The Inner Harbor is a waterfront neighborhood in downtown Baltimore, a city that rests on the Chesapeake Bay. For most of the history of Baltimore, the Inner Harbor was an area of substantial freight and passenger traffic. By the 1950s, the area had fallen on economic hard times.
Over time, much of the decrepit warehouses and rotting piers were torn down, and the area was gradually transformed into a recreational, cultural, and tourist center. The revitalization of the Inner Harbor neighborhood symbolized the revitalization of Baltimore itself.
The Inner Harbor consists of three main anchors, and numerous other establishments in between.
One anchor is Harborplace, a festival marketplace opened in 1980. Harborplace consists of the Pratt Street Pavilion, the Light Street Pavilion, and the four-story glass Gallery at Harborplace, which is connected to the Renaissance Hotel. All told, this complex of buildings houses 160 restaurants and shops, from the Cheesecake Factory to Victoria’s Secret.
The second anchor is the National Aquarium, a world-class aquarium opened in 1981. With 1.6 million visitors a year, it is Maryland’s number one tourist attraction. The Aquarium has 16,500 specimens, including green sea turtles, butterfly stingrays, zebra sharks, American bullfrogs, blue crabs, electric eels, giant Pacific octopuses, Pygmy marmosets, yellow-headed Amazon parrots, green moray eels, Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, spiny-tailed monitors, and over a dozen species of jellyfish. So highly regarded is the Aquarium that since 2005 its principals have also run Washington D.C.’s aquarium (also named the National Aquarium).
The third anchor is the Maryland Science Center, opened in 1976. This award winning facility includes an IMAX theater, a planetarium, an observatory, and numerous exhibits on such topics as dinosaurs, Newtonian physics, the human body, and the aquatic life of the Chesapeake Bay. Many of the exhibits are hands-on and interactive, making the Center especially appealing to children.
But in addition to these three major attractions, there is far more to see and do in and around the Inner Harbor neighborhood. Museums include the American Visionary Art Museum, the Baltimore Museum of Industry, Geppi’s Entertainment Museum, and the Civil War Museum. There are multiple arenas and halls for special events, including the Baltimore Convention Center, 1st Mariner Arena, and the Pier 6 Concert Pavilion. For sports, there’s Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles, and M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens, as well as the preserved row house where Babe Ruth was born.
The Inner Harbor is also a place to see many notable ships. Among them are:
* SS John W. Brown
One of two surviving Liberty ships. (Liberty ships were special cargo ships built during World War II for the lend-lease program to assist Great Britain.)
* USS Constellation
The last Civil War era ship still afloat.
* USCGC Taney
The last surviving ship attacked at Pearl Harbor that’s still afloat.
* USS Torsk
The last surviving submarine to sink an enemy ship during World War II.
From museums to ball games to concerts, to just taking a stroll, people watching, doing some shopping, and grabbing a bite to eat, locals and tourists alike will find as much to do in this downtown area of Baltimore as in most whole cities. The Inner Harbor has plenty to attract visitors of all ages and tastes.
“Baltimore Attractions.” Baltimore City.
“Baltimore Inner Harbor.” Baltimore.to.
“Harborplace & the Gallery.” Harborplace.com.