If you want to find the heart of the Sailabration, head to the Inner Harbor. The largest number of tall ships will be there, including some that shouldn’t be missed.
The Dewaruci is as grand as they come, and she usually makes a dramatic entrance. If you catch the 191-foot Indonesian tall ship during the parade of sail June 13, you’re likely to see naval cadets standing high up the foremast waving to the crowd. The ship also features onboard entertainment: a very lively marching band. The tour is the Dewaruci’s final act. The tourism ambassador and training vessel for Indonesia’s navy will be retired when it returns home in October.
You may have seen the Pride of Baltimore II when it docks occasionally in Baltimore or St. Michaels, Md., but this ship is worth a visit for its connection to the War of 1812. The Pride is a replica of an 1812-era topsail schooner privateer, used by privateers to attack British merchant vessels during the war. The crew, which welcomes school groups during the fall and spring, is well versed on how and why these clippers were so successful against the British. In addition to deck tours, the Pride will set sail in the evenings and (for a fee) offer a seaside perspective of the assembled ships.
After touring the Pride and Dewaruci — and perhaps the huge Cisne Branco and Cuauhtemoc docked in front of the visitor center — you might be ready for lunch, a snack or perhaps an escape from the crowds. If you haven’t visited the Inner Harbor in a while, you’ll notice that things have changed.
The green-roofed Harborplace pavilions still favor chain restaurants and shops, but there are new offerings worth exploring. Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. opened its only Mid-Atlantic outpost last month in the Light Street Pavilion. Those who liked “Forrest Gump” will be entertained by the decor and by the signs to summon a server that read “Run Forest Run.” Seafood is the main attraction, but the menu also includes ribs, burgers and salads.
Paciugo Gelato & Caffe is new to the Pratt Street Pavilion. Sample a trio of its fruit-flavored gelati; pear and banana are standouts. Its chocolate varieties will make you wish you had saved more room from lunch.
The oddest arrival in the Inner Harbor is Ripley’s Believe It or Not. The self-described “odditorium” is home to a Mini Cooper decorated with more than one million Swarovski crystals, a portrait made of 200,000 dead ants and other weird finds from around the world.
If you want more context to the War of 1812 and “The Star-Spangled Banner,” you’ll want to stray outside the Inner Harbor. Within walking distance is the home of Mary Pickersgill, the woman who made the 30-by-42-foot flag that inspired a young Francis Scott Key to write what became the national anthem. The Star-Spangled Banner Flag House offers a small exhibit on Pickersgill and the war itself in an adjacent museum. There’s also a room with hands-on activities for preschool-age visitors. On Flag Day (June 14) the museum will host the touring National 9/11 Flag, a large flag found in tatters at the site of the World Trade Center attack. Threads from the Star-Spangled Banner will be sewn into a Maryland patch on the flag as part of its restoration. There will also be living-history presentations, outdoor games and a flag-raising ceremony.
The Maryland Historical Society is a short (free) bus ride from the Inner Harbor but well worth the trip for its new exhibition “In Full Glory Reflected: Maryland During the War of 1812.” The society has brought together an impressive collection of objects and artwork from the time period. Perhaps more impressive is the chance to learn about local heroes, known as the Defenders, who kept the British out during the Battle of Baltimore. And don’t miss an original manuscript of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” written by Key in 1814.
Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., 301 Light St. Friday-Saturday 11 a.m. to midnight; Sunday-Thursday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. 410-244-0838. www.bubbagump.com/locations/baltimore. Paciugo Gelato & Caffe, 201 E. Pratt St. Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday noon to 7 p.m. 410-244-8170. www.paciugo.com/harborplace. Ripley’s Believe It or Not, 301 Light St. Friday-Saturday 10 a.m. to midnight; Sunday-Thursday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. 443-615-7878. www.ripleys.com. Adult $17.99, children $11.99. The Star-Spangled Banner Flag House, 844 E. Pratt St.; Open Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 410-837-1793. www.flaghouse.org. $7. Maryland Historical Society, 201 W. Monument St. Wednesday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday noon to 5 p.m. 410-685-3750. www.mdhs.org. Adults $6, $5 seniors, ages 3 to 18 $4, age 2 and younger free.