Tag Archives: Baltimore Inner Harbor

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.


Leave a Comment

Filed under All ages, Educational, Exhibit, Indoor Play, Maryland, Museums, Ongoing, Play, Weekdays, Weekend

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day Family-Style at the Shamrock Shindig


Looking for a way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day properly (you know what I mean) that is also family-friendly? If that’s a yes, then mark your calendar for Sunday, March 10! That’s when the 2nd Annual Shamrock Shindig will take place at Pierce’s Park in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. And from the sounds of it, this definitely will be worth the trip up to Charm City.

The host of the event, the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, planned it with families in mind, offering festivities for both grown-ups and children in one of the city’s coolest new parks. Celtic band Barleyjuice will bring the live entertainment, plus there will be food trucks, adult bevvies, a Shamrock Alley with kids activities (cookie decorating, games, etc.), stilt walkers, a strolling leprechaun, and much more.

And the location couldn’t be better. Opened this past May, Pierce’s Park is a true delight for all ages. The one-of-a-kind space was designed for play, with a musical fence, an interactive funnel sculpture, willow tunnels, and more.

Running through the willow tunnel at Pierce's Park

Running through the willow tunnel a Pierce’s Park

Guests can enjoy all of it from 11am -2pm. Following the event will be 58th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which kicks off at 2pm at the Washington Monument (yes, Baltimore has its own smaller version).

Admission to enjoy the band and strolling entertainment at the Shamrock Shindig is free. However, other activities cost extra, but you can enjoy them all with one easy pass (or wristband) for each family member: The Shamrock Pass for children in just $6 and includes parade gear including a shamrock derby hat, green beads, Irish button, Irish flag, Irish fun brand bracelet; two crafts; a temporary tattoo; and cookie decorating. An Unlimited Drink Wristband for Adults is $15 and includes beer, wine and mixed drinks.

Both passes and wristbands can be purchased here, and you can get $1 off each one by entering the discount code KIDFRIENDLYDC.


Filed under All ages, Annual, Eats, Festival, Free, Holidays, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Music, Outdoor, Park, Weekend

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.



Filed under Animals, Art, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Gradeschoolers, Indoor Play, Maryland, Movies, Museums, Nature, Ongoing, Preschoolers, Preteens, Toddlers, Weekdays, Weekend

The Weekend Round-Up: June 15-17

Celebrating this guy this weekend


We couldn’t ask for a better weekend to celebrate Dad! School is out, cranking relaxation mode into high gear. The weather gods clearly are in a glorious mood. And there are events going on that will surely make the old man’s day: Sailabration in Baltimore, Juneteenth in DC, big games at the ballpark, tons of summer activities, fun on the farm, trucks, and much more.  This round-up has all the details, and you can find even more great ways to seize the beautiful days in this post about outdoor recreation. (For indoor options, go here.)  Happy Weekend! And Happy Father’s Day to all the dads!

Star-Spangled Sailabration
Where: Baltimore Inner Harbor
When: All Weekend
Admission: Free
If there’s any main event this weekend, this is it. More than 40 tall ships and naval vessels are sailing into Baltimore to commemorate the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the Star-Spangled Banner.  The celebration will include free tours of the ships, waterside festivities, an airshow featuring the Blue Angels (see viewing locations here), and the world-premiere of “Overture for 2012,” composed by Philip Glass – for specifics, see the schedule here.  With a beautiful weekend in store, this is guaranteed to draw big crowds, so plan accordingly. For parking tips, see this guide from the Washington Post.

Juneteenth Family Day
Where: American Art Museum
When: Saturday, 11:30am – 3pm
Admission: Free
Join the American Art Museum, National Portrait Gallery, and Anacostia Community Museum as they mark the arrival of news of the abolition of slavery in the United States. Events include historical re-enactors, a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, storytelling, live music by Follow the Drinking Gourd, craft-making activities in the Kogod Courtyard.

Father’s Day at Mount Vernon
Where: Mount Vernon Estate & Gardens
When: Saturday & Sunday, 8am – 5pm
Admission: $15/adult, $7/ages 6-11, free for ages 5 and under
Spend the day with the Father of our Country! This weekend, the entrance fee for dads will include a meet-and-greet with “General Washington” as well as complimentary admission to George Washington’s Distillery & Gristmill, located three miles from the estate on Route 235 South.

Truck Touch
Where: RFK Stadium , Lot 7
When: Saturday, 9am – 2pm
Admission: Free
Kids love these events where they can explore some of the coolest wheels on the road. The District of Columbia Government invites the public to do just that at RFK Stadium, Lot 7. A host of DC government agencies will present and demonstrate nearly 30 vehicles used to clean and repair streets, change traffic lights, collect refuse, clear snow, provide emergency services, administer mobile health care and more. Kids can climb aboard, work the gears, honk the horn, and have a blast.

Summer Fun
Where: All around the area
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies by activity
Get your summer on this weekend with a host of activities exclusive to this time of year — outdoor swimming, spray ground play, concerts under the stars, movies al fresco. Go here for the full scoop on these joys of summer.

Become a Pilot Family Day
Where: Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
When: Saturday, 10am – 3pm
Admission: Free, but parking is $15
Visit the Dulles branch of the Air & Space Museum for the eighth annual Become a Pilot Day at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. See 50 visiting vintage, recreational, military, and homebuilt aircraft, on display outside the Center for one day only. Talk to pilots and find out what skills are needed to fly. Inside the Center, test your piloting skills in flight simulators, talk to aviation experts, and enjoy story time and hands-on activities with the kids.

Savage Gardens Family Festival
Where: U.S. Botanic Garden
When: Saturday, 10am – 3pm
Admission: Free
Celebrate the wild and wonderful world of carnivorous plants during this fun family festival! Stroll along the Terrace and explore. Make your own wearable bog, learn about Darwin and his experiments with carnivorous plants, help with a bug release and craft your own Venus flytrap. Do all this and more while investigating the amazing world of plants that need to “eat” bugs to survive. Read a KFDC review of the exhibit here.

Nats vs. Yankees
Where: Nationals Park
When: Friday 7:05pm, Saturday 1:05pm, Sunday 1:35pm
Admission: Tickets start at $10
The Nats are hosting the Yankees this weekend, with an evening game tonight and afternoon match-ups Saturday and Sunday. Take Dad out to the ballgame on Sunday,and stay after for Kids Run the Bases when children ages 4-12 can loop the in field after the final out.

Seeing the Sea Family Workshop
Where: Corcoran Gallery
When: Saturday, 10:30am – 12pm
Admission: $8/members, $10/non-members
Discover how artists have strived to capture the beauty, mystery, and danger of the ocean throughout history. In the galleries, guests can see what goes into an ocean scene and then sketch the elements they like best. In the studio, families will create their own seascapes.

Artomatic Kids Workshops
Where: 1851 S. Bell Street, Crystal City
When: Sunday, various times
The month-long art event featuring work by more than 1300 artists, performers, musicians, filmmakers, fashion designers, and creatives of all kinds has some Kids Workshops happening this weekend. On Sunday, they can enjoy international storytelling with Abdul Rahim 12-1:30pm, Fun with Nature: Science Illustrations with Virginia Selz 2-3pm, and Color Theory & Abstract Art with Ja’Ski 3-5pm. Go here to reserve spots in the workshops.

Wheat Harvest
Where: Claude Moore Colonial Farm
When: Saturday, 10am – 4:30pm
Admission: $3/adults, $2/child, free for ages 3 and under
Planted in early fall, the wheat and rye are finally ready for harvest at the farm straight out of the 18th century. And you can watch the farmer and his neighbors cut the grain, then join them to bind and stack the crop. Find out why more and more of the farmer’s neighbors are growing wheat as a cash crop in addition to tobacco. At the Farm house, lend a hand churning butter, and learn how the farm wife bakes wheat bread.

Family Fun Day
Where: Arcadia Farms
When: Saturday, 1-5pm
Admission: $5
Take the family to an end-of-spring celebration on farm that’s part of the Woodlawn Estate for a day full of fun, hands-on activities. Meet the chickens, play farm-based games, and enjoy face painting, arts & crafts, and demos by professional chefs, and more. Produce will be available for purchase produce from Arcadia’s Mobile Market.

Show Time
Where: Local Theatres
When: Throughout the weekend
Admission: Varies be venue
Beauty and the Beast, the smash Broadway hit, is the big show this weekend, on stage at the National Theatre. At the same venue, catch this week’s Saturday Morning at the National show, The Recycling Pirate presented by the Goodlife Theater Company. Goldilocks! and Tiny Tots shows are at The Puppet Co.  Follow the links for more details and tickets.

Father’s Day Putt Putt & Fish-a-Rama Competition
Where: Great Country Farms
When: Saturday & Sunday, 9am – 6pm
Admission: $10/child, $12/adult
Treat Dad to a fun filled weekend with BBQ, Putt-Putt, and catch and release fishing at the Bluemont, Virginia far, While you’re out there, kids can have a blast in the five-acre play area. The Roosteraunt will also be serving up ice cold drinks and featuring our all- natural BBQ sandwiches with classic coleslaw, burgers and hot dogs.

DC Solare Flare
Where: H. D. Woodson High School
When: Saturday, 9am – 4:30pm
Admission: Free
DC Solar United Neighborhoods and the Ward 7 Solar Cooperative present this expo featuring sustainable energy and green living exhibitors; science activities for kids; solar and clean energy workshops and speakers; films; EV demonstrations; a solar homes tour; and projects with Woodson High Science, Technology, Engineering and Math classes — including a solarized exhibit tent, solar cooking and a solar-powered WiFi network.



Filed under All ages, Annual, Art, DC, Educational, Exhibit, Farm, Free, Holidays, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Museums, Outdoor, Seasonal, Sports, Spring, Summer, Theatre, Virginia, Weekend

Touring Ships at Baltimore Inner Harbor

All little hands on deck on the USS Constellation


Our visit to the Maryland Science Center for the bug exhibit opening last Thursday inspired a family outing this weekend.  As I took in the view of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor through the museum’s massive windows, I thought about how little we take advantage of all the city’s great attractions. Sure, we’ve been to many over the years, just not often enough considering they are only a 45-minute drive from DC. Lately, our Charm City trips usually involve visits with friends, Maryland crabs, and Port Discovery.  So, this past Saturday we decided to head north and experience something different.

It was my husband who suggested we do a ship tour at the Inner Harbor.  We’d admired the historic vessels moored at the harbor from the outside, but had never been aboard any of them. Plus, it seemed like something we’d all enjoy. We timed it so we would arrive in time to eat lunch — there are plenty of dining options along the Inner Harbor — then start our maritime explorations.

The USS Torsk

The USS Constellation, a U.S. Navy ship from the Civil War, was the one we had in mind, but there are actually four vessels you can tour — the USS Torsk, USCGC Taney, and LV116 Chesapeake are the other three.  Admission to tour one ship is $11/adult, $5/ages 6-14, free for ages 5 and under), and you can add on for just a few dollars more per ship. We opted for just one to start, since we didn’t know how long it would take or what the kids would be up for, but ended up tacking on another, the USS Torsk submarine, since we liked the first one so much and we had the time.

Touring the rooms below - the captain's dining room

As for the ships, the fun and fascination for the kids began as soon as we walked on deck of the USS Constellation. Just being on board the big boat was a blast for them. They immediately rang the large ships’ bell in the center of the deck, then checked out the cannons all around the outer parts. And, of course, they had to take turns at the helm of the ship and pretend to steer the wheel. Below deck, we got to glimpse what were the inner workings of the ship and crew: more cannons and guns aimed out portholes; captain and officer quarters and their nice dining area; rows and rows of hammocks hanging from the ceiling, where crew members slept and the mess area where they ate; a clinic for the injured; and storage areas.

Sub par space for a big guy

Our tour of the USS Torsk, a World War II submarine, was just as cool. The kids especially loved that the exterior is painted to look like a shark. Once inside, the tour began in the torpedo room, then we pretty much walked along the narrow hallway, peered into the small rooms on either side, passed through the navigation room, then walked down the tight hallway again until we arrived in the engine room.  There are sleeping and eating areas, captain and officer quarters, kitchens, weapons storage, all nestled efficiently along the “walls” of the sub. It was a bit creepy being down there, imagining living in such a tight space, hundreds of feet underwater (but not enough for claustrophobia to kick in).  And it was funny to see my 6’4″ husband wriggle through the tiny doorways.

Tours on both ships are self-guided, and audio tour wands for the USS Constellation are available at the information desk on the way in. We decided to forgo them figuring it would be hard to listen while keeping up with the kids, but there were plenty of information panels as well as crew members on board to answer questions.

All in all, a great way to get our Baltimore fix. But, of course, we’ll be back for more!


1 Comment

Filed under All ages, DC, Educational, Maryland, Outdoor