Baltimore has a rich, storied history as a seaport. In lieu of a maritime museum, the city has revamped several historic ships and other seafaring attractions into museums that visitors can climb aboard and experience firsthand. The Inner Harbor has four historic ships: the U.S.S. Constellation, a sloop-of-war from 1854; the U.S.C.G.C. Taney, a Coast Guard cutter; a WWII-era submarine named the U.S.S. Torsk; and a lightship that went by many names over the years, but is now known as the Chesapeake. Tickets can be purchased at stands outside any of the ships, and if you plan to hop aboard several you can get a pretty steep discount. This tour also includes a memorial to men lost at sea and a historic lighthouse that has been turned into a museum. Come explore the historic ships docked in the Inner Harbor and take in some great Baltimore history along the way.
Since most of this walking tour is outside, be sure to check the weather and plan ahead with items such as umbrellas and sunscreen. Even though the distance of this tour is short, good walking shoes are a necessity because you'll be standing the entire time. If you need a break, there are many restaurants around the harbor for lunch (you can also grab a snack and a seat inside the air conditioned Harborplace Mall). If you plan to tour through several ships, you can get multi-ship passes at a discounted rate.
Start your day at Federal Hill Park, the large hill that lies to the south side of the Inner Harbor. A well known lookout during the Civil War and War of 1812, today the park is the best place to get your bearings as you take in panoramic views of the entire Baltimore cityscape. Work up a sweat climbing to the top or walking the perimeter via paths that circle the hill at different levels, or hit the stairs on Battery Avenue near the intersection at Key Highway. Once at the top, take in some birds-eye views of many ships we'll be stopping at and see if you can spot our next stop, the Pride Memorial, from the top of the hill.
The tall mast that stands upright on the southern side of the Inner Harbor is a memorial to the Pride of Baltimore, an authentic reproduction of a 19th-century Baltimore clipper that was lost at sea with four of its twelve crew on May 14, 1986. The ship was commissioned by the City of Baltimore in 1975 as part of a plan to revitalize the Inner Harbor, and sailed over 150,000 nautical miles during her nine years of service. The ship was returning from Britain on the trade route to the Caribbean when a windstorm struck the just 250 nautical miles north of Puerto Rico. The ship capsized and sank, the captain and three crew were lost at sea while the remaining eight crewmembers floated on a partially inflated life-raft for over four days until a Norwegian tanker rescued them. A replica of the vessel replaced the pride in 1988 an now sails as a Goodwill Ambassador that represents Baltimore and the State of Maryland. It can often be seen in the Inner Harbor.
Key Highway and South Shore Promenade at Rash Field
Walk West along the outer edge of the Inner Harbor, passing the Maryland Science Center and the Baltimore Area Visitor's Center. On the way, you might catch sight of two bright yellow speed boats, dubbed the Seadogs, that offer 50-minute sightseeing tours of the Inner Harbor. For something a little more relaxed, Spirit Cruises (a yacht that hosts dinner and dancing tours) is also docked here. As the walkway turns to the right, you can't miss the U.S.S. Constellation. The last all-sail ship of the U.S. Navy, the U.S.S. Constellation was constructed in 1854. Climb aboard and you'll find that nearly all of the ship is accessible. Explore on your own or ask for assistance from the staff. If you're lucky, you'll catch the daily cannon firing.
Continue East past the World Trade Center (go to the top for another great view of the city) and several docks where you can rent paddle-boats, until you reach Pier 3. Here you can't miss a bright red ship that reads "Chesapeake" in capital white letters. Completed in 1930, this lightship served in the U.S. Coast Guard from 1939 until she was decommissioned in 1971. Designated a National Historic Landmark, the ship was handed over to Baltimore in 1982 and is open for touring.
Further toward the end of Pier 3, the U.S.S. Torsk is a gray submarine painted with jagged teeth that served 24 years with the U.S. Navy. One of only two Tench Class submarines located inside the country, the ship made two war patrols off Japan in 1945, sinking one cargo vessel and two coastal defense frigates. The latter was the last enemy ship sunk by the U.S. Navy in World War II. Nicknamed both the "Galloping Ghost of the Japanese Coast" and the "Last Survivor of Pearl Harbor," the ship also served during the Vietnam War, hunted for hurricanes off the coast of New Jersey in the 70's, and carried out drug interdiction patrols and search and rescue duties in the Caribbean until 1986 (including a 1985 bust that netted 160 tons of marijuana, the largest in U.S. history). Today the ship serves as a memorial and museum.
If you need a break, there are plenty of restaurants in the area. Inside the converted Power Plant on Pier 4 you'll find corporate restaurants such as the Hard Rock Cafe, Dick's Last Resort, Houlihans, Chipotle and Potbelly Sandwich Works. If you're looking for something with local flare, try Miss Shirley's (750 E. Pratt Street), a great brunch and lunch spot that features many Chesapeake-inspired dishes and consistently makes "best of" lists. Little Italy is also a short walk away (just keep walking East down Pratt Street) if you need to load up on some carbs.
Make your way over to Pier 5 (there is a walkway just south of the Power Plant) where you'll find the U.S.C.G.C. Taney, a famed Coast Guard cutter built in the mid-1930s that is notable for being the last ship floating that fought in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Named after Roger B. Taney, who served as US Attorney General, Secretary of the Treasury and Chief Justice of the Supreme court during his lifetime, the ship served during World War II and the Vietnam War. The ship now serves as a memorial and a museum that makes up part of the Historic Ships in Baltimore fleet.
Walk south the the edge of Pier 5 and you can't miss the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse, a round, raised building that is painted bright red. The last of its kind in Maryland, the lighthouse was constructed in the "screw-pile" style, meaning it sits on piles that are meant to be screwed into sandy or muddy sea or river bottoms. Originally installed on a shallow shoal, Seven Foot Knoll, at the mouth of the Patapsco River, the isolated lighthouse was manned by three keepers at a time and marked the river entrance for over 130 years before being decommissioned and moved to Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Now a museum, the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse is free to all visitors.
Pictures in this guide taken by:
libzay, jeffcovey, Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffcovey/3942799321/sizes/m/in/photostream/), bsabarnowl, Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/photos/bsabarnowl/3621330936/sizes/m/in/photostream/), Cham101