Tag Archives: Baltimore Attractions

Anchors Aweigh, Kids, at Baltimore’s Port Discovery

[Note: This post was written by KFDC contributor Emily Moise, who visited Port Discovery with her family, including her 3-year-old daughter and baby son. In all the years our family visited the children’s museum in Baltimore, I never did a proper write-up, and my kids have aged out of a lot of it. But as Port Discovery recently underwent a major renovation, the timing is great for one now.]

As we await the *almost open* children’s museum here in Washington, DC, a half-day trip up to Baltimore’s Port Discovery will certainly tide you over. The Inner Harbor, and its historic seaport, provides the perfect metaphorical backdrop for this children’s museum that has, without exaggeration, something for every child, with every interest, to embark on.

Open since 1998, the museum completed a $10.5 million renovation in 2019, notably with the floor-to-ceiling “SkyClimber” and twisting slide, as well as a life-size ship facade where kids can play captain and load “cargo” on the third-story overlook. The museum has the latest and greatest in hands-on, creative play — though, like all children’s museums, things become “well-loved” so some of the 10+ exhibit spaces aren’t as brand-sparkling new as others.

If you have a preschooler in tow, your first stop will likely be at the “Store & Fill’er Up Station” which is one of the most authentic fake food shopping set-ups I’ve experienced. It’s a convenience store modeled after sponsor Royal Farms, allowing kids to fill up a grocery tote, get a pretend fountain soda, put gas in the car, and “drive.” A few levels up, “Tiny’s Diner” offers even more for the play food lovers with a large space conducive to collaborative play and parent engagement.

Perhaps the most unique exhibit space is “Wonders of Water” where my daughter’s love of squeegeeing grew exponentially with the addition of spray bottles and free-range windows. Also found here are STEM-infused water tables, a giant bubble hoop, and a musical water play (and spray) area. The most thoughtful touches are the amenities: raincoats, crocs, and a drying station for all sizes.

For those with younger toddler-age children, you won’t want to miss “Tot Trails” which is limited to children three and under. This exhibit space is set up with simple yet stimulating activities for all levels—sitters, crawlers, climbers, and walkers. Like most of the museum, STEM and arts are intertwined in a rudimentary, unintimidating way. For example, here you’ll find a classic wind tube with leaves for little ones to insert and catch with a butterfly net.

Lastly, “The Oasis” provided a much-needed wind down from the stimulation. It’s a children’s library-esque space stocked with books, cozy nooks, and exploratory play stations. By chance, we walked in just as story time was about to start—on this Martin Luther King Jr. weekend day, themes of community and connection were shared throughout the three books read. This was the perfect ending to our visit, leading to an instantaneous car nap for both of my children.

From the archives: Little Sasha serves up big sandwiches at Tiny’s Diner

Port Discovery is located at 35 Market Place on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. General admission to the museum is $17.95 for visitors ages 1+. If you think your family will go at least couple of times in a year, consider a membership starting at $140.

KFDC Tips:
* There are lockers to store your items (for free) in “The Pier” eating area — use them! The museum is three levels of non-stop movement, particularly for a first-time visitor trying to see and do everything.
* The Pier is also where you can take a snack or lunch break. Bring your own food or carry out from one of the neighboring establishments.
* There are many, many exhibits — more than mentioned here, including a bunch for grade school ages — so be ready for a long day (or plan on more visits!)
* Port Discovery hosts lots of special events and themed weekends — check the calendar for any you might want to experience.
* You could make it a longer trip to Baltimore, overnight or even weekend, and also visit the Maryland Science Center, American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore Museum of Industry, or tour the historic ships docked at the Inner Harbor.


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The Weekend Round-Up: January 20-22


This Weekend Round-Up is being brought to you a bit earlier than usual since it includes info about big events happening on Friday. And a little ulterior motive: It also lets me give a special shout-out to my very favorite tween on his 11th (!) birthday. I could gush forever about what an incredible kid I think he is — he’s kind, smart, fun, curious, adventurous, positive, compassionate — but then I’d be that mom (okay, so I am that mom). And now more than ever my hopes are that all these qualities serve not just him, but also others well. With that, here are your recommendations for activities with the kids over the next few days. Happy Weekend! Happy Birthday, my sweet O. And even though I try to keep my blog non-political, I have to say… Thank you, President Obama.

Hang at the First President’s Place
Where: Mount Vernon
When: Thursday – Sunday, 8am – 5pm
Admission: $20/adult, $10/ages 6-11, free for 5 and under at the door
($2 less if you purchase tickets online)

The home of the nation’s first POTUS, George Washington, is hosting special Inauguration Weekend activities. Scavenger hunts, exhibits, photo ops, and more, not to mention the ongoing programs will be offered at the estate. There will also be special extended hours to enjoy it all.

Inauguration: Swearing In and Parade
Where: National Mall & Downtown DC
When: Friday, 11:30am – 5pm
Admission: Free

If you want to experience the inauguration ceremony as close to the event as possible, you can head to the National Mall and watch it all go down on big screens that will be set up there. Be prepared for crowds — during the last two inaugurations, people were packed like sardines, and just walking was incredibly slow-going. Following the ceremony from 3-5pm, there will be a parade following the President and Vice President from the Capitol to the White House. The Washington Post has a guide on all you need to know for planning — road closures, public transportation details, access points, security info, and more.

Women’s March
Where: Starts at Independence Ave. & 3rd St. SW
When: Saturday, 10am
Admission: Free

The turnout for this is expected to be huge! The event starts with a rally by the U.S. Capitol from 10am – 1:15pm, then the marching begins after that. Be sure to check the FAQ for information on transportation, what to bring, etc. And this map from Washingtonian of restrooms, refreshments, and more places welcoming marchers will come in handy, too.

Rock On
Where: Newseum
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: $24.95/adult, $14.95/ages 7-18, free for 6 and under

Explore the ways music has influenced issues ranging from political campaigns to civil rights at the Newseum’s latest exhibit, “Louder Than Words: Rock, Power and Politics.” See John Lennon’s bed-in guitar, Jimi Hendrix Woodstock Stratocaster guitar, stage costumes worn by the Village People, original handwritten lyrics by Bob Dylan, Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” jewelry from the VMA’s, video with some of rocks most influential musicians, plus artifacts related to the Vietnam War, Kent State University, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the Black Lives Matter movement. The Newseum is best for older children, and this KFDC post has a bit more about it.

Explore the Rails with Thomas & Friends
Where: Port Discovery
When: Saturday, 10am – 5pm & Sunday, 12-5pm
Admission:$14.95/ages two and up

All aboard! Everyone’s favorite blue engine will roll into Port Discovery Children’s Museum this weekend for a brand new exhibit! Climb aboard Thomas’ cab, fix wobbly wheels, pull levers, dress as a train conductor, and more. Join on opening weekend for special activities…or be sure to stop by before the exhibit departs the station on May 7th.

More Charm City Fun
Where: Baltimore
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by activity

Escape the DC crowds and zip up I-95 for even more fun in our sister city, where there are several great ways to spend the day — or even the whole weekend. Explore the exhibits and loads of hands-on activities at the Maryland Science Center. See some of the quirkiest, coolest art around at the American Visionary Art Museum. Get an eyeful of the underwater world at the National Aquarium. Learn about Baltimore’s early business days at the Museum of Industry. Tour the ships at the Inner Harbor. And both the Walters Art Museum and Baltimore Museum of Art offer free activities on weekends!

Show Time
Where: Local Theatres
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by show

* Goldilocks is the new Main Stage show at The Puppet Co.
* And Winter Wonderland is the featured Tiny Tots performance this weekend
* Find out what ballet and juggling have in common at 4×4:Ephemeral Architectures at Strathmore on Sunday evening
* Titanic is still afloat at Signature Theatre, and it’s getting great reviews
* Little ones will be delighted by Blue at Imagination Stage
* Make it a KidFree night out at Arena Stage where ROE recently opened

Astro-Bots: Astronomy
Where: Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
When: Saturday, 10am – 3pm
Admission: Free, but parking is $15

Join the Air & Space Museum for Making STEM Magic, a monthly program that introduces young visitors to engineering in a fun and creative way. Ready to explore our solar system? During this session, program a robot to travel through space and gather information about our nearest neighbors in this January design challenge.

Broadway Bound
Where: Herndon High School
When: Saturday, 7:30pm
Admission: $10, $5/students & seniors

Join Herndon High School students as they present “Broadway Bound,” an evening of song and dance featuring some favorites from West Side Story, Newsies, A Chorus Line, In the Heights, Rock of Ages, Little Women, and more! The school is located at 700 Bennett Street in Herndon, VA, and the show will take place in the auditorium — enter through door #6, at the back of the school.

Out of Many Festival
Where: National Museum of the American Indian
When: Saturday, 1-5pm & Sunday, 10:30am – 5pm
Admission: Free

Festivals at this museum always include vibrant performances in the atrium, and this one centers around them. The two-day celebration highlights Native performers, both traditional and contemporary, from across the country, including groups from the DC area, highlighting mariachi music, West African dance, taiko drums, salsa music and dance, Chinese youth lion dances, jazz, and much more!

Portrait Story Days: Barack Obama
Where: National Portrait Gallery
When: Saturday, 1-4pm & Sunday, 2-5pm
Admission: Free

Pay tribute to our departing POTUS at a special story time. Drop by the Portrait Gallery to enjoy this regularly featured program — young visitors and their families can listen to a story and complete an art project. This weekend’s sessions will feature Barack Obama.

The Wild Rumpus Dance Party 
Where: Kensington Town Hall
When: Sunday, 3-5pm
Admission: $5, $20/family

Enjoy an afternoon of fun to benefit the Noyes Children’s Library Foundation’s Make MORE Noyes Campaign! Dance your claws off with Aaron Anderson of A-Squad Entertainment at the party. Create “monstrous” masterpieces at the craft table. Enjoy the Where the “Wild Things Are” Penny Theater show. Browse the display of Maurice Sendak memorabilia — and make sure to enter the Sendak raffle. Dancing is geared to ages 18 months to 6 years, but all ages are welcome! RSVP here

Think Outside
Where: Around the area
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by locale

Take advantage of warmer winter weather and enjoy some time outside! You’ve got your pick of places around the DC-Metro for outdoor adventures. Take a hike, hit a playground, explore a garden, visit animals, or see what else there is to do al fresco in this post with tons of ideas for outdoor fun.

The Inside Scoop
Where: Around the area
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by activity

If you’d prefer to spend the day indoors, or just want more options for activities around town, this post list more than 80 suggestions for things to do. For locations in DC, especially downtown, I recommend calling ahead to check Inauguration Weekend schedules.

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Discover the History of Fort McHenry




Given the many, many years I’ve lived in DC and the frequency that we visit Baltimore, it’s kind of surprising I’d never been to Fort McHenry until recently. That’s not for lack of talking about going, though. I can’t count the number of times over the years that Levi and I drove nearby or through the tunnel bearing its name and remarked about wanting to go — starting before we even had children.

O, say can you see...my kids having a sweet moment?!

O, say can you see…my kids having a sweet moment?!

All that talk finally came to fruition when we made a trip to the national monument with the kids a few week ago. The site of the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812 and birthplace of the Star Spangled Banner, Fort McHenry makes for a very interesting, informative, and enjoyable outing for all ages.



There are all kinds of engaging exhibits both in the Visitors Center and throughout the grounds, from historical objects and structures to multimedia displays and interactives. We started at the Visitors Center, where we paid admission ($10/adult) and got a good background about the site from several exhibits. One of the kids’ and my favorites was a video featuring various artists performing the Star Spangled Banner (Whitney Houston’s Super Bowl rendition the best by far, of course.) There is also a 10-minute film depicting the history of Fort McHenry that is a must-see, with a little surprise at the end that I found very moving.



With more knowledge of Fort McHenry, including details about defeating the British in battle in 1814 and the waving American flag that inspired the National Anthem, we headed outside to explore the actual fort. Having more insight into the history undoubtedly enhanced the tour, especially for the kids, since they had a better understanding of the site’s significance and could actually place what they’d just learned where they now were.




Many original structures remain at the fort and are open for exploration. In fact, most of the barracks and officer’s quarters now contain exhibits, some of them recreating what the spaces would have looked like back then, others displaying artifacts, and even more highlighting interesting aspects of the fort’s history. In one of them you can see the cross brace of the flag pole that hoisted the original star spangled banner. Along with the barracks, there are several underground areas, like prison cells and shelters, which the kids enjoyed exploring.




Cannons sit at the forefront of it all, the guns aimed at the Chesapeake. You can walk along the bastion and take in the same view the soldiers did over two hundred years ago. What was once a battle scene is now a nice Baltimore vista. And if you look back at the fort, you’ll see the flag waving in the wind above.



You can explore it all on a self-guided tour or join a Ranger Talk offered at 2:30pm this time of year. Other programs such as drill, musket, and artillery demonstrations by the Fort McHenry Guard occur seasonally, so it’s worth checking the website to see what might be on the schedule before you go. And you can help with the flag changes that take place twice a day.

Fort McHenry is located in the Locust Hill neighborhood of Baltimore. It’s open daily, with exceptions of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. Park hours are 9am – 5pm, and the fort and Visitors Center closes at 4:45pm. Admission is $15/adult, free for children 15 and under. Free parking is available in a lot. You could also make an adventure of getting there and take a Water Taxi from the Inner Harbor. 2021 Update: The Visitor Center is open, and restrooms are accessible, but exhibits are currently closed.


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The Weekend Round-Up: January 12-13

On the trail at Turkey Run Park

On the trail at Turkey Run Park

Musical and theatre performances, museum programs and special events, adventures in Charm City, trail time, and Spiderman training are all among this round of recs for fun with the kiddos. And don’t forget to check the Everyday Play page for even more ideas. Happy Weekend!

NSO in your neighborhood
Where: Several DC neighborhoods
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Free

The National Symphony Orchestra is presenting a week of free activities in the U Street, Shaw, Howard, and Logan Circle neighborhoods through January 14, offering more than 40 activities to the public, many inspired by the area’s rich cultural history, and several of them programs that kids can enjoy, too. on the schedule this weekend is a percussion workshop, a violin ensemble performance, jazz and chamber music, an electric violin show, community concerts, jam sessions, and more. See the schedule for times and details.

Artful Conversations
Where: National Gallery of Art
When: Saturday & Sunday, 11:30am & 1pm
Admission: Free

The National Gallery of Art is kicking off its Winter Drop-In Programs with this session for kids ages 8-11. Guests will observe a work of art, participate in a discussion about it, then sketch their own masterpiece. Sign-in takes place in the East Building Atrium beginning at 11am on both Saturday and Sunday and will continue until all spaces are filled.

Show Time
Where: Local theaters
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by venue

There’s lots of great entertainment around the area this weekend. Encore Stage & Studio’s Honk, Jr. opens tonight (look for a Goldstar deal here). Cinderella is still being fitted for her glass slipper at Olney Theatre. Wake Up, Brother Bear will delight kids ages 1-5 at Imagination Stage. Elksa, who’s been described as the “Bjork of kids music” is performing at Jammin’ Java. And the Kennedy Center presents an NSO Kinderkonzert. Find details and links for all of these productions in this post about live entertainment for kids this winter.

Happy Birthday, Nat Geo!
Where: National Geographic Museum
When: Sunday
Admission: $8/adults, $4/ages 5-12, free for 4 and under for exhibits

As if the exhibits weren’t already a huge treat, the National Geographic is celebrating 125 years by giving out cupcakes made especially for the occasion by Georgetown Cupcakes (while supplies last) along with photo props that allows users to add the iconic National Geographic yellow border to “Frame What Matters.” And don’t miss the current exhibits while you’re there — Birds of Paradise and 1001 Inventions, plus stunning photography on display are all pretty sweet, too.

Baltimore, Hon!
Where: Several Charm City attractions
When: All weekend long
Admission: Varies by locale

Because the kids and I recently enjoyed a couple of great outings up to Baltimore (and I did write-ups on them), a Charm City venture makes the Round-Up this week, and you’ve got a good selection of options. Explore the exhibits and loads of hands-on activities at the Maryland Science Center. See some of the quirkiest, coolest art ever at the American Visionary Art Museum. Play the day away at Port Discovery. Get an eyeful of the underwater world at the National Aquarium. Or tour the historic ships at the Inner Harbor.

Walks in the Woods
Where: Local trails
When: All weekend long
Admission: Varies by locale

Get some exercise and enjoy the warmer temps on a nature walk – there are plenty of great places in the area where you can hit the trail with the kids. This post from awhile back lists some of the ground we’ve covered. And another not on the list, but perfect for family tramping is Turkey Run Park, which you can access from the GW Parkway, not far from the Beltway. You can do a four-mile loop along the Potomac and through a pretty wooded area or pick a shorter route. Pack lunch and plan to picnic — tables are available near Parking Lot B, or find some big rocks by the water and have a riverside meal.

Family Paint Day
Where: Merlot’s Masterpiece
When: Sunday, 2-4pm
Admission: $25

The U Street painting studio is hosting its first Family Day event on Sunday afternoon. Guests will participate in a two-hour instructor-led painting experience, with refreshments included. Sign up for the class here.

Farm to Table Family Day
Where: Kogod Courtyard
When: Saturday, 11:30am – 3pm
Admission: Free

Join the American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery for their second annual farm-to-table event. Enjoy live music, learn about the “slow food” movement from local community organizations, and participate in hands-on activities that get your hands a little dirty. You’ll be ready to eat fresh, local, and healthy with recipes you can take home. And don’t forget to find delicious artworks on the Fruit and Veggie Scavenger Hunt.

Climb On
Where: SportRock Climbing Center
When: Saturday & Sunday, 12-5pm
Admission: $5-25 discount with a Certifikid deal)

This recommendation is inspired by a deal I just saw on Certifikid for open climb sessions in the SportRock Sterling location. Whether you want to get in on the deal or just scale walls or belay indoors, you’ve got plenty of opportunity this weekend (and every Saturday and Sunday, for that matter). Sterling offers Open Climb sessions for $25, and Alexandria has Open Belay for $5. Both rates include rental gear. Visit the website for the rest of the details on practicing Spiderman skills.

The Wright Stuff
Where: Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
When: Saturday, 10am – 3pm
Admission: Free, but parking is $15

It’s Super Science Saturday, the monthly program at the Air & Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Dulles.  There will be demonstrations and hands-on activities that immerse children in science and technology topics related to aviation and space exploration. on Saturday, it’ll center around January’s theme, “From the Wright Brothers to the Right Stuff.”

Around the World with Wilbur Wright
Where: College Park Aviation Museum
When: Sunday, 12-3pm

See the world without even leaving the museum! Participate in a fun and educational tour of the College Park Aviation Museum, where you can make your own passport, visit places around the world, and learn a little bit about aviation history.

Portrait Story Days
Where: National Portrait Gallery
When: Sunday, 2-5pm
Admission: Free

Drop in to listen to a story about a person who has influenced American history and culture and to create a special piece of art. On Sunday, hear a story illustrated by artist Keith Haring (1958-1990).

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Hands-On at the Maryland Science Center

Solving "Dinosaur Mysteries" in one of the most popular exhibits

Solving “Dinosaur Mysteries” in one of the most popular exhibits

Even with all the wonderful, free museums and other offerings for kids right in our backyards here in DC, it’s nice to have a change of scenery — and activity — now and then. We usually find it just 45 minutes away in Baltimore, where there are several places to experience play, learning, culture, and more, much of it in environments created especially for children.

In-your-face models of dino skeletons

In-your-face models of dino skeletons

One of those places is the Maryland Science Center, located right on the Inner Harbor. And while I’ve previously covered it on the blog, I’ve never given it a proper general overview. There’s really nothing like it here in DC — on such a large scale, anyway. MSC presents various topics of science through an array of exhibits, just about all of them hands-on and appealing to young visitors. It’s not a museum with collections of artifacts and tangible history; rather, there are models, demos, and interactive displays that encourage learning through engagement. (For the record, I believe both have great value, they just offer different experiences.)

"The Body" covers everything from germs to stress reactions to poop.

“The Body” covers everything from germs to stress reactions to poop.

Space exploraton

Space exploraton

A close look at the Maryland blue crab (yum)

A close look at the Maryland blue crab (yum)

Dinosaurs, the earth, physics, the body, energy, and space are some of the main areas on exhibit. There is also a Kids Room full of all kinds of hands-on fun for children in a safe enclosed space, including a special area for the under-2 set.

Playing in Newton's Alley

Playing in Newton’s Alley

Wild winds in the hurricane simulator

Wild winds in the hurricane simulator

So many ways to learn through play

So many ways to learn through play

IMAX movies, planetarium shows, and activities offered by museum staff round out the offerings. You can easily spend an entire day exploring and playing and not even see/do everything. But that just gives you good reason to go back!

In the Kids Room: Little doctors get an inside look

In the Kids Room: Little doctors get an inside look

Digital interactives for all ages

Digital interactives for all ages

Face to face with fish

Face to face with fish

The Maryland Science Center is open Tuesday through Friday 10am – 5pm, Saturday 10am – 6pm, and Sunday 11am – 5pm. Hours change in the spring, so be sure to check the schedule. Admission is $25.95/adult, $19.95/ages 3-12, free for 2 and under. If you think you’d go often, membership is worth checking out.

A few things to note:

Elements Cafe offers lunch and snacks — hotdogs, sandwiches, salads. Prices aren’t terrible, but after paying relatively steep admission (we’re so used to everything being free), you might want to save a few bucks and BYO. [Note: Food service is not offered right now due to Covid, so definitely BYO.]

– The Science Center validates parking at nearby garages. Street parking is also available, but it’s a two-hour limit in most areas, and chances are you’ll be there longer than that.

– The MSC can get very crowded, especially on weekends and holidays off from school, so be prepared.

– IMAX movies and a few activities, like the hurricane simulator, cost extra. Credit cards accepted.



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