Baltimore and the surrounding area seem tailor-made for autumn. The fall colors in the trees add splashes of bright crimson and gold to the town and the outlying regions. The many historic sites related to local hero Edgar Allan Poe are the perfect companions to Halloween season. And the hot seafood from the Chesapeake Bay wards off the fall chills that blow off the water. Discover Baltimore’s natural side this fall.
Known as Charm City, Baltimore also is home to historic ships, exciting museums and the Inner Harbor — the city’s focal point. When you’re not outdoors, explore this Jewel of the Chesapeake with a visit to the Baltimore Museum of Art, with a huge selection of Impressionist paintings. With the African American Wax Museum, the National Cryptologic Museum and a chance to follow Edgar Allen Poe’s wanderings, you’ll find plenty to keep yourself busy.
Camp out in a nearby Good Sam Park and enjoy the magic of Charm City.
Hiking Outside of Town
Before exploring urban landscapes, check out the natural areas surrounding the town. Escape to Gwynns Falls, an urban hiking and biking trail with nine trailheads connecting 30 neighborhoods along with a historic greenway stream valley that provides access to Baltimore. Gunpowder Falls provides views of 18th-century Hoffmanville Cemetery and leads to Pretty Boy Reservoir. On the Chesapeake, Downs Park offers a variety of natural and recreational activities throughout its 236 acres. Also on the bay, Black Marsh Trail winds for six miles along wild wetlands and bordering forests, perfect for birders and naturalists searching for bald eagles and swamp sparrows.
Loch Raven Reservoir
For those who don’t mind traveling a little farther to the north, Loch Raven Reservoir, which provides the drinking water for Baltimore City, offers miles of woodsy trails for running, hiking and spotting wildlife. On most weekends throughout the year, a stretch of road through the watershed is closed to vehicle traffic and open to pedestrians. Check the website for updated schedules.
One of the most important seaports in the U.S. is the Baltimore Inner Harbor, where four historic boats are moored. The oldest is the USS Constellation, a sloop-of-war that served in the Civil War and is the last tall-sail ship of the U.S. Navy. The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter 37, built in the 1930s, was designed for search and rescue, law enforcement expeditions and maritime patrol. Lightship 116 Chesapeake patrolled the mouth of the Bay for 50 years. USS Torsk served during WWII and is often called “The Last Survivor of Pearl Harbor.” The Inner Harbor also is home to the National Aquarium, the most visited attraction in the city. Don’t miss a chance to see the first Dolphin Sanctuary in North America where seven dolphins live, play and train. Overlooking the harbor is the odd-shaped Seven Knoll Lighthouse, built in 1855 and the oldest screw-pile lighthouse in Maryland.
There are plenty of boat tours, harbor cruises and water taxis to explore the Inner Harbor; there’s even a pirate ship — whatever floats your boat — but for a more personalized water experience, grab a paddle, set sail or start your engine. Catch a guided kayak tour or be part of a group paddle for fun on the water. Schooners are plentiful in the harbor and you may be asked to help with ropes and sailing activities during a tour. Rent an electric boat for an exciting spin or charter a private yacht and experience the ultimate way to travel. Anglers can spend a day on the Chesapeake Bay catching striped bass, trout, flounder, king mackerel and seabass.
The Baltimore Museum of Art is the largest art museum in Maryland and home to the most extensive collection of paintings by Matisse in the world. There are more than 95,000 pieces of artwork, including 200 African ceremonial weapons, Native American scrimshaw and Chinese ceramics. National Great Blacks in Wax Museum is an African American wax museum and exhibits life-size, lifelike wax figures focusing on influential people who’ve defined the Black experience in the U.S.
Get to Know Poe
Take a Halloween hike. Walk in the footsteps of Edgar Ellen Poe, the writer who pioneered macabre fiction in the early 1800s. Visit the eerie Edgar Allen Poe Home and Museum before making a short pilgrimage to Poe’s grave at Westminster Hall and Burying Grounds. For 60-plus years on Poe’s birthday, the anonymous Poe Toaster would leave a bottle of cognac and three red roses at the grave. If you’re still in the mood for mysteries, delve into the world of spies and espionage at the National Cryptologic Museum. Examine the only existing German Enigma machine and learn how Code Talkers played a vital role during WWII.
A Crackin’ Good Time
Baltimore is known for its delicious crab, and several great crabbing spots are found throughout the city. Crabbing season runs from April through November, so visitors will have lots of chances to add crab to fall menus. Check out Fort Smallwood Pier, located on Chesapeake Bay and within reach of Maryland’s iconic blue crabs. Located about 30 minutes from downtown Baltimore, Green Haven Wharf has abundant crabbing and also is a great place for launching a kayak. Just outside of town, North Point State Park has a fishing pier that makes crabbing easy. If the crustaceans aren’t biting, go hiking in the park or launch a kayak on North Bay.
Oh Say Can You See
Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine preserves the stubborn fortification that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen the “Star Spangled Banner” during the War of 1812. Key marveled at the American flag that remained waving over the fort amid the turmoil of battle under “the rockets’ red glare.” Stroll the historical grounds, visit the casements and brush up on American history. Nearby, the Baltimore Museum of Industry provides hands-on exhibits and stories of the workers and entrepreneurs from small companies, manufacturing industries and national businesses that have thrived and grown in the city.
Located blocks from the Baltimore Harbor, Patterson park has given city dwellers a welcome dose of nature for more than a century. The centerpiece of the six-acre expanse is the Pagoda, a four-story structure with wrap-around balconies that dish out excellent views of the city. A boat lake inhabited my mallard ducks adds to the scene.