Baltimore is a lot of things: a major Maryland seaport, a destination for tasty crab and the birthplace of the U.S. national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” But for families looking for a great weekend getaway, these are our favourite things to do in Baltimore with kids.
1. Stay and play at Inner Harbor
Make your family’s hub Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, where some of the city’s best attractions (National Aquarium, Maryland Science Center and Port Discovery Children’s Museum) are all within walking distance. Staybridge Suites Baltimore – Inner Harbor offers apartment-style suites with kitchens, kid amenities (like cribs), laundry service—all the conveniences of home. There’s also complimentary breakfast and a shuttle service that can be arranged for transportation to the airport and nearby attractions.
The harbour is home to four vessels, which act as floating museums where kids can learn about Baltimore’s maritime history. There’s a submarine that took two war patrols in Japan during World War II and a lighthouse. Families can discover the city by water taking a boat cruise, a water taxi or by trying out one of the paddle boats (there are traditional paddle boats as well as ones shaped like Chessie, the Chesapeake Bay sea monster).
For thrill-seeking kiddos, there’s also Urban Pirates, a kid-friendly pirate cruise that includes costumes, cannons and treasure. Kids will also enjoy the public skating (in the winter), a trip the Ripley’s Believe it or Not and when they get hungry head over to Power Plant Live!, a massive dining and entertainment complex with shops and lots of kid-friendly restaurants. And don’t forget to check out Baltimore’s World Trade Center, aka the tallest regular pentagonal building in the world. The observation area on the 27th floor offers a fantastic view of the city that will make you feel on top of the world.
2. Pet a stingray at the National Aquarium
The National Aquarium is considered one of the best in the world. This spectacular building sits right on the water in the centre of the downtown area and with over 17,000 animals including jellyfish, sea turtles, sharks, stingrays and more. Young marine life enthusiasts will love watching dolphin trainers feed and care for dolphins and getting their hands wet in the touch pools. In the tropical rainforest, kids will see birds, poison dart frogs, sloths, golden lion tamarin monkeys and tons of tropical plants. Note: the aquarium doesn’t allow strollers due to the nature of the building so leave your stroller at the hotel and the staff will provide you with a front or back baby carrier instead, if you don’t have your own.
3. Eat bratwurst at an authentic German Christmas Market
Baltimore is truly magical at Christmas time, and if you plan your trip accordingly you can experience the charming Christmas Village, a combination of an indoor and outdoor Holiday Market inspired by the traditional Christmas Markets in Germany. The Christmas Village runs from the end of November and until Christmas Eve with authentic European food vendors as well as ornaments and arts and crafts from all over the world. You’ll want to spend a few hours sampling the hot chocolate, waffles, gingerbread and bratwurst, admiring the Christmas tree and adorable German-style wooden huts, getting a photo with Santa, hanging out with Gingy the Gingerbread Man (the market’s mascot who loves taking selfies and giving hugs). And if you don’t know what a Christmas pickle is, be sure to ask and see if you and the kids can find it on the tree!
4. Touch everything at the Port Discovery Children’s Museum
Unlike traditional museums where kids are constantly reminded not to touch anything, at the Port Discovery Children’s Museum kids are encouraged to touch everything. The museum features three floors of interactive exhibits where kids can learn while having fun. Some experiences include, a water play area, a miniature 50’s-style diner, a playground with ropes and slides, painting, sculptures, soccer and backyard games in the indoor stadium and so much more. There are also play areas designated for toddlers that include bubbles, books, smaller slides, a sandbox and puppets.
5. Dig for dino bones at the Maryland Science Center
The Maryland Science Center boasts three floors of interactive exhibits that are fun for all ages. There are live science demonstrations, an IMAX theatre and a planetarium where kids can gaze at the stars and even learn about aliens. Dino lovers won’t want to leave the dinosaur exhibit where they can hang out with over a dozen full size dinosaurs and hunt for bones in the dig pits. In the body exhibit, kids can lie on a real bed of nails, stand inside the heart and lungs to feel the beats and breaths and learn how the human body functions. Aspiring scientists can take their discovery dreams to the next level at SciLab, a real laboratory space where kids can wear lab coats and safety goggles and test their own experiments. The Kid’s Room is a space specially designed for tiny scientists where littles ones can dress up like local wildlife, construct a train and get their hands wet in the water area. Infants and toddlers are welcome to crawl and play with soft blocks and books in the nearby Room To Grow area.
6. Have a (base)ball at Oriole Park
Yes, baseball games are always fun and exciting but even non-sports loving families will appreciate the beautiful views of this field set against the city backdrop. The stadium is just a few blocks away from Inner Harbor and is one of the most famous in the league. It was built in the retro style of the early 1990s and offers an authentic baseball experience that’ll make you want to grab a pretzel, a hot dog and a cold drink, and cheer. There’s also a kid-zone play area where kids under nine can play for free.
In the summer, kids can run the bases, play catch on the field and watch fireworks. If you’re unable to catch a game, and just want to explore the home of the Baltimore Orioles, book a tour of the scenic ballpark. During the tour, you’ll learn about Baltimore’s baseball history (including some interesting tidbits about Babe Ruth whose statue is at the front of the stadium). Tours are available year-round even during the off-season and are free for kids under three, however you won’t get to check out the dugout during game days, so be sure to plan ahead. The park also has an Orioles Hall of Fame and the museum is located just outside the stadium’s front entrance.
7. Try the fart machine at the American Visionary Art Museum
The American Visionary Art Museum is an urban museum dedicated to non-mainstream and self-taught artists. Art literally hangs from the ceiling, and with multiple floors and more than one building to explore, you’ll want to spend a full afternoon here. The main building is visually intriguing even from the outside with unique sculptures, including the huge ceramic egg and nest, a giant whirligig (a 55-foot tall wind-powered sculpture made by a 76 year-old farmer out of recycled junk) and a space-themed mosaic made by juveniles in Baltimore’s penal system.
Once inside, kids will learn about the environment, recycling, climate change, and many other world issues in a fun and colourful way. There’s a giant 50-foot pink poodles, a bright green monkey family, a hot air balloon, mini wooden sculptures that you can interact with by pushing a button, and the world’s first family of robots. Moms will get a chuckle at the giant ball of bras. But, if your kids find farts hilarious they will love the fart machine located near the bathrooms, which makes over 100 fart sounds. We dare you to press the button and not laugh. The museum also offers workshops for kids including one that teaches kids to turn old shoes into art. Kids under six can visit for free.
Some of the writer’s costs were covered by Staybridge Suites.