Are you an American History buff? Would you like your children to have a more in depth knowledge of American History? Then schedule a vacation to Baltimore, Maryland in 2011 as the city marks the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War and the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. A weekend in Baltimore spent touring historical sites and museums will leave you with a better understanding of the nation’s history and a profound appreciation for what was sacrificed by the earliest citizens.
Use this guide to help you plan a Baltimore vacation that’s fun and educational for the whole family.
Where to Stay In Baltimore On Your Historic Vacation
Home Of The Star Spangled Banner
There are several historic hotels in Baltimore, but only one can claim to be the place where The Star Spangled Banner was created. The Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott – Baltimore Inner Harbor hotel is located in the building where Mary Pickersgill stitched the 30 feet by 42 feet flag that would later inspire Francis Scott Key to pen the words “Oh say, can you see”. At the time, the building was a brewery and provided the additional space that Mary needed to create, as ordered, “a flag so large that the British would have no difficulty seeing it from a distance”.
What To See In Baltimore On Your Historic Vacation
Continue your education about the poem that would become our national anthem with a visit to Fort McHenry. Although Francis Scott Key never actually set foot in Fort McHenry, it was from a boat just beyond its walls that he wrote “Defence of Fort McHenry”, a poem that would later be set to the tune of an old British pub song and renamed “The Star Spangled Banner”.
Fort McHenry would later play a prominent role in Maryland’s history and the Civil War. It was here that President Lincoln imprisoned several state politicians in order to prevent a vote on the state’s secession, which could have put the country’s current capital behind enemy lines and changed the outcome of the war. This story adds an interesting perspective to our country’s history and one of our most revered presidents.
Civil War Trails Driving Tours
Stop by the Baltimore Visitors Center on the Inner Harbor and pick up one of several brochures for Civil War Trails driving tours. These are self-guided tours that will take you along important sites throughout the area. The brochures offer detailed information about what you’re seeing and the events that cemented the sites’ place in history.
B&O Railroad Museum
Visit this museum set inside one of the original roundhouses of the B&O Railroad and learn more about the Civil War and the impact of railroading. In an exhibit that will evolve over the coming years to mirror the passing of the war years in Maryland, the B&O Railroad Museum will feature the country’s largest collection of Civil War trains. You’ll learn about the evolution of the railroad industry, life in the mid-1800s and Baltimore’s unique role in the Civil War and American history. You’ll also be able to take a narrated train ride from the museum’s Whistlestop Gateway terminal to the site of Camp Caroll, the largest Union soldier encampment in Baltimore and the site of present day Civil War reenactments.
President Street Station
Although this is a small museum, it does a great job of relaying the stories of the Baltimore riot of 1861 – when Baltimore citizens attacked Union soldiers marching through town, and Maryland’s decision not to secede – or rather it’s failure to make a decision.
Where To Eat
Baltimore has a wide variety of dining options to choose from, including gourmet dining and restaurants set in historic buildings. Head to Federal Hill for great pubs and cafes or the Inner Harbor for restaurants that cater to tourists and families.
Or grab a bite of amazing Middle Eastern food at Lebanese Taverna on President Street. (It’s a short walk from the President Street Station and great for a lunch stop!) Don’t worry about food too spicy for kids, the menu here is perfect for expanding your gestational horizons without scaring off the weak-tongued. Start with the spinach pie (trust me!) and then share a mixed kabob plate.
All photos by Britt Reints