Sky-high views of Baltimore


November 01, 2001|By Lisa Wiseman | Lisa Wiseman,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

SOMETIMES the view from the ground just isn't enough. You feel a need to go up on high and see the world stretch endlessly away. Or at least a couple of miles away.

There's an indescribable feeling of awe that you get from seeing buildings, bodies of water, automobiles, monuments, parks and even people from a vantage point of hundreds of feet above land.

In Baltimore, some of the best aerial views are from skyscrapers that are owned by private companies, such as the big banks and brokerage houses.

Unless you work at these places or happen to have business on an upper floor there, you have to go elsewhere to get a towering vista of the town.

Fortunately, there are plenty of sky-high views from places that the public has regular access to.

As to be expected, many are clustered around the Inner Harbor, but as the following roundup of best aerial sites to see the sights reveals, there are some surprisingly lofty views of Baltimore outside the city's center.

The HiFlyer at Port Discovery, 35 Market Place

Perhaps you've seen what looks like a huge white ball in the sky hovering over the Inner Harbor. At night, it glows like a low full moon. It's the HiFlyer hot-air balloon at the Port Discovery children's museum, and it's the newest and most innovative way to see the city.

Tethered by a steel cable, the balloon floats up 450 feet above the city, offering the highest public observation area in town. The enclosed gondola holds 25 to 30 people. The ride lasts a full 15 minutes.

It's an enchanting and beautiful way to see the city. And if you're with your significant other, it can be a very romantic trip, too.

But call before you go: The ride will not operate when helicopters are in the area or when the wind is faster than 26 knots (about 30 mph).

Tickets can be bought in advance at the museum's toy store (open beyond the regular museum hours) or through Ticketmaster. Today through Dec. 31, hours are noon to 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8.50 for children (3-12).

On nice days in January and February, call or check the Web site to see if the balloon will be going up. Full operation will resume in the spring. For more information, call 410-949-2FLY or go to

Moorish Tower, Druid Hill Park

Next time you're running or walking along the oval trail around Druid Lake reservoir in Baltimore's best-known park, stop when you reach the Moorish-looking tower with the club-shaped windows. Or make a trip there even if you have no plans to ever work out along the lake. Located on the south end of the park near 28th Street, the tower site offers a stunning north-to-south panoramic view of the city from the near-center point of town.

13th floor at the Belvedere, 1 E. Chase St.

When the Belvedere Hotel was built in 1902, it was the tallest building in midtown Baltimore. It's no longer a hotel - all the rooms have been converted to condos - but its restaurants and bars are still open to the public. And that's good news for nonsuperstitious fans of high-rise views.

Unlike many high-rise buildings, the Belvedere has a 13th floor. The bar located on the top floor, Club 13, offers a marvelous view of midtown that patrons of the Belvedere have been admiring for years.

Inside the posh bar, with its leopard-print rugs and black-lacquer tables, are windows that surround you.

At night, the interior lights are kept down low. The glass seems invisible, and the lights of the city shine all around, giving you the feeling of floating high above Charles Street and beyond.

Besides the view, the bar offers live entertainment. So if you like a little jazz, pop or rock music with your skyline view and your Skyy Vodka martini, this is definitely the place for you. Call 410-783-1332 for more information.

Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel, 700 Aliceanna St.

The 32-story Marriott, Baltimore's newest and tallest Inner Harbor hotel, offers a "quality room" with a water view and a king-size bed starting at $279. For the best views, you'll want an odd-numbered room from the 10th floor on up.

What's that? You don't have that much cash to blow on a big bed with big view? Well, you can always just ride the elevator to the 32nd floor and take a look from the window at the end of the hall. It looks out at the harbor near Pier 6, and you can see the lighthouse of Pier 5, Harborplace and beyond.

From all the way up there, the boats in the harbor look like children's toys in a bathtub.

For hotel reservations, call 410-385-3000.

Washington Monument, North Charles Street at Mount Vernon Place

It's 228 steps to the top of Baltimore's Washington Monument. If you're not in the best of shape, or a little claustrophobic, this isn't the observation site for you.

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