Car Free Journey: Baltimore, MD

By Steve Atlas


Baltimore, Maryland   

Nicknames: Charm City, Mobtown, B’more, The City of Firsts,  Monument City, Ravenstown

Mottos: “The Greatest City in America.”, “Get in on it.”, “The city that reads.”, “Believe.”

For the past several years, my hometown of Baltimore, Free Fall Baltimore: held every October to a series of free events, free admission to several attractions, and many other free programs and activities. The city offers several free shuttle buses that serve downtown Baltimore and other nearby attractions. The free bus service, Charm City Circulator, makes it easy and fun for visitors to enjoy a weekend here without needing to drive.

Baltimore’s local public transit system, Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) provides light rail, subway (Metro), and local and regional bus routes. (On weekdays, MTA provides MARC commuter train service between Baltimore and Washington, D.C.-just an hour away.) A one-day bus (good for unlimited travel on MTA local buses, subway and light rail) costs just $3.60 ($1.20 for senior citizens age 65 and older). For more information about MTA routes, schedules, fares and passes, visit, or call (410) 539-5000.

October is a great time to visit Baltimore, the city we will visit in today’s Car Free Journey column.


Getting Here

It’s easy to get here without a car. BWI Airport is served by Southwest and several other low-cost airlines. Baltimore’s Penn Station and BWI Rail stations are served by Amtrak’s Northeastern Regional (and some Acela) trains. Bolt Bus stops on St. Paul Street near Amtrak’s Baltimore Penn Station.

From all of these locations, it’s easy to take MTA’s Light Rail which stops at BWI Airport, and Penn Station. The Charm City Circulator’s Purple Route begins outside of Penn Station, on Charles St.

MEGABUS stops near the White Marsh Mall in Baltimore County. (From MEGABUS’s White Marsh stops, walk to the White Marsh Mall and catch MTA’s route 35 to downtown Baltimore.) Greyhound stops south of downtown at 2110 Haines Street, Baltimore 21201. MTA Route 27 serves the Greyhound terminal.

Where to Stay

Downtown Baltimore is the most convenient location to stay. From here, you can walk or take the free Charm City Circulator to most places you want to go.  However, downtown hotels are often more expensive than other locations. For more information about places to stay in downtown Baltimore, visit, or call toll-free (877) BALTIMORE.

Visit Baltimore, the Baltimore Regions’ tourist information service, recommends the area near BWI airport as a less expensive alternative. All the hotels they list offer free shuttle service to BWI Airport (where you can catch the Light Rail). Several hotel shuttles also serve Amtrak’s BWI rail station and the BWI Business District light rail station.  For more information about places to stay near BWI Airport, go to

What to Do

Unless you are staying downtown, take MTA’s Light Rail to Convention Center, and connect with the Charm City Circulator’s Orange Route at Pratt and Howard Street (stop 219). For information about the Circulator’s routes and attractions along each route, visit, or call (410) 350-0456.

From Penn Station, take Charm City Circulator’s Purple Route through the historic Mount Vernon neighborhood.                    If you enjoy art museums, get off at Purple Route stop 315 (St. Paul and Centre) or Stop 307 (Washington Monument and North Charles St.) and visit Baltimore’s Walters Art Museum (, or call 410/47-9000), 600 North Charles Street. (You can also take MTA’s Light Rail to the Center Street station and walk up Center Street to the Museum.)

The Walters has thousands of treasures from mummies to arms and armor, from old master paintings to Art Nouveau jewelry. Admission to the Walters Arm Museum’s permanent collection is free. Don’t miss the Children’s suite of armor from the Renaissance, the ancient Egyptian mummies and the French painting from the 19th century. Open from 10 a.m. -5 p.m. (except Monday and Tuesday), the Walters is one of my favorite places in Baltimore.

The historic Mount Vernon neighborhood (where the Walters is located) is a great place for a leisurely stroll. Here are some web sites for more information:

In the Mount Vernon neighborhood

Washington Monument,

The Baltimore Basilica,

Maryland Historical Society,

View the historic Washington Monument, and the Mount Vernon Park.  If you like theatre, Baltimore’s Regional Theatre:  Center Stage (, or call 410/98604000), 700 North Calvert Street, is a good choice. See if a play is being performed.

Do you enjoy city markets? Then get off at Stop 323 on the Purple Route: Cross Street Market, ( Located at 1065 South Charles St. and open Monday-Saturday from 7 a.m.-7 p.m., this historic market has about 24 stalls, and attracts old times, young professionals, and tourists. The ever-popular Nick’s Inner Harbor Seafood sells its fish fresh or cooked to order.  The original Cross Street Market structure was an open-air shed dating to 1846. In 1871, a two-story Italian Revival-style market was constructed, but it burned down in 1951 The current 30,000-square foot structure was completed in 1952.

After leaving Cross Street Market, take the Purple route to Lee St. and Key Highway. Transfer to the Banner Route to Fort McHenry (stop 321 on the Purple route to stop 402 on the Banner Route). Fort McHenry is where Francis Scott Key wrote our National Anthem: the Star Spangled Banner.

After leaving Fort McHenry, take the Banner Route to Pratt Street (Stop 420). Turn right and walk a block to Calvert Street (and Pratt). Here, take the Orange Route (Stop 221m southeast corner of Pratt and Calvert) to several other outstanding attractions.

Do you enjoy or remember the game of pinball? Then, consider a visit to the National Pinball Museum (, or call 443/438-1241. Located at 608 Water Street, a short walk from Stop 223 (Market Street) on the Charm City Circulator’s Orange Route, or the Shot Tower station on MTA’s Metro Subway. It is open Friday: noon=8 p.m., Saturday: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday: noon to 6 p.m. The $12.50 admission fee includes the exhibits describing the history of pinball, plus (my favorite part) unlimited games on the museum’s many pinball machines for 2 hours. If you truly love pinball, $25 will give you unlimited admission and playing time all weekend. And it’s only a short walk to the Inner Harbor and the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and nearby neighborhoods have many more attractions than we can describe here. Here are links to some of the outstanding attractions’ web sites:

National Aquarium (stop 222 on the Circulator’s Orange Line)

American Visionary Art Museum  (stop 404 on the Circulator’s Banner Line)

Maryland Science Center  (stop 321 on the Circulator’s Purple Line)

B&O Railroad Museum  (stop 212 on the Circulator’s Orange Line)

Reginald F. Lewis Museum of MD African American History and Culture  (stop 201 on the Circulator’s Orange Line)

Peabody Institute (located near the Walters in Mount Vernon)

Free Fall Baltimore

Free Fall Baltimore activities take place throughout the city. Some attractions  offer free admission such as the Reginald F. Lewis Museum (stop 201 on Circulator), Walters Art Museum (stop 306 on Circulator), Everyman Theatre (stop 205 on Circulator), Strand Theatre (stop 310 on Circulator), Peabody Institute (stop 307 on Circulator). For more information about Free Fall Baltimore’s special events and attractions, visit:

Biking and Hiking during your visit

Light Street Cycles

You can rent bicycles at either Light Street Cycles  ( or Race Pace Cycles (

Two bike trails are worth checking out: NCR Trail ( and the        Jones Falls Trail (

Walking Tours

For information about local walking tours (most cost $10 or less), visit

Enjoy Baltimore by Water

One of our favorite activities is a ride on Baltimore’s Water Taxi. An all-day pass is $12 per person, and allows unlimited trips to historic Fells Point, Canton, Fort McHenry, National Science Center, and other stops near the Inner Harbor. For more information, visit: or call (410) 563-3900, or toll-free (800) 658-8947.

Come Back Soon

Baltimore is a city you will want to visit again. On your next trip, you can visit historic Mount Washington, walk along Lake Roland in Robert Lee Park (a short walk from the Falls Road station on the Light Rail), the Baltimore Museum of Art (a short walk from MTA’s bus route #3, and much more.  Unfortunately, our time together has run out, and you probably need to begin your trip home.

For More Information

For more information about Baltimore attractions, special events, entertainment, restaurants, and places to stay, call 1-877-BALTIMORE, or visit

For information about the Charm City Circulator and attractions along its routes, visit, or call (410) 350-0456.

For information about light rail, subway, commuter train, and local bus schedules and fares, visit, or call (410) 539-5000 or toll-free 1-866-RIDE-MTA.  Customer service representatives are available by phone Monday-Friday from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m. (Eastern Time).


Steve Atlas enjoys hearing from readers. Would you like to share a personal car free vacation experience, or suggest a destination for a future column? E-mail Steve at

View current and previous Car Free Journey columns at


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