Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine

I missed the second posts from last month and this month, but that’s because  I’m still catching up with other things that need to be done first that was delayed by my annual trip. It’s going to take me at least 6 more months before I get to the museums from my trip, so I’ll do the destination revel now, I went to Japan, and it was awesome. Before I ramble on and on about how great my trip was, let’s wrap up in Baltimore with…

Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, located in Baltimore, Maryland

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Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine is a park, and the park is open from 9am to 5pm daily. The Visitor Center and the Star Fort, both located within the park, is open from 9am-4:45pm daily. Admission to Fort McHenry is technically free as visitors are allowed to explore the park grounds and the Visitor Center for no charge, however admission to the historical area, also known as the Star Fort, is $10 per person. The admission fee is actually for a 7-day pass, so visitors can return anytime during the allotted 7-day period. The park is accessible via car, water taxi and public transportation. If you chooses to drive to Fort McHenry, there is ample free parking. If you happen to already be in the Inner Harbor, you can reach the park via a water taxi; note that if you didn’t arrive via water taxi to Fort McHenry, you cannot take the water taxi to leave. As for public transportation, take the free Charm City Circulator, via the Banner route, to the Fort McHenry stop (Stop #411). Other public buses also go to the historic site, please check the Maryland MTA site for more information. The Baltimore Museum of Industry is nearby if one wishes to stay in the area, but the various attractions in the Inner Harbor is only a stone’s throw away.

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First place visited was the Visitor Center, which contains the standard amenities, such as restrooms and a gift shop. In addition, the Visitor Center also contains three interconnected exhibits that relate to Fort McHenry. The first exhibit focuses on the origin of the national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner. The Star-Spangled Banner was initially a poem penned by Francis Scott Key after witnessing the British bombardment of Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore and then at dawn of the next day, still seeing the American flag waving at the fort. The next exhibit is about the Battle of Baltimore, a battle that is well remembered due to The Star-Spangled Banner in the War of 1812. The exhibit is a 10 minute film that focuses on the battle, and it is shown every half an hour. Last, but not least is an exhibit that focuses on the War of 1812. Visitors can learn about the origins, the battles and the aftermath of the war, in addition to viewing a variety of artifacts that include a canon, uniforms, and personal items of the soldiers.

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Walking through the park to the Star Fort, there are a variety of canons scattered about that visitors can take a closer look at. There are usually descriptions nearby to indicate the significance of each grouping of canons. The Star Fort is a five pointed-star shape that was popular when the fort was initially built as it allowed for a panoramic view of the surrounding area. The Star Fort contains barracks and related structures where soldiers lived and worked when the fort was still in operation, but today, these buildings house a variety of exhibits. Exhibits include the Commander’s Quarters, Guard House, Powder Magazine, Junior Officers’ Quarters and the Enlisted Men’s Quarters. The exhibits contain a variety of historical and military memorabilia. (Please excuse the terrible pictures. I didn’t realize that I had my camera set to manual focus until more than half through.) The star fort also does a flag change twice a day that is pretty interesting. They allow visitors to help with the process, so it’s a fun experience for anyone interested.

My travel buddy and I spent about 1.5 hours here, which is less than the recommended 2 hours that the site suggests. I think the additional 30 minutes that the site recommends is necessary as there is a lot to see and do (I felt we rushed through a lot of the exhibits as we had to catch a bus back home). However, the time frame needed for each visitor will vary depending on interest and other external factors. The admission to the fort is kind of expensive since most visitors will plan to go once only, but it’s nice to have the option to visit again within a week (and the money supports the national parks, so it’s for a good cause even if you visit only once.) Fort McHenry is a good family day trip idea as there is something for everyone in the family to do. Anyone interested in history, American history, and the origins of The Star-Spangled Banner will enjoy a visit to the historic site. Even if one is not interested in history, the park is still enjoyable as there are walking trails and it’s right by the water.  Wear comfy shoes, pack a picnic and enjoy the day learning American history at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine.

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2 thoughts on “Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine

    1. The site is quite nice, so definitely go for a visit. And since you are in Baltimore, you can go many times within a 7 day period.

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