Looking to enjoy a “staycation,” but not interested in taking a bunch of day trips and overnights around the mid-Atlantic region? Don’t worry, there’s enough to see and do in the Charm City area to keep you busy and entertained for quite a while (and then some).
Everyone — even those pesky tourists to Baltimore — knows about Harborplace, the National Aquarium and Fells Point. But what about some of the lesser-known, off-the-beaten-path places in and around Bmore?
Well, let’s start off with a peculiar gem that, arguably, is hidden in plain sight — the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower, at 21 S. Eutaw St. The tower was built in 1911 by headache/hangover/indigestion remedy entrepreneur “Captain” Isaac E. Emerson, designed by celebrated architect Joseph Evans Sperry and modeled after Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio. This quirky landmark — once crowned by a rotating and illuminated 51-foot-high replica Bromo Seltzer bottle that could be spotted from the Eastern Shore — offers “15 floors of art, photography, fashion and more,” according to leasing administrator Betsy Stone. It also houses a nifty museum of the tower’s history as well as tours of the fully functional clock room.
In addition, the museum offers displays of the iconic, cobalt-blue Maryland Glass Corp. bottles in which Bromo Seltzer’s elixir powder was manufactured and stored. Did you know that when it was built, the Bromo Seltzer Tower was the tallest edifice in Baltimore and featured the world’s largest four-dial gravity-driven clock (which even exceeded Big Ben’s)? Or that delegates to the 1912 Democratic National Convention toured (and marveled about) the then-new building while hanging out in Charm City? Power to the Tower!
You might also want to sink your teeth into the Dr. Samuel H. Harris National Museum of Dentistry, at 31 S. Greene St., near the University of Maryland School of Dentistry, the world’s first dental college. The museum offers a collection of 40,000 dental instruments, furniture pieces and assorted artwork, and it’s been recognized nationally for being an innovative educational facility devoted to the importance of oral health. Brush those teeth, kids!
Fans of U.S. Naval and World War II history can tour and enjoy the S.S. John W. Brown. Located at Pier 1 at 2020 S. Clinton St., the decommissioned Liberty Ship now serves as a museum, exploring life during the WWII era and the transportation of troops, materiel and equipment. “This wonderful piece of history provides an educational and historical opportunity for the public to experience 1944 all over again, without the dangers of being sunk by a submarine or a torpedo bomber!” muses the ship’s website.
Another don’t-miss is the Howard Peters Rawlings Conservatory and Botanic Gardens at Druid Hill Park. Opened in 1888 and on the National Register of Historic Places, it is the second oldest glass botanical conservatory in the nation. Visitors will walk away with a stronger appreciation and understanding of plants from around the globe and the crucial roles they play in our lives.
Another wonderful place to meditate and contemplate the wonders of nature (and art) is the Baltimore Museum of Art’s Sculpture Gardens, at 10 Art Museum Drive. Nestled on three acres are a pair of terraced gardens that are home to 33 works of modern and contemporary sculpture. Truly sublime!
Also not to be missed is the magnificent and majestic George Peabody Library housed at the Peabody Institute, 1 E. Mount Vernon Place. Besides being a research facility (with more than 300,000 volumes), the library — with its marble floors, six tiers of cast-iron columns, decorative railings and massive skylight — has become a premier wedding and events venue. Book it!
On the macabre side of things, there’s the historic and expansive Green Mount Cemetery, at 1501 Greenmount Ave. Among the notables buried here are Arunah S. Abell, founder of The Sun, celebrated Baltimore photographer A. Aubrey Bodine, poet Sidney Lanier, freak show performer John Eck, Ouija board entrepreneur Elijah Bond and philanthropists Johns Hopkins and Enoch Pratt. Oh, and not to be forgotten: John Wilkes Booth. Get your Lincoln pennies ready!
Speaking of the departed, there’s the Westminster Burying Ground and Catacombs, at the intersection of Fayette and Greene streets in downtown Baltimore. The Burying Ground is the final resting place of such luminaries as Edgar Allan Poe and Gen. James McHenry. Meanwhile, the Catacombs are arguably the spookiest and creepiest milieu in town, offering a uniquely twisted glimpse into Baltimore and the hereafter.
Venturing a bit outside of Mobtown, you might want to check out the National Electronics Museum, at 1745 W. Nursery Road in Linthicum Heights. This museum offers a compelling look at America’s electronic heritage, with exhibitions and collections related to the development of defense and other key electronics systems. It’s electric!
A little north of Towson, there’s the Hampton National Historic Site. This 18th-century estate features a resplendent Georgian mansion, lush gardens and original stone slave quarters. Owned by the Ridgely family for seven generations, Hampton provides a fascinating glimpse into the lives of land-owning aristocracy, before and after the Civil War.
A little farther from the city, there’s the historic Jerusalem Mill Village, at 2813 Jerusalem Road in Kingsville (in Gunpowder Falls State Park). The mill compound is a re-creation of an 18th-century village with actors, craftsmen, hiking trails and live traditional music. It features a blacksmith shop, general store, woodshop, museum exhibits and hands-on activities for visitors. Not to be missed just up the road is the historic Jericho Covered Bridge, allegedly the site of nighttime paranormal activities. Spooky!
And for those whose hearts belong to the great outdoors, there’s Rocks State Park in rural northern Harford County. The park features 855 acres of forestland, with the primary attractions being the King and Queen Seat, a 190-foot-high rock outcrop with a breathtaking view, and Kilgore Falls. There are also 3.5 miles of hiking trails, three picnic areas and access to Deer Creek, which is known for its fishing, wading and tubing opportunities. Why not make a big splash? (dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/central/rocks.aspx)
So much to see and do, and so little time. Enjoy your staycations!
Jordan Loux is a Baltimore-based freelance writer.
Editor-in-Chief Alan Feiler contributed to this article.