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Baltimore's charm lies in its neighborhoods. While stellar downtown attractions such as the National Aquarium and the Inner Harbor draw torrents of tourists each year, much of the city's character can be found in bergs like Hampden (the "p" is silent) and Federal Hill. Scores of Baltimore's trademark narrow redbrick terraces with white marble steps line the city's East and West sides. Some neighborhood streets are still made of cobblestone, and grand churches and museums and towering, glassy high-rises fill out the growing skyline.

After World War II, as manufacturing jobs dried up and its populace moved to the suburbs, Baltimore declined. But in the 1970s real-estate development surged in some areas, and new arts and cultural events such as the city's ethnic festivals began to spring up. Homesteaders started moving into once-abandoned terraces, and city tourism grew dramatically when the National Aquarium opened in the early 1980s. Further development of the Inner Harbor, including Oriole Park at Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium, continued to fuel the city's resurgence.

Now the city's blue-collar past mixes with present urban-professional revitalization. Industrial waterfront properties are giving way to high-end condos, and corner bars formerly dominated by National Bohemian beer—once made in the city—are adding microbrews to their beverage lists. And with more and more retail stores replacing old, run-down buildings and parking lots, Baltimore is one of the nation's up-and-coming cities. Though Baltimore has seen a spike in development, signs of the city's pockmarked past still persist. Boarded-up terraces sit just west of downtown, and abandoned factory shells still dot the landscape—signs of the troubles the city still faces.

Side Trips from Baltimore

Not far from Baltimore, Maryland's landscape is dotted with well-preserved 18th- and 19th-century towns. Harford County's Havre de Grace, at the top of the bay, and nearby Aberdeen, with a legacy of military history, make for an ideal day trip. Historic Ellicott City, southwest of Baltimore in Howard County, is a fun place to explore, have lunch, and shop.