Insider Guide: 25 Reasons to Visit Baltimore
Best kid-friendly things to do in Baltimore By Camille Miller
Beautiful well-preserved houses in Mount Vermont in Baltimore (Flickr: Joe Wolf)
Located on the Chesapeake Bay, Baltimore is home not just to a beautiful harbor. It is overflowing with historical significance and family-friendly activities are around almost every corner. Here are just a few of the many reasons to visit:
The USS Constellation is one of Baltimore's main attractions. (Flickr: Steve)
1. Historic Ships in Baltimore (Pier 1, 301 E Pratt St 410-539-1797)
Kids, teens and adults will be thrilled by the daring tales told aboard the historical ships in the harbor. Climb aboard a submarine, the USS Torsk, or explore the USS Constellation, the last all-sail warship built by the US Navy. Part history, part adventure, your kids will talk about this attraction for years to come.
2. Harborplace & The Gallery (200 East Pratt Street, 410-332-4191)
This urban marketplace is filled with unique vendors and restaurants offering fresh seafood delicacies. Stroll along and enjoy the festival atmosphere, admire the view of the ships in the harbor, and on warm days you can listen to live concerts in the amphitheater. Don't miss The Flag Shop, a fascinating store filled with flags and mementos from all the nations of the world.
3. National Aquarium (501 E Pratt St, 410-576-3800)
The key to a great aquarium is diversity, and the National Aquarium packs in such a range of fish, it is a nationwide favorite. Young children will be mesmerized by the sharks, and the older children will love the many tropical birds in the rainforest display. Observe turtles, dolphins, rays, and of course, fish by the hundreds.
4. Maryland Science Center (601 Light St, 410-685-5225)
Two Way Mirror at Maryland Science Center (Flickr: Austin Kirk)
With so much to do, you may need a few days to see everything in the Science Center. Don't miss the Planetarium, and make sure you get into an IMAX show. There is something for every age here, from the dinosaur exhibit, to the kids activity area. Even the adults will learn something new!
5. Canton Waterfront Park & Promenade (3001 Boston St, 410-396-7931)
Take a stroll along the promenade that stretches from Canton to Fells Point. Stop occasionally to appreciate the delicious seafood, watch a street performer, or just take in the full view of the harbor. Sit and feed the ducks for a while if you're feeling relaxed, or hop on a water taxi and go for a ride!
Set back from the touristy Inner Harbor lies the neighborhood of Midtown. This is where you'll find such cultural hubs as the Lyric Opera House, the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, and the Washington Monument and Museum. Traffic and parking can be a headache, so use the Metro whenever possible to get around.
7. Little Italy
Little Italy is set on the eastern side of the harbor, and as you can imagine, it is a charming neighborhood packed with the best risottos, cannolis and focaccia you'll ever taste. It will be a challenge to decide which restaurant to try first, but the delicious smells in the air will lead you to the best places. If you can, time your visit with one of the many festivals held in the area; your tummy won't regret it.
8. Lexington Market (400 W. Lexington Street, 410-685-6169)
This 200-year-old open air market specializes in seafood. Give your kids a few dollars to spend and let them compete for the best flea market find among the many antique shops. The best and most authentic crab cakes in the world can be found at Faidley's Seafood, and nearby you will also find fresh fruits, vegetables, and bakery items. *Please note: as you might expect, a 200-year-old food court will have a bit of grit to it, but security patrols the grounds and it is quite safe.
9. Mount Vernon
Not to be confused with the Virginia home of George Washington, from which it gets its name, this neighborhood is one of Baltimore's oldest and most picturesque. Grand mansions of the city's elite residents have been re-purposed to house museums, galleries, shops, and restaurants. Make a stop at the Peabody library, an impressive six-story center of learning. Or see the original copy of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the Maryland Historical Society.
10. St. Clement's Island (Visit by Ferry, State Park Contact: 301-872-5688)
This uninhabited island in the Potomac River is the setting of Maryland's first colonial landing in 1634. 140 English settlers landed here and established the 4th American settlement. Now a State Park preserves the island's history. If you visit, wear sturdy shoes and bring your own snacks and beverages. Don't forget your camera!
11. Fell's Point
For a little more history, take a water taxi from the harbor to Historic Fell's Point. This cobblestoned neighborhood once was the home of a thriving community of privateers – men legally allowed to loot British ships during the war of 1812. Now the area has been transformed into a walkable historical site popular with visitors.
12. Fort McHenry (2400 E Fort Ave, 410-962-4290)
At the entrance to the harbor sits a star-shaped fort best known for defending Baltimore from the attacks of the British Navy in 1814. It is the birthplace of the Star-Spangled Banner, the USA's national anthem and is a must-see patriotic activity for families.
HISTORICAL MUSEUMS & ROADS
13. The Walters Art Museum (600 N Charles St, 410-547-9000)
This popular attraction is located in the neighborhood of Mount Vernon. It has a wide range of exhibits, from religious art, to European armor, mummies, and more. Admission is free, and the hands-on children's art area is a favorite with visitors.
14. American Visionary Art Museum (800 Key Hwy, 410-244-1900)
This Folk Art museum is right near the inner harbor in the Federal Hill neighborhood. The artistic works displayed here come from artists with no formal training, but are carefully curated. The exhibit is always changing, and the best part is the option to take home your favorite pieces.
15. Maryland Historical Society (201 W. Monument Street, 410-685-3750)
Maryland has a remarkable history, from the stories of native inhabitants, to settlers from England, up through American Independence, the Civil War, and on into the Civil Rights movement. You can spend hours in this engaging museum and still come back for more.
16. The National Road
America's first inter-state highway begins in Baltimore and travels all the way to Illinois. It stretches for 170-miles that stretch through Maryland cities and countryside, tracing a fascinating route, with many interesting stops including the B&O Railroad Station Museum, and the Washington Monument State Park. Take three days to enjoy all the intriguing stops along the “road that built America.”
OUTDOOR PARKS & ATTRACTIONS
17. Patapsco Valley State Park (8020 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City 410-461-5005)
Patapsco Valley State Park (Flickr: Bossi)
Only 20 minutes to the east of the city lies this beautiful, clean, state park. Take your bikes for a ride on one of the many trails, or spend an afternoon hiking to a waterfall. A working railroad runs through the park.
18. Gunpowder Falls State Park (2813 Jerusalem Road, Bradshaw, 410-592-2897)
This dynamic landscape includes everything from marshes to rugged slopes. There are four swim beaches with plenty of shade trees and grassy areas for picnicking. For a family adventure, hike to Gunpowder Falls and stop at the swimming hole for a bit.
19. Federal Hill Park (Warren Ave, 410-396-6132)
For the best view of the Inner Harbor, visit this park in the Federal Hill neighborhood. It is set up on a hill, so it takes some effort to reach the top, but this peaceful setting provides the most gorgeous views of the Harbor. On a clear day you can see all the way out to Fort McHenry!
20. Druid Hill Park (1876 Mansion House Drive, 410 396-7102)
This park is the setting for beautiful gardens and a historic conservatory. Kids will enjoy feeding fish and turtles at the pond, and searching for the characters from Sherwood Forest. You will enjoy the quiet setting, and the free admission price.
21. Pier Six Concert Pavilion (731 Eastern Avenue, 410-625-3100)
Located right on the water in the Inner harbor, this is a fabulous place to see a live concert. It's beautiful to listen either from the water or from you seat along the pier, and there are restaurants and shops all around to keep you entertained.
ADVENTURE & SPORTS
22. Urban Pirates (912 S. Ann Street 410-327-8378)
The pirates in your family will thoroughly enjoy spending time with the Urban Pirates as they cast off from Fell's Point. Sail with a few swashbuckling rogues on the ship Fearless and hear a tale or two. Take a tour, go on a cruise, or charter the ship for private events. Enjoy everything from games to songs; hunt for stolen treasure, or blast a water cannon.
23. Port Discovery Children's Museum (35 Market Pl, 410-727-8120)
The kids will have a blast climbing around three floors of exhibits and participating in programs. The older kids will enjoy the jungle gym in the center of the building with nets, rock walls, tunnels, slides, and more. Toddlers will enjoy the Tot Trails, and splashing in the Wonders of Water. There is something here for children of every age.
24. Oriole Park at Camden Yards (333 W Camden St, 888-848-BIRD)
Oriole Park (Flickr: Keith Allison)
Make time for the Great American Pastime at this landmark train station and baseball stadium. The Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards is filled with memorabilia of famous athletes like Babe Ruth and Michael Phelps. When you've had your fill of history, walk next door to the baseball stadium where you can watch the Orioles play a few innings.
(MORE: Want to see more of Baltimore? Find more kid-friendly attractions in the city.)
25. Pimlico Horse Race Track (5201 Park Heights Ave, 410-542-9400)
The Preakness is horse race that's been run as part of the Triple Crown on this historic race track for over 130 years. Take a tour of the beautiful grounds and hear the stories of legendary horses such as Seabiscuit and Man o'War.
Camille Miller contributed this to MiniTime.