Baltimore's hub of colorful activity pivots around its bustling waterfront. The Inner Harbor is the place to gather for spectacular crab feasts (and other culinary treats), shopping, live entertainment, and visits to the National Aquarium or the Maryland Science Center. Water taxi rides drop tourists off at citywide waterfront attractions. For a rare glimpse into naval history, The USS Constellation, the last Civil War era vessel afloat, is docked as a museum in the Inner Harbor, too.

The city is very walkable — the waterfront and 11 major convention properties are all within a stroll of the Baltimore Convention Center. The center has 300,000 square feet of unobstructed exhibition space and 50 meeting rooms that total another 85,000 square feet. Its ballroom can accommodate a 2,500-seat banquet.

Across the street from the center, Oriole Park at Camden Yards draws crowds in to see the Baltimore Orioles play. Right next door is Ravens Stadium, home of the NFL champion Baltimore Ravens.

One great way to experience Baltimore is on a 90-minute land/water tour on a military amphibious “duck” vehicle that winds through historic neighborhoods, (including Little Italy with its 20 Italian eateries) and past famous Baltimore landmarks, including Edgar Allen Poe's grave site at Westminster Hall. The “duck” wraps up its tour by splashing into the harbor for a panoramic view of the city.

More than 6,600 hotel rooms mean that every group's budget is doable in downtown Baltimore. One standout is Baltimore's Harbor Court, an elegant 195-room boutique property with a sweeping city view.