Johnny Cash’s song “I’ve Been Everywhere” is a melodic, exhaustive rundown of all the places the Man In Black had been in our fair nation, and during the Summer of 2022, I relate, because I’ve been everywhere this summer, or at least it feels like I have. If Johnny had to endure this particular season of crazy heat, scary storms and treacherous travel, maybe that list would have been shorter and he would have just taken his guitar and gone home.

After several trips myself, which included some notable snafus, I’m super happy to be shoving that suitcase into the closet for the last time before my son starts school next week. But that doesn’t mean that I — or you — have to be done seeing sights in one of the very cities mentioned in that song — Baltimore. (I love symmetry.) After a pandemic dip in tourists in 2020, Charm City saw more than 24.3 million day and overnight visitors in 2021. And if you’re not in the mood to leave town, why not see the town, especially the parts you miss because you’re too busy working?

This is also personal for me as a Baltimore City kid. I remember hearing about people, especially Black ones, who grew up in shouting distance of the Inner Harbor and never went because they were made to feel that it wasn’t for them. NOPE. It’s our stuff! Go see your stuff!

I have always been somewhat of a staycation queen. There’s something cool about experiencing your city from the eyes of an outsider, from museums to hotels. I am also the person that out-of-town friends and family call to ask where they should stay, eat and spend their time, so I think of my own exploring as research. (You’re welcome, out-of-towners!)

So if you’ve got some time before summer’s officially over, here are my favorite Baltimore things to experience like a tourist, from free to ... very much not free (but I have suggestions to do it cheaper).

My son and I went last month with some friends from Washington, D.C. The familiar glass pyramid roof is right across from The Baltimore Banner newsroom but I hadn’t been inside in more than 20 years. There’s something so cool about seeing wonders through my kid’s eyes — like the alien-like jellyfish and the cool, calmly swimming sharks. Also, it’s very air-conditioned. That’s a huge draw. The Aquarium tickets are $29.95 for children and $39.95 for adults, but there are plenty of discount offers like half-price Friday nights.

My son and I have been to zoos from Salt Lake City to Little Rock — it’s become our thing — so of course we like visiting the hometown animals. We love them all, but the sheep and the giraffes are my favorites. Tickets start at $22 at the gate for kids and $26 for adults, but are $2 less if you buy them ahead of time. I also like the urban greenery of Druid Hill Park, which you can enjoy for free outside of the zoo walls. (A day at the zoo is also a good way to get your steps in over its 135-plus acres.)

I had a Harry Chapin “Cat’s In The Cradle” moment a few weeks ago when my kid asked me to ride bikes with him in the park. I started to say I was busy, and then imagined him singing sad folk songs about me never doing stuff with him. So to the park we went. We got some exercise, and took time to experience the history, from the monument to Gen. Pulaski to the duck pond. He’s not gonna be 8 forever. These moments are priceless. And this way I won’t be in a sad folk song.

I need absolutely no provocation for goofiness, but these fun weekend pirate excursions that leave from Fells Point and ride around the Inner Harbor are an extra excuse. You sing silly songs. You shoot water canons at a dude playing a pirate in a motorboat. You say “Aargh!” a lot and maybe buy a hat and a fake sword and don’t feel self-conscious about any of it. The Family Adventure cruises are $25 for those ages 3 and over and $14 for children 2 and under. (The adult B.Y.O.G. or Bring Your Own Grog cruises are $30. In full disclosure, I’ve never taken that one and just consume my grog on land.)

Hotels in various degrees of fancy

Hotels are my favorite hobby. I’m like middle-aged Black Eloise, because my dream is to live in a magical building where you can swim, or see a view you could never afford to buy, or just sit in bed watching ’90s action movies while people bring you food.

Three of my favorites are right in town — The Inn At Henderson’s Wharf in Fells Point, with its exposed brick wall coziness (Disclosure: my editor tells me this is a Choice Hotel, the chain owned by Banner founder Stewart Bainum Jr., but my stays there predate The Baltimore Banner. Just so you know); the Hyatt Regency at the Inner Harbor, where my parents took my twin sister and me for brunch on our 21st birthdays and where I’ve now taken my own son to hang at the rooftop pool; and the Sagamore Pendry, Fells Point’s history-laden scenester mecca with its own stunning pool and ties to my favorite all-time TV show, “Homicide: Life on the Street.”

There’s so much I haven’t gotten to do in my hometown. With Covid we still haven’t hit the museums much, and there are some fancy hotels I still need to check out and grab a bite in. But I’m excited to do more than just go to work and drive people to soccer games. I want to experience Baltimore. And I’m so glad I don’t have to take a plane, because I’m kinda done.

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