We start day two with a tour of the National Aquarium and are treated to a number of new exhibits including the Black Tip Reef, a replication of Indo-Pacific reefs complete with 65 species, including sharks, rays, tropical fish and sea turtles. Sitting in the underwater viewing area, we see the exhibit really come alive.
After lunch in Harborplace, we visit the Maryland Science Center just a couple of hundred yards away. This is a wonderful place to spend the day, especially if cruising with kids, because the hands-on exhibits both entertain and educate. Following a fascinating, virtual voyage through the human body and an hour in the exciting Davis Planetarium, we catch a captivating movie about the Arctic in the five-story, 3-D Imax theater. Kids of all ages love this place.
After enjoying happy hour on our boat, we walk the mile and a half to Little Italy, where we have dinner reservations at La Scala. On the way, we discover Saint Leo’s Bocce Park on Stiles Street and watch as the neighborhood elders enjoy some friendly competition. There are nearly 30 restaurants, many with rave reviews, in the 20 square blocks of Little Italy, so it’s not hard to find a great meal here. We certainly did.
The next morning we visit the American Visionary Art Museum just around the corner from our marina for some lighthearted fun. This is a museum like no other, exhibiting art produced by self-taught individuals who aren’t part of the mainstream art establishment. There are 4,000-plus pieces of fascinating art in the museum’s permanent collection, and the museum shop will surely give you some creative, if not bizarre, gift ideas.
Entering the harbor the day before, we had passed the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, a star-shaped structure known for its role in the War of 1812, during which Francis Scott Key penned “The Star-Spangled Banner.” We take a water taxi to the fort and enjoy a 10-minute orientation film at the visitor’s center followed by a one-hour, self-guided tour. This was time well spent. It gave my wife and I a case of patriotic goose bumps.
We take the water taxi to Baltimore’s Fell’s Point neighborhood, famous for having one of the highest concentrations of pubs and drinking holes of any U.S. city. Its maritime past is celebrated not only by its saloon atmosphere, but also by its variety of funky antiques shops, waterfront cafes, fun festivals and lively music. We stop by Duda’s Tavern, grab a seat at the bar and order a cold brew and a crab cake sandwich. I know I’m back in Baltimore when the female bartender calls me “hon.”
Topping off a great day, we walk from the marina to Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the beautiful ballpark of the Baltimore Orioles. One of the last games of the regular season is tonight, and the O’s are playing the Boston Red Sox. As the crowd stands to sing the national anthem, we think of our earlier visit to Fort McHenry. The first pitch is thrown as the sun begins to set over the Baltimore skyline. Is this a great country, or what?
As morning dawns we head to our home port of Annapolis, where we’ll catch up with family and friends and make plans to attend the Annapolis boat shows. As we pass by the mooring field near the U.S. Naval Academy, we see boats hailing from up and down the coast, a few from Europe and even a couple from Down Under, a sign that early fall is the best time to be on a boat in the Chesapeake Bay. The weather is mild, the leaves are starting to turn, and the Annapolis power and sailboat shows are about to begin. After we spend a day at each show, we begin our exploration of the surrounding area with trips to St. Michaels, Oxford and Tilghman Island. And as the Canadian geese begin to arrive, we turn our bow south for the winter.