TRIP IDEA

Battles, Banners, and Boats: Discovering Baltimore History

Multiple Parks

Aerial view of Fort McHenry
Duration Full Day
Topic(s) African American Heritage, Enslavement, Maritime, Maritime - Military, Ships and Shipwrecks, Civil War, Arts, Forts, Industry, Factories, Military, Monuments and Memorials, Transportation, Trains and Railroads, Urban America, War of 1812, Coastal Defenses, Hospital, Artillery, Battlefields, Infantry and Militia, US Air Force (Army Air Corps), US Army, US Coast Guard, US Marines, US Navy, Presidents, Social Movements, Wars and Conflicts, World War I, World War II, Laborer and Worker, Women's History, Science, Technology and Innovation
Activities Guided Tours, Arts and Culture, Hands-On, Museum Exhibits
Type Kid Friendly, Active, Urban, Educational
Parks Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail

From the creation of the Star-Spangled Banner Flag to the battle at Fort McHenry, Baltimore is a city with a dynamic past. Visit the historic ships in Baltimore’s harbor, including the USCGC Taney, the SS John W. Brown, or the steam-powered tugboat the Baltimore. Or take a watertaxi to nearby Fort McHenry and learn about the Battle of Baltimore that took place in 1814. As American soldiers fought to defend the city from the British, Francis Scott Key watched from a ship out in the harbor. Heartened by the sight of the American flag flying over Fort McHenry, Key wrote what is now our national anthem, the Star Spangled Banner. Whether by car, bike, boat, or on foot, travel the city to discover its rich history.

Travel more of Baltimore, or explore more stories at our homepage: Telling All Americans’ Stories.


The content for this Trip Idea was researched and written by Dr. Katherine Crawford-Lackey.
Discover Baltimore History
    • Activity Fee: Yes
    • Reservations: No
    • Activity: Guided Tours
    • Pets: No
    • Duration: 1–3 Hours
    Black and white photo of the USS Constellation sailing on the water

    Built in 1855, the USS Constellation is a 22-gun sloop that was active for 100 years. The vessel served in several military conflicts and also played a central role in ending the foreign slave trade. Decommissioned in 1955, the ship is now located in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and is open for tours.

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    • Activity Fee: No (Entrance fees may apply)
    • Reservations: No
    • Activity: Hands-On
    • Pets: Yes with Restrictions
    • Duration: 15–30 Minutes
    • Season: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
    • Time of Day: Day
    A ranger watching the raising of the flag.

    Find out about the different ways visitors can learn about and honor the American Flag at Fort McHenry.

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    • Activity Fee: Yes
    • Reservations: No
    • Activity: Museum Exhibits
    • Pets: No
    • Duration: 1–3 Hours
    The Baltimore in the process of being restored.

    The Baltimore is the oldest operating steam-powered tugboat. Built in 1906, it towed large barges and workboats into the harbor and helped break up ice during the winter months. The tugboat even carried school groups and VIP visitors on tours around the city. Now a National Historic Landmark, the tugboat was gifted to the Baltimore Museum of Industry where it is docked today.

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    • Activity Fee: Yes
    • Reservations: No
    • Activity: Museum Exhibits
    • Pets: No
    • Duration: 1–3 Hours
    View of the front of the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House.

    Built in the late 1700s, the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House was the home of the Pickersgill family. Mary Young Pickersgill, a widow, started a flag sewing business to support herself and her family. Out of her home, Mary and her family sewed the flag that was raised over Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore in 1814.

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    • Activity Fee: No (Entrance fees may apply)
    • Reservations: No
    • Activity: Arts and Culture
    • Pets: Yes
    • Location: Baltimore
    • Duration: 1–2 Days
    • Season: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
    Photo looking down at Baltimore\'s Inner harbor with a view of the old power plant.

    Discover Baltimore National Heritage Area to learn about and explore the city’s historic neighborhoods, museums, and restaurants. From the Inner Harbor, hop on a Water Taxi to Fell’s Point, Federal Hill, and Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine or follow the red brick Waterfront Promenade and step into historic neighborhoods to see why this inland harbor made Baltimore such an important port.

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Last updated: August 6, 2021