How I Spent 24 Hours in Baltimore

Inside of an ornate library

It turns out this extravert loves solo trips. Don’t get me wrong—my wife, six-year-old daughter, and I enjoy traveling together. But, since becoming parents, my wife and I have found the need for short solo trips. We book solo trips once or twice a year to refresh, reflect, and restart. Having dedicated space to ourselves gives us the energy to be present together as a family. I recently spent 24 hours in Baltimore, a short drive from my home in Washington, D.C. 24 hours is all I needed to do what I love best-—explore cities. Baltimore is Maryland’s largest city and one of the oldest in the country. Here’s how I spent my time there:

10:30 a.m. —Hit the road

After a workout in Washington, D.C., I drove to Baltimore just after the daily rush hour traffic. To my surprise, the drive took around 40 minutes without any slowdowns on 295. 

11:10 a.m.—National Aquarium

Finding street parking along downtown Baltimore’s Guilford Avenue, I checked in at the National Aquarium, the most visited attraction in Maryland. 

I started my visit with the Shark Behind-the-Scenes Tour. For 45 minutes, a staff member took me and two others to where the food was prepared for the fish. Afterward, we fed the fish before walking ‘Shark Alley,” a winding ramp surrounded by the aquarium’s largest tank. 

Child looking on in amazement at shark swimming around tank
Photo Credit: Lydia Browning

Then, the real behind-the-scenes happened. Opening a locked door, we entered the actual tank. As we walked along a catwalk, several sharks swam below our feet. Like most sharks, these ones are harmless. Phew! 

After the tour, I wandered the aquarium and learned about local fish, spotted parrots in the Amazon River Forest exhibit, and watched dolphins jump into the air at Dolphin Discovery. 

2 p.m.—George Peabody Library

The next stop was the George Peabody Library, often called one of the country’s “most beautiful libraries.” Now part of Johns Hopkins University, the library was built in 1878 with five levels of ornamental cast-iron balconies housing over 300,000 volumes of historic books. 

Visitors are welcome to enjoy its beauty Sunday through Thursday.

3 p.m.—Lunch

A foodie at heart, I stopped for a late lunch at JBGB’s in Baltimore’s Remington. I ordered the “Italian Beef” sandwich off of the menu written on a large parchment paper at the counter. The flavor of the meat made the sandwich pop.

Sadly, JBGB’s permanently closed at the end of December 2023. Their flagship, John Brown General and Butchery, remains open in Cockeysville, Maryland. 

4 p.m.—Public Art

With my smartphone in hand, I wandered the city in search of pops of color.

Charles Village is one of several neighborhoods where historic homes are painted bright colors similar to San Francisco’s famous “Painted Ladies.” 

Colorful homes 24 hours in Baltimore
Photo Credit: Austin Graff

Murals color all parts of Baltimore. I found a walkway painted blue, yellow, and red at the Mount Royal School. At 1-35 E 20th Street is muralist ESCIF’s “Looks Much Better Now” smiley face mural. Gaia’s cat mural is at 301 Wyman Park Drive. Find Jaz Erenberg’s colorful work painted on an old auto shop at the southeast corner of Charles Street and North Avenue.

BaltiMurals has a great map of some of the city’s murals. 

5 p.m.—Check into guesthouse

I checked into my home for the night — guesthouse by good neighbor. Located in Hampden, good neighbor is a seven-room, immigrant-owned guesthouse with the goal of connecting visitors to design, neighborhood, and Baltimore. Everything inside your room is for sale, from the locally sourced snacks to the furniture. 

7 p.m.—Holiday lights

Near the guesthouse is “Miracle on 34th Street,” a 76-year tradition where one block decorates big for the December holidays.

Row houses with Christmas lights
Photo Credit: Miracle on 24th Street in Hampden

I walked the block and signed a guestbook on someone’s porch decorated with dolls before popping into an art gallery inside one of the block’s rowhouses. 

8 p.m.—Dinner

Recommended by the concierge at the guesthouse, I showed up at Marta, an Italian restaurant named one of Baltimore’s “best new restaurants” near Patterson Park. I sat at the bar and ordered the Caesar salad and meatballs cacio e pepe. Delicious!

9 p.m.—Evening walk

I took advantage of the restaurant’s proximity to Patterson Park and enjoyed an evening stroll. The park opened in 1827 and is the city’s largest park.

Pagoda lit up at night
Photo Credit: Nancy Neely and Ray Grewe

The iconic pagoda is strung with lights during the holidays. 

8 a.m.—Breakfast

Two coffee stops are in store for every trip. For my first cup of the day, I walked downstairs to good neighbor, a coffee shop and store in the same building as guesthouse. My vanilla latte made with locally roasted beans was the perfect way to wake up. 

For breakfast, I ordered a flaky chocolate croissant at nearby Maillard Pastries, a popular bakery inside an old Hampden rowhouse. 

9 a.m.—More coffee!

My next caffeine hit came from Cafe Los Suenos, an El Salvadoran coffee shop that got its start at a farmers market in Washington, D.C. 

10 a.m.—Baltimore Museum of Art

I was the first in line at the Baltimore Museum of Art, a free museum founded in 1914 and home to over 95,000 pieces, including works by Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol.

The Baltimore Museum of Art, Photo Credit: Jon Bilous/

Don’t miss wandering through the sculpture garden outside. (And check out this list of unique museums in Baltimore for more museum inspiration.)

11:10 a.m.—Head home

After an exploration-filled 24 hours in Baltimore, I drove home, vowing to return. 

Find more ideas on things to do in Baltimore here.


Feature Photo Credit: Anna Champagne

About the Author

 Austin Graff is an explorer, writer and founder of Curiosity & Connection, a social media and travel consultancy. He’s currently a contributing writer with The Washington Post, By The Way’s D.C. local guide and one of the co-leaders of IGDC, D.C.’s first Instagram community. Austin lives in Southeast D.C. with his wife, daughter and housemate.

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