[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 here, here 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