The charm of Baltimore is on display from arrival and it doesn't take much digging to find free and cheap things to do.
It doesn't cost much to discover the city's historic churches, libraries and monuments which are spread through the town and art lovers will be enticed by the quality and volume of works at city museums.
American Visionary Art Museum: This one-of-a-kind museum on the bottom of Federal Hill houses the best works from self-taught artists. About five to 10 percent of the museum's collection is on display outside—that you can see for free—including the "Giant Whirligig," a three-ton, multicolored wind-powered sculpture.
Artscape: Each summer for three days, Baltimore explodes with art as the city plays host to America's largest free arts festival. The 350,000-plus Artscape festival-goers experience every medium both indoors and outdoors from traditional performances by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra to experimental music, live concerts, exhibitions, dance and so much more.
Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum/Statue: The Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum pays homage to local son and baseball hero Babe Ruth with exhibits like "Babe Batted Here," with artifacts including his jersey from Baltimore's St. Mary's Industrial School and "The Historic House," with the upstairs room in the house where Ruth was born. Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened in 1992 and the statue of Ruth—or "Babe's Dream"—stands just outside the Eutaw Street entrance. he's been there since 1998.
Baltimore Museum of Art: Just three miles north of the Inner Harbor, the Baltimore Museum of Art is free to the public, open Wednesday through Sunday. The museum is known for its historic, modern and contemporary art and has works from distinguished artists like Matisse and Gauguin. Wednesday at the museum means free guided tours of the exhibitions and collections. Relax in lush garden settings while touring two sculpture gardens covering almost three acres.
Evergreen Museum and Library: The Evergreen Museum and Library has 48 rooms in a lavish Gilded Age mansion, home to more than 50,000 belongings of the Garrett family, who made their riches in the B&O Railroad. Find items such as rare books and decorative arts or tour the property's lush 26 acres.
Maryland Institute College of Art: This degree-granting art college connects with the public by playing host to exhibitions and events from a diverse group of artists including students. Find works of art in 11 galleries and spaces or attend performances in three separate event venues.
Reginald F. Lewis Museum: The story of Maryland African Americans' contributions are told through exhibits and collections in three galleries and a theater at this museum on East Pratt Street.
Walters Art Museum: This internationally acclaimed museum showcases treasures from third millennium B.C. to the early 20th century. This free museum is in the heart of the Mount Vernon cultural district.
Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower: It's easily one of Downtown's most recognizable structures, standing 15 stories tall, and when it was built in 1911 it was the city's tallest building. Now, the tower showcases local and regional artists with free exhibitions. The museum room on the 15th floor features Ernest Dimler's multigenerational collection of Bromo Seltzer bottles. Explore the tower on a Saturday open house and take a guided tour to the clock room ($5 donation) on the hour from 11:30 am-2:30 pm.
Cylburn Arboretum: Tour the grounds of the 207-acre public park and explore over 20 themed gardens or walk along three miles of wooded trails. Take a guided tour with a Cylburn docent or go off on your own with a free self-guided cell phone tour.
Enoch Pratt Free Library: Dating from before 1900, the headquarters for the city's library system on Cathedral Street takes up a city block. While one of the country's oldest libraries, the main location is more than up-to-date offering eBooks and audiobooks in addition to the traditional variety. There are children's story times, free films and career advancement seminars free to the public.
Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center: The Eubie Blake National Jazz and Cultural Center engages diverse audiences through exhibits, dance workshops, film series and much more. Explore the center's art galleries to see the best from local artists, attend programs or workshops or head to the open mic on Be Free Fridays, the last Friday of every month.
Federal Hill Park: Federal Hill Park, just blocks away from and with gorgeous panoramas of the Inner Harbor, is the perfect place to spend an afternoon. As a key overwatch position during the Civil War and War of 1812, this public park is a great picnic area with a view of the city. Afterward discover Federal Hill, walking down cobblestone sidewalks to find a range of locally owned shops and restaurants. The Cross Street Market is the spot to grab seafood or produce during the day then becomes a lively night spot after dark.
Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine: Visit the military installation that defended Baltimore during the war of 1812, inspiring Francis Scott Key to write "The Star Spangled Banner."
Historic Ships in Baltimore: The Inner Harbor is home to four military vessels; the USS Constellation, the submarine USS Torsk, the USCGC Taney and the LV 116 Chesapeake. Take a tour to get a glimpse of shipboard life and how the ships operated.
Patterson Park Pagoda: Despite its Oriental appearance, the Pagoda, designed in 1890 was intended to reflect the Victorian style of the day. The iconic part of Patterson Park is open noon-6 pm on Sundays. The top of the tower provides top views of adjacent neighborhoods and the harbor.
Rawlings Conservatory and Botanic Gardens: Plants from all over the world are housed in settings designed for tropical, desert and Mediterranean environments, spread across three greenhouses, two display pavilions and and outdoor gardens. Capture the sweet smells in The Tropical House or view ever-changing displays in The Orchid Room in the Rawlings Conservatory. Admission is free but a $5 donation is suggested.
The Baltimore Basilica: The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the country's first cathedral, built from 1806-1821. Multiple tours are offered Monday-Saturday and Sunday at noon. See the neoclassical architecture and the grand dome that was inspired by the U..S. Capitol. Adjacent to the Basilica and available for visitation is the Pope John Paul II Prayer Garden opened in 2008.
Washington Monument: This tribute to George Washington is the centerpiece of Mount Vernon Place. The free gallery is highlighted by a bust of the former president at the entrance, then visitors can take virtual tours of the interior and exterior, including live streamed views from the top of the 13-story edifice. For a small fee—$6 adults, $4 for children 13 and under—a pulse-challenging climb of 227 marble steps to the top can be made. For safety restrictions, only five people at a time can climb so reservations are encouraged.
Westminster Hall and Burying Grounds: The Burying Grounds—which are the final resting place of notables including Baltimore's Edgar Allan Poe—are open daily to the public beginning at 8 am to dusk. Erected plaques throughout note the grounds' history and biographies of those buried there. Tours of The Catacombs and Westminster Hall—completed in 1852, over 60 years after the Burying Grounds—can be explored, but only with a guide. Six times a year, enjoy "Lunch Under the Pipes" featuring the resident 1882 Johnson Pipe Organ.
Charm City Circulator: Get to key parts of Baltimore City for free on the Charm City Circulator. These 30 hybrid electric shuttle buses travel along four routes making stops every 10 to 15 minutes—including the Inner Harbor and Fell's Point—and connects to rail and subway lines.
Baltimore Water Taxi: The Baltimore Water Taxi is the perfect way to beat the heat of the street while getting where you're going. Explore the harbor's 17 landing sites an unlimited number of times with an all-day pass ranging from $6-$14.