Tag Archives: DC Area Museums with Kids

Interactive Fun & Learning at the Maryland Science Center

[Note:  This post was written by KFDC Contributor Emily Moise, a local writer and mom of two young children.   She always has excellent recommendations for kids’ activities around the DC area. See some of them herehere and here.  You can also read a KFDC write-up about the Maryland Science Center from several years back — we loved it when the kids were younger and used to visit at least a couple of times a year!]


Parenting in pandemic times has often felt like being stranded on a deserted island (I hope you packed lots of snacks!). With many local businesses for kids shuttering or altering their offerings, it has been a daily forage for something, anything to do. If only it was as warm as a deserted island right now.

There are diamonds in the rough, though – especially if you’re willing to journey a bit – and Baltimore’s Maryland Science Center is one of those places. While it’s a 40-60 minute drive from the DC metro area, and not as new and shiny as the National Children’s Museum, it’s everything you would hope a children’s science museum to be…and more.

Upon entering, your kids will immediately spy a fan-favorite: dinosaurs. Unlike the Natural History Museum, you’ll find hands-on exhibits that are spot-on for young minds, like dusting sand off bones and measuring them to determine the species. I’m not sure what my kids were listening to on the telephone audio stations, but they were excited to absorb anything and everything. Try not to get sidetracked here, because there is just so much more to explore.

Newton’s Alley” on the second level is packed with interactive exhibits that teach principles of physics and “people power” in fun, age-appropriate ways. A seated pulley, tornado simulator, weighted wheel race, and more. There is so much to try – and little ones will want to get their hands on everything (thank you, hand sanitizer). Stay close by, because many exhibits will require adult instruction or strength depending on your kids’ ages.

Next, we were immersed in exhibit after exhibit teaching my kids about their personal favorite: the human body. Test your strength and reaction time, remove parasitic bugs from a human body, activate a fart machine — there’s something for kids of any age and attention span within that area. Before rushing off to the next exhibit hall, we made sure to test out our depth perception in an optical illusion room hooked up to a video camera.

Across the way, we found the space exhibits – much of which is still over my kids’ heads (I can relate). We breezed through but made sure to stop and play a few games that sorted planets by size and distance from the sun. The can’t-miss feature is the planetarium, which we returned to for a later showtime exploring constellations through storytelling. After almost four hours at the Science Center, my kids lasted a decent 15 of the 30 minute showing.

Are you exhausted yet? I haven’t even gotten to the best feature for little ones, which we almost missed since it’s on the third level: the Kid’s Room. This is a confined space designed for kids ages 8 and under, featuring water play, a ship to captain, and my daughter’s favorite: a pneumatic mail chute to send messages in tubes overhead. If you’re a member or repeat visitor with toddlers and preschoolers, I imagine this area is the go-to every time.


Speaking of membership, there is currently a Groupon deal for an annual family membership that pays for itself in just a few visits (get it through the end of January). We plan on returning soon to check out more exhibits, workshops in The Shed (or SciLab for older ages), new shows in the planetarium (featuring Big Bird and aliens!), science experiments on the Demo Stage, and documentaries in the IMAX theater. See the full calendar of events.

Maryland Science Center
Where: 601 Light St | Baltimore, MD 21230 (Directions & Parking)
When: Friday, 10am – 4pm, Saturday and Sunday, 10am – 5pm
Admission: $19.95/age 3-12, $25.95/adult, $24.95/senior (+$5 for IMAX)
COVID Policy: Masks required 


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Filed under All ages, Maryland, Museums

The American Visionary Art Museum: Wonderful, Whimsical Art for All Ages

A good indication of the fun that's yet to come

A good indication of the fun that’s yet to come

It’s a shame the American Visionary Art Museum doesn’t allow photography inside, because one look at some of the brilliant, quirky, beautiful, inspiring works of art housed there is all it would take to immediately understand why kids and adults are wild about the museum. Though I think the images I was able to capture outside may do the trick just as well.

We visited last week while Owen was still on winter break (Sasha was already back in school) when some friends invited us to join them there. We knew about the museum — friends had recommended it and No Monsters in My Bed has a nice review as well — but just hadn’t made it there yet, since jaunts up to Baltimore usually take us to the well known attractions that cater to kids. In fact, Owen had assumed this museum was also full of science-related exhibits, play spaces, and interactive fun. When he realized on the drive there that it was actually an art museum, he was somewhat disappointed.

It's called a Giant WhirliGig. The name alone rules.

It’s called a Giant WhirliGig. The name alone rules.

That was until we pulled into a parking space behind the museum and he did a complete 180. Just across the street was the awesome Giant WhirliGig, plus the mosaic mirrored facade and school bus topped with plastic swans and bunnies in the entrance courtyard. That elicited a “Whoa! That is so cool!” And that sentiment was expressed many a time as we toured the rest of the exhibits.

A perfect welcome

A perfect welcome

When you walk in to the museum, be sure to look down. The welcome mat is made entirely of toothbrushes, the graying bristles spelling out “Smile” across it. And that’s just the tiny tip of a huge iceberg. That building, just one of three, is full of remarkable art that is fun, unique, enchanting, captivating. Really, I could exhaust all my adjectives describing the many wonderful works to see.

More mirrored mosaics line walls around the stairwell. Owen loved the model of the Lusitania made out of 193,000 toothpics and five gallons of glue. All of the kids spent a good while peering into a case full of Pez depensers and looking at their reflections in warped mirrors. They also loved the fairy houses constructed entirely of plant materials — we all agreed it reminded us of the Season’s Greening exhibit at the Botanic Garden. A bed with Alfred E. Neuman tiled on the headboard made me chuckle.

Shhh... I snuck a shot of the Pez!

Shhh… I snuck a shot of the Pez!

There’s some more serious art in the main building, too. A series of beautiful large, embroidered illustrations tell one woman’s story of surviving the Holocaust. Another exhibit presents works by Gretchen Feldman, both lovely scenes that reflect her idyllic life and bold pieces that depict the cancer cells that ended it.

Bring it, Bobby Fischer

Bring it, Bobby Fischer

After touring the main building for about an hour, we made our way to the next one, which houses just one work. In the middle of the floor is a lifesize chess board, its chessmen made made of metal and about as tall as Owen, that you can actually play.

Whimsy in the sculpture garden

Whimsy in the sculpture garden

Art you can play in

Art you can play in

From there we headed out to the sculpture garden where the kids romped in the play structure made of logs and thick tree branches. In the courtyard leading to the third building we stopped to gawk at the large mirrored egg, a very tall guitar bird, and giant nest attached to one wall before heading inside.

See quirky works both indoor and out at the American Visionary Art Museum

See quirky works both indoor and out at the American Visionary Art Museum

The third building was probably the kids’ favorite — and I thought it was pretty fabulous, too. Not only did we walk in to a spectacular sight of big, whimsical sculptures, all previous entrants in the annual Kinetic Sculpture Race, showcased throughout, we were also directed by staff to the smaller kinetic sculptures, which offered some hands-on amusement. Enclosed in glass all along one wall of the downstairs, these intricate little wooden sculptures move at the push of a button. We watched a dragon fly, sailors sitting down for a meal, a man eating spaghetti in a bathtub, a cat drinking milk, and many more adorable and wacky moving scenes. As for the bigger works, there are elephants, giant pink poodles, a jeweled car, and more — all just incredible to view.



One member of the staff was very informative and gave us background on the building. We learned that one wall on the third floor is made completely from barrel staves leftover from the brewery that was previously housed in the building. He also let us know that we could go out on the balcony to stand in the nest we’d seen from outside. How often does one get to stand in a nest?

All in all, a wonderfully fantastic outing. I already can’t wait to return, next time with Sasha along, too. Those giant pink poodles have her name written all over ’em.

The American Visionary Art Museum is located in Baltimore near the Inner Harbor. It’s open daily 10am – 6pm Tuesday – Sunday. Admission is $15.95/adults, $13.95/seniors, $9.95/students & children 7 and up, free for ages 6 and under. *It’s also open on Monday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with free admission & special programming for all!

If you go:

– There is plenty of metered parking right behind the museum on Covington Street and on Key Highway. You can use a credit card on Covington, but bring change for Key.

– A cafe, Cielo Verde (formerly Mr. Rain’s Fun House),  is located in the main building. (We didn’t eat there, but I hear they have great bloody marys.) It’s currently open for private bookings only.

– Elevators are conveniently located and make the museum stroller friendly.

– Be sure to check out, Sideshow , the museum shop. Even if you don’t buy anything, there are tons of fun, kooky items to browse.

– Membership is available – $100 for a 4-person household, and you can add additional family members that are 17 and under.

Baba’s Mediterranean Kitchen, just minutes away, is a tasty lunch option.


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Filed under All ages, Art, Exhibit, Maryland, Museums, Ongoing, Weekdays, Weekend