600 N. Charles St., 410/396-0929
HOURS: Tues.–Fri. 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Sat.–Sun. noon–4 p.m.
The first city to begin construction of a monument honoring the father of the United States was Baltimore ; the 178-foot-high column and statue of a mounted George Washington now watches over Mount Vernon Place. Completed in 1829, this was the first real tribute to Washington that was built in the country, and it was designed by Robert Mills, the same man who would construct the enormous 555-foot-high obelisk dedicated to Washington in the capital city that bears his name.
In the base of the monument is a small museum chronicling Washington’s achievements, but the real thrill comes during the climb to the summit. There are 228 narrow stone stairs that wind up a cramped passageway to almost the top of the column, and vantage point at the top offers great views of historic Mount Vernon and the rest of central Baltimore .
In a typically wonderful and quirky Baltimore  tradition that began around 1971, colored holiday lights are strung from the monument in early December, and there’s a well-attended lighting ceremony (complete with fireworks) to help mark the beginning of the winter holiday season.