Unique and Fun Things to Do in Baltimore

Baltimore is known for its strong industrial and manufacturing history, having the oldest public market system in America, and being home to some of the nation’s most prestigious universities and hospitals. It is the origin place of the United States national anthem. Today, it continues to be an important city on the East Coast, and there are plenty of fun things to do in Baltimore.

I lived in Baltimore for three years, and am now in Washington, DC, less than an hour away from Baltimore. I love living so close to the city and getting to visit friends and my favorite spots so easily! All this to say – I have you covered; we’ll talk about hidden gems and top sights in this article.

Table of Contents

Historic Places and Monuments

Washington Monument

We all know about the Washington Monument in DC, but did you know Baltimore had one first? Designed by famed architect Robert Mills, the 178-foot tall landmark is the first in the U.S. dedicated to President George Washington.

Tickets to climb the Monument’s Stair Tower can be purchased onsite using a credit card (no cash accepted). Climbs are offered every 20 minutes for groups no larger than five people. If you are coming during the busy summer months, especially on the weekends, it’s encouraged that you purchase your ticket online in advance to ensure that there will be a climb available when you visit.

The stair tower is about 130 feet from its base to the top (approximately 13 stories), so be prepared to get your cardio in for the day! You can visit it daily from 10 – 5 pm, $6 for adults and $5 for kids.

Fort McHenry

Fort McHenry is famous because it’s the birthplace of the National Anthem. During the War of 1812, Baltimore came under attack for twenty-five hours, when the smoke and fog cleared, the defenders were still there, forcing the British land and sea forces to withdraw, unable to take the city. A lawyer by the name of Francis Scott Key witnessed the bombardment and was so inspired that he wrote a poem called “The Defense of Fort McHenry,” which was later put the music and renamed “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Fort McHenry is a national monument, and its grounds are free to the public. It costs $15 to enter the historic area of Fort McHenry for children and adults aged 15 and older. Children under 15 can enter for free. This fee grants you 7-day access to the Fort McHenry National Monument and Shrine. As Fort McHenry is part of the National Park Service, you can also use an Annual Pass to enter the park for free!

Historic Ships of Baltimore Tour

Baltimore Harbor has had historical significance throughout the history of the United States and one of the unique things you can do not far from Fells Point is see some of the ships and lighthouses that have been used throughout its history.

Ships available to tour include USS Constellation, USS Torsk, and US Coast Guard Cutter WHEC-37. You can also tour Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse with the pass.

The Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse contains an extensive exhibit of artifacts and information on lighthouses around the Chesapeake region. Built in 1856, it is one of the oldest Chesapeake lighthouses still in existence. While visiting the lighthouse, be sure to enjoy the terrific view of Baltimore Harbor.

Purchasing a Boarding Pass entitles you to visit all open museum ships and exhibits, and are valid until used. You can also visit different ships on different days. Please check their hours to confirm which ships are open before you visit. Passes are $20.

Museums

Baltimore Museum of Art

The Baltimore Museum of Art is home to an extensive and diverse collection of art spanning different periods and styles. The collection includes works of European, American, African, Asian, and contemporary art. Notable artists represented in the collection include Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, and many others.

The highlight of this museum is definitely the Cone Collection. The Cone sisters, Claribel and Etta, were major art collectors whose bequest formed the foundation of this collection. It features a significant number of works by artists such as Matisse. I’m a huge fan of impressionist art and so this is definitely a fun museum to visit.

General admission to the BMA is free, open Wednesday–Sunday from 10 a.m.–5 p.m. and Thursday from 10 a.m.–9 p.m.

Edgar Allen Poe Museum

The Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum is located in a small brick house that was once the residence of Edgar Allen Poe during the 1830s. Poe lived in Baltimore for many years and famously died there under mysterious circumstances. The house is preserved as a museum and provides insights into Poe’s early life and career.

It offers the opportunity to explore the rooms where Poe lived and wrote during his time in Baltimore. The museum provides insights into Poe’s life, his literary contributions, and the historical context of the period.

Open every Thursday through Sunday, 11am – 4pm. Reservations are required, $10 a person.

Reginald F. Lewis Museum

Celebrate the soul of African American history and culture at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum. Through objects and art dating from 1784 to the present day, you’ll learn about the incredible accomplishments and struggles of African American Marylanders.

Located in downtown Baltimore, just two blocks from the Inner Harbor and close to Fells Point, the Lewis Museum is the largest African American museum in Maryland and features more than 11,000 square feet of permanent and temporary exhibition space, a two-story theater, classrooms, an outdoor terrace, and more.

Tickets are $12 for adults, and their hours on Saturday are 10 am-5 pm, hours Sunday are 12 pm-5 pm.

Star Spangled Banner House

The Star-Spangled Banner Flag House was constructed in the late 1700s and owned by Mary Pickersgill who started a flag making business. In the summer of 1813, Mary was commissioned to sew a garrison flag and a smaller storm flag for Fort McHenry. At the same battle that inspired Francis Scott Key, 30 x 42-foot garrison flag waving over the victorious fort.

Mary lived in the house until her death in 1857 and the property remained in the Pickersgill family until 1864. The house exchanged hands multiple times and later functioned as a saloon and a warehouse. In 1929, the City of Baltimore purchased the property and preserved it as a historic building. A National Historic Landmark, the house is now a historic home and museum.

Tickets are $9 for adults, and their hours are 10 AM – 4 PM.

Walter’s Art Museum

Founded and opened in 1934, it holds collections from the mid-19th century that were amassed substantially by major American art and sculpture collectors, including William Thompson Walters and his son Henry Walters.

The museum’s campus includes five historic buildings and 36,000 art objects. Moving through the museum’s galleries, visitors encounter a stunning array of objects, from 19th-century paintings of French country and city life to Ethiopian icons, richly illuminated Qur’ans and Gospel books, ancient Roman sarcophagi, and images of the Buddha.

Admission to the museum is free and is open from 10 am – 5 pm on Saturdays.

B&O Railroad Museum

The B&O Railroad Museum, also known as the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum, is a historical museum dedicated to the history and legacy of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, one of the oldest and most significant railroads in the United States.

The museum houses a vast collection of historic locomotives, rolling stock, and artifacts related to the history of American railroading. It includes a comprehensive display of steam locomotives, diesel locomotives, passenger cars, freight cars, and other rail-related items.

A friend of mine worked at the museum for years restoring the trains and it is a really unique place to visit in Baltimore!

One thing you can’t miss while here is the historic roundhouse, which is one of the oldest surviving railroad roundhouses in the world. Depending on the time of year and special events, the museum may offer train rides on historic equipment too!

Monday – Sunday, 10 am – 4 pm, $20 for adults, $12 for kids

American Visionary Art Museum

Another truly unique and fun thing to do in Baltimore is visit the American Visionary Art Museum. This museum focuses on art from self-taught artists, often referred to as “outsider” or “visionary” artists. These artists create art outside the boundaries of traditional artistic training and often express a personal vision or message.

AVAM features a rotating collection of exhibitions that highlight a wide range of visionary art. The artworks often include sculptures, paintings, multimedia installations, and other forms of artistic expression.

Even the building itself is unique and beautiful to walk around! They also regularly host events such as movie nights and workshops.

Open Wednesday–Sunday 10:00 am–5:00 pm, admission is $15.95 for adults, $9.95 for kids

Museum of Industry

Baltimore was a huge part of the industrial revolution in the United States and has a long history of different industries with factories in the area. The Museum of Industry’s mission is to collect, preserve, and interpret the industrial history of Baltimore and the Chesapeake Bay region. It explores the impact of industry on the lives of people and communities.

Visitors to the Baltimore Museum of Industry can expect an immersive experience that takes them through the evolution of industry in the region. The museum aims to provide insight into the lives of workers, technological advancements, and the economic development of Baltimore.

Hours are Wednesday – Saturday 9 am – 4 pm, Sunday 11 am – 4 pm, adults $15, kids $8

Animal Encounters

National Aquarium

The National Aquarium is located in the Inner Harbor in downtown Baltimore on the water. It’s great to visit any day of the week, but Friday night is the best time to visit.

Why would you visit the National Aquarium on a Friday night? Well, every Friday night, the aquarium is half price, less crowded, and still plenty of fun. The half price tickets are available every Friday, there are no blackout dates, and it stays open late. Half price tickets start after 5 pm, and the aquarium closes at 8 pm.

Even if you can’t visit on a Friday, the aquarium is still worth a visit. You should allow at least 2-3 hours to make the most of the entrance fee. You could certainly spend more time if you want a leisurely tour or attend any special exhibits!

Maryland Zoo

The Maryland Zoo is situated in Druid Hill Park, which is one of the oldest landscaped public parks in the United States. It was established in 1876 and is one of the oldest zoos in the United States. It has a rich history and has been a popular destination for families and animal enthusiasts for many years.

The zoo is home to a diverse collection of animals from around the world. It features various exhibits and habitats, including the African Journey, Polar Bear Watch, Maryland Wilderness, and more. The zoo is known for its conservation efforts and educational programs.

The zoo’s history and location make it a really unique and fun thing to do in Baltimore.

Regular Season Hours (March – December), Daily: 10 AM – 4 PM

Winter Season Hours (January – February), Friday through Monday: 10 AM – 4 PM

General admission tickets are $2 off on their website! Adults are $24; kids are $20

Neighborhoods to Explore

Fells Point

Fells Point is one of the original three settlements that merged to form the beginnings of Baltimore City. The area is directly linked to early maritime trade, which was important to Baltimore’s growth and development.

Many of Baltimore’s famed Clipper Ships were built and operated out of Fells Point. They gained prominence by capturing and sinking British warships in the War of 1812. The maritime character of the district still exists with the small gabled roof residences that housed local seamen, ship’s carpenters, sailmakers, and artisans.

The neighborhood has kept its charm with cobblestone streets and historic homes showcasing the historical significance of this neighborhood. Fells Point is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Baltimore, and a must visit while here!

Start off the day with brunch at a spot of your choice around Fells Point. In addition to lots of restaurants and bars, you’ll find lots of boutiques, great souvenirs, and local goods in Fells Point, making it the perfect spot for some shopping on your trip. Enjoy brunch and spend some time strolling this neighborhood!

Hampden

Hampden is known for its eclectic and quirky character. Have you ever seen Hairspray? If you’re a fan of the iconic hair and history this neighborhood celebrates “Hon” culture.

The heart of Hampden is often considered to be 36th Street, locally known as “The Avenue.” This area is lined with shops, boutiques, cafes, restaurants, and bars. There are also various art galleries, studios, and street art contributing to the neighborhood’s creative vibe.

Spending an afternoon in Hampden is definitely a fun thing to do in Baltimore and one of my favorite places to hang out as a local.

Mount Vernon

The Mount Vernon area is beautiful and known for its fine architecture, public squares, and associations to important people.

Differing in style, the structures around Mount Vernon Place retain a grand scale and excellent design that reinforces this urban space as Baltimore’s finest. The residential, commercial, and institutional buildings of the Mount Vernon District are among the most elaborate nineteenth and early twentieth century structures in Baltimore.

It also has a lot to do. Many of the things on this list are located in Mount Vernon like Brewer’s Art, Walters Art Museum, Washington Monument, and Peabody Library.

Little Italy

Located just a few blocks from Baltimore’s famous Inner Harbor, Little Italy holds its own as a cozy haven of Italian culture and delicacies. Coming here for lunch or dinner is a perfect activity while in Baltimore!

I’d recommend trying Chiapparelli’s Restaurant. It’s been open since 1940 and is the oldest restaurant currently operating in Baltimore’s Little Italy. Within the interior red brick walls, you’ll find a mix of tourists and regulars who have been dining here since it opened.

Now in its third generation, the dishes here tend to have stories. The Salmon Caroline is named after Aunt Caroline, while Chicken Louie is named in honor of Uncle Louie. Some entrees, like Judge Alberto’s Linguine Clam Sauce, are named after regulars who always had their go-to dishes.

Best Food Spots

Faidley’s (Lexington Market)

The first place on my list of food spots in Baltimore has to be a place to get the iconic Maryland Crab cake. There’s no better place to get crab cakes than at Faidley’s located in Lexington Market.

Founded in 1886, Faidley Seafood is one of the oldest and best-known purveyors of fresh and prepared seafood in the Chesapeake region. Today, it is owned and operated by Bill and Nancy Devine, descendants of founder John W. Faidley, Sr.

It’s been featured on several cooking shows and won best crab cake more times than anywhere else. I love their crab cakes, laid back style, and the sides are pretty tasty too. You can’t go wrong grabbing a crab cake, oysters, or other seafood favorites here.

Nick’s Fish House (On the Patapsco River)

One of my favorite laid back spots on the water is Nick’s Fish House. They offer fresh seafood, regional specialties, and some of the best-steamed crabs in town.

The waterfront deck is the perfect spot whether you want to enjoy a craft beer or orange crush during happy hour or bring the whole family in for dinner. Open year-round for lunch and dinner.

They often have long lines and don’t accept reservations. But trust me, this is a great spot and a perfect way to end your Baltimore weekend!

Food Market (Hampden)

If you’re looking for some modern American comfort food in a modern setting, Food Market is for you. This open kitchen in a former grocery store that turns out creative American cuisine & cocktails you’ll love!

I personally think Food Market has an amazing brunch and love their benedicts. It’s the perfect place to stop while exploring the shops and galleries in Hampden.

Golden West (Hampden)

A Hampden staple since 1997, Golden West serves American comfort food for vegans and omnivores alike, with a Southwestern twist. This is the place locals bring their out-of-town guests, where people come for their first date, where people meet up for an after-work drink, where people celebrate…

They started the nation’s vegan week and have an inclusive menu for all types of diners. My favorite things here are their burgers. So delicious and huge. You won’t leave here disappointed.

Blue Pit BBQ (Hampden)

Blue Pit BBQ is named for pit bbq and the owner’s beloved blue pit bull. They have award winning BBQ for meat lovers and vegitarians alike. Every time I’ve been here, I’ve been impressed with their food (which is hard for a Texan!).

They have a dog-friendly back patio and extensive whiskey collection. It’s a laid back spot that regularly supports charity organizations and animal rescues! Well worth a visit when in the Hampden area.

Waterfront Hotel (Fells Point)

Waterfront Hotel is not actually a hotel, it’s a bar and restaurant located right in the heart of historic Fells Point. Built in 1771 as a private residence and converted in 1861 to a hotel used to house Civil War troops, Waterfront Hotel is the second oldest brick building in Baltimore and still retains its original character and structure.

I love going here for brunch or lunch on a sunny day! You’ll be right on historic Thames Street and enjoy some comfort food while here.

Ampersea (Fells Point)

The Ampersea culinary team puts a modern spin on Maryland classics using seasonal ingredients from mid-Atlantic purveyors alongside herbs and lettuces grown in the Living Classrooms Greenhouse. Living Classrooms is a nonprofit that disrupts poverty and helps children, youth, and adults reach their potential through hands-on education, health & wellness, and violence prevention programming.

This alone means it’s unique! However, it’s also located off the main street in Fells Point right along the water, unlike many other restaurants that are set further back on the street with a water view. Plus the food is wonderful!

Thames Street Oyster House (Fells Point)

The last of the seafood options before switching to some other cuisine is Thames Street Oyster House. This spot serves inspired and traditional mid-Atlantic seafood, including Maryland classics and New England favorites, along with a spectacular a la carte raw bar, on the historic Thames Street waterfront.

Even if you don’t have time to sit down here, if you’re in Fells Point, you’ll likely see them selling oysters on their patio and can grab a couple as you walk. Delicious!

Woodberry Kitchen (Woodberry)

Old factory turned hip, rustic-chic place for refined New American fare with a farm-to-table bent. This is a restaurant you go to on a special occasion.

In 2015, celebrity chef Spike Gjerde who owns Woodberry Kitchen, won the James Beard Award for “Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic,” making him Baltimore’s only James Beard Award winner.

The menu here changes on a regular basis and is fresh and delicious! I love coming here for a celebration or a special night out. Located in Woodberry.

Birroteca (Woodberry)

One of my favorite Italian spots in Baltimore is Birroteca. Serving up woodfired pizzas and amazing burrata, this cozy Italian spot is so delicious. They also have a large number of craft beers on tap and bottle beers, a unique wine list, and handcrafted cocktails.

This spot has the perfect ambiance for a date night or couples looking to have a nice night out with some great food. It’s located in a historic stone mill turned restaurant and has a dark, cozy vibe to it!

Papermoon Diner (Remington)

A Baltimore favorite since the 90s, Papermoon Diner is a funky, knickknack-laden spot serving burgers, vegetarian food & traditional breakfast. The food here is great and you’ll find yourself wanting to snap pictures as you enjoy the food here.

The laidback and fun atmosphere with great comfort food makes it perfect for everyone!

Miss Shirley’s (Multiple Locations)

An iconic diner with multiple locations around Baltimore, if you’re looking for some southern comfort food, Miss Shirley’s is the perfect spot! This is the perfect place to go for breakfast or lunch, and it is very family-friendly!

Beginning as a small 42-seat cafe in Roland Park, Miss Shirley’s Cafe has grown to be a well-known spot in Baltimore. Miss Shirley’s Cafe has been featured on national television, and gained additional national attention by being awarded for many different dishes such as their pancakes, sandwiches, and fried green tomatoes.

The Helmand (Mount Vernon)

This local landmark (since 1989) serves Afghan cuisine in an elegant space hung with tapestries. The Helmand has helped introduce and popularize Afghan Cuisine in America within the last 20 years. The Helmand was named after the owner’s firstborn son, as well as in honor of the famed Helmand River that runs through the predominantly dry country of Afghanistan, bringing vitality and nourishment to its people.

Much like this river, The Helmand of Baltimore provides their guests with enjoyment in the form of exquisite food prepared with care and dedication.

Consider discovering more about the Baltimore food scene through a fun food tour in Fells Point!

Breweries, Distilleries, and Bars

Sagamore Spirit (Patapsco River)

Sagamore Spirit Distillery is located in the Baltimore Peninsula neighborhood, directly off I-95 and a short drive from Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. They are open five days a week for hour-long guided tours, whiskey tastings, and shopping.

They craft unique whiskies while paying homage to the great Maryland distillers. Historically, Maryland Rye Whiskey was smoother than its counterparts in Pennsylvania and Kentucky, gathering creamy tastes and textures from the calcium-rich waters of Maryland limestone.

Their property is beautiful, and they have indoor and outdoor spaces perfect for enjoying a cocktail of your choice while relaxing on their large property on the river. It’s a great way to start off an evening!

Hours are Wednesday – Saturday, 12 – 8 pm, and Sunday 11 am – 6:30 pm.

Brewer’s Art (Mount Vernon)

Brewer’s Art is one of my favorite places in Baltimore to grab a local beer and a nice dinner. This is an elegant spot for housemade Belgian-style brews & upscale New American eats in a former townhouse that’s been around since 1996. It has a cozy upscale vibe (is that a thing?), and you’ll often need a reservation to get dinner here without a long wait.

Downstairs is their brewpub, where you can try all the house-made beers for yourself through a flight or grab a six-pack to take home. Their fries are still some of my favorites ever!

Ministry of Brewing (Upper Fells)

Found in the former St. Michael’s Church, this brewery is revitalizing a historic building to bring excellent beer and food to the community! It was founded by Baltimore locals and has beautiful architecture. They kept many of the features and the style of the church.

Another part of their mission is to give back to the people in the community. In the summer, they hold classes for lab skills for high school seniors from the City of Baltimore to help prepare them for future jobs in research or industry where molecular biology skills are needed and valued.

Topside (Mount Vernon)

If you want a great view of Baltimore from a rooftop bar, then this is a great spot for you to visit! Located in the Revival Hotel, which is beautiful on its own, this is a stylish, airy rooftop bar offering local seafood specials plus cocktails & craft beers.

They have a 360 rooftop so you can see Baltimore from all different angles. The cocktails here are great and they serve a variety of local beers too.

Owl Bar (Mount Vernon)

Owl Bar is located in The Belvedere Hotel. The Belvedere first opened in winter over a century ago, on December 14, 1903. Over the years, leaders of art, fashion, industry and finance, gangsters and detectives, developers and financiers, royalty and presidents, movie stars, and sports heroes were drawn to its doorsteps.

First-time visitors to the Owl Bar may be amused by the appearance of a nursery rhyme embedded in stained glass above the antique back bar at Baltimore’s landmark Belvedere Hotel. More than a quaint decoration, however, the rhyming couplet is actually a nod to the Prohibition-era legacy in which the bar’s feathered mascots played a major part.

Make sure to stop in the hotel lobby to check out the photos and autographs of famous visitors when here!

Horse You Came in On (Fells Point)

The Horse You Came In On Saloon, popularly known as The Horse, is the oldest continuously operating saloon in America. It was established in 1775 in Fell’s Point, Maryland, and while not special on the surface, it makes it to the list due to its history and lore!

“The Horse” is rumored to have been one of Edgar Allan Poe’s favorite watering holes in Charm City, as well as the place where the poet quaffed his last drink before taking to the streets on the night of October 3, 1849. You can take a ghost tour to learn more about this!

There he was found, wandering and delirious, and taken to the Washington Medical College, where he died four days later. A sign designating the spot as “Poe’s Last Stop” hangs above the seating area. (note: there’s no real proof to confirm that it was, in fact, his last stop.)

Unique Experiences and Places

Grafitti Ally

Graffiti Alley allows street artists to create colorful works of art without worry. Located in the Station North neighborhood of Baltimore, this L-shaped alley is owned by the Graffiti Warehouse, and you can never predict what designs you’re going to see, considering how frequently it’s repainted throughout the year.

Every square inch of the alley is covered in graffiti and regularly changes so you never know what you might see! Even the trashcans and pipes in the ally are painted over. It’s definitely a unique place to see in Baltimore.

Peabody Library

The George Peabody Library is widely recognized as one of the most beautiful library spaces in the world, but it is also an essential space for teaching and research. It opened in 1878 and was designed by Baltimore architect Edmund G. Lind, in collaboration with the Peabody Institute’s first provost, Dr. Nathaniel H. Morison. The most famous room of the library contains five tiers of ornamental cast-iron balconies, which rise dramatically to the skylight 61 feet above the floor.

The library contains 300,000 volumes, mainly from the 19th century, with strengths in religion, British art, architecture, topography, and history; American history, biography, and literature; Romance languages and literature; history of science; and geography, exploration, and travel.

I went to a wedding here once and, oh my goodness, what a dream! This is a stunning library and free to visit. It often closes for special research sessions and events, so it’s best to visit before 2 pm.

Check their website for closures or special events as they are frequently closed.

Sunset Sailing Tour

Discover the iconic Baltimore landmarks that grace the city from a unique perspective with this cruise aboard a boat. Baltimore’s harbor is rich in history and the views at sunset are stunning! Sit back and relax on the flowing waters and you soak in a new perspective of Baltimore.

There are several different companies that offer tours on the water. Below are a few to choose from:

Helicopter Tour with Dinner at Ruth’s Chris or Capital Grille

Admire spectacular Baltimore views—and see the city’s top sights from the air—on a helicopter tour. Pick between multiple flight durations to suit your preferences, and upgrade for a private experience.

Then, take to the skies, where you can spot highlights like Fort McHenry, the U.S. Naval Academy, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and more. Your tour also includes dinner at either Ruth’s Chris Steak House or The Capital Grille.

Here’s an option for a helicopter ride without dinner included as well.

Photo by Michael Richardson on Unsplash, Photo by Jocelyn Powell on Unsplash

Rawlings Conservatory

Opened in 1888, the historical Rawlings Conservatory is one of Baltimore’s most beautiful structures. This botanical garden is beautiful year-round and features five distinct greenhouse rooms, one 1/2-acre garden with many flower beds, and a kaleidoscope of colors.

Open Thu – Sun, hours vary

Please visit the ticket reservation page to see open hours.

Take a Ghost Tour

Find out all about the haunted side of Baltimore and its dark history on this walking tour of the Fell’s Point neighborhood. Learn about the spirit of Edgar Allen Poe and his mysterious death along the way. You’ll be stopping at several pubs/bars/saloons, the cemetery, and a hotel, where you’ll hear tales of the haunted places from your guide along the way.

Discover the best of Baltimore with our guide to unique and fun things to do in Baltimore. From historic sites to unique experiences, we've got you covered! 

I hope you enjoy your time with these fun things to do in Baltimore! You’ll love exploring this East Coast city full of charm. After all, it is Charm City!

Meghan

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