I had no idea.
I never saw it coming.
Why had I waited so long?
When I finally made it to Baltimore after years of choosing trips to New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. instead, I couldn’t believe what I had been missing. This city has it all — culture, arts, history, sports, parks — what more could I want? And, to top it off, Baltimore is practically an east-coast paradise for this museum-lover!
You name it, Baltimore has a museum for it.
Whether you’re interested in Renaissance or Modern, comic books or trains, industry or dentistry, football or baseball, you’ll have plenty to choose from in Baltimore, Maryland.
Baltimore has way too many museums to visit on just one trip (after all, there is such a thing as being museum-ed out, even for the nerdiest among us). So, to help you plan your own visit to the city, I’ve narrowed the list down to a manageable six.
The Walters Art Museum
The Walters Art Museum has an impressive collection of art ranging from pre-dynastic Egyptian pieces to 20th Century European works, with plenty of other time periods and regions represented in between, including Greek and Asian. My favorite collections included the Islamic Art section and the Christian history section. These two collections, located right next to each other, presented an interesting juxtaposition of the two religions and their evolution throughout history into the regions where they are practiced today. The Medieval section, or the “Kinghts exhibit”, featuring collections of armor, was also impressive and is a great hit among children. Perhaps what impressed me most about the Walters was its representation of cultures and religions in nearly every region of the world spanning from before Christ (B.C.) all the way through the 20th Century. I regret that I only had two hours to spend at the museum. I probably could have devoted most of the day to its exploration. I was even so impressed that I signed the guest book — something I rarely do. I hesitate to over-state my impression of the Walters, but I would rank this museum among the top three I have visited in the world. I enjoyed it more the New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is of extremely high caliber in my view.
How to plan your visit: General admission to the Walters is free, while special exhibitions involve a cost and often require tickets to be purchased in advance. The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm. The museum is located in Baltimore’s Mt. Vernon Cultural District at 600North Charles Street. Parking is available. For more information on the logistics of planning your visit, visit the museum website.
If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering, “What exactly is visionary art?” Visionary art simply refers to art created by those who have had no formal art training. It’s the belief that anyone can be an artist, regardless of their background. All of the artists featured in this museum are self-taught and their works are an act of creative self-expression. I’m sure this is not what the creators of the museum intended, but for me, this place definitely reinforced my belief that not everyone should be an artist. Although some of the work was quite impressive and visually appealing, like an entire warship constructed from toothpicks, other pieces were just plain disturbing, like the massive ball of bras. Yes, that’s right, picture a five foot tall rubber band ball created instead out of some of the ugliest bras you’ve ever seen. Not sure what the inspiration behind that piece was. Don’t want to know.
While I appreciate that art is in the eye of the creator, not just the beholder, I can’t say there was much in this museum that tickled my creative fancy. Other visitors, on the other hand, were visibly moved and mesmerized by the artwork. If you like truly unique art that doesn’t play by the rules but cuts deep to the heart of self-expression, then this museum is probably a good choice for you. I, however, just felt like I had intruded on someone’s bad acid trip.
How to plan your visit: The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 10:00 am – 6:00 pm. Adult admission is $15.95, students and children $9.95, and children under 6 get in free. It is located in close proximity to many of Baltimore’s other attractions at the base of Federal Hill, across from the Inner Harbor.
Babe Ruth Museum
Baltimore is a haven for sports fans of all types. One of the main sports attractions in the city is the birthplace and childhood home of baseball legend Babe Ruth (aka George Herman Ruth), who was born in Baltimore in 1895. His family home is located just a few blocks from historic Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and visitors can just follow the baseballs painted along the sidewalk leading the way to the museum. You can see the room where Babe was born and find out what it might have been like to grow up in that area of Baltimore at the turn of the Century. The museum chronicles the life and career of Babe, and also pays tribute to Baltimore’s Orioles and Colts (now at Indianapolis).
How to plan your visit: There is plenty to do and see within the area of Camden Yards, so plan your visit to the Babe Ruth Museum along with other activities. Tickets for adults are $6, children $3. The best value, however, is to purchase a combination ticket for the Babe Ruth Museum and the Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards (which I’ll discuss below). This will save you $2.00 on your total admission cost per person. The Museum is open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm daily.
B&O Railroad Museum
Did you know that Baltimore was the birthplace of the great American railroad system? Neither did I! The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad was launched in 1829 and served as a gateway for American westward commercial expansion and development. The B&O Railroad Museum houses an expansive collection of American railroad artifacts on its 40-acre campus. Visitors can explore inside train cars to witness first-hand the evolution of railroad engineering over the centuries. As you step into the museum’s main room, you will tour dozens of train cars that tell the story of how trains and the railroad served America throughout the centuries, particularly during the Civil War. Much of the museum is interactive and full of historical information, so it meets the tactile needs of children while also meeting the intellectual needs of adults. Visitors can then head outside, where they will tour dozens of trains and see restored train tracks and bridges. You can even take a train ride! It truly is an awe-inspiring site that paints a comprehensive picture of America’s railroad history.
How to plan your visit: I accessed the awesome and free Charm City Circulator bus system to reach the museum, but visitors with cars will find ample parking in the available lot. The museum is located at 901 East Pratt St. The museum is open from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm Monday through Saturday and from 11:00 am – 4:00 pm on Sunday. Admission is $16 for adults and $10 for children ages 2 – 12. This is not a low-cost museum, but if you’re looking for a place to spend most of the day, it’s a good value.
Geppi’s Entertainment Museum
Geppi’s is a hoot and an absolute must for any visit to Baltimore. If you’re a fan of Marvel Comics, Scooby Doo, the Flintstones, or Star Wars, then you’ll love Geppi’s. This museum is dedicated to remembering and preserving icons in American pop culture. Gigantic comic book posters line the museums walls, and you can check out comic books dating back to the early 20th Century. Watch as Ironman and Captain America battle their nemeses throughout the decades. All of your favorite characters and icons are at Geppis, oftentimes in life-sized glory, including Superman and, my personal favorite, Batman. Travel back in time to learn the history of American radio and television entertainment, including Howdy Doody.
How to plan your visit: The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 am – 6:00 pm. Adult admission is $10 and children ages 5 – 18 are $7. The museum is located at Camden Yards, in the same building as the Sports Legends Museum (see below).
Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards
The Sports Legends Museum is located inside the old Camden Station, the passenger station for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. The museum is housed on the first floor and basement of the building (with Geppis above).It offers a comprehensive history of Baltimore’s sports teams, as well as the famous athletes who have called Baltimore home. While the largest emphasis is placed on the Orioles, the Ravens, and the Colts, the museum also pays tribute to the former Negro Leagues, as well as the minor leagues and the University of Maryland Terrapins, or Terps (this is some sort of turtle, for those to whom this was not obvious). Visitors will see the Super Bowl trophy won by the Baltimore Colts under the leadership of the great Johnny Unitas and the children’s zone offers kids the chance to try on helmets and uniforms from Maryland’s sports teams. Other athletes who hail from Baltimore but did not play for Baltimore teams are highlighted, including Babe Ruth, Michael Phelps, and figure skater Kimmie Meissner. This is a great place for sports fans and history buffs alike.
How to plan your visit: As mentioned above under the Babe Ruth Museum, the value-for-money option is to purchase a combination ticket for both sites. If you do not wish to do so, tickets to the Sports Legends Museum are $8 for adults, $4 for children. The museum is open daily from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm.
This list is meant only as a guide for planning your trip to Baltimore and is by no means an exhaustive list of Baltimore’s museums. The city has dozens of other incredible museums that you’ll want to check out for yourself, including the Edgar Allen Poe Museum, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Baltimore Museum of Industry, the Streetcar Museum, the Museum of Dentistry, the Fire Museum, and many more.
I was particularly impressed with the diversity of museums offered in Baltimore as they provided me a glimpse into cultures and industries for which I knew little about.
Who knew Baltimore was such a museum hot-spot?
Have you visited Baltimore? What museums do you recommend?