Baltimore has more than its fair share of wonderful tourist attractions. Visitors will find a large number of excellent hotels and inns to choose from, many of them located right in the heart of the Inner Harbor action. Lively downtown is just a few blocks away and also boasts many convenient hotels for all tastes and budgets.
1. The Lord Baltimore Hotel
© The Lord Baltimore Hotel
The Lord Baltimore Hotel perfectly combines character-packed historical architecture with modern, elegant guestrooms and suites where both business and leisure travelers can relax and unwind. The hotel is located just three blocks from all the attractions of Inner Harbor and has partnered with several popular tourist attractions to offer visitors a range of inclusive packages to enhance your visit to Charm City. There are no less than 403 rooms and suites to choose from, each of which offers extra luxuries such as complimentary Wi-Fi, in-room refrigerators, custom-designed linens, and coffeemakers. The Lord Baltimore has a variety of venues for cocktails and dining, including the LB Tavern, the Skybar, and the lovely French Kitchen.
The Lord Baltimore, 20 W Baltimore St, Baltimore, MD 21201, Phone: 410-539-8400
2. Four Seasons
© Four Seasons
Visitors to Baltimore will find that the Four Seasons Hotel is ideally located in the vibrant Harbor East district; all the guestrooms have great views out over the harbor, the Baltimore skyline, and the surrounding areas of Fell’s Point and Little Italy. Whether you choose a standard room or suite or opt for a private balcony, you can expect floor-to-ceiling windows, elegant modern styling, and various room configurations suitable for both family vacations and romantic couple’s escapes. Everything you need for a relaxing stay is provided, including in-room espresso machines, marble bathrooms, and complimentary Wi-Fi. When you are not exploring the amazing museums, galleries, and boutiques of Baltimore you can have a workout in the gym, take a swim in the lap pool, or enjoy the full-service spa.
Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore, 200 International Drive, Baltimore, MD 21202, Phone: 410-576-5800
3. Sagamore Pendry, Baltimore
© Sagamore Pendry
Located on Baltimore’s historic Recreation Pier in Fell’s Point and boasting a breathtaking harbor-side pool, the Sagamore Pendry Hotel has one of the most idyllic and stylish settings in the city. The hotel has been beautifully restored to its original 1914 glory and welcomes visitors to come and relax and unwind in stylish rooms and suites, all of which overlook the harbor or a peaceful garden courtyard. The location of the hotel is perfect for visiting Lexington Market (where you sample food at over 100 vendors and enjoy live music) and Fort McHenry. To visit a little further afield, you can use the Baltimore Water Taxi service. A fitness center and spa complete the picture.
Sagamore Pendry Baltimore, 1715 Thames St, Baltimore, MD 21231, Phone: 443-552-1400
4. Hotel Brexton
© Hotel Brexton
Hotel Brexton is located just ten blocks north of Inner Harbor and is one of the city’s many historic hotels that have been brought thoroughly up to date without losing their charm. The spacious guestrooms are both elegant and comfortable and feature large flat-screen TVs, iPod dock, luxury body products, and even in-room Keurig coffeemakers. The hotel offers guests several attractive packages, including a discount to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. You can enjoy a European-style complimentary breakfast in the café and there are many great Mount Vernon restaurants within walking distance. Other Baltimore attractions are easily accessible via bus or rail.
Hotel Brexton, 868 Park Ave, Baltimore, MD 21201, Phone: 443-478-2100
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5. The Ivy
© The Ivy
Once a gracious 19th century private home, The Ivy is now a distinguished boutique hotel offering visitors an oasis of calm and tranquility just steps away from all the attractions of bustling Baltimore. Located in the heart of Mount Vernon, guests at The Ivy have easy access to the busy harbor-front attractions as well as a plethora of boutiques, museums, theaters, restaurants, and more. When you are not exploring you can spend your days being pampered at the luxury on-site spa, enjoy refreshments in the ivy-walled courtyard, or entertain friends in one of two delightful restaurants. The guestrooms are the last word in luxury, featuring romantic draped four-poster beds and luxury linens. Your guest rate includes luxuries like afternoon tea, cocktails at the Mansion Bar, and even midnight snacks. More Things to Do in Baltimore
The Ivy Hotel, 205 E. Biddle Street, Baltimore, MD 21202, Phone: 410-514-6500
6. The Admiral Fell Inn
© The Admiral Fell Inn
The Admiral Fell Inn is spread across seven adjoining buildings in the heart of the historic Fell’s Point district, where it has been providing accommodation for a wide variety of visitors since 1900. The inn now offers beautifully renovated and character-filled guestrooms and suites and you are even welcome to bring along your four-legged best friend. To help you make the most of your time in Charm City, the Admiral Fell Inn offers visitors a range of special inclusive packages, but if you prefer to do your own exploring, you may use the complimentary shuttle service to several popular attractions or hop aboard the Baltimore Water Taxi, which stops just outside the inn.
The Admiral Fell Inn, 888 South Broadway, Baltimore, MD 21231, Phone: 410-522-7380
7. 1840’s Carrolton Inn
© 1840’s Carrolton Inn
Checking into the 1840’s Carrolton Inn is a little like stepping back in time to a slower and more genteel age. The boutique bed and breakfast is located next door to the Carroll Mansion, once the home of Charles Carroll, one of the historic signers of the Declaration of Independence. Each of the guestrooms and suites in the inn is named for a significant facet in the life of Charles Carroll and is furnished in period style with authentic antiques and plush soft furnishings, while the addition of modern touches such as whirlpool tubs, in-room refrigerators, microwaves, and Wi-Fi brings the rooms firmly into the 21st century. The inn is perfectly positioned to explore historic Jonestown and you will be within walking distance of the Inner Harbor and Little Italy.
1840’s Carrolton Inn, 50 Albemarle Street, Baltimore, MD 21202, Phone: 410-385-1840
8. Rachael’s Dowry
© Rachael’s Dowry
Located in a beautifully restored stately home that dates back to the 16th century, Rachael’s Dowry Bed and Breakfast is ideally located just moments from the Convention Center, the Raven’s M&T Stadium, the National Aquarium, and Camden Yards. The inn has been thoughtfully decorated to reflect its heritage – expect lovely antique furnishings cleverly combined with modern features such as walk-in marble showers, TVs, and iPod docks. Two-course gourmet breakfasts are served each morning using fresh locally sourced ingredients and the staff will be happy to suggest excellent local restaurants for dinner. When you need a break from local sight-seeing you can relax in the garden or parlor, or catch up on some work in the library.
Rachael’s Dowry Bed and Breakfast, 637 Washington Blvd., Baltimore, MD 21230, Phone: 410-752-0805
9. Royal Sonesta Harbor Court
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Centrally located in the heart of Inner Harbor, the Royal Sonesta Harbor Hotel has won several awards for excellence and is an ideal choice for visitors who want to be close to many of Baltimore’s prime attractions, including the Convention Center and the Baltimore Aquarium.
The 203 spacious guestrooms and suites all offer spectacular views over the harbor and the city skyline and have been thoughtfully decorated to provide a calm and peaceful ambiance. You have a choice of queen or king-sized beds and all the rooms offer coffeemakers, large flat-screen TVs, and complimentary Wi-Fi. Other on-site amenities include an indoor heated pool, sauna, whirlpool, fitness room, racquet-ball and tennis courts, and two dining options.
Royal Sonesta Harbor Court, 550 Light Street, Baltimore, MD 21202, Phone: 410-234-0550
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10. The Kimpton Hotel Monaco
© The Kimpton Hotel Monaco
The Kimpton Hotel Monaco is located in the historical former headquarters of the B&O Railroad, just minutes from the beautiful Inner Harbor waterfront. Effortlessly combining the history of the beautiful beaux arts building with all the modern conveniences you would expect from an upscale hotel, the Kimpton Monaco makes an ideal base for both business and leisure visitors, who can easily access the Convention Center, the aquarium, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and Johns Hopkins University. Each of the stylish guestrooms and suites has been carefully decorated to provide a calm oasis at the end of each busy day and you can expect luxurious Frette linens and upscale toiletries. Round off your day with drinks and dinner at the B&O American Brasserie.
The Kimpton Hotel Monaco, 2 North Charles St, Baltimore, MD 21201, Phone: 443-692-6172
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11. Pier 5 Hotel
© Pier 5 Hotel
A bold and edgy three-story lobby welcomes guests to the Pier 5 luxury boutique hotel, located in the Inner Harbor area just a short walk from several popular tourist attractions including the Baltimore Aquarium and Pier 6 Pavilion. All the spacious rooms and suites at Pier 5 feature a comfortable seating area, workstation, and king-sized bed and some of the suites also feature a double whirlpool tub, wet bar, and multiple TVs. To simplify planning your Baltimore break, the hotel offers several inclusive packages, which include sightseeing helicopter rides, complimentary water taxi excursions, and more. There are two on-site restaurants to choose from if you are too tired to venture out for dinner.
Pier 5, 711 Eastern Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21202, Phone: 410-539-2000
12. Hotel Revival
© Hotel Revival
Nestled in the heart of historic Mount Vernon, in the cultural heart of downtown Baltimore, Hotel Revival is set to provide an unusual and inviting boutique hotel atmosphere when it opens for business on the 1st of January 2018. As part of the Joie de Vivre hotel group, Hotel Revival Baltimore is planning to provide visitors with an excellent combination of old and new in a trendy location, just steps from the original Washington Monument and close to many other attractions including the Peabody Musical Institute, the Maryland Historical Society, and Johns Hopkins Hospital. The highlights of the new hotel will be a signature restaurant and bar on the ground floor and another restaurant/bar on the rooftop offering sweeping views of Charm City. More beaches near Baltimore
Hotel Revival Baltimore, 612 Cathedral St, Baltimore, MD 21201, Phone: 410-727-7101
13. Phoenix Risin' Bed and Breakfast
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The Phoenix Risin’ Bed and Breakfast is conveniently located in Bolton Hill within easy reach of many of the city’s popular attractions, such as the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, the Lyric Opera House, and Charles Street Restaurant Row. Guests are welcomed with a glass of champagne (or cider) upon arrival before being ushered to one of the three themed guestrooms – choose from the Sedona Room, Haitian Room, or Serengeti Room – each of which has been individually decorated in the appropriate style and offers little luxuries like comfortable robes and in-room coffeemakers. Your gracious hostess will prepare your favorite breakfast at whatever time suits you best, and to complete the pampering you can arrange an in-room massage or other spa treatment.
1429 Bolton St, Baltimore, MD 21217, Phone: 410-462-2692
14. The Baltimore Indigo Hotel
© The Baltimore Indigo Hotel
Providing a comfortable and serene oasis in the heart of bustling downtown Baltimore, the Baltimore Indigo Hotel offers all you would expect from a city boutique establishment. The style of the hotel is edgy and eclectic, boasting unusual architecture, furnishings, and décor in the public areas. The rooms and suites offer a blend of custom-designed murals, comfortable beds, spa-inspired bathrooms, and other pampering details like in-room coffeemakers and refrigerators. If you happen to like travelling with your dog, you will be pleased to hear that well-behaved dogs are welcome at the Indigo and are spoilt with special treats. The modern and inviting Poets Restaurant serves up bespoke cocktails and fresh innovative local cuisine.
The Baltimore Indigo Hotel, 24 West Franklin St, Baltimore, MD 21201, Phone: 410-625-6200
15. Hampton Inn Baltimore Downtown
© Hampton Inn Baltimore Downtown
The Hampton Inn group of hotels and inns has been welcoming thousands of guests to their winning brand of hospitality for many years. The Hampton Inn Baltimore Downtown is perfectly located close to the Convention Center and the aquarium as well as a host of other Baltimore attractions and is perfect for both business and leisure travelers. Whether you are visiting Charm City to catch the Orioles in action at Camden Yards or to simply relax and explore all the attractions of Baltimore, the Hampton Inn Downtown provides an ideal base. The inn offers a choice of spacious and comfortable rooms and suites, all of which have Wi-Fi, coffeemakers, and blissfully comfortable beds – complimentary breakfast forms part of the deal. In addition, there is a fitness room and indoor pool. More day trips from Baltimore
Hampton Inn Baltimore Downtown, 550 Washington Blvd, Baltimore, MD 21230, Phone: 410-685-5000
16. Hampton Inn Baltimore Inner Harbor
© Hampton Inn Baltimore Inner Harbor
The Hampton Inn at Inner Harbor successfully combines old and new in a historic 1906 building located just two blocks from Inner Harbor. True to the Hampton Inn brand, you can expect a variety of spacious guestrooms and suites suitable for both business travelers and families, all of which offer large and comfortable beds, free Wi-Fi, generous bathrooms, and crisp fresh linen. You can catch a Baltimore Water Taxi to get just about everywhere and many of the prime city attractions are easily accessible on foot. After a busy day of work or play you can relax and stretch those muscles at the fitness center or in the indoor heated pool.
Hampton Inn Baltimore Inner Harbor, 131 East Redwood Street, Baltimore, MD 21202, Phone: 410-539-7888
17. Hyatt Place, Baltimore Inner Harbor
© Hyatt Place, Baltimore Inner Harbor
Located close to Fell’s Point, the Hyatt Place Baltimore Inner Harbor is an ideal base for both business and leisure visitors. The hotel’s prime location enables visitors to easily access all the attractions of Inner Harbor, including the Baltimore Aquarium, the Convention Center, the Maryland Science Center, and the M&T Bank Stadium. You will find the guestrooms and suites at Hyatt Place very comfortable – expect larger-than-average rooms, all of which feature a separate sitting area with a corner lounge suite or sleeper couch. The plush Hyatt Grand Beds are super-comfy and you will also enjoy the large-screen TV, in-room coffeemaker and upscale toiletries. The 24-hour fitness room and swimming pool are the ideal place to relax after a busy day of urban adventures.
Hyatt Place, 511 South Central Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21202, Phone: 410-558-1840
18. Homewood Suites
© Homewood Suites
As part of the renowned Hilton brand, the Homewood Suites offer visitors a relaxing home-from-home during their visit to Baltimore. The Homewood Suites are ideally positioned in an extensive waterfront development close to all the attractions of the vibrant Inner Harbor, making it really easy to visit the National Aquarium, USS Constellation, and a plethora of great waterfront restaurants serving fresh seafood. At the Homewood Suites, you can really spread yourself out – each suite contains a bedroom, living room, and full kitchen (including a dishwasher) but you are also welcome to enjoy a full hot breakfast every morning. If you are short of time, the hotel will happily stock the refrigerator for you. Other amenities include an on-site laundry and free Wi-Fi.
Homewood Suites by Hilton Baltimore, 625 South President Street, Baltimore, MD 21202, Phone: 410-234-0999
19. Hyatt Regency
© Hyatt Regency
Located right in the heart of vibrant Inner Harbor, the Hyatt Regency Baltimore Inner Harbor provides the ideal base for exploring many of Baltimore’s most popular attractions such as the National Aquarium, the Maryland Science Center, and the USS Constellation. If you wish to venture further afield, you can hop aboard the Baltimore Water Taxi or try the free Charm City Circulator, which runs between the city’s prime attractions. The stylishly appointed rooms and suites all have wonderful views over the harbor and the city skyline and pamper guests with super-comfy Hyatt Grand Beds, coffeemakers, and plush pillows and duvets. You can enjoy drinks and dinner at Bistro 300 or step outside to one of the many great Inner Harbor restaurants, where seafood is the star of the show.
Hyatt Regency Baltimore Inner Harbor, 300 Light Street, Baltimore, MD 21202, Phone: 401-528-1234
20. Holiday Inn Express Baltimore - Downtown
© Holiday Inn Express Baltimore – Downtown
Guests who are looking for an ideal downtown base that will not break the bank should consider the Holiday Inn Express Baltimore Downtown. The hotel occupies the original 20th century premises of the Old Town Bank and is within easy walking distance of Inner Harbor, the Convention Center, the National Aquarium, and Fort McHenry. Sports enthusiasts can easily reach Camden Yards to watch the Orioles in action or head to the M&T Stadium to see a Ravens game. The rooms at the Holiday Inn are comfortably furnished and offer added extras such as a microwave and refrigerator, blackout shades, wide-screen TV, and free Wi-Fi. Although most of the popular attractions are nearby, the hotel offers free scheduled shuttle services to Penn Station, Johns Hopkins Campus, and the Convention Center.
Holiday Inn Express Baltimore Downtown, 221 North Gay Street, Baltimore, MD 21202, Phone: 410-400-8045
21. Baltimore Marriott Waterfront
© Baltimore Marriott Waterfront
Located in the hip and happening Harbor East district of Baltimore, just steps away from Fell’s Point and Inner Harbor, the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront is a popular choice for both business and leisure visitors. At the Marriott, you will be able to enjoy a comfortable and welcoming guestroom with either harbor or city views. The rooms and suites have been thoughtfully furnished and decorated to create the ideal environment for relaxation and feature an in-room refrigerator, deluxe bedding, and a safe for your valuables. At the end of a busy day you can enjoy a workout at the gym, unwind in the sauna, or swim in the indoor pool. You can dine on-site at Apropoe’s Restaurant or step outside to enjoy fresh seafood and great steaks at one of the many restaurants in Inner Harbor.
Baltimore Marriott Waterfront, 700 Aliceanna Street, Baltimore, MD 21202, Phone: 410-385-3000
22. Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel
© Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel
If you want to be close to the water, you simply cannot beat the location of the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel, which directly overlooks the bustle of Inner Harbor. Not only does the Renaissance offer unsurpassed harbor views and possibly the best location on the waterfront, it also provides guests with elegance, luxury, and plenty of pampering. There are a variety of guestrooms for you to choose from, most of which offer stellar harbor views, marble bathrooms, and flat-screen TVs with movie channels. By day you can explore all the nearby attractions of Inner Harbor and downtown before returning to the Renaissance for a workout in the gym or a refreshing dip in the indoor pool or whirlpool tub.
Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel, 202 East Pratt Street, Baltimore, MD21202, Phone: 401-547-1200
23. Inn at Henderson’s Wharf
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Located right at the heart of Fell’s Point, the Inn at Henderson’s Wharf occupies an enviable location close to many popular tourist attractions. The inn was once a wharf-side tobacco factory but now offers discerning visitors a luxury boutique environment overlooking the harbor or marina. If you can tear yourself away from the lovely setting, the inn offers a complimentary shuttle service to several popular attractions or you can explore the city using the Baltimore Water Taxi (within an easy walk from the inn). The romantic and historical guestrooms feature nostalgic Hemingway-style furnishings and plush comfortable beds and amenities, and the inn offers a variety of packages to suit all tastes, including a fully inclusive option and a romance package.
Inn at Henderson’s Wharf, 1000 Fell Street, Baltimore, MD 21231, Phone: 410-522-7777
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Attraction Spotlight: Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine
Fort McHenry is located in Baltimore, Maryland and is the site of the historic American war defense fort, Fort McHenry. The fort's rich history of strength and national defense began in 1776 when citizens of Baltimore were attacked by British ships.
The fort not only survived the attack, but was developed into one of the strongest defensive forts in United States history. The fort has served many different purposes and has withstood many wars over the years, including the War of 1812, the Civil War and even both World Wars.
Throughout the Fort's 200 years, there have been countless troops trained, enemies imprisoned, war strategies planned and ultimately fought within the walls of Fort McHenry. It has provided continued shelter of American soldiers and relentless protection of the American dream. The fort has rightfully become a valued piece of American history.
The Fort was named after the U.S. Secretary of War, James "John" McHenry, in the late 18th century. McHenry was a soldier, a physician and a politician during his time. He held the position of "Secretary of War" for both the Washington and Adams administrations. He was also one of the few foreign-born signers of the Constitution of the United States. The Fort was built during the height of his political career and is therefore named after him.
Currently, the Fort is deemed a historic shrine and is surrounded by a national park. The park also contains a national monument to honor Francis Scott Key, the author of the national anthem of the United States - "The Star Spangled Banner". The song was written based off of a poem that Scott Key wrote during the bombings of the War of 1812 entitled "The Defence of Fort McHenry".
Scott Key served during the War of 1812 at Fort McHenry, and he was a born and raised Baltimore man. Therefore, it is only fitting that a monument to his life and his work is safely established in Baltimore at Fort McHenry.
Today, the fort receives hundreds of thousands of visitors a year who come to experience the history and the culture. The fort is also a haven for scientific research, archeology, and nature. The 42-acre national park contains hundreds of small mammals, reptiles and birds to enjoy. The Sea Wall Trail is a picturesque walk along the adjacent sea just outside of the fort where visitors can enjoy the cooling breeze and warm sunshine.
The cultural and historical experiences at Fort McHenry are bountiful. The Fort tells a deep and detailed story of American history that is not to be missed.
Fort McHenry offers a variety of educational tours and programs for visitors of all ages to enjoy. School field trips and classroom curriculum-based tours can be booked year-round.
Children can participate in The Junior Ranger program where they can explore and learn about Fort McHenry. Parents are encouraged to assist their youngsters with gathering the answers to various questions about the fort's history. Begin at the Visitor Center, then explore the Visitor Center, Star Fort and the surrounding grounds. After completing the Activity Booklet, youngsters earn a Junior Ranger certificate and badge.
In celebration of the National Park Service's 100th birthday, there are a large number of special activities planned this year at Fort McHenry. The themes of this year-long celebration, which began in August, is "Call to Action". The Fort alongside the NPS want to get community members involved with the innovation and future development of national parks.
There are all sorts of events planned to engage, inspire, education and promote fun within Fort McHenry and all other national parks. Some of these events include plantings, preservation projects, historical reenactments, job skill workshops and even the teaching of music from 1812.
More frequent events are also hosted at Fort McHenry. Every first Wednesday and third Saturday of the month, the Fort's staff hosts morning bird walks. The walks are free and open to the public. Ranger talks can also be enjoyed by visitors who want to learn more about the Fort's history and its surrounding wildlife.
Daily flag changes and formations are also hosted at the Fort. There are also live webcams accessible via the Fort McHenry website that show these flag events.
Currently, Fort McHenry is preparing to host the Maryland Fleet Week and Air Show from October 10 - 17, 2016. The Blue Angels will fly over Fort McHenry and visitors can enjoy the show from the all day festival being hosted below. The event is $10 per adult and more information can be found at www.mdfleetweek.com.
Be sure to check the National Park Service's experience calendar for up-to-date information about all upcoming events at Fort McHenry and all other national parks.
When planning your visit to Fort McHenry, there are a variety of options available to make your trip as enjoyable as possible. Self-guided exploration is always an option, but there are also Ranger Talks and group-guided tours to help visitors get the most out of their experience.
There are many places to go including the main visitor center with educational videos and exhibits, the fort itself, which contains many more exhibits. There are also plenty of outdoor activities including hiking, exploring, and flag change programs (weather permitting).
The Star Fort is an exciting place to visit and just a stone's throw away from the main visitor center. Activities there include: Exhibits of historical and military memorabilia, electric battle map, restored barracks, restored flag pole. There are also new exhibits: including the Commander's Quarters, Guard House, Powder Magazine and the Enlisted Men's Quarters.
The surrounding Baltimore metro-area is a hub of culture, history, nightlife and exceptional dining and shopping. Some nearby historical parks include: The Maryland Historical Society Museum, The Flag House Star-Spangled Banner Museum, and The USS Constellation Museum. For a bit more of a drive (but within 100 miles), the sites of the following infamous American battles can be visited: Gettysburg, Antietam, and Monocacy.
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2400 E Fort Ave, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, Phone: 410-962-4290
Attraction Spotlight: Baltimore American Visionary Art Museum
The American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, is home to a permanent collection of “visionary art,” also sometimes referred to as outsider art. These are works that are produced by artists who are not classically trained and that come from a place of intense personal vision. Often, the work is not even thought of as “art” by the creator, but as a product of a purpose-driven vision.
Not to be confused with “folk art,” which is typically passed through generations and relates to a specific culture or people, the visionary art displayed at the Baltimore museum spans cultures, genres, and time. Works in the permanent collection may be contemporary or by artists who lived hundreds of years ago. Visionary artists invent their own traditions by listening to the voices of their souls and responding in a creative manner. There are currently over 4,000 pieces in the museum’s permanent collection. Of these, approximately 50 works are on display at any given time in the Permanent Collection Gallery. Works on display are generally curated to reflect a central theme related to the human condition.
Samples of works from the permanent collection include the World’s First Robot Family, a collection of robots assembled from found objects by the artist DeVon Smith (1926–2003) of Ellwood City, Pennsylvania. The colorfully painted robots use oscillating fans for movement and are made up of household electronics, including TV antennas and hair dryers. Before landing in the permanent collection at the American Visionary Art Museum, the robots were displayed at department stores and the Children’s Museum in Pittsburgh. Also in the museum’s collection is Horse Dress (c 1935–1940), a hand-crocheted dress detailed to infer the head and body of a horse, made by a schizophrenic patient at the Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital in Baltimore. The patients’ name has not been released due to confidentiality rules at the mental institution. However, it is known that the patient wore the dress daily in defiance of the hospital’s dress code. The intricacy of the handmade dress, which was made without pattern, seems to contradict the patient’s diagnosis.
History: Baltimore’s American Visionary Art Museum was conceptualized by Rebecca Alban Hoffberger in 1984 while she worked at the Department of Psychiatry at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. Between 1985 and 1989, Hoffberger raised funds for the museum with the aid of a friend and filmmaker who helped produce a documentary on Jean Dubuffet's Art Brut (Raw Art) Museum Collection in Lausanne, Switzerland. The concept for the AVAM is similar to the Raw Art museum in that it showcases the work of intuitive artists, however the concept was new to America and work had to be done to introduce donors to the idea. Public support for the idea grew after the success of Hoffberger’s first few exhibitions, one of which featured the work of matchstick artist Gerald Hawkes. Fundraising for the $7.6 million campaign continued through the 1990s as the museum also acquired several important collections for their research library and archives. The museum opened in 1995 and over 800 guests attended the opening gala. In 2004, the AVAM doubled in size with the addition of a second sculpture plaza, an outdoor movie space, and classroom and meeting space. Today’s museum comprises over 67,000 square feet of space, including a restaurant and museum store. Weddings and facility rentals supplement admissions fees to keep the museum debt-free. The museum is currently in the process of a $25 million endowment campaign to raise funds for a west coast location.
Ongoing Programs and Education: Ongoing exhibitions include the 1st floor Visionary Village, which displays large sculptures, and the 2nd floor Hall of Social Visionaries, which displays art related to social activism. Outdoor spaces include additional sculpture areas as well as The LeRoy Hoffberger Speaker's Corner, a platform for celebrating and exercising free speech named after the museum’s co-founder. The outdoor Star Spangled Sidewalk is a free exhibition designed by the artist Lee Wheeler, which depicts the National Anthem through paintings along the sidewalk. A wildflower garden is open and free during museum hours. Wildflowers surround and climb the meditation and wedding chapel built by artist Ben Wilson and sculptures grace the area as well.
The museum provides downloadable educational resources to accompany most exhibits as well as guided group tours. Weekend Walk-In Workshops are once-monthly hands-on workshops in which participants can make art and explore their own creative tendencies inspired by works from the permanent collection.
800 Key Highway Baltimore, MD 21230, Phone: 410-244-1900
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Attraction Spotlight: Baltimore Historic Ships
Historic Ships in Baltimore, Maryland, is a collection of four historic military vessels, all within walking distance of each other along Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Visitors may board each of the ships. Collectively, the ships host a permanent collection of over 50,000 artifacts pertaining to the ships themselves, life on the ships, and the sailors who served on them. Visitors can also see the historic Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse near the harbor’s entrance channel. Donations of artifacts have come mainly from former crew and their descendants.
History: The lighthouse and various ships represent different eras in American military history. The lighthouse is the oldest screw pile lighthouse in Maryland and was built in 1855. The lighthouse was manned from 1855 through 1948. Although technologies existed to automate the lighthouse operations much sooner, the lighthouse keepers had provided life saving services in the past, and this was considered important enough to keep up to three men on duty. The circular structure is made of rolled iron. There is a deck area and a living space for the lighthouse keepers and their family as well as the light beacon itself, which was manned by hand and offered a light visible for up to 12 nautical miles. Originally located in Chesapeake Bay, it was brought to the inner harbor for the museum exhibit in 1988. The lighthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. Visitors who begin their tour at the lighthouse stop next at the US Coast Guard Cutter Taney. The USCGC Taney was built in the mid-1930s and was in service for 50 years. The 327-foot-long cutter was used in combat on the eve of Pearl Harbor, and thereafter began anti-submarine patrol duties. By the late 1960s, the Taney was referred to as “the last survivor of Pearl Harbor” as the only ship from that era to remain in service. The ship was decommissioned in 1986 after over 50 years of continuous service and donated to the museum. The USS Torsk is a submarine commissioned in 1944 at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. The submarine was in service during World War II and is credited with sinking three Japanese ships, the last two of which were the last enemy warships to be torpedoed before the end of the war. The ship was decommissioned in 1968 after a career of over 10,600 dives. It arrived in Baltimore for the museum in 1972. Lightship 116 Chesapeake was considered one of the most advanced and capable ships of the US Lighthouse Service when she was built in 1930. The all-steel construction with a diesel-electric engine was designed for a crew of up to 16. By the mid-1960s, technology had rendered lightships obsolete. The Chesapeake was retired in 1970 and acquired by the National Park Service. She was donated to the Historic Ships in Baltimore in 1982. The US Frigate Constellation is the final stop on the tour of the four ships. This 164-foot ship is the second iteration of the Constellation, which was first built in Baltimore in 1797. The second Constellation was commissioned in 1855. The ship worked to free slaves in Africa on the Congo River in 1859 and 1860 just prior to the start of the US Civil War. After years of service she was stationed in Newport as a training vessel in 1894. In 1920, she was dry-docked for repair. The Navy continued to use her for training, using her rigging and sails for drills. In the 1920s the Navy discontinued sail training. After a brief return to battle between 1940 and1944 during World War II, she was ultimately decommissioned in 1955 when she was returned to Baltimore for historic preservation.
Ongoing Programs and Education: Educational events at the Historic Ships include special history tours of the attractions. Recent tours aboard the USS Constellation have been titled Seafarer’s Tales of Tradition, Toil, and a Touch of the Macabre and To Catch A Thief: Constellation Fights the Slave Trade. Ship’s Company talks gather volunteer sailors and marines to talk about service at sea. Hands-on activities show guests what day-to-day life is like aboard the ships. One-hour guided group tours are available. Topics include A Ship as a Machine and the Powder Monkey Tour aimed at kids, which teaches about the lives of the young boys who served as powder monkeys, carrying powder to the guns on the warships.
Pier I 301 East Pratt Street, Baltimore, MD 21202, Phone: 410-539-1797
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