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Fells Point (Photo: Visit Baltimore)

Baltimore: There's more than just the Inner Harbor

When I used to think of Baltimore, the first thing that popped into my head was the Inner Harbor. But after I explored some other areas, I learned that Baltimore has much more to offer.

Hard to believe, but not long ago, the super-chic neighborhood of Harbor East was filled with dilapidated warehouses. Today it has emerged as the ultimate in luxury--the Four Seasons Hotel, high-end retailers offering everything from designer shoes, handbags, wines and chocolate to antiques and crafts, and trés expensive residences. All are connected via a wide waterside promenade and open spaces.

Along the waterfront I joined the bikers, joggers, and leisurely strollers taking in the stunning harbor views. Endless restaurants and bars line the street, many with outdoor seating. I chose Cinghiale-Osteria serving Northern Italian cuisine. The delicious dishes, attentive service and the ultimate in wine pairings, made it my new favorite.

From Harbor East it is an easy walk to Fell's Point. This historic cobble stoned waterfront neighborhood sits along the north shore of the Baltimore Harbor. It has undergone many transformations from shipbuilding to manufacturing to, now, an ultra-fun trendy neighborhood.

The coffee bars, antique shops and restaurants and pubs are always filled with people. Adding to the charm is that most shops are locally owned, not chains.

Long ago, I was told, the streets were filled with rowdy sailors and women of the night. So it seems many still roam, or should I say their ghosts. While I did not see any, the Original Fells Point Ghost Walk took us to haunted pubs, shops and residences.

Pirates and kids make the perfect combination, especially when they can climb aboard the Urban Pirates and blast enemies with water cannons. For lunch I headed to Waterfront Kitchen for locally sourced food. It was a great seat to watch all the action on the water.

Now it was time to leave the waterfront for Mount Vernon. The 200-year-old Washington Monument is the centerpiece. Reopened in 2015 after a five year, $6 million renovation, I walked 227 narrow winding stairs to the top. And well worth it.

Mount Vernon is known as a lively cultural center. Perfect for museum goers is the Walters Art Museum with masterpieces by Raphael, El Greco, and Bernini. Across the street is the George Peabody Library. Its Grand Cathedral of Books soaring 61 feet is an architectural marvel.

Afterwards I stopped by the Maryland Historical Society to see the original manuscript of "The Star-Spangled Banner." Get tickets to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Center Stage, one of the top 10 regional theaters in the country.

Mount Vernon also has a treasure trove of well-preserved 19th century architecture. Stroll on your own or take a tour. I had dinner at Magdalena. It is in a Gilded Age mansion turned hotel, The Ivy. You might even get a tour of this magnificent mansion from the concierge.