Step aboard the last Civil War-era sloop and the last all-sail ship built by the US Navy.
The US Sloop-of-War Constellation is a naval relic of the country’s nautical past. The three-masted warship has more than a hundred years of seafaring history. These days the timber ship offers interactive tours.
Launched in 1854, the USS Constellation first served in the Mediterranean Squadron to protect American interests. It soon became the flagship of the U.S. African Squadron, helping to stop slave trading ships. After making many wartime voyages, the ship was retired in 1955. It was then configured to resemble the older US Frigate Constellation, which had been built in Baltimore in 1797. After years of neglect, the sloop was restored and returned to the Inner Harbor in 1999.
Your first port of call is the Maritime Museum where you can see the antique belongings of the ship’s crew. Walk through the museum to get to the vessel at Pier 1. Before you climb the stairs, check out the schedule for the firing of the Parrott rifle. Separate audio tours for children and adults are available and the crew can also guide you. Explore the four decks and find out what life was like for a sailor during wartime. Take part in a gun drill, pull sail lines and turn the capstan, a rotating machine for lifting heavy objects. The top deck was for sailing operations. Below it are the gun deck and the captain’s cabin. Venture further into the ship’s belly to see where most of the crew of 325 lived.
Children can sign up for the Powder Monkey tours on the weekends. Through demonstrations and hands-on activities, those of 6 years and older learn about the lives of the young boys who carried gunpowder from the warship’s magazines to its canons.
You can board the USS Constellation daily. Children receive a discount. To see more historic ships, pay a little extra to explore the nearby US Submarine Torsk, US Coast Guard Cutter Taney and Lightship Chesapeake. You have to pay for parking; the Charm City Circulator shuttle bus will take you there for free.