Fort McHenry

Tour the historic defense building which was the inspiration for the U.S. national anthem.

Fort McHenry helped shape the identity of the nation. It was a critical defense post during the War of 1812 and inspired Francis Scott Key to write a poem that later became the national anthem. Today you can tour this harbor-side attraction to learn about its fascinating history.

On the morning of September 14, 1812, though the British navy had bombarded the harbor all day and all night, the fort still held. As the British fleet withdrew, a new flag was erected at the fort. This was the scene that inspired lawyer Francis Scott Key to write The Defense of Fort McHenry, which won the hearts of Americans when it became The Star-Spangled Banner.

Take the family to see the setting of "the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave." The tour starts in the Visitor Center with a short orientation movie about the fort’s history. There are also interactive displays, which show uniforms, weapons, maps and animations of the Battle of Baltimore, the Civil War and World War I.

Continue to the barracks and officer's quarters outside. When you see the cannons and stare out over the bay it is easy to imagine the fierce battle that took place here over 200 years ago. Read the displays throughout the park to learn interesting facts, such as the story of the gunpowder store which miraculously didn’t explode during a bomb raid. You can take part in the changing of the flag ceremony with a replica of the original flag, with 15 stars and 15 stripes. It is so large that a handful of people are needed to fold it.

Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine is situated on the edge of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and is accessible by water taxi, car and bus. The fort is open daily, with extended opening hours in summer. Take a self-guided tour or follow a volunteer. The cheap entrance ticket is valid for a whole week and children under 16 enter for free.

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