Summer is the ideal time to explore Baltimore. It's also tourist season, which means the Inner Harbor fills up with foot traffic. Though the rest of Baltimore can be humid in the summer months, there's usually a breeze blowing in from the water, which helps cool the harbor. Summer is also festival season, with a number of ethnic celebrations taking place around the city. Check www.promotionandarts.org for more information, as dates and locations change from year to year.
The Inner Harbor is a must-see, and try to squeeze in a baseball or football game if you can. If you spend a long weekend in Baltimore, you can see most of the Inner Harbor attractions and get out to a few neighborhoods, too. Weekends are by far the busiest time for the Inner Harbor, but weekdays are often the best time to explore the boutiques in neighborhoods like Hampden and Federal Hill.
New Year's Eve. New Year's Eve festivities in Baltimore include a 9 pm concert at the Harborplace amphitheater and a midnight fireworks display over Inner Harbor. 410/752–8632. www.promotionandarts.org.
The American Craft Council Retail Show. The American Craft Council Retail Show, held each February is the largest indoor, juried craft show in the country, drawing more than 800 exhibitors for three days of artful displays and sales. 800/836–3470. craftcouncil.org.
Maryland Preakness Celebration. The Maryland Preakness Celebration is a weeklong festival that includes parades, street parties, fund-raisers, and hot-air balloons. The celebration culminates in the annual running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course, on the third Saturday in May. 410/542–9400. www.preakness.com.
Artscape. Artscape, the country's largest free arts festival, takes over several blocks in the middle of the city for several days each July and is a must-visit for residents and tourists alike, featuring a half-dozen music stages, endless art displays, and live theater. www.artscape.org.
Maryland State Fair. In late August the Maryland State Fair, in Timonium (15 mi north of Baltimore), is 10 days of horse racing, livestock judging, live entertainment, agricultural displays, farm implements, and plenty of food. 410/252–0200. www.marylandstatefair.com.
Defenders' Day. Defenders' Day celebrations in September at Fort McHenry commemorate—with music, drilling, mock bombardment, and fireworks—the battle that led to the writing of the national anthem. 410/962–4290. www.nps.gov/fomc.