WHEN TO GO
Baltimore's temperate climate extends the tourist season from early spring until late fall. Its waterfront location makes for mild winters and summers: Temperatures rarely dip below freezing or surpass 90 degrees. Book early if you want to attend May's Preakness Stakes, the second contest in thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown. In mid-June, the Hampden neighborhood turns into a sea of beehives, spandex, and blue eye shadow for the annual HonFest, a quirky tribute to towering hairdos and '60s kitsch.
HOW TO GET THERE
Usually referred to as "BWI," the Baltimore/Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport (410-859-7111; www.bwiairport.com) is located 10 miles southwest of Baltimore and 30 miles northeast of Washington, D.C. A major transportation center, it offers nonstop service to scores of American cities, and discounter Southwest operates heavily out of the airport. A light-rail line (410-539-5000; www.mtamaryland.com) connects the airport with downtown Baltimore, while free shuttle buses link to Amtrak's BWI Rail Station (410-672-6169; www.amtrak.com), about one mile from the terminal. Amtrak trains along the Northeast Corridor also make scheduled stops at Baltimore's Penn Station, located a mile and a half north of the Inner Harbor.
Baltimore is a relatively compact city, so if you'd prefer to avoid the hassle of driving unfamiliar streets, you can leave the car at home. The city operates an aboveground light-rail system with a line running from the northern suburb of Timonium south through the city to the suburb of Glen Burnie. It's a great way to get between the Inner Harbor and Camden Yards and the performing-arts district, though it closes at midnight. It's best to get a day pass for $3.50, which also gives you unlimited access to city buses. Water taxis offer a more festive (if less efficient) way to get around town. Day passes ($8 for adults, $4 for children) allow you to stop off at Harborplace, Little Italy, Fells Point, Canton, and Fort McHenry. At night, stick to cabs, which are plentiful and reasonably priced.
The Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association (877-225-8466; www.baltimore.org) operates a helpful information center on the west side of the Inner Harbor. There are free daily walking tours from May 1 to November 2, and free packets of spicy Old Bay seasoning year-round.