Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, Baltimore
Baltimore , Maryland
Tel: 410 962 4290
Concierge.com's insider take:
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.