I recommend visits to Baltimore quite often. Not only is it nice to get a change of metro area scenery sometimes, our sister city just a 45-minute drive away is full of fantastic, family-friendly attractions to visit on a day trip or even a weekend getaway. Even more, it’s fun to explore the neighborhoods, spend time by (or on) the water, and savor tasty eats (Baltimore has an excellent food scene). So, after way too long, here’s a round-up of all of the Baltimore places covered on KFDC in one big post, plus a few extras recommended by friends, and even more tips for a great visit there with kids. Happy exploring, hon!
PLACES TO GO
Where: 35 Market Place
When: Weds, 10am – 2pm | Fri & Sat, 10am – 4pm | Sun, 11am – 4pm
Admission: $17.95/ages 2+, free/under 2
The children’s museum in Baltimore has several levels full of exhibits that keep kids entertained all day long. Renovated just a couple of years ago, some areas are very new, while others are from older days — but still much loved. The famous Sky Climber was updated, and the floor to ceiling structure with a ship at its core, tunnels to crawl through, and twisting slide to zip down, is always a favorite. There are lots of interactives with measures in place for Covid safety. The linked review was written by KFDC contributor Emily Moise after the renovation, but we’ve visited Port Discovery many times over the years — I can’t even count the days off from school that we spent there — so we can vouch for its awesomeness.
KFDC Tip: If you think you might go a few times this year, I recommend checking out their membership options.
Maryland Science Center
Where: 601 Light Street
When: Friday 10am – 4pm | Saturday & Sunday, 10am – 5pm
Admission: $25.95/adult, $19.95/child
At the Maryland Science Center, you can discover a variety of science fields through an amazing 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. Dinosaurs, the earth, physics, the body, energy, and space are some of the main areas to explore. 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-two set.
KFDC Tips: If you think you’d go often, membership is worth checking out. The Science Center validates parking at nearby garages.
Where: 501 East Pratt
When: Mon-Thurs 9am – 5pm, Fri 9am – 8pm, Sat 9am – 7pm, Sun 9am – 6pm
Admission: $39.95/adult, $29.95/age 3-11, free/2 & under
Get a glimpse of the underwater world at the venue right on the water. The exhibits at the National Aquarium highlight marine life and other animals from around the world — you can see hundreds of species in recreated habitats, from the Chesapeake Bay to the Amazon Rainforest to the Indo-Pacific. Sharks, dolphins, reptiles, all kinds of reef fish, sea anemones and jellyfish, tropical birds, even sloths are among the animals there. Admission may sound steep, but it’s a very cool venture that you really can’t do anywhere else in the area. Along with the exhibits are experiences like 4-D films, special tours, and animal encounters (they all cost extra).
KFDC Tip: If you can swing a visit on a Friday night, admission is half price!
American Visionary Art Museum
Where: 501 East Pratt
When: Wednesday – Sunday, 10am – 6pm
Admission: $15.95/adult, $9.95/child, free/6 & under
The American Visionary Art Museum houses some of the most wonderful, whimsical art around. The vibrant, quirky collections — including some interactive pieces — can be appreciated by art buffs of all ages. From the kooky WhirliGig outside the entrance to a replica of the Lusitania made entirely of toothpicks to a sculpture garden with amusing works to a building full of kinetic sculptures big and small, the museum is a brilliant showcase of craft and imagination.
KFDC Tip: Be sure to check out the museum shop, Sideshow. Even if you don’t buy anything, it’s a hoot to browse all of the fun, offbeat items.
Where: 301 East Pratt Street
When: Thursday – Monday, 10am – 4pm
Admission: $15/adult, $13/teen, $7/youth
Historic Ships of Baltimore is currently welcoming visitors aboard the USS Constellation and USS Torsk (there are a few more ships, though not open right now). Touring the vessels moored at the Inner Harbor is a fun and fascinating experience for all ages. You can ring the ship’s bell, check out the cannons on deck, (pretend) take the helm, and get a glimpse at what were once the inner workings of the ship and crew. And on the USS Torsk, a World War II submarine, you can see the tight space the crew once lived in hundreds of feet underwater (which is at once creepy and cool).
KFDC Tip: For an immersive experience, the Historic Ships offers an Overnight Adventure for ages 6 and up. They are scheduled to start up again in September 2021.
Baltimore Museum of Industry
Where: 1415 Key Highway
When: Open by appointment only
Admission: $12/adult, $7/child, free/6 & under
The Museum of Industry is a great Baltimore attraction that doesn’t get nearly enough attention. Highlighting the trades and people that helped build the port city, it’s full of fun and interesting exhibits and installations, many with hands-on elements, that both children and adults will enjoy. Several permanent exhibits are set up just as the real businesses would have been when they existed, giving visitors an interesting and insightful glimpse at life during that time period.
KFDC Tip: Go on a Saturday from mid-May through November and check out the BMI Farmers Market that runs from 9am – 1pm before your museum visit.
Where: 2400 East Fort Avenue
When: Wednesday – Sunday, 9am – 4:45pm
Admission: $15/adult, free/age 15 & under
The birthplace of “The Star Spangled Banner,” Fort McHenry is the site of a key battle in the War of 1812. During non-Covid times, you can learn about the history of the national monument through all kinds of interesting exhibits, both in the Visitors Center and throughout the grounds. Children will especially enjoy seeing the cannons, exploring underground spaces, and touring the barracks that now house lots of neat exhibits, including several interactives. Right now, you can access the Historic Star Fort and Visitors Center, but exhibits in the Visitor Center are closed.
KFDC Tip: When the Visitor Center is open, be sure to watch the 10-minute, very moving film depicting the history of Fort McHenry shown there.
The B&O Railroad Museum
Where: 901 West Pratt Street
When: Mon-Sat 10am – 4pm, Sun 11am – 4pm
Admission: $20/adult, $17/senior, $12/age 2-12
All aboard for a railroading adventure! Kids who are into trains will looove the B&O, with all kinds of exhibits all about locomotives, including real train cars on display, some they even climb aboard and explore. They also have programming especially for children like story times and the annual Day Out with Thomas event when the beloved Tank Engine visits with his crew.
KFDC Tip: Check the schedule before you go, so you can plan for a real train ride on the One Mile Express.
Where: 911 South Ann Street
When: Saturday & Sunday, 9:30am – 5:30pm
Admission: $22 ($12/age 2 & under
Set sail for some arrr-some fun on the high Chesapeake Bay seas! Urban Pirates offers family adventure cruises on weekends, taking little swashbucklers on a cruise to search for lost treasure. On the journey, there are fun activities and water canons, plus guests can get suited up for it with vests, tattoos, and drawn-on facial hair.
KFDC Tip: These adventures make for great birthday parties — my kids went to a couple here and loved them!
Where: One Safari Place
When: March – Dec, Daily 10am – 4pm | Jan-Feb, Fri-Mon, 10am – 4pm
Admission: $22-26/age 12+, $18/age 2-11
When you have a fantastic zoo with free admission right in your own city, it’s hard to justify making a long drive to pay somewhat steep admission to see the same animals. Thus, we’ve actually never been to the Maryland Zoo. That said, I hear it’s fun (much like many zoos), and since visiting the National Zoo may be tougher since timed-entry passes are required, this is a good alternative.
Baltimore Museum of Art
Where: 10 Art Museum Drive
When: Wednesday-Sunday, from 10am – 5pm
Admission: Free with timed-entry passes
The Baltimore Museum of Art has an extensive collection of work from many centuries and genres. Pre-Covid, the BMA offered free in-person, hands-on programming for kids on weekends; now you can find family art activities online as well as tips for visiting with children.
Walters Art Museum
When: Wednesday – Sunday, 10am – 5pm
We have yet to visit the museum in the Mount Vernon neighborhood, but I’ve heard the Walters’ space is just as interesting as the exhibits. Housed in several historic buildings, you apparently wind your way through galleries as you explore, kind of like a navigating labyrinth. It gets raves for its eclectic collection, with artifacts and works that include a mummy, an ark door, paintings by some of the masters, plus thousands of other pieces.
Where: 4915 Greenspring Avenue
When: Tuesday – Sunday, 8am – 8pm
In the same vein as the zoo, we have an amazing, huge Arboretum right here in DC, so we haven’t been to this one. But if you want some green space in Baltimore, you apparently can find 200 acres of it at Cylburn. The grounds contain hundreds of trees and plant varieties, trails, gardens, and a historic mansion (though not open right now).
PLACES TO EAT
Where: Southeast area of downtown Baltimore
When: Varies by restaurant
Cost: Varies by restaurant
The charming neighborhood in southeast Baltimore is known for restaurants that serve delicious, authentic Italian food. And the options range from casual carry out pizza and subs to family-style meals to more upscale dining. We’d often head that way after a visit to Port Discovery — a day of play works up appetites! — and the neighborhood is just a few minutes’ drive from the children’s museum. Amicci’s and Isabella’s are a couple of great places to go with kids, but you’re practically guaranteed a scrumptious meal at any of them.
Where: 745 East Fort Avenue
When: Tues – Sat, 11:30am – 8pm & Sun 12-7pm
Cost: Sandwiches and salads under $10
This has been a go-to for us after a day at the Baltimore attractions. Falafel sandwiches, greek salad, kabobs, super tasty Baba’s Ghannous and hummus, and more yummy bites always make everyone happy. I always get extra dips to bring home, too.
Miss Shirley’s Cafe
Where: 750 E. Pratt Street
When: Daily, 8am – 3pm
Cost: Entrees $15-20, Kids Box $10
It can sometimes be hard to get a table, but if you do, you are in for a treat. Plan to start your Baltimore visit there — Miss Shirley’s is known for its breakfast and brunch (great for lunch, too). The food is downright delicious. Kids’ meals are served in a cute bento box, and children’s books are available while they wait (in non-Covid times, anyway).
Where: 2907 O’Donnell Street
When: Sun-Thurs 12-10pm, Fri-Sat 12-11pm
Cost: Entrees under $20
Located in the Canton neighborhood of Baltimore, Nacho Mamas is about a 10-minute drive from many of the big attractions, but worth heading that way after you’re done playing by the Inner Harbor. The quesadillas, tacos, wings, burgers, sandwiches, and other easy fare are scrumptious and substantial — and served in big hubcaps. Lots of Elvis-themed decor makes it awesome, too. Take time to walk around Canton, a fun waterfront area in the city.
Most folks are aware of Fell’s Point, the lively, historic neighborhood on the water in southeast Baltimore. It’s an easy mile walk from the Inner Harbor (or a fun, little water taxi cruise) and a great area to check out with the fam. All kinds of eateries and boutiques line the streets, plus the Broadway Market is great to browse for treats.
Just mentioned above, Canton is a vibrant waterfront neighborhood — fun to stroll, shop, eat, and drink. There are a variety of stores to browse and places to get a bite, from easy, casual snacks to finer dining. The annual Baltimore Seafood Festival takes place there, this year from September 12-14.
Baltimore Farmer’s Market & Bazaar
The open air market runs every Sunday 7am – 12pm underneath the Jones Falls Expressway at Holliday & Saratoga Streets. It’s fun to walk around and check out the fresh produce stands, gourmet foods, sweet treats, crafts, and other goods. Concessions are for sale, too — you can even stop there for breakfast or lunch, then head over to the larger attractions on the Inner Harbor.
Baltimore is an easy drive from DC, just 45 minutes up I-95 or the BW Parkway (295) depending on where you are departing from. However, if you want to relax and enjoy the ride there, you can take the MARC train from Union Station. The hour-ish ride to Baltimore’s Penn Station is $9/passenger each way, and there are several departure times throughout the day.
Do you have a favorite Baltimore adventure you don’t see here? Let us know in the comments!