When Rachel & I originally envisioned this blog, we wanted to use it as a platform to talk about history, promote our tours AND chronicle our life as entrepreneurs and guides. We’ve done a good job with the first two items, but we haven’t posted many articles about guide life. I thought today’s post might be a good time.
For my part, I’ve had many guiding firsts in 2019. Let’s start in Baltimore.
I’d only been to Fort McHenry once with a school group before this year. 2019 has been a whole-new ball game; three visits and counting and we’re only through the first week of May. McHenry’s orientation film is well done, plus the ‘flag reveal’ at the end is moving (it’s likely dust in the visitor center, but my eyes invariably moisten when the national anthem is played). The x-factor with Fort McHenry is the weather. If it’s sunny and beautiful you can spend a healthy amount of time there. It’s right on the water, the views are beautiful, the grass is green and opportunities for frolic and merriment abound. If it’s rainy, you’ll be lucky to squeeze out an hour with a bus group as you’re basically limited to the visitor center and a quick dash out to the fort.
Good weather also means you’re able to participate in the Flag Talk program - wherein the students aid in unfurling a massive replica of the original Star Spangled Banner while the presenter talks up the Battle of Baltimore. Warning: Sometimes the presenter can be long winded and it doesn’t hurt to drop a word in their ear about time sensitivity if you’re on a schedule.
During one trip, I got caught in bad weather and had to abandon the fortress in search of additional Baltimore content. I ended up taking the group to Baltimore’s Washington Monument - the nation’s first real monument to the father of our country! Like its more famous DC counterpart, Baltimore’s monument is a soaring tower designed by Robert Mills. It’s not as tall as DC’s and the interior is a tighter squeeze, but if your group is willing to summit the steps, they’ll be treated to an amazing view of Charm City. You even get a sticker at the end of your experience which trumpets your successful climb. It was only $4 a student and (like an old relative thankful for visitation) the staff was overjoyed to have us! A homerun if you’ve got some petty-cash-leeway with your group. Multiple busses would create a logjam, but if you’re a single and have time, give the Mount Vernon Place Conservancy a call and they’ll hook you up. Also, the monument is situated in the heart of Baltimore’s historic Mount Vernon Place neighborhood, where you can poke your nose into a plethora of historic buildings and the free Walters Art Museum.
I also learned what a great spot Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is to scatter your group for lunch. It’s scenic, it’s got tall ships and plenty of cheap, fast eats. The tall ships caught my eye - they have a fair group rate and it occurs to me that more students should spend historically themed days in Baltimore. A guide could easily stitch together McHenry, Mount Vernon Place, the Inner Harbor, Edgar Alan Poe and a few more more 1812 sites (like the Pickersgill house).
I’m now on a mission to convince one of my regular groups that they should schedule a Baltimore day with yours truly as the group leader. Let me entertain and thrill you, damnit!