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Baltimore See And Do

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American Visionary Art Museum
800 Key Highway
Baltimore , Maryland
21230
Tel: 410 244 1900
www.avam.org

Don't go here expecting to see a collection of Old Masters and postmodern abstractionists. This Federal Hill museum has a populist mission: to celebrate the self-taught artistry of factory workers and farmers, institutionalized patients, even a respected Maryland surgeon. It could have been a recipe for disaster, but somehow it works, from the model of the ocean liner Lusitania fashioned from 193,000 toothpicks, to a "Bra Ball" rolled from 18,000 foundation garments by Emily Duffy. Another permanent exhibit celebrates a vanishing indigenous folk-art style—the window and door screens on East Baltimore row houses decorated with hand-painted landscapes. The museum gift shop maintains the hip irreverence with black-velvet paintings, coffee-table books about rodeo tailors, and a macabre action figurine of Marie Antoinette—complete with "ejector head."

Open Tuesdays through Sundays 10 am to 6 pm.

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Baltimore Museum of Art
10 Art Museum Drive (North Charles & 31st streets)
Baltimore , Maryland
21218
Tel: 443 573 1700
www.artbma.org

Set three miles north of the Inner Harbor in parklike Charles Village, adjacent to Johns Hopkins University, the Baltimore Museum of Art may surprise first-time visitors with the scope of its collection. The monumental neoclassical building designed by John Russell Pope holds major works by Botticelli, Van Dyck, Picasso, and Gauguin, castings of iconic sculptures by Rodin and Degas, and several dozen exquisite Antioch mosaics, which enliven a sun-splashed atrium courtyard. The core of the museum's holdings, including the largest number of works in the world by Matisse, is the Cone Collection. It was the gift of two thoroughly modern sisters, Etta and Claribel Cone, friends of Gertrude Stein who decorated their Baltimore apartment wall-to-wall with Impressionist masterpieces. The Cone Wing includes a touch-screen virtual tour of the sisters' amazing rooms. Given Maryland's importance in thoroughbred racing, the BMA also has an entire room devoted to English sporting art, with paintings by George Stubbs and the Tiffany-designed Woodlawn Vase, presented every May at nearby Pimlico racetrack to the winner of the Preakness Stakes. Plan on having lunch here: Instead of a pedestrian café, you'll find modern American fare at Gertrude's Restaurant, which overlooks the Sculpture Garden.

Open Wednesdays through Fridays 11 am to 5 pm, Saturdays and Sundays 11 am to 6 pm.

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Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine
2400 East Fort Avenue
Baltimore , Maryland
21230
Tel: 410 962 4290
www.nps.gov/fomc

The National Anthem was inspired by this world-famous fort commanding the entrance to Baltimore's Inner Harbor, which withstood a daunting 25-hour bombardment by British warships beginning September 13, 1814. The bastion's resilience—and the sight of the flag with its "bright stars and broad stripes" (15 in all)—prompted Francis Scott Key, a young Washington lawyer who was negotiating a prisoner exchange with the British aboard a truce ship, to pen his immortal poem. Exhibits at a small visitor center and throughout the restored ramparts trace the lengthy history of the star-shaped fort from its 1805 construction to its use as a Civil War prison for Confederate sympathizers—including, ironically, Key's grandson—and, later, a World War I hospital. The original banner now hangs in the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., but an exact replica of the 30-by-42-foot flag flies over the fort. You can arrive by land or by sea: Family-owned Ed Kane's Water Taxis (410-563-3901; www.thewatertaxi.com) stops at the fort's dock from April through October.

Open daily 8 am to 5 pm, with extended summer hours.

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National Aquarium in Baltimore
501 East Pratt Street
Baltimore , Maryland
21202
Tel: 410 576 3800
www.aqua.org

Just as Baltimore's Camden Yards influenced sports stadia across America, the aquarium's 1981 opening represented a watershed moment in urban fish-tank design. Rising five stories from the north side of the Inner Harbor and topped by a distinctive sail-shaped glass atrium, the structure is fins-down the city's most beloved attraction, luring 1.6 million visitors a year. Its exhibits cover the waterfront: In addition to colorful reef fish, there are areas devoted to such ecosystems as western Maryland waterfalls, the Amazon River, Pacific kelp forests, Australia (including a freshwater croc), and a tropical rain forest, complete with exotic birds. There is also a 4-D big-screen theater and de rigueur dolphin show, but the main attraction is the gi-normous Atlantic coral reef exhibit; visitors are treated to 360-degree views of jacks and angelfish while descending a spiraling walkway in the middle of the doughnut-shaped tank. Another theater in the round holds nurse, lemon, and sand-tiger sharks. Every other weekend, Atlantic Edge Dive Center (301-519-9283; www.atlanticedge.com) leads certified divers on a pair of 30-minute plunges inside the Atlantic reef tank and nearby "Wings in the Water," a shallow tray that holds sea turtles and stingrays.

Open daily 9 am to 5 pm.

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Oriole Park at Camden Yards
333 West Camden Street
Baltimore , Maryland
21201
Tel: 888 848 BIRD
www.orioles.com

Camden Yards was the game-changer when it debuted in 1992, sparking a retro-ballpark boom that continues to this day. The old-school brick facade, steel trusses, asymmetrical outfield fences, and natural turf lend a sense of intimacy to America's greatest pastime. Though the Orioles have long been mired in mediocrity, Baltimore still gets home-field advantage: The ballyard is just a ten-minute walk west of the Inner Harbor, and tickets are much easier to come by than at, say, Boston's Fenway Park. You can order tickets from the team or drop by Gate F, a designated "scalp-free zone," on most game days. Allow yourself pregame time to soak up the street-fair atmosphere on pedestrian-only Eutaw Street behind right field. The pavement holds baseball-shaped brass plaques commemorating epic home runs; a marker on the wall of the former B&O Railroad warehouse commemorates the longest ball, a 445-foot blast by Ken Griffey, Jr. Nearby, former Orioles slugger John "Boog" Powell rustles up pit beef and smoked-pork sandwiches at Boog's BBQ, while Sawmill Slat Bat Factory (410-643-8357; www.sawmillslat.com) will have an engraved ash or maple bat waiting for you by game's end. Once inside the park, follow the scent of Old Bay seasoning to Charm City Seafood, just behind home plate. Skip the peanuts and Cracker Jack and order a crab cake instead. On Tuesdays, Upper Reserve section seats are just $8, while kids 14 and under can run the bases after Sunday games. If the Birds aren't in town, it's still worth dropping by to tour the park.

The Walters Art Museum
600 North Charles Street
Baltimore , Maryland
21201
Tel: 410 547 9000
www.thewalters.org

A small museum with a strong personality, this institution owes its existence to William Walters, a 19th-century Baltimore railroad baron who annually opened his art-filled private residence in Mount Vernon, the city's toniest neighborhood. His son, Henry, an equally avid collector, commissioned a palazzo-style building to exhibit the family treasures and later bequeathed the whole lot to the city. That inheritance is a six-millennium survey of art history, from Egyptian mummies to Monet. Located one mile north of the Inner Harbor, the Walters is just the right size to digest in a few hours. Of special note are the Asian and medieval art, as well as the 17th-century Flemish Collection, which features a sumptuous "Chamber of Wonders" that shows off then-unfamiliar New World curiosities like a stuffed alligator, a walrus tusk, and a leopard skin. Another unusual museum attribute: free admission to the main collection and complimentary audio guides.

Open Wednesdays through Sundays 10 am to 5 pm.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.