By Mindie Burgoyne 

The Baltimore area is a famous tourist destination with many well-known attractions, but it’s also home to some remarkable not-so-well-known places. Here are the ones you never knew you could tour.

Photo Credit: The Baltimore Basilica


Also known as America’s First Cathedral, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a National Historic Landmark that was designed by Henry LaTrobe, famous for his design of the U.S. Capitol. It was built between 1806 and 1821 in what was to become America’s first Catholic diocese. In the wake of Catholic persecution that plagued the American colonies, John Carroll established the Baltimore Diocese, and shortly after launched plans for this dramatic building which became America’s first cathedral. Pope John Paul II referred to it as “the worldwide symbol of religious freedom.”

Guided tours are offered Monday through Saturday at 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. On Sundays, a public tour is offered at noon. The 45-minute tour includes all areas of the church including the undercroft where rare inverted arches can be seen and photographed by visitors. There is also a prayer garden and a museum with hundreds of artifacts and antiques. Be sure to check if there are any special exhibits on display.  A donation of at least $2 per person is requested.

Photo Credit: Historic Ships of Baltimore


Hours: January – March: 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (USS Constellation, USS Torsk, Lightship
Chesapeake) Check website for April through December
Cost: FREE for Military Personnel (w/ ID), Museum Members & Children 5 and under.
Adult (15-59) $11 for one ship, $14 for two ships, $18 for three ships; Senior (60+) $9 for one
ship, $12 for two ships, $15 for three ships; Youth (6-14) $5 for one ship, $6 for two ships, $7 for
three ships.

Visitors who walk through Baltimore’s Inner Harbor can’t help but see the historic ships docked there. The USS Constellation dominates many of the Harbor views, but most visitors don’t realize they can come aboard and explore this historic ship that was in service during the U.S. Civil War. Or step aboard the World War II era submarine USS Torsk also known as the “Galloping Ghost of the Japanese Coast,” or tour the last ship floating that fought in the attack on Pearl Harbor – the USCGC Taney, a High Endurance Coast Guard Cutter. Also on the Historic Ships tour are the Lightship Chesapeake and the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse. This on- board historic exposition is an effort to reveal America’s maritime history through an authentic experience.

Photo Credit: National Cryptology Museum


Hours: Mon – Fri: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., First & Third Saturdays: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Cost: FREE

While most people know that everything at the National Security Agency (NSA) is secret, some may not know that there is one public facility at the Agency that welcomes visitors who want to learn about cryptology and the NSA’s history. The National Cryptologic Museum houses thousands of artifacts that reveal some of the most dramatic times in America’s national security history. The most popular display is the Enigma, the German device used to encrypt Nazi messages during World War II. Also popular are the Native American Code Talker, the Pacific War, Civil War, World War I and Vietnam War displays.

Photo Credit: The Johns Hopkins Hospital


Hours: Tours available Mon – Fri between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Reservations are required.
Cost: Free

Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore opened in 1889 and has since pioneered the concept of combining patient care with teaching and research. It is now a $6.5 billion global health enterprise that has produced 20 Nobel Laureates. Its historic dome is a familiar site on the Baltimore skyline, and the hospital provides a tour for those interested in hearing the history and getting a closer look at the operations of this remarkable facility. The 45-minute guided tour includes the first floor of the Blalock building and the Meyer Building (where famous pediatric neurosurgeon, Ben Carson has his office) and the dome and famous Christ statue which has been offering patients and families comfort for more than 100 years.

Baltimore’s Famous Towers

Baltimore’s skyline is dappled with skyscrapers, and some of the most familiar towers are open for the public to tour.


Hours: Wed – Thurs 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., Fri – Sat 10 a.m. – 7 p.m., Sun – 11 a.m. -6 p.m.(last
tickets sold 30 minutes prior to close)
Cost: Adults – $5, Seniors $4, Children (3 to 12) $3, Under 3- FREE

World Trade Center: The Top of the World venue is located on the 27th floor in the tallest pentagonal building in the world. The World Trade Center rests directly on the harbor, and its “top of the world” panoramic views include Federal Hill, Fort McHenry, the World Port of Baltimore also known as the outer harbor, and the Francis Scott Key Bridge. In the lobby of the World Trade Center is an art gallery and just outside is a 911 memorial displaying remnants of the collapsed World Trade Center in New York City.

Phoenix Shot Tower: Located at 801 E. Pratt Street in Baltimore, the 234-foot brick, cylindrical tower with a castle-like top was once a place where lead shot for firearms was made. It was built in 1828 and was the tallest building in America until 1846. It is now a historical landmark that can be toured. Reservations are required. To book a tour contact the Baltimore Women’s Civic League at (410) 837-5424.

The Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower: Probably the most iconic building in the Baltimore skyline, the Bromo Seltzer Tower is to Baltimore what the Empire State Building is to New York. Now a beacon for the creative people, the Tower houses art studios for painters, sculptors, writers, and visiting artists. It also houses a small theater. Every first Saturday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower opens to the public for its First Saturday Open Studio Tour. The tour is self-guided but includes a demonstration of the clock tower on the half hour with commentary on the building’s history. Call ahead to confirm opening times – Joe Wall (443) 874-3596 or send email

Mindie Burgoyne is an author, travel writer and tour guide living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her blog, The Travel Hag, shares information on outdoor travel for women. She is the author of Haunted Eastern Shore: Ghostly Tales from East of the Chesapeake.