15 Free Things You Can Do in Baltimore

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Photo of downtown Baltimore, including the Inner Harbor.

Baltimore is banging, and if you haven’t already, it’s high time to drop what you think you know from “The Wire” and get to know the real city that’s out there. 

A short bus or train trip from Washington, D.C., Baltimore is an East Coast charmer with culture (and crab cakes!) to spare. 

But while some crab shacks will charge you a hefty fee for those tasty-tasty sea spiders, not every activity in Baltimore needs to blow up your budget. At Wanderu, we believe you can trot the globe without going broke, which is why you can find cheap prices on bus rides to Baltimore from places like NYC, Philly or Boston

You can save your cash to consume as much seafood as humanly possible and explore the city carefree with these 15 free spots. We’ve broken them down by category to get you started:

MUSEUMS

Photo of the eye-catching staircase inside The Walters Art Museum.
(Vox Efx / Flickr)

1. The Walters Art Museum

600 N. Charles St.
Baltimore, MD 21201
10 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Wed, Fri, Sat, Sun)
10 a.m. – 9 p.m. (Thurs)
Closed Monday & Tuesday
Official site

WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: The Walters is a must. Beyond the massive collection (36,000 items and counting) of ancient art and artifacts from across the globe, there’s the building itself, with a crazy-grand atrium and secret stairwells that are calling to you. Around and growing since 1934, what started as a gifted — and near-encyclopedic in scope — collection from philanthropist Henry Walters has turned into a singular and spectacular arts institution.

2. Baltimore Museum of Art

10 Art Museum Dr.
Baltimore, MD 21218
10 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Wed – Sun)
Closed Monday & Tuesday
Official site

WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: BMA has the world’s largest holding of works by Henri Matisse, and nearly 100,000 works of modern, contemporary and 19th-century international art, with an eye toward diverse representation, globally and locally. All to say: You will not be short on eye candy of the art variety. Up through May 2021, artist Mickalene Thomas turned the building’s lobby into an immersive installation that functions as a (highly aesthetic) “living room for Baltimore” — one with a terrace to display other artists. 

3. American Visionary Art Museum Sculpture Barn & Wildflower Garden

800 Key Hwy.
Baltimore, MD 21230
10 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Tues – Sun)
Closed Monday
Official site

WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: The museum itself is a trippy ride. Like an LSD on the walls (and floors, and staircases, and …) type of trip. But you can get a taste sans the $16 entry fee: The Sculpture Barn and Wildflower Garden (with several bonkers art installations of its own) are free. The barn, once a warehouse for Four Roses bourbon, houses pieces like a life-size angel-and-alien chess set. The gift shop is also free, and it is just as wild as the rest of AVAM.

4. Maryland Institute College of Art Galleries

1303 W. Mount Royal Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21217
*12 galleries in different locations throughout campus
10 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Mon – Sat)
10 p.m. – 5 p.m. (Sun)
Official site

WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: MICA is consistently ranked as one of the nation’s very top fine arts schools, so when we say that “student art” fills many of the galleries, we’re not talking small potatoes. Decker, Meyerhoff and Pinkard take top billing, presenting major exhibitions of artists from the local to the international, while the other nine galleries — as well as other informal spaces around campus — display student work.

OUTDOORS

(Amy Meredith / Flickr)

5. Edgar Allan Poe Grave & Memorial

The Westminster Graveyard
519 W. Fayette St.
Baltimore, MD 21201
8 a.m. – 6 p.m. (Spring)
8 a.m. – 7 p.m. (Summer)
8 a.m. – 6 p.m. (Fall)
8 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Winter)
Open daily
Official site

WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: Poe was a famous figure in 19th century Baltimore, but when he died in 1849, his corpse ended up in an unmarked grave. It took nearly three decades before the famous “Tell-Tale Heart” writer’s last resting place finally got the monument it deserved — one designed by architect George Frederick, who also built Baltimore City Hall. In addition to the memorial, there’s also a more traditional tombstone, appropriately engraved with a raven.

6. Patterson Park

2900 E. Lombard St.
Baltimore, MD 21224
Dawn till dusk
Open daily
Official site

WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: Call it Baltimore’s Central Park. There are fountains, playgrounds, a boat lake, a stadium, a casino (?!), wetlands, a dog park, community gardens, a self-guided tree walk, a pool, ice skating rink … this park is a day-trip unto itself. There’s also a massive pagoda that’s part Asian, part Victorian in style. If you’re visiting on a Sunday from mid-April through mid-October, walk to the top between 12 p.m.– 6 p.m. where you can see downtown Baltimore, the Patapsco River, and more.

7. Harbor Connector

Multiple routes
6 a.m. – 11 a.m., 2:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. (Mon – Fri)
Closed Saturday & Sunday
Official site

WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: Why stand on the shore when you can shimmy across on a harbor ferry … for free? To clarify, we’re not talking water taxis: The Harbor Connector is a part of the Baltimore public transit system, and the several routes are free during (very generous) commute hours, moving you between Inner Harbor, Fell’s Point, Federal Hill and Canton.

8. Battle Creek Cypress Swamp Sanctuary

2880 Grays Rd.
Prince Frederick, MD 20678
Memorial Day to Labor Day:
9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. (Mon – Fri)
10 a.m. – 6 p.m. (Sat)
1 p.m. – 6 p.m. (Sun)
Labor Day to Memorial Day:

9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. (Mon – Fri)
10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. (Sat)
1 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. (Sun)
Official site

WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: Yes, the National Aquarium is fab, but it’s also pricey. So get out into nature’s aquarium at the Battle Creek Swamp Sanctuary. There’s a wetland boardwalk, interactive exhibits about the area’s natural and cultural heritage, places for picnics, birdwatching — and a major expanse of knobby bald-cypress trees that look like they’re from Middle-earth. There’s also a free audio tour available for download.

9. Rawlings Conservatory & Botanical Gardens

3100 Swann Dr.
Baltimore, MD 21217
10 a.m. – 4 p.m. (Wed – Sun)
Closed Monday & Tuesday
Official site

WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: All right, so this one is more indoors/outdoors, but it’s a non-negotiable spot if you have any affinity for flora, no matter your success level as a houseplant-parent. And while your succulent collection is surely stunning, wait till you see this amazing all-glass structure built in 1888, and the incredible biodiversity from pavilion to pavilion. While you’re there, wander around nearby Druid Hill Park — and please, if you love yourself at all, go the short jaunt north to explore the Hampden neighborhood, which oozes charm.

10. Oriole Park at Camden Yards

333 West Camden St.
Baltimore, MD 21201
Hours not set
Open daily
Official site

WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: No, game tickets aren’t free. But exploring the standard-bearer of modern baseball stadiums is. The Memorial Wall is well worth checking out, as is as the B&O Warehouse right behind home plate (which is the longest building on the East Coast at 1,016 feet long by 51 feet wide, if that’s a thing on your bucket list). If you want to go behind the scenes, 90-minute tours are $9 for adults, $6 for children and seniors. But do note, if you’re traveling with little ones: Kids younger than 9 years old can get into games for free.

ARCHITECTURE

11. George Peabody Library

17 E. Mount Vernon Pl.
Baltimore, MD 21202
10 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Tues – Thurs)
10 a.m. – 3 p.m. (Fri)
10 a.m. – 1 p.m. (Sat)
Closed Sunday & Monday
Official site

WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: Step 1) Pull up Google Image search. Step 2) Type in George Peabody Library. If you just did that, we can assume we’re done here. This palatial display of books and learning is enough to restore some serious faith in humanity’s potential — past, present and future. On a perhaps less-noble note: It will rock your Instagram feed.

12. Enoch Pratt Central Library

400 Cathedral St.
Baltimore, MD 21201
10 a.m. – 7 p.m. (Mon – Thurs)
10 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Fri – Sat)
1 p.m. – 5 p.m. (Sun)
Official site

WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: Baltimore is more of a book haven than you realized: Near the George Peabody, the Enoch Pratt Library’s Central branch is also a regular on the must-see circuit. After an extensive renovation that wrapped in Fall 2019, it’s more striking than ever. Sure, it’s an active library, but don’t let ground-floor stacks stop you from looking up — the patterned ceilings are across-the-board stunners.

WALKABOUT

Photo of Baltimore's Fells Point.

13. Fell’s Point Art Loop

Thames Street to Eastern Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21231
Open the second Saturday and the third Thursday of each month
2 p.m. – 5 p.m. (Second Saturday)
2 p.m. – 7 p.m. (Third Thursday)
Official site

WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: Here, you can get a sense of the art scene outside the city’s major institutions in a spot where you can blend in with the locals. In the same swoop, explore the historic, cobblestoned Fell’s Point neighborhood. Many of the area’s galleries open up for free, rotating shows and — bonus — most offer free snacks and wine.

14. Doors Open Baltimore

50-plus locations
Open one weekend each October
10 a.m. – 4 p.m. (May vary by location)
Official site

WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: Yes, this event only occurs one weekend per year, but it’s good enough that we’d consider booking a trip around it. More than 50 architectural gems that are typically closed to the public open up for your (free!) perusal. There are banks and basilicas, hotels and social clubs, apartments and underground museums. While you’re at it, check out the concurrent Free Fall Baltimore, which offers more than 200 free cultural events from some 90 organizations for the entire month of October.

15. Antique Row

800 block N. Howard St. and 200 block W. Read St.
Baltimore, MD 21201
11 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Mon – Sat)
12 p.m. – 5 p.m. (Sun)
Open daily
Official site

WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: Located in the Mount Vernon Cultural District, Antique Row is reviving the blocks’ past. In the mid-1800s, the area was home to craftspeople, furniture makers and a bustling secondhand trade of refurbished goods. Today, the streets are lined with shops hawking antique furniture, books, housewares, sculpture and ephemera. Multi-dealer Antique Row Stalls is the biggest vendor and the best place to start — at 10,000 square feet full of objects and art, it carries items that span from Chinese ceramics to 1950s kitsch. Of course, any purchases will run you some cash, but the browsing is fun and free.

While some snobs once nicknamed Baltimore “Smalltimore,” the Charm City has a huge number of activities to keep you occupied. But being pinned between the expensive megacities of D.C. and New York comes at a price, and that price is … well … high prices.

Thankfully, this roundup of historic sites, cultural touchstones and museums are the absolute best way to do Baltimore on a budget. And the best way to get there is by booking through Wanderu, where you can compare cheap bus, train and flight options all in the same search.

Looking to bounce from Baltimore to other top cities in the area? Check out our list of all the places you can go from Baltimore for less than $20. If New York, Philadelphia, Boston or D.C. are on your list, then you’ve lucked out — we’ve got free guides for them, too.

Travel Safely

At Wanderu, we want to make sure you are equipped with all the information you need to plan a safe trip. Please visit our COVID-19 Travel Guide for the latest tips & advisories.

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About the author
Alyssa Konermann

Alyssa Konermann

Alyssa Konermann has hitchhiked through rural Thailand; lived next to the beach in Goa, India; danced to folk music in Las Pampas and to club music is Buenos Aires; road-tripped around Morocco on some winding mountain roads she should not have survived; eaten from a communal pot of snails in Barcelona—and is always planning her next trip, even if it’s just a weekend eating in NYC. A freelance writer and former editor at Cincinnati Magazine, the adventure she’s currently on is pursuing a graduate degree in creative writing.

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