The 8 Best Activities for Parents and Kids in Baltimore
Read about family-friendly dining in Baltimore, too.
For a long time Baltimore was a place for us to stretch our legs, eat something (and find a clean bath room) on the way to or from Washington, DC. But Tiny Traveler and I recently had the opportunity* to spend a weekend in Charm City. We learned that it is chock full of family friendly activities, including a few surprises.
Here is a roundup of what we did (I suggest a more leisurely pace than we took) with both TT’s opinions and mine.
Tiny Traveler: Her favorite. She loved playing in a classic Baltimore diner and couldn’t get enough of a rope-guided ferry in the Egypt-themed Expedition room. Once she worked up the nerve to head into a 3-story tall climbing structure it was hard to get her out.
Eileen: Fine, if a little worn in, I thought it was more of a rainy day fallback then a must-see. My favorite thing was the working jukebox in the diner. While TT flipped faux flapjacks I grooved to Nancy Sinatra and Dion.
Tiny Traveler: She got a big kick out several of the colorful and quirky pieces, such as foot-powered car that looked like a giant poodle. Her favorite by far was a large ball made out of several thousand bras, which she dubbed “the dirty laundry ball.”
Eileen: The themes the museum picks each year lend themselves to kid-friendly art (this year it was “Storytelling”). But it is modern art and some of it is edgy. Come with an open mind and be prepared to edit your visit to your child’s sensibilities. But I am all for an art museum that can engage my 5-year-old and me for nearly two hours.
Tiny Traveler: She loved an outdoor kids area that included a small train-themed carousel, a train-themed playground, a model train and a small ride-on train. Me, not so much.
Eileen: I preferred the cavernous exhibit hall with trains from just about every era, including horse-drawn cars and an exhibit on trains in civil war. Tiny Traveker, not so much. Guess where we spent more time…
4. Federal Hill
Tiny Traveler: She was underwhelmed by the small playground we found, but she loved running up and down the hill on the least-steep side of this one-square-block park that’s tiered like a wedding cake.
Eileen: It’s worth the steep climb to the top for the views and photo opps. Situated behind AVAM and catty corner from the Science Museum, it’s handy for picnicking or just getting some yah-yahs out.
Tiny Traveler: She explored everything, but spent the most time with simple hands-on activities like blowing giant bubbles on the plaza, using a pressurized pump to shoot a soda bottle into the air, playing a laser harp that had no strings and watching her mom lie down on a bed of nails (yup, I did!).
Eileen: It ‘s a bright and easy to navigate space. The exhibits were all a manageable size and had elements that engaged a wide age range of kids. I found it less overwhelming than other science museums we’ve been to and recommend it.
Tiny Traveler: This princess was reluctant to come aboard, but once she had her pirate name, tattoo and costume (kids can wear their own, too), she was into it. A chance to shoot water cannons, do the limbo and share in a chest of pirate booty sealed the deal.
Eileen: You have to understand going into this that there is absolutely nothing historical or educational about it. And while there are probably great views of the harbor, you are way too busy learning the pirate oath, shooting water cannons at tourists and tossing coconuts around to notice. It’s silly, but it’s surprisingly fun. Kids from about ages 4 to 12 will love you for booking it.
Tiny Traveler: She most loved the Australia exhibit, where she discovered critters she’d never come across before including a pig-nosed turtle and a kookaburra bird.
Eileen: The aquarium is huge and we saw only a small portion of it, but choosing a few key exhibits might be a good strategy if you don’t have a whole day. I got a preview of the Black Tip Reef exhibit opening in July. This Indo-Pacific style reef will provide a dramatic introduction to the space and herald the return of Calypso, the aquarium’s popular 3-legged turtle.
8. Fort McHenry
Tiny Traveler: If you go, she would say, go for the daily flag-raising at 9:30 am. There is something quite exciting about seeing a 30-by-43-foot flag being lofted skyward. Once that was over, she was ready to leave.
Eileen: The park rangers that roam the fort are very knowledgeable about Maryland history, which is interesting not just because of the 1812 war but because this state’s people were more split than any other’s during the Civil War. If you can’t catch a ranger talk, stop any one you see to talk and ask questions.
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*We were guests of Visit Baltimore on this trip and received complimentary admission to some venues. We didn’t guarantee coverage or agree to write any particular thing in exchange for the opportunity. Our opinions are always our own.