Futurama Parking Sign

Free Parking in Downtown Baltimore – Pros & Cons

When organizing a trip to downtown Baltimore, figuring out where to park is an essential part of the plan.

Whether you’ll be spending the day at the National Aquarium, Port Discovery or the Inner Harbor’s Historic Ships with the family or heading out for a date night or with friends to one of downtown’s restaurants or to check out the nightlife, finding the best spot to park can make your trip even better.

 When looking for parking, cost is always a factor. But when it comes to choosing a parking garage or lot, free parking isn’t always the best option. Let’s look at the pros and cons.

Pros of Free Parking

Free parking has one key positive: it’s free.


Cons of Free Parking

However, choosing free parking means giving up a lot more than you’re gaining – there are many drawbacks to parking for free. They include:

  •  Location & Time: When you prioritize parking for free, you have few choices, especially in the busy downtown Baltimore neighborhoods. You can spend a significant amount of time battling traffic while hunting for a free spot and when you find one, it’s likely that it will be a long hike to the area and attractions you really want to see.
  • Security: One of the biggest benefits of an established and reputable garage or lot is the peace of mind that comes with added security. Choosing a lot with 24/7 staffing and security and good lighting throughout helps you keep your car (and your family) safe and secure – so you can enjoy your day or evening in the city without worry.
  • Help: When you head downtown, you might end up with questions about exactly how to get where you’re heading, or what options might be open and available to you. When you park at a high-quality, established lot or garage, you can rely on the people who work there to offer you helpful advice and assistance regarding where to go, how to get there, and what else you might do along the way.

Where to Park when Heading Downtown

With all this in mind, what’s the parking options downtown?

Harbor Park Garage, located at 55 Market Place, right downtown, checks all the boxes. It’s central location is just a short walk from Power Plant Live! and Port Discovery, Little Italy, the National Aquarium, the Historic Ships and other Inner Harbor attractions, concert venues including Ram’s Head Live, Baltimore Soundstage and the MECU Pavilion, and tons of restaurants and shops.

The garage offers special rates for people going to certain venues and businesses, as well as an evening flat rate and early bird special rate.

It’s also easily accessible from I-83 and other routes in and out of the city, so you won’t waste time waiting for lights to change while you hunt down a spot.

Harbor Park is well-lit, clean and regularly sanitized, following careful COVID-19 safety protocols, and open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable – and always happy to answer questions and offer tips.

Plus, you can even reserve and pay for your spot ahead of time, using SpotHero, so you have one less thing to worry about when you get downtown.

For more information about Harbor Park Garage, visit https://harborparkgarage.com/ locations/.



Common Questions and Answers about Parking in the Inner Harbor

  1. Where should we start our search for parking near the Convention Center?
    • Problem: The convention center is located on the outskirts of town so finding parking there will cost more than if it was closer to where you live. What would happen if you had no car? How could you possibly afford to pay for parking when you were attending such an important event?
    • Agitate: If you want to save money using public transport, that may mean missing out on some great opportunities. For example, how many people actually use their own cars to attend conventions? And what happens if they miss out on those events because they couldn’t park close enough to them?
    • Solution: With over 1 million square meters of space available, why not make sure you book early and secure yourself a spot before anyone else does? Harbor Park Garage offers exclusive discounts for attendees who book well ahead of the show dates. But to be honest your best option is to book parking at the Sheraton Inner Harbor.  They are steps away from the Baltimore Convention Center and have both indoor parking and outdoor parking. 
  2. What areas are best suited for finding parking close by?
    • Problem: I’m looking to find a place that is not too expensive and has good reviews. I have been searching on Google Maps and Yelp, but haven’t found anything yet. Thanks!
    • Solutions: You can find the best rates for the Inner Harbor and Harbor East by clicking here
      • If you are an Uber customer, you can use the “Parking” tab in your Uber app to see where you’re closest to available spots. 
      • Also, we recommend doing a Google Maps search as they display helpful reviews. At the time of publication, Harbor Park Garage has 478 reviews and a 4.0 average rating. That is a lot of reviews for a parking garage. It is even enough to know that they weren’t all written by our mother. But it is wise to look deeper. Read some of the reviews. Are people complaining about a parking garage being dirty or unattended? Or are they leaving praise for excellent service? Doing so will help you separate the good from the not-so-good. Remember, a five-star review with ten ratings is a little suspect.  
      • If there’s no option nearby, try using Lyft or another ride-sharing service instead of an uber. But unless you live to close the ride-sharing service is likely going to cost more
  3. How much does it cost to park nearby the Inner Harbor?
    • Problem: I don’t want to overpay for parking:
    • Solution: The best rates in the Inner Harbor are at Harbor Park Garage. They offer discounts for just about all the nearby venues, which can provide you with a clean, safe and secure place to park and save you a lot of money.
  4. Is there any place that has better deals than others? 
    • Problem: I don’t want to get ripped off.
    • Agitate: We will be honest. parking is not cheap in the Inner Harbor. Real Estate is expensive in this wonderfully dense urban core, and the demand is high. Add in the 20% city tax on parking, and it adds up fast. 
    • Solution: At Harbor Park Garage, our focus is on value. We can’t give you free parking — we wish we could — so instead, we make sure that our garage is clean. That means that we empty the trash, wash the deck, and much more at least three times a day. We also want you to feel safe no matter the time of day. So our garage is well lit and fully staffed. We also hire private security and off-duty police officers to make sure the garage is secure. Finally, our goal is to put a smile on your face as you pass through our gateway to the Inner Harbor. In short, if you are going to have to pay for parking, we want to make sure that you get your money’s worth.
  5. Are there any places that charge extra fees during peak times?
    • Problem: I’ve heard that some places jack up their fees for big events.  How do I know what I will be charged for parking?
    • Solution: Yes, and avoid them at all costs. Lockwood Garage and Pier Five have both been known to raise their rates at peak times. We think this is unfair. So at Harbor Park Garage, we never charge more than our posted rates and then offer discounts so that you can pay less when applicable
  6. Which streets tend to fill first?
    • Problem: I don’t want to waste time hunting for parking in busy traffic.
    • Solution: The main thoroughfares tend to fill up first and then the side streets. But instead of wasting gas and time looking to save a few bucks, skip the search and guarantee your space by booking in advance
  7. Do they require advance reservations?
    • Problem: Am I required to book parking in advance to be able to get a spot?
    • Solution: No, advance reservations are not required. Booking in advance will buy you peace of mind, and all you have to do is enter the address 55 Market Place, Baltimore, MD 21202 into your GPS. And check this out. If you provide your license plate number when you book, our Licence Plate Recognition system will automatically vend the gate when you pull up. No need to roll down your window, unbuckle your seat belt, stretch like a yoga star to pull a ticket. Just drive in and drive and drive out when you are ready to leave. 
  8. Should we try to find a space before 9 am or after 5 pm?
    • Problem: What if I am parking out of normal hours but then the metered rates begin while I am in the spot.  Do I still need to pay?
    • Solution: If you find a space on the street before metering hours, you will have to run back to your car and feed the meter at 9 am. Don’t be late or chances are you will have an expensive ticket waiting for you.  If you park after metered hours be sure to read all the signs carefully.  Never every spot on the street is the same and the language on the signs can be confusing.
  9. Does anyone know of any free lots?
    • Come on, let’s be realistic! There really is no such thing as a free lunch or free parking in downtown Baltimore. If someone claims otherwise, drive away fast. They can’t be trusted.
  10. Any recommendations for garages or lots that aren’t listed above?
    • Problem: The Inner Harbor is a big area. Where else can I find good parking?
    • Solution: Yes, try our sister garage and open lot at the Sheraton Inner Harbor. They are located at 110 West Conway street and are ideally situated for the Convention Center, Camden Yards, and M&T Bank stadium. If you attend a major league baseball game with the Orioles or a national league football game with the Raven’s, they provide the best parking steps away from the venues.  
  11. What is the difference in types of parking spots:
    • Problem: Not all parking spots are created equal. How can I tell the difference
    • SolutionThere are two main types of parking in Baltimore City – metered street parking and paid parking facilities. Meters operate between 6 am and 10 pm daily except Sunday. Paid parking operates 24 hours per day.