- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 6, 2007

The Top of the World Observation Level, on the 27th floor of Baltimore’s World Trade Center, is a great place to gain a new perspective on Charm City. Once up there, visitors find there is more to Baltimore than meets the eye at ground level.

Top of the World has been open since 1979, but Baltimore’s skyline has been evolving year by year. This is evident as visitors take in panoramic views from the windows and check displays inside the building, including a timeline that recaps Baltimore’s renaissance.

Jim Clark, Top of the World operations manager, says the observation deck is frequented by tourists who want to orient themselves to the city as well as locals who want to see their neighborhood or local landmarks from a bird’s-eye view.

“The building is high enough, so it is a different perspective,” Mr. Clark says, “but it is not so high that you lose perspective of where things are.”

Printed placards at the windows, which are on all sides of the pentagonal-shaped building, tell visitors exactly what they are seeing. Look to the Southwest, and there is Federal Hill, Oriole Park at Camden Yards and Harborplace.

Look to the Southeast, and you’ll see Little Italy, the Key Bridge and the Domino Sugars plant, among others. The west features the Bromo-Seltzer tower and the B&O; Railroad Museum’s dome.

The placards feature maps with numbered landmarks. Visitors can spend time seeing how many landmarks they can spot. High-power binoculars can help bring in things for a closer view.

Obviously, a little advance planning will help a visit here. A sunny day, even in winter, will be more successful than one under thick cloud cover. Oh, and if you are afraid of heights, it might be best to linger in the back of the room and read about Baltimore’s history.

Top of the World is lined with printed material containing history and fun facts about Baltimore. One poster honors famous Baltimoreans, from baseball great Cal Ripken to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to Elmo creator Kevin Clash.

Another poster chronicles the many movies that have been filmed in and around the city. There is an area where visitors can test their knowledge of Baltimore trivia.

Other information provides background for Baltimore’s most famous places and events. Learned and observed on a recent visit:

• That the Bromo-Seltzer tower was built in 1911, was modeled after Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio and contains the world’s largest four-dial gravity clock.

• That Baltimore’s great fire of 1904 destroyed 1,526 buildings and put 35,000 people out of work.

m That the first bloodshed of the Civil War was on Pratt Street on April 19, 1861, when citizens attacked Union soldiers on the way to Camden Station.

One display is devoted to Baltimore’s long sports history. Cal Ripken’s historic consecutive-game streak, Johnny Unitas’ impact on football and the downtown revitalization helped by the opening of Oriole Park at Camden Yards in 1992 are all discussed here.

In one corner of the floor is a three-dimensional model of a cargo ship and shipyard. Machinery on the motorized model moves cargo off the ship. Visitors can listen to a recording that explains Baltimore’s role as a productive North Atlantic port.

Near the Southwest window is a timeline highlighting the city’s revitalization.

“A city waterfront transformed from a once-run-down industrial area into an internationally recognized visitor destination” is how the materials describe Baltimore’s last three decades. It is interesting to see those plans all laid out — from the 1963 announcement of the Inner Harbor redevelopment plans to the opening of the National Aquarium in 1981 to the influx of hotels and the opening in 1998 of what is now named M&T; Bank Stadium.

When you go:

What: Top of the World Observation Level is at the Baltimore World Trade Center, 401 E. Pratt St., Baltimore.

When: Winter hours, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. (The last admission is limited to a half-hour before closing.)

Admission: $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and military (with ID card), $3 for children ages 3 to 12, and free for those younger than 3.

Parking: Garage and street parking nearby.

Miscellaneous:

• Top of the World Observation Level, on the 27th floor of Baltimore’s World Trade Center, offers a 360-degree panoramic view of downtown Baltimore. It is a good way to see old and new Baltimore landmarks from a different perspective. Visitors will enjoy finding neighborhoods and sites important to them.

• The level also features posters and displays with historical and trivia information about Baltimore.

• Top of the World is located in the middle of the Inner Harbor area, so it is a nice addition to a day of visiting such sites as the National Aquarium, Port Discovery Children’s Museum or the USS Constellation.

• A visit here will be the most worthwhile on a clear day.

Information: 410/837-8439 or www.viewbaltimore.org

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