-cost or even free access to the arts. The Baltimore Museum of Art is free to the public, although there is a small charge for special exhibits. This museum is home to 19th century, modern, and contemporary art, and it is home to the Cone Collection of art, which is one of the best collections of modern French art in the United States. The Baltimore Museum of Art is open Wednesday – Sunday. The Walters Art Museum is another great opportunity to see wonderful art collections and is also free to the public. This museum contains art collections from all around the world, including pre-dynastic Egyptian art, Greek sculptures and medieval ivories, and 19th-century American works. The Walters Art Museum even has pieces of art dating back to 2300 BC. The Walters Art Museum is also open Wednesday – Sunday.
Another really cool place in Baltimore is the School 33 Art Center (http://www.school33.org/index.cfm). It first opened in 1979, as a space for contemporary artists. School 33 offers space for art exhibitions, studio space for professional artists, and classrooms for various art workshops. School 33 also works with the community to provide art programs, such as ceramics, for children and adults. It is open for the public to view art exhibits, and the gallery is open Wednesday – Saturday.
Public Pools and Splash Pads
Now that the best free activities have been covered, it’s time to mention a few equally fun, very affordable activities. Baltimore has a large number of public pools that are open during the summer, for very low fees. There are over 20 public and neighborhood pools in the city of Baltimore, and the price is only $1-$2 per person for a two-hour session. That’s a terrific bargain on its own, but to go even further, Baltimore has numerous splash pads throughout the city, and most of those are free to the public. In the summer, the Walter Sondheim Fountain is a great place to spend a hot afternoon. Located in West Shore Park, the Walter Sondheim Fountain is an interactive musical fountain and is a favorite spot for children.
The National Electronics Museum
Another very reasonably priced attraction is the National Electronics Museum. This museum covers the history of the United States’ defense electronics. Exhibits include telegraphs, radars, and satellites. The museum also has a library that serves as a research center, which is also open to the public. The National Electronics Museum is open Monday – Saturday, and the price of admission is $5 for adults and $3 for students and seniors. This museum offers educational programs for students and is host to the Robot Fest each year.
Another great thing about Baltimore is its transportation system. For $4, you can purchase a day pass for the light rail transit system and go anywhere in the city, without the hassle of traffic or parking. You can also access many of the previously mentioned attractions and sites via the light rail system.
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