From the lively Inner Harbor, to museums and festivals, Baltimore has a hefty list of places to go and things to see that are not only fun, but free!
Getting around Baltimore is easy with the city’s free bus, the Charm City Circulator. With four bus routes and one water taxi route you can get around the core of the city in no time. Download the mobile app for maps and estimated arrival times.
Museums & Libraries
Located in the heart of the Mount Vernon Cultural District, the Walters Art Gallery is always free and features thousands of works from the third millennium B.C. to the early 20th century. The museum also offers free audio tours of the permanent collection that can be checked out at the Visitor Services Desk. The museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
The Baltimore Museum of Art or “The BMA” as locals call it, offers a diverse collection of art from cultures around the world. The museum’s sculpture garden is a great spot on a beautiful day, though it is open rain or shine. Staff-led tours are offered periodically, check the website for the schedule, but the museum also has audio tours that can be downloaded from iTunes. The museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
The George Peabody Library is part of the Sheridan Libraries Special Collections at Johns Hopkins University. While it is still in use as a research library, one step inside the spectacular main hall and you’ll understand why it has become a popular event venue. With six levels of books rising 61 feet on all sides, a stunning black-and-white marble floor, cast-iron columns, decorative railings, and gold-leaf embellishments, the space is truly breathtaking. Open for visitors during limited times, Tuesday-Saturday.
The Johns Hopkins Peabody Institute is a world-renowned conservatory of music. Peabody stages nearly 100 performances a year, from classical to contemporary to jazz, lectures, book signings, and other events. Starting in 2017, all concerts at Peabody are free!
Pier Six Concert Pavilion is a truly unique concert venue. It really is a pier that juts out into the Inner Harbor along the main waterfront promenade. As a smaller venue, it tends to feature lesser known acts, up-and-comers, and retro performers. If you’re craving your 90’s faves like Third Eye Blind and Goo Goo Dolls, this is the place to find them. Ticket prices can range from $25 to $200+, but if you’re looking for an even better deal, follow the lead of the locals and enjoy the concert from one of the other nearby piers for free. On any given concert night you’ll find swarms of locals with coolers, chairs, picnics, and takeout enjoying the music and the friendly atmosphere. Some spots also offer stage views so bring your binoculars.
If you happen to find yourself in Baltimore on a sunny day then be sure to take advantage of the city’s nearly seven-mile waterfront promenade. From Locust Point on the southwest side all the way around Federal Hill and Downtown, through Harbor East, Fells Point, and Canton, this solid-surface trail offers fantastic views of the city from a variety of angles. One section of the promenade extends into Fort McHenry where you can spot sailboats and commercial ships coming and going from the harbor, but if you want to tour the fort there is a small fee.
Located on the southwest side of the Inner Harbor, at the edge of the Federal Hill neighborhood, Federal Hill served as a defensive stronghold during the War of 1812. It now offers locals and visitors alike spectacular views of the city and plenty of shade to relax under during hot summer days. Grab some carry out food at one of the Inner Harbor food stalls and bring it up here for an unbeatable picnic.
Throughout spring, summer, and fall Baltimore comes alive with free street festivals. From the newest, Light City, a festival of light and music, to the most famous, Artscape, America’s largest free arts festival, to neighborhood, arts, and cultural festivals like the Pigtown Festival, Latinofest, the African American Festival, Book Festival, and the Fells Point Fun Festival there’s something for everyone. To find out what’s going on during your stay, check out the Visit Baltimore website for an up-to-date calendar.
For even more free activities, check the HI Baltimore activities board or talk to the staff. There may be a neighborhood tour, community dinner, or group outing that you can join where you can also meet other travelers staying at the hostel.
Find more free things to across the country in the HI USA Free For All.
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Responsible Travel Guide: Baltimore