Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Kid-Friendly Baltimore: 11 Fun Things to Do!



Few cities have quite as many kid-friendly activities and destinations as Baltimore! If you're looking for a kid-friendly daytrip destination, consider checking out Baltimore. Whether you've got toddlers or teenagers, you'll find plenty to do by exploring the 11 options below! You may just find yourself spending several days exploring them all!



1. Explore Industrial History at the Baltimore Museum of Industry



Baltimore was never a one-industry town. If you think of Pittsburgh, you naturally think of steel. If you think Detroit, cars. But Baltimore? Think straw hats and umbrellas. And boots, space capsules, and schooners. And Linotype machines. And cigars, seaplanes, and refined sugar. And radios and sail cloth and toilets.... the list goes on. Baltimore positively hummed with all sorts of factories, now mostly gone.



The Baltimore Museum of Industry documents Baltimore's industrial past, preserving industrial artifacts and history, and makes it come alive again in a variety of recreated tableaus of old general stores, clothing factories, print shops, canneries, and machine shops. Yes, the museum addresses the issue of child labor and the role children played in the Industrial Age of America.



This is fascinating for adults, but this is a great place to bring kids. The museum is colorful with dynamic displays that move you through the 1800s all the way to the 21st century. There are a number of hands on exhibits and the information is presented in a museum's version of tweeting in brief, colorful information-filled exhibits; you can move on before you become bored. Or, you can read all the information.

Recommended for elementary school aged kids, on up. For more about visiting the Museum of Industry, click here.

Getting there: 1415 Key Hwy, Baltimore, MD 21230; free parking on site.

Hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Closed Mondays and Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Website: http://www.thebmi.org/


2. Check Out the Unbelievable at Ripleys Believe It or Not Odditorium



The place is made for staring! Ripley's Believe It or Not Odditorium has the weird, bizarre and just plain odd. Looking for a life-sized T-Rex made out of pop-tart foil? Then look no further, because the Odditorium has one. You are alternately struck with awe, amazed by people's ingenuity, or grossed out. See shrunken heads from South America, weird presidential memorabilia (locks of Washington's hair and pieces of his clothing, a giant Lincoln penny made of pennies), donkeys made out of junk, and personalized light shows.



Recommended for kids aged six and up. But take your teenagers there too, because they'll have a lot of fun! Read more about this fun place to spend an afternoon here.



Getting there: 301 Light St Light St. Pavillion, Baltimore, MD 21202
Hours: Monday - Thursday 10 a.m. - 9 p.m., Friday - Saturday 10 a.m. - 10 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Website: https://www.ripleys.com/baltimore/


3. Walk along the Waterfront Promenade


The Waterfront Promenade is a paved walkway that hugs nearly seven miles of the waterline of the Inner Harbor from Fort McHenry to the Canton Waterfront Park. We walked approximately 4.7 miles of it one Saturday morning, encountering not just sweeping views of the Inner Harbor, but also farmers markets and quaint streets in Fells Point. You can still see remnants of the Inner Harbor's industrial past despite all the gentrification and the million-dollar condos and townhomes.


Your kids will appreciate that it's flat and the changing views. Challenge them to keep track of the different birds they'll be sure to see -- mallard ducks, Canada geese, cormorants, and even great blue heron are common. There are also several kid-friendly parks, including Pierce Park, featuring original sculptures, a musical fence, a living willow tunnel, native plants, and the famous horn sculpture and the Walter Sondheim Fountain (the big splash pad adds another element of delight for kids on the waterfront; located adjacent to West Shore Park, the Fountain is on from May – September.


The Waterfront Promenade offers many different opportunities. Tour the Seven Knolls Lighthouse or visit the USCG Cutter Taney, the only remaining survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor, sitting in the water to the right of the promenade.

After walking from one end to the other, take the Water Taxi back, and see the harbor from a different perspective!

Recommended for kids of all ages -- they're never too young to get some exercise and explore their world! For more details about walking the Waterfront Promenade, click here.

Getting there: We found ample parking on a Saturday morning adjacent Canton Waterfront Park. 3001 Boston Street, Baltimore. On the opposite side of the harbor, there are numerous parking garages.

Website: https://www.waterfrontpartnership.org/


4. Learn Some History and Explore a Fort at Fort McHenry




Through a day and then a dark and stormy night, British gun ships pounded Fort McHenry with rockets, bombs, and mortars. But Baltimore bravely withstood the bombardment and didn't surrender as expected. When morning came, the British inexplicably withdrew. Frances Scott Key, watching from a ship in the harbor, glimpsed the Star Spangled Banner still flying at Fort McHenry through the clouds and smoke, and in his joy and relief, scribbled the verses that later was adopted as our National Anthem.



Fort McHenry is preserved as a National Historic Site to commemorate our win during the War of 1812 and to memorialize the writing of the National Anthem.

In addition to completing a Junior Ranger activity, there're cannon and musket-firing demonstrations, fife and drum performances, and period games, as well as other living history exhibits and demonstrations.

Recommended for elementary school aged kids on up. For more about a visit to Fort McHenry, click here.

Getting there: Fort McHenry is located at 2400 East Fort Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21230; free parking on site.

Hours: Park: 9 am - 5 pm; Star Fort: 9 am - 4:45 pm; Visitor Center: 9 am - 4:45 pm; closed: Thanksgiving Day, December 25, and January 1.

Website: http://www.nps.gov/fomc/index.htm


5. Discover What's Fishy at the National Aquarium




A variety of habitats are explored, from an Australian river gorge to Maryland's streams, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay to a tropical rain forest. Fish and animals of all types, shapes and sizes are on exhibit. Look carefully, and you'll see a green sea turtle, as well as sharks, jellyfish, sting rays, and clown fish.



Look for the Critter Chats and Animal Encounters, which cover a variety of topics kids might find interesting, in the Children's Discover Gallery, which also offers kids a chance to (safely) touch jelly fish, rays, and other sea critters. With an Imax and a cafe, you can spend all day there!



Depending on how crowded the aquarium is -- and it can get very crowded on summer weekends (making weekdays and non-summer/non-holiday weekends your best time to visit) -- and your dedication to reading all the explanations and information, you should plan on spending anywhere from two to four hours there. Or maybe even longer, if you simply want to linger and watch these wonderful animals. Also, arriving before 11 a.m. or after 3 p.m. offers a less crowded visit.

Recommended for kids of all ages.

Getting there: 501 E Pratt St, Baltimore, MD 21202

Hours: Generally Monday - Thursday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Friday 9 a.m. - 8 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. - 6 p.m., and Sunday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Check the website for any changes in hours or special programs that may be offered.

Website: https://www.aqua.org/


6. Explore an Amazing World of Art at the Walters Art Museum




There're paintings, to be sure -- and these are worth a quick browse (maybe, if you have younger kids, search for paintings which include a certain animal -- dogs, horses, cows...) but there are also Egyptian mummies, a Room of Wonders with a stuffed crocodile and a huge turtle carapace, and more, which will visually interest your child and introduce them to the world of art. There's a variety of exhibits and you certainly don't have to do them all!



Recommended for elementary school age kids on up. If the paintings don't catch their imaginations, then the stuffed crocodile and Egyptian mummies will! Best of all, it's free!


For more about a day spent at the Walters Art Gallery, click here.

Getting there: 600 N Charles St, Baltimore, MD 21201; there is a parking lot across the street from the museum at Centre and Cathedral Streets, but that can be expensive. There is also street parking, but that is hit or miss.

Hours: Wednesdays and Fridays - Sundays 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Thursdays 10 a.m. - 9 p.m.; closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

Website: https://thewalters.org/


7. Sail through History with the Historic Ships of Baltimore



Historic Ships of Baltimore is a maritime museum located in Baltimore's Inner Harbor -- and is a good way to remember that the Inner Harbor for 200 years was -- and still is -- a major east coast port. There is so much to cover in this museum that it required two separate articles. Several exhibits on the ships specifically cater to kids and their imaginations.


Historic Ships in Baltimore is a collection of military vessels spanning the mid-1800s through the mid-1980s. Located within easy walking distance of each other, the USS Constellation, the US Submarine Torsk, the US Coast Guard Cutter Taney, and the Lightship 116 Chesapeake exhibit life at sea for over 100 years. In addition, the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse, which marked the entrance to the Patapsco River and Baltimore Harbor for more than 130 years, is part of the entry ticket to the maritime museum.



If you don't mind getting wet as you walk from ship to ship, this would make a good, summer, rainy-day activity.

Recommended for kids aged 8 and older; teenagers may also find themselves interested in the historic ships! For more about a daytrip exploring these historic ships, click here and here.

Getting there: Tickets may be purchased at 301 East Pratt Street, Baltimore, MD

Hours: Check the website for specifics, as several of the ships and the lighthouse are closed during the winter season, and the lighthouse remains closed between 1 January - Memorial Day. The USS Constellation and the US Submarine Torsk remain open throughout the year, except on major holidays. Hours vary according to season.

Website: http://www.historicships.org/historic-ships.html


8. Get Your Science on at the Maryland Science Museum



You and your kids can explore our universe from the age of the dinosaurs all the way through the age of space exploration at the Maryland Science Center is all about kids and science and teaching kids things by simply making it fun to explore ideas and concepts.



Your kids won't even realize they're learning as they sift through sand to find a dinosaur bone or lie on a bed of nails and learn about physics. Although the theories are serious, the experiences are fun and imaginative, calling on kids to creatively problem solve, suggest their own ideas, or just be open to the wonder that surrounds them with lots of hands-on, interactive displays that gets them doing things that explain the concept being presented. They can explore what our bodies are made of and see what a cold virus looks like, magnified and enlarged a billion times. They can literally lie on a bed of nails or see weather swirling around a globe of the earth.



Not to be missed are the planetarium with a variety of programs offered throughout the day, and the age-appropriate experiment rooms.

Recommended for toddlers through early middle school. Plan your trip to the Maryland Science Center here.

Getting there: 601 Light St, Baltimore, MD 21230

Hours: Hours vary by season; please check the website below.

Website: https://www.mdsci.org


9. Say "Yo Ho Ho" and Enjoy a Lot of Fun on the Urban Pirates Cruise



Departing out of Fells Point, this interactive, swashbuckling adventure cruise of the Inner Harbor is fun for families, especially those with younger kids, and includes small-kid friendly games, songs, blasting the water cannons and treasure! The kids seem to love it. The crew is engaging and energetic, and there's lots of interaction, from dancing to story telling to shooting water canon on an "attacking pirate."



Think Pirates of the Caribbean rather than Blackbeard -- that's the sort of "pirates" we're talking about here.



Arrrrrrg! During the cruise, essentially a party on a boat, you'll learn some key pirate-like words and phrases (ye scurvvy dog, etc.). Pirate sword fights are acted out and the children taught how to dance like a pirate... the kids had fun and the adults were in stitches over their antics.

Recommended for ages four through elementary school age. For more about a rolicking great time aboard a pirate ship, click here.

Getting there: 911 S. Ann Street, Baltimore MD (Fells Point). Parking is limited to on street, metered spots.

Hours: Mid-April - October; check website for tour times and availability

Website: http://www.urbanpirates.com/


10. Fight Some Dragons




Scotland may have its iconic Nessie, but only in Baltimore's Inner Harbor can you paddle on the water in the Chesapeake Bay's version of this iconic monster. Have fun and get a good workout by paddling around in a "Chessie" paddle boat. The pedal-powered boats seat up to 4 passengers each and have become a popular destination for family day trips.



Proceeds from ticket sales support Living Classrooms’ hands-on education and job training programs.

Recommended for kids older than 2 years and older, accompanied by an adult.

Getting there: 301 E. Pratt Street, Baltimore, MD 21202

Hours: Open daily, April through November, weather permitting.

Website: https://livingclassrooms.org/programs/paddle-electric-boats/


11. American Visionary Art Museum




The American Visionary Art Museum is an unusual art museum. There are no Picassos, no Monets, no Chagalls to be found within its walls, but don't let that stop you. Instead, you and your kids will find art made by "every day folk"; these artists didn't go to school or apprentice with another artist to learn how to express themselves. Instead, they picked up a paint brush or started carving wood or reworked found objects into objet d'art.



The AVAM is a great place for kids but is not specifically for kids -- it's for anyone who wants to explore their own vision and expression. It's really a place of wonder, and both kids and adults can lose themselves in the exploration of art, and what it means for you.


For more about visiting the American Visionary Art Museum, click here.

Getting there: 800 Key Highway, Baltmore, MD 21230

Hours: Open Tuesday - Sunday 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.; closed Mondays, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Not only is AVAM open on Martin Luther King Day, it's free admission for all.

Website: www.avam.org



Know before you go: Parking can be the toughest part of planning kid-friendly daytrips in Baltimore; where available, I've noted onsite parking. A number of these kid-friendly destinations are near Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Parking for these are best at the public and private parking lots and garages near the Inner Harbor. The least expensive parking garage we found was $20 per day, next to the Baltimore Regency Hyatt across the street from Harbor Place, and that's where we usually ended up parking. However, check out Parking Locations in Baltimore for more options.







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