Inner Harbor, Baltimore
This is supposed to be one of the Inner Harbor's premier attractions. Well, there's not much to it. Located on the southwest side of the Inner Harbor, near Federal Hill, the building looks impressive. But once you get inside, and pay the $14.50 admission fee, you'll find that it's more of a children's playground than a real museum. There's hardly anything that's authentic; most of the exhibits are just cheesy replicas or imitations of something to do with science. It may be fun for kids, but for adults it's not much to see.
Unique Suggestions: Check the website:
And see if there are any good temporary exhibits. The IMAX theater may have something worth seeing.
Fun Alternatives: The National Aquarium is far better. If you like history, be sure to visit the USS Constellation and other historic ships. Or, you could stay home and watch NOVA on PBS.
Baltimore has many fine restaurants; there are good ones at the Inner Harbor, such as Paolo. But the Cheesecake Factory substitutes quantity for quality, and charges for it too.
Unique Suggestions: If there is a wait, go elsewhere!
Fun Alternatives: Paolo's or Capitol Brewing Company, or walk to the Joy America cafe at the American Visionary Art Museum
At most of the harborside restaurants, the food is priced in accordance with the view rather than the quality. There is often a lot of noise and crowds.
Unique Suggestions: If you eat down at Harborplace or in that area, be aware that you are paying for the location.
Fun Alternatives: Go to eat in one of the neighborhoods like Canton.
If your stamina or walking shoes won't get you that far, at least pick a place where the meal is 'an experience' more than just eating in a restaurant with a nice view - go on a dinner cruise, or eat in a really nice restaurant which happens to have a view rather than one of the chains.
Or go to a chain that you know and are comfortable with (like Hooters or the Hard Rock). At least you will know what you are getting.
O.K., I know that I listed the Inner Harbor as a "Must See", and indeed I stick to my guns. The worst aspect of the Inner Harbor is the price of everything....the restaurants are a bit pricier, the shops in the Gallery are pricier, but that is to be expected in the heart of any big city. Of course, every visitor comes to Baltimore and wants to spend time in the Inner Harbor, so of course, prices in this area are higher. But the Harbor itself is beautiful. It truly is a MUST SEE. The Harbor area is free to walk around, so once you are there, you can decide how you want to bugdet your money.
Unique Suggestions: Many of the restaurants offer stunning waterfront views. Don't want to spend a fortune on dinner? Go during happy hour and have a few cheap drinks and grab an appetizer. There are several areas that surround the Inner harbor area that offer amazing dishes, with prices more reasonable than found in the Harbor area. Fells Point, Little Italy, and Canton all boast great bars and restaurants. Baltimore is defined by so much more than our Inner Harbor, so hop on a Water Taxi, hail down a cab, or use your good old walking shoes to seek out all that our city has to offer.
The Inner harbor doesn't have to be a tourist trap if you don't want it to be. Check out things before you spend your money. It's that simple!
Unique Suggestions: The Inner Harbor might be consider a tourist trap by some,but that was the intention of ALL tourist attractions. Even though there are expensive resturants and shops you are not required to spend money there, you can window shop. The best time to tour the Inner Harbor is during the week when all locals are at work.The National Aquarium and Science Center are two of it's crown jewels.I will agree that the Power Plant is a waste of time and effort. Strolling the brick walkway and riding the Water Taxi are two musts. The Water Taxi will give a scenic view of the Inner Harbor access to Fort McHenry a National landmark for a reasonable price. If you going to visit do this during spring and fall. Summer is brutal, hot & humid in Baltimore. Don't forget preakness week ,this is a very crowded time also.
Fun Alternatives: If you want to eat good cheap food ask the locals. In Baltimore the people understand the value of a dollar. It's like taking a poll, or networking eventually you'll have to decide among the many choices you have obtained from the local people. See!, it isn't that bad if you ask a local for help. :o)
It's probably obvious that you should avoid Harborplace, along with the other monstrosities in the area that seem impossible not miss. There's absolutely no need to spend any time or money there; you can marvel at the harbor from another urban locale.
Unique Suggestions: Only spend your money on getting away, say via a water taxi.
Fun Alternatives: Take a quick bus or water taxi ride to Fells Point, or go to the southern part of the harbor and climb Federal Hill for the view.