Quirky, gritty, energetic Baltimore has plenty to offer visitors. If you fancy seeing a real American city away from the busy crowds of New York City and minus the head-pounding traffic of Los Angeles, give Baltimore a whirl: it's only an hour north of Washington DC and centres on an historic and attractive harbour. And the city was used as the location for the filming of cult hit TV show The Wire.
Top museums and fun family attractions are scattered around the destination, and you'll find that the style that pervades East Coast cities combines with a welcome more akin to the southern states - there's a multitude of good reasons why Baltimore has earned the nickname of Charm City.
The largest city in the state of Maryland, in the north east of the United States of America, the jagged and interesting skyline of Baltimore showcases the mix of old and new, the historical and the modern.
Hotels in Baltimore are dotted among the neighbourhoods that make up the central areas of the city. Budget Baltimore hotels can be booked in most of these areas, as can luxury four- and five-star hotels from brands such as Ramada, Radisson, Hyatt, Holiday Inn, Hilton, Wyndham, Four Seasons and Best Western. The best known of Baltimore's varied districts is Inner Harbor, which features shops, restaurants and bars adjoining the riverside. It's a great spot to pick a hotel as many of the best attractions are situated around here.
Drift a little further along the river to Little Italy, where summer sees al fresco dining. It's a pleasant place to stay with a plethora of authentic Italian eateries ready to fill hungry bellies.
The areas of Canton and Fells Point are quieter, and boast charming and hip streets, with small hotels, B&Bs and converted townhouses offering a place to stay. If you want to base your break closer to the museums, consider booking a hotel in the Mount Vernon area.
Of course, there are many motel style properties along the freeways and highways. Look out for Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Sleep Inn and Comfort Inns.
Top five attractions
Discover jellyfish, sharks and dolphins alongside 16,000 other creatures at this impressive facility.
Maryland Science Center
An interactive and hands-on experience that will please kids and adults, the centre is one of the most striking new buildings on the harbour skyline.
Walters Museum of Art
There is free admission to this museum in Mount Vernon. The vast collection of art and appealing paid-for exhibitions will easily swallow a few hours.
Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park
The maritime history of African-Americans is told through the eyes of a young slave and a free American at this national heritage site.
Maryland Zoo in Baltimore
A firm family favourite, the zoo is home to a huge variety of animals, birds, and reptiles, with elephants, lions, and giraffes attracting the biggest crowds.
Baseball season; begins April: Book tickets to see the Baltimore Orioles in action, and then, just three blocks from Oriole Park, visit the birthplace and museum of Baltimore's son and the most famous baseball player in history, Babe Ruth.
Little Italy Open-Air Film Festival; July and August: Buy or hire a picnic blanket and head to Little Italy on a Friday evening to see a classic movie al fresco.
Fells Point Fun Festival; October: This autumnal carnival features music, food and plenty of activities for kids.