Baltimore is an urban American success story with an uplifting ending -- a Cinderella kind of tale. Once gritty and industrialized, Maryland's largest city has shed its down-at-the-heels character and transformed into a gleaming tourist magnet with world-class attractions, restaurants and sports. Its nickname, Charm City, says it all.
The civic revitalization movement started in 1980 with Harborplace, the lively downtown marketplace jammed with foods to eat and souvenirs to snap up. Eventually, other developments began to crop up along the Inner Harbor's waterfront, from the National Aquarium and the American Visionary Art Museum to the Power Plant (a dining and entertainment complex anchored by the Hard Rock Cafe) and Port Discovery Children's Museum.
The adventures, of course, don't dead-end at the Inner Harbor. The city is a mecca for baseball aficionados. Any stroll through America's favorite pastime should include Oriole Park at Camden Yards, one of the most fabled ballparks in the country, as well as the adjacent Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards and the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum, which pays homage to the Sultan of Swat.
To really understand Charm City, you need to wander its many distinctive neighborhoods, which resemble a collection of quaint villages within the larger borders of the metropolis. Such areas as Fell's Point, Canton, Federal Hill, Little Italy, Harbor East and Mount Vernon contain treasures -- historic, culinary and otherwise -- that are ripe for discovery. Most of the neighborhoods are within walking distance of the Inner Harbor. However, if your feet are complaining, take a 90-minute spin through the 'hoods aboard the new purple Trolley Tours, the only tourmobiles to depart from the Baltimore Visitor Center. The city also provides free transportation on the Charm City Circulator (four routes) and the Water Taxi Harbor Connector (two), both apropos forms of travel in this major seaport town with landlubber appeal.
--written by Carolyn Spencer Brown; updated by Andrea Sachs