29 awe-inspiring experiences on or near Hopkins campuses

| February 29, 2024

If you look for them, awesome things are everywhere. What’s more, they’re good for your physical and emotional health.

“Awe causes a shift in neurophysiology, a diminished focus on the self, increased prosocial relationships, greater social integration, and a heightened sense of meaning,” said Kim Sütter, Clinical Lead for the Behavioral Health Crisis Support Team, in a recent presentation for the SHWB team about how seeking out and appreciating moments of awe can support overall well-being.

Awe is the feeling of being in the presence of something vast that transcends your current understanding of the world. If you look for moments of awe in your daily life, it can improve your mood, help you think more critically, and make you feel more connected. (Interested in reading some relevant studies? See our references.)

For Leap Day, we’ve curated a list of 29 places and things on or near Hopkins that inspire awe for us. We hope you’ll turn to this list on days when you need to feel something truly awesome.

  1. George Peabody Library. This “cathedral of books” on the Peabody Institute campus is one of the most beautiful libraries in the world.
  2. Washington Monument (the Baltimore one). Climb the 227 steps to the top of this Mount Vernon landmark to get a 360° view of Baltimore.
  3. Baltimore Museum of Art. This Homewood-adjacent museum has more than 97,000 works of art. Don’t miss the outdoor Sculpture Gardens.
  4. The Bloomberg Center in DC. Our university’s new home in DC got this review from The New York Times: “Bridges, now suspended from the center’s ceiling, crisscross the new atrium, where lounges spill like rice-paddy fields down from the upper floors…An enormous quasi-treehouse of classrooms, its trunk a stairway, blooms at one end of the building.”
  5. A Peabody Symphony Orchestra concert. The enormous swell of symphonic music, created by a talented ensemble working together to create sound, is a reliable source of awe. Catch a show.
  6. A Peabody dance performance. Don’t sleep on the Peabody dancers either.
  7. The Breezeway view, overlooking Shriver Hall. Any good view that’s somewhat elevated will give you that nice feeling of smallness that usually accompanies the experience of awe. This one is conveniently located in the middle of the Homewood campus.
  8. Attending a JHU sporting event. Watching talented athletes do their thing is no different than seeing a concert or a dance performance. Plus watching sports is good for your health and we have a club (The Flock) that does just that.
  9. BSPH 9th floor view. Another entry in the “beautiful view from up high” category.
  10. Johns Hopkins Hospital Billings Building. Considered a municipal and architectural marvel when it was built in 1899, we think Billings is still pretty awesome, especially when you consider all the discovery and healing and life that has happened there.
  11. JHH Billings Building interior (“Christus Consolator” statue). Located below the Billings Dome is a 10 ½ foot marble sculpture of Jesus. Religious or not, many find the statue comforting in the face of illness and stress.
  12. Inner Harbor. Most people will say Federal Hill has the best view of the Inner Harbor; we say Carey Business School does.
  13. National Gallery of Art. This free gallery is across the street from the Bloomberg Center.
  14. School of Medicine commemorative garden. This garden, tucked away near AMEB, honors the anatomical donors whose bodies are essential to SOM students’ studies.
  15. San Martin pedestrian bridge. Another “up high, feel small” moment on the Homewood campus.
  16. Hutzler Reading Room in Gilman (“The Hut”). The university’s original library space has beautiful light and comfortable seating, perfect for quiet contemplation.
  17. Sherwood Gardens. This North Baltimore green space is always beautiful, but never more so than when its 50,000 tulip bulbs bloom each spring.
  18. Bufano Sculpture Garden. The playful animal sculptures in a serene Homewood setting are a one-two punch of art and nature (two reliable sources of awe).
  19. Hampden (“The Avenue”) sunset view. This beloved row of indie shops and restaurants takes on a literal glow if you catch it at the right hour of the day.
  20. The Walters Art Museum. The museum’s five buildings contain a stunning and diverse collection including 19th-century paintings, African icons, richly illuminated holy books, ancient sarcophagi, and more.
  21. Eager Park. The long, sloping vista of this new(ish) green space adjacent to the East Baltimore campus is a gathering place for Hopkins affiliates and the greater Baltimore community.
  22. National Aquarium. This institution’s mission is to connect people with nature and inspire compassion and care for the planet.
  23. Graffiti Alley. Tucked away behind the Motor House, you’ll find a vibrant and ever-changing street art display.
  24. 32nd Street Farmer’s Market. The sights, sounds, and smells of this community market in Waverly are a great opportunity to really look at and taste the food you eat, and to connect with the farmers and craftsmen who sell it.
  25. Seeing something through a microscope. Science contains so many moments of discovery and awe. (See also: telescopes.)
  26. Harbor Connector ferry ride. This free public transit option will give you unexpected angles and new perspectives on the familiar Baltimore skyline.
  27. The Baltimore Orioles. As previously mentioned in No. 8 on this list, watching athletes excel can absolutely inspire awe. As a bonus, Oriole Park at Camden Yards is widely regarded as one of the best MLB stadiums.
  28. Phipps Garden. This green space tucked right into Johns Hopkins Hospital is a refuge for staff, patients, and visitors. The water features and plant life provide opportunity for quiet moments of awe amidst the bustle of hospital life.
  29. Bloomberg Center terrace view. As inspiring as the interior is, the view from the Bloomberg Center in DC, overlooking the National Gallery and the U.S. Capitol Building, might be even better.


Bai Y, Ocampo J, Jin G, Chen S, Benet-Martinez V, Monroy M, Anderson C, Keltner D. Awe, daily stress, and elevated life satisfaction. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2021 Apr;120(4):837-860. doi: 10.1037/pspa0000267. PMID: 33764120.

Li JJ, Dou K, Wang YJ, Nie YG. Why Awe Promotes Prosocial Behaviors? The Mediating Effects of Future Time Perspective and Self-Transcendence Meaning of Life. Front Psychol. 2019 May 29;10:1140. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01140. PMID: 31191387; PMCID: PMC6548882.

Piff PK, Dietze P, Feinberg M, Stancato DM, Keltner D. Awe, the small self, and prosocial behavior. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2015 Jun;108(6):883-99. doi: 10.1037/pspi0000018. PMID: 25984788.

Prade, C., & Saroglou, V. (2016). Awe’s effects on generosity and helping. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 11(5), 522–530. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2015.1127992