$20 in Baltimore: The 20 Best Ways to Spend It
Baltimore isn't exactly a destination city, but if you find yourself in the area, you can be sure that you'll be anything but bored. From relaxing rides on a water taxi to checking out John Waters' old haunts, Charm City has a little something for everyone at an affordable price. Check out these 20 things to do for $20 or less. (See also: Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards)
1. Ride the Water Taxi Around the Harbor
For just $7 one way you can board the Baltimore Water Taxi, which will take you on a relaxing ride around the famed Inner Harbor en route to local landmarks. You'll see the National Aquarium, the Maryland Science Center, and Fort McHenry, and travel to nearby neighborhoods like Fells Point and Canton. You can hop off at any of the taxi's 17 stops, but you'll have to buy another ticket if you plan to ride it back. Savvy spenders, however, will buy the $12 all-day pass that allows you to hop on and off as much as you'd like. (See also: $20 in New York City)
2. Picnic at Fort McHenry
Fort McHenry, a coastal star-shaped fort best known for its role in the War of 1812, is a great place to brush up on your history (there's more to this national monument and historic shrine than being the birthplace of our National Anthem) and remember those who fought for our freedom all those years ago. Make a day of it by packing a picnic that you can enjoy along the water's edge. Admission is $7, and the pass is valid for seven days.
3. Enjoy the Scenery at the Walters Art Museum
Home to thousands of artworks from around the world, The Walters Art Museum was founded in 1934 and still remains one of the most popular attractions in Baltimore. Perhaps that's because admission is free, but the museum also is well known for its permanent collection of ancient, medieval, Asian, and Islamic art. The limited-time exhibitions are worth popping into, but those require a fee.
4. Settle In for a Double or Triple Feature at the Local Drive-In
Hands down, spending an evening at Bengies Drive-In Theatre (located about 20 minutes from the downtown area) is one of my favorite activities in the area — and you can't beat the deal. For an admission price of around $8 (prices vary according to the website), you can watch two or three first-run movies back-to-back starting at dusk. It's a fail-proof date night; trust me. There's also a concession center where you can stock up on all your favorite movie munchies, or you can bring in your own goodies if you buy a $10 food and drink permit. Bring pillows, blankets, and bug spray to make the experience all the more comfortable.
5. Play a Game of Disc Golf at Druid Hill Park
Druid Hill Park, which is situated adjacent to the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, features 745 lush acres of playgrounds, ball fields, tennis courts, and public pavilions, among many other recreational areas. One of the most interesting activities the park offers is disc golf, which is played like golf on an 18-hole course with a Frisbee replacing the ball (and clubs and snootiness). Get a group together for a little friendly competition.
6. Visit the Animals at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore
If you're an animal lover, you'll enjoy the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, home to a wide array of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and more. Among the most popular attractions is Polar Beach Watch, an exhibit about life on the edge of the Arctic. You'll use most of your $20 budget on admission — it's $17.50 — so you might want to pack your lunch.
7. Visit the Graves of Historic Figures
Plenty of famous (and infamous) people have lived and died in Baltimore. Thus, if you enjoy delving into the macabre every now and then, plan a visit to a local cemetery — like Green Mount Cemetery — where you can visit the graves of Betsy Bonaparte, John Wilkes Booth, and a large number of the state's politicians and servicemen.
8. Try Your Luck at LGBT Bingo
For $20 exactly you'll receive a book that will allow you to play LGBT bingo at the Hippo for several hours every Wednesday night. Though the price is hefty, your investment could pay off in cash prizes or the progressive jackpot.
9. Experience Cinema in a Beautiful Setting
For the low, low price of just $6, you can catch a movie at the Rotunda, a favorite local landmark. And since you saved so much on admission, you can splurge at the concession stand.
10. Get Inspired at the American Visionary Art Museum
If your idea of great art includes mirror mosaics and paper mache statues, the American Visionary Art Museum is right up your alley. There's lots to enjoy here — inside and out — and it'll only set you back $15.95. Show your student ID, however, and you can gain entry for $9.95.
11. Have Lunch at the Famous Lexington Market
Opened in 1782, the World Famous Lexington Market is one of the longest-running markets in the world and a true Baltimore icon. Inside you'll find a plethora of shops, but it's the food that keeps the crowds coming. If you want to eat like a local, order an all-lump crab cake ($12.95) for which Faidley Seafood is renowned; snag a bag of fresh Utz potato chips; and satisfy your sweet tooth with a Berger Cookie, a shortbread delicacy topped with a thick layer of chocolate fudge.
12. Say Your Prayers at the First Metropolitan Cathedral Built in the U.S.
If you have an urge to get closer to God during your trip, pop into the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary — billed as America's first cathedral — for a few moments of peace. While you're there, look around to discover neo-classical architecture, a 17th century organ, artwork, and more.
13. Show Your Team Spirit at a Baltimore Orioles Game
If you don't mind nosebleed seats, you can watch the Baltimore Orioles take on a rival team from April to October for under $20 — sometimes less than $10, even. Food and drinks inside the park will add up quickly, so I recommend grabbing your hot dog, peanuts, and drinks from a street vendor and taking them inside. Luckily, Camden Yards allows outside food and beverages.
14. Put On Your Dancing Shoes for Free Salsa Lessons
If you feel like cutting a rug — and learning a few new steps along the way — stop by Talara Restaurant for free salsa lessons from 9 to 9:30 p.m. with open dancing from 9:30 p.m. to midnight.
15. Test Your Knowledge at Bar Trivia in Federal Hill
Another one of my personal favorite activities, bar trivia in Baltimore will test your knowledge in a wide range of categories. You'll vie for prizes like free shots and money toward your tab all while kickin' back with friends and learning something new. It's free to play, and there are plenty of locations from which to choose, courtesy of Charm City Trivia.
16. Cool Off On a Hot Day at the Walter Sondheim Fountain
Weather too hot to handle? Visit Baltimore in July or August, and it may be. Don't get me started on the humidity. Yeesh! Thankfully, there's a free way to cool down with the public Walter Sondheim Fountain. All you have to do is slip on your swimsuit and act like a kid again.
17. Exercise Your Dog in Patterson Park
Spend some quality time with your pooch at the Patterson Dog Park, a fenced-in off-leash park where your furry friend can run and play all day. Afterward, take a walk around the grounds to appreciate its storied history that dates back to 1669.
18. Ride Your Bike Through the Gwynns Falls Trails
Hop on your bike and ride along 15 miles of the Gwynns Falls Trail, which starts on the Baltimore City/County border. Bring a camera to snap shots of wildlife, like the native Oriole bird.
19. Become a Hon During a Walking Tour of Hampden
Baltimore is known for a lot of things — crab cakes, snowballs (you MUST find one while you're in town), pit beef, Natty Boh — but its most characteristic element is the Baltimore accent, which is at its heaviest in the Hampden neighborhood to the north. Famous for its Hon subculture (there's even a festival to celebrate it), and its appearance in several John Waters movies, Hampden is a great place to soak up the quirky idiosyncrasies that make Baltimore special.
20. Start Up a Game of Bocce Ball in Little Italy
La Scala Ristorante Italiano can put a dent in your wallet if you don't watch yourself, but there are items on the menu that are both filling and affordable. After you've noshed at this Little Italy staple, head to its private bocce ball court, where, if you're lucky, you can start a game with a friend or join a game already in progress.
Are you from Baltimore? Ever been there? Tell me some of your favorite activities for less than $20 in the comments below.