Best of Baltimore, Maryland - Maryland Blue Crabs

Best Things to Do in Baltimore

BY Fifty Grande Editors | August 12, 2020

Welcome to Fifty Grande’s Best of the U.S. Bucket List series. This is your one-stop travel guide to the best, most unique and quintessential experiences of a city, state or event. Want to know how to “do” Baltimore? We’ve got you covered. Curated by experts, vetted by in-the-know locals, this is all you need to have the best trip ever. If we’ve written a Bucket List, we recommend you go. If it’s on this list, it’s the best the city has to offer right now. Consider this your one-stop answer to “What are the best things to do in Baltimore?”

If everything you know about Charm City comes from “The Wire,” you probably know something about TV law enforcement, but you’re missing out. Baltimore is a city of layers. It’s amped on the O’s and emerging indie bands. It’ll serve up a tableful of crab legs, then a slice of literary tradition. It’ll serve you on American history and then avant-garde art exhibits. You can get a harborside beer from a crusty sailor on the same block as innovative craft cocktails. And once you’re there, you’ll want to experience it all, because if we can quote Detective Freamon out of context, “all the pieces matter.” Here’s how to experience Baltimore right now.

You’re here for the country’s best crabs (and to get a snowball)

Maryland crabs are the best. Period. It doesn’t matter whether they’re spilled onto an open table or molded into flaky, melt-in-your-mouth crab cakes. Bo Brooks and L.P. Steamers are popular choices, but you can hardly turn a corner without walking into a crab house, and you really can’t go wrong. That is, unless you decide to leave Baltimore without having a single crab-centric meal. And for a refreshing final course, hit up a snowball stand, which serves mounds of shaved ice with fruit flavoring topped with marshmallow cream.

L.P. Steamers
#1
L.P. Steamers

L.P. Steamers

1100 E Fort Ave, Baltimore, MD, USA

A laid-back shack with a rep for serving fresh steamed crabs without pretense. 

Bo Brooks bar on the water
#2
Bo Brooks bar on the water

Bo Brooks

2780 Lighthouse Point East, Baltimore, MD, USA

For a second, let’s press pause on their crabs and consider this: Bo Brooks is right on the Canton waterfront and has a tiki bar up front. Sure, it’s a tad touristy, but to recap: on the water, tiki bar plus steamed crabs.

Ice Queens Snow Ice
#3
Ice Queens Snow Ice

Ice Queens

1648 E Fort Ave, Baltimore, MD, USA

They’re brand new but serve up classic snowballs using a New Orleans-style ice machine. 

Where to spend a morning

Imagine George Washington and Thomas Jefferson picking up some eggs on their way to debate constitutional amendments, crunching local apples during a heated back-and-forth on the Bill of Rights. Some of their Baltimore stop-offs are still thriving today, mainly the Lexington Market.

Lexington Market
#4
Lexington Market

Lexington Market

400 W Lexington St, Baltimore, MD, USA

Founded in 1782, this local food hub is America’s oldest market and almost as old as the United States itself. Today, it’s the best place to sample Baltimore’s local flavors — everything from BBQ to baked goods to breakfasts to farm-fresh fruits and meats. But if there’s one area where the market excels, it’s seafood. Pick up some crab cakes or fish that were swimming in the Atlantic just days before.

Walk Hampden

Once a mill industry hub, Hampden is now one of the city’s hot spots, loaded with craft coffee shops, food trucks, lively cocktail bars, experimental art galleries and never-know-what-you’ll-find thrift stores, many in converted row houses. While you wander, keep an eye out for eclectic street murals, like the famous Baltimore Love Project. For peak Charm City—all of Baltimore distilled to a single stretch of pavement—walk 36th. 

Hampden
#5
Hampden neighborhood. Photo: Shutterstock

Hampden neighborhood

Hampden, Baltimore, MD, USA

Get to know “raw art” (or something more traditional)

“Raw art” a.k.a. “art brut” a.k.a. “outsider art” typically flies below the radar, but not in Baltimore. The American Visionary Art Museum puts non-mainstream artists under the spotlight, allowing their work to shine. Of course, mainstream art isn’t bad. We’d venture to say (bold opinion alert) that it’s incredibly worthwhile. So visit the Walters Art Museum and the Baltimore Museum of Art if you’d like, but definitely don’t miss the AVAM.

American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM)
#6
American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM). Photo: Shutterstock

American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM)

800 Key Hwy, Baltimore, MD, USA

This is not your grandmother’s art collection. It’s not Rembrandts and Van Goghs gazing at each other across stark white hallways. Instead, it showcases extraordinary pieces from people in the periphery of the mainstream art world.

Local legends to know

In the late 2000s, Baltimore’s local music scene was one of the most burgeoning in the country. That hasn’t changed as much as it has evolved over the past decade — the scene becoming more diverse and eclectic — but where to see local bands has remained the same. Here are two of the prominent ones. 

Ottobar
#7
Ottobar via theOttobar.com

Ottobar

2549 N Howard St, Baltimore, MD, USA

Ottobar’s been a wild anchor to the Baltimore music scene since 1997, when it was in the heart of downtown. Located on Howard Street since 2001, it’s still a place to find an eclectic lineup of local artists intermixed with headliners like the White Stripes and Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

8x10 Club Baltimore
#8
8x10 Club Baltimore

The 8x10

10 E Cross St, Baltimore, MD, USA

Tucked in among some of Federal Hill’s most popular bars, the 8×10 Club has been rocking for decades. They book emerging local artists as well as national tours. The 400-person venue has an upstairs with a cool U-shaped balcony. Check it.

Where to grab a drink

Baltimore hasn’t been immune to the craft brewery surge of the past 20 years, but it offers much more. 

Fell's Point
#9
Fell's Point

Fell’s Point

Fell's Point, Baltimore, MD, USA

This waterfront neighborhood has accumulated more bars, pubs and restaurants per square foot than anywhere else in America. It’s arguably Baltimore’s best neighborhood for nightlife. Beer aficionados, don’t miss Max’s Taphouse, while whiskey fans should hit Birds of a Feather. For an authentic Fell’s Point nautical experience, try the Cat’s Eye Pub, which has live music every day (yep, all 365). 

Sagamore Spirit
#10
Sagamore Spirit

Sagamore Spirit

301 E Cromwell St, Baltimore, MD, USA

While Baltimore produces great beer, its first love is rye whiskey, and very few (if any) make it better than Sagamore. Book a tour to sample award-winning whiskeys and discover Baltimore’s distilling history. 

The Brewer's Art
#11
The Brewer's Art

The Brewer’s Art

1106 N Charles St, Baltimore, MD, USA

Since 1996, this brewpub has been doling out Belgian-style beers and creative meals to accompany them. They run their operation out of an elegant Mount Vernon townhouse that offers top-quality drinks and a laid-back vibe.

Watch the wacky Kinetic Sculpture Race

There’s only one place in the country where you can watch a sheet metal dragon race an astronaut cow over an all-terrain track, and that’s every May in Baltimore. Is it art or a race? Yes. Kinetic sculptures are human-powered works of art that traverse streets, water and mud during the eight-hour event. Talented artists come from all over, donning madcap costumes and driving a 20-plus–foot crocodile or a giant cup of noodles. The race is a perfect blend of excitement, artistic appreciation and just plain lighthearted fun. You can find these sculptures on display year-round at the AVAM.   

Canton Waterfront in Baltimore
#12
Aerial view of Canton Waterfront in Baltimore. Pic: Shutterstock

Canton Waterfront

3001 Boston St, Baltimore, MD, USA

This is where the amphibious sculptures take to the water, testing their seafaring capabilities. Whether they sink or float, it’s a great place to spectate. 

Plan an only-in-Baltimore afternoon

Your bartender might spin tales about a famous writer who faked his death or claim that the “Star-Spangled Banner” manuscript is stashed behind some whiskey barrels, and you can listen and nod, but you should really go see for yourself. 

Cannons at Fort McHenry, Baltimore
#13
Cannons at Fort McHenry, Baltimore. Pic: Shutterstock.

Fort McHenry

2400 E Fort Ave, Baltimore, MD, USA

When Francis Scott Key penned “O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,” he was watching the British bombardment of Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore. Visit the fort and you’ll be standing in the spot where the broad stripes and bright stars waved through the perilous fight, now immortalized in a national monument and historic shrine. 

Edgar Allen Poe House
#14
Edgar Allen Poe House

Edgar Allan Poe House

203 North Amity Street, Baltimore, MD, USA

Here, you can see Poe’s personal possessions alongside exhibits on his life and death. Then, visit The Horse You Came In On Saloon, where he downed his last drink before his mysteriously unsolved death (how fitting). True Poe fanatics should also visit his grave and emulate the famous masked “Poe Toaster,” who for 75 years visited Poe’s headstone on the writer’s birthday and drank a glass of cognac.  

Stroll Inner Harbor

There’ll obviously be a lot of sightseers here, but for good reason. The National Aquarium is one of the nation’s best, and the historic ships will keep any boat-lover busy. Dive in headfirst and really own your tourist persona.

National Aquarium
#15
National Aquarium, Baltimore. Photo: Shutterstock

National Aquarium

501 E Pratt St, Baltimore, MD, USA

It’s got 17,000+ specimens and exhibits featuring the tropical rainforest, Atlantic coral reefs, sharks, dolphins and jellyfish.

U.S.S. Constellation
#16
U.S.S. Constellation

U.S.S. Constellation

301 E Pratt St, Baltimore, MD, USA

One of Baltimore’s famed historic ships, and the only Civil War ship still floating.

Camden Yards, Baltimore
#17
Camden Yards, Baltimore

Camden Yards

333 W Camden St, Baltimore, MD, USA

Yep, the Orioles play right near the water. It’s often considered a must-visit by ballpark enthusiasts, up there with popular list-toppers like Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and Yankee Stadium.