Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine


Welcome back to National Parks and other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link. Happy Flag Day to my American friends and family!


Fort McHenry is best known for its role in the War of 1812, when it defended Baltimore Harbor against an attack by the British navy. It was first built in 1798 and saw military service up through WWII. First designated a national park in 1925, it was re-designated a “National Monument and Historic Shrine” in 1939.


On the morning following the decisive battle in the War of 1812, the victorious American soldiers raised a large flag over the fort. Seeing the 14-star flag flying in the smoke and aftermath of the battle inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem “Defence of Fort M’Henry.” Later set to music, it became the Star Spangled Banner, our national anthem.


It is tradition that when a new flag is designed it first flies over Fort McHenry. The first official 49- and 50-star American flags were flown over the fort and the originals are still there. The Star Spangled Banner flying outside over the fort is a replica of the one that inspired Francis Scott Key.


The fort is in an industrial area on the outskirts of Baltimore. If you are driving there, use the directions from the website. GPS will get you lost once you get off the highway. You can also take the ferry from Inner Harbor, but you can only take it back as a return trip (no using the fort’s lot for free parking while visiting the city.) You can see my post on Baltimore National Heritage Area by clicking here.


We visited on a 100 degree Fahrenheit day with young children. Too hot for the kids to do the junior ranger thing, we started with the movie in the air-conditioned visitor center…it’s actually moving as well as informative. It’s short, about ten minutes.


We perused some interesting exhibits in the visitor’s center. Did I mention the air conditioning? And that we were there on the hottest weekend of the summer? The exhibits were cool…literally.


Then we braved the swampy inferno and walked out to the fort to see the cannons and the Star Spangled replica. There were lots of rangers around during our visit, which was great because the kids had questions which the rangers were happy to answer.


Location: 2400 E Fort Ave, Baltimore, MD 21230

Designation: National Monument

Date designation declared: 3/3/1925

Date of my visit: July 17, 2013


Assateague Island National Seashore


Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.


On a long weekend we were spending in Ocean City, Maryland, we decided to take a break from the non-stop coverage of the Boston Bomber manhunt and explore the Maryland District of Assateague Island National Seashore.


Assateague is a 37-mile barrier island off the coasts of Maryland and Virginia. The area is famous for its wild horses…descended from shipwreck survivors or from early settlers’ free-range horses.


We began at the Barrier Island Visitor Center, just before the Verazzano Bridge which connects the mainland to the island. The visitor center has some aquariums, a film about the horses and some other interesting displays. We grabbed a map and headed across the bridge, keeping our eyes open for wild horses.


The part of the island just on the other side of the bridge is a Maryland State Park. You have to turn right onto the main road to continue to the NPS tollbooth.  From there, we drove about two miles to the end of the road in the Maryland District.


There is no road connecting the Maryland and Virginia sections of the island. To see the Virginia section ( Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge) you must drive via the mainland to the southern entrance. A fence at the Maryland-Virginia border keeps the two herds of wild horses separate.


Assateague Island National Seashore has three short nature loop trails. ‘Life of the Dunes’ trail begins at the end of the park road. It’s a 3/4 mile flat trail in sand.  There are numbered markers that correspond to a nature guide that can be printed from the NPS website.


We saw patches of asphalt buried in the sand in part of the loop. Apparently, this island had been prepared for residential development in the 1950s with a road running the length of the island. A hurricane blew those plans away in 1962 and then the NPS designation was granted in 1965, preventing further construction.


From a parking lot on the Atlantic Ocean side of the road, we walked down to the beach. We’d been told at the visitor center that the horses might be harder to find due to torrential downpours the previous day. There weren’t any hanging out on the beach but we enjoyed watching the seabirds chase the waves.


We walked the two other short loop trails: ‘Life of the Forest’ and ‘Life of the Marshes.’ Both of these were about a half mile with boardwalk sections.


Just as we were about to give up on seeing any of the horses, they found us in one of the parking lots. They ignored us while we took photos (from a safe distance, of course.) And then we saw some more just as we were about to cross the bridge to the mainland. Hooray!


Location: 7206 National Seashore Ln, Berlin, MD 21811

Designation: National Seashore

Date designated or established: January 1, 1965

Date of my visit: April 19, 2013




Baltimore National Heritage Area


Welcome back to National Parks with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

The Inner Harbor in Baltimore is contained within the Baltimore National Heritage Area. The city played a pivotal role in the war of 1812 and our national anthem was written here. My daughter and I spent a long weekend here with my sister and nephew on what turned out to be the hottest weekend of that summer. We spent our first day in town at Fort McHenry (to be covered in a separate post.) Below are the highlights of our visit.

DSC04989Historic Ships in Baltimore: We didn’t tour the ships, just took pics of them from the outside. We had two hot cranky children with us who never would have been patient enough to tour the ships and the tickets were not cheap. The seven foot knoll lighthouse on a nearby pier is part of this organization but is free to explore and has AC inside. It was a nice, brief stop and good photo ops from the top.

Baltimore National Heritage Area Visitor Center: We waited here for our trolley tour to begin on a day that was almost 100 degrees. The staff was extremely helpful, one lady even tried to cheer up our cranky 2 year old. It was a great place to stop so everyone could use the restrooms, there were some fun interactive exhibits that kept the kids occupied for a bit. If we’d had a longer visit planned, we would have arranged some other tours at the front desk. They also have discounted aquarium tickets.
The building itself is a beautiful modern design with great photo ops of the inner harbor right outside their back door.

DSC05028Baltimore Trolley Tour: This a great way to see all the points of interest in the city. The Park Ranger (all of Baltimore inner harbor is technically part of the National Parks System) who guided the tour was very knowledgable and kept us interested the entire 90 minutes.



The Star-Spangled Banner Flag House
The Lafayette Monument in Mount Vernon Place
The Emerson Bromo-Seltzer Tower was inspired by the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy

National Aquarium: Not a heritage site, but how can you visit Baltimore without spending a day at the National Aquarium? I have been to a lot of the major US aquariums and each has something that makes it unique and special. This aquarium is on a pier in the Inner Harbor, so do not expect outdoor attractions like sea lions or penguins. And strollers have to be checked at the front so plan for that if needed. The things we liked best about the National Aquarium were

  • Friendly, helpful, informative staff
  • Calypso the 500 lb, three finned turtle…seems to be thriving in the new Black tip reef exhibit
  • The Australia exhibit…staff member entertained the kids by demonstrating how the Archer fish ‘spit’ to knock insects into the water.
  • We also enjoyed the dolphin show, jellyfish exhibit, shark helix and watching the puffin feeding.

Location: Inner Harbor, Baltimore

Designation: National Heritage Area

Date designation declared: 3/30/2009

Date of my visit: July 2013