Mole Expert Hub: How Visitors Experience Baltimore and Maryland
Chris Riehl is president of the Baltimore Tourism Association and owns Baltimore Rent-A-Tour, a tour company operating customised tour packages in Baltimore, Annapolis and Washington, DC.
In this Expert Hub interview, Chris tells TravelMole how different nationalities and demographics experience Baltimore and wider Maryland.
Which of your tours are the most popular? Do different nationalities favour a particular tour or theme?
Our most popular tours focus on the history of Maryland and how that history impacts us today.
UK and Canadian visitors tend to enjoy Fort McHenry as the War of 1812 pitted the US against them. It’s always fascinating to compare our local historical interpretation with how UK and Canadian visitors have learnt this history – visitors are often surprised.
International visitors also like to explore the immigrant experience in Maryland, as well as visit neighbourhoods that still embrace some of their heritage.
What do your clients find the most interesting about Maryland?
Other than the history and local neighbourhoods, almost all guests enjoy the local cuisine, especially seafood.
Which tourism sites and activities are enjoyed by different demographics?
Millennials visiting Baltimore enjoy some of our small businesses like micro-breweries and distilleries. These spots provide a very authentic experience while helping support the local economy, something which they say is of value to them. These travellers are also attracted by our strong community of short-term rental owners.
Families tend to focus on more typical tourist attractions like the National Aquarium, Maryland Science Center, and the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.
We find that older travellers are very interested in historic sites like Fort McHenry (birthplace of the National Anthem) and the free art museums, including the Walters Art Museum and the Baltimore Museum of Art.
Baltimore Inner Harbour
What about Maryland’s hidden gems and off-the-beaten track places to visit? Where else do visitors go?
Not all visitors learn about the many hidden spots around our state.
My favourites showcase Maryland’s natural resources and diverse ecosystems. I’d recommend a trip to Sandy Point State on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay or a visit to Deep Creek Lake in Western Maryland. Maryland isn’t known as “America in Miniature” for nothing.
Chesapeake Bay Bridge
How to visitors experience the restaurant scene in Baltimore?
Most visitors know that Baltimore has a reputation for world-famous seafood. They can find it difficult to choose a seafood restaurant as there are so many. Phillip’s is among the largest and has a prime location in the Power Plant building overlooking the harbour. Visitors enjoy their Maryland crab cakes or open steamed crabs.
The Little Italy neighbourhood is also a popular destination for its authentic Italian cuisine. Baltimore also boasts a number of newly renovated food halls and open markets that offer a variety of local and international dining options. These are increasingly popular with all types of visitor.
Crab Feast on Solomons Island
Are there any interesting shopping experiences?
Visitors report that the best shopping experiences are found in neighbourhoods rather than malls. There are many small businesses in communities like Fells Point, Hampden, and Federal Hill, including gift shops, second-hand stores, antique shops, boutiques, and record stores. Visitors like how these shopping experiences support the local economy.
Is it easy to get around Baltimore and wider Maryland? What is the most popular form of transport for tourists?
Most visitors in the city make use of the free Charm City Circulator bus and the Baltimore Water Taxi.
Baltimore is well connected to the surrounding region by public transport. Amtrak stops at Pennsylvania station just north of downtown. The MARC train can transport passengers to Washington, DC in under an hour. BWI/Thurgood Marshall Airport is only 20 minutes from downtown by taxi and is also connected to the city via Light Rail.
What are some of the common misperceptions your clients have about Baltimore and Maryland?
Unfortunately, media portrayals of Baltimore tend to paint the city in a negative light which does discourage visitors. The city certainly faces challenges, but those challenges are not unique to Baltimore and they do not define the city.
We find that one visit to Baltimore can really change somebody’s perception. Visitors are happy and surprised to find that the media portrayal is not the reality.
Chris Riehl is president of the Baltimore Tourism Association and owns Baltimore Rent-A-Tour, a tour company operating customised tour packages in Baltimore, Annapolis and Washington, DC, as well as transportation, shuttles and ticketing. This Expert Hub article was produced in partnership with Capital Region USA.