Baltimore in Maryland is an ideal destination for a city-based family vacation. PackThePJs’ visited the city last year and here we will look at our top five family friendly attractions. Two things to note: By and large Baltimore is a safe city. Certainly, if you base yourself in the Inner Harbor area you will be safe, and in the vicinity of a load of things to do. Secondly, transport in Baltimore is easy: the buses and light rail are inexpensive. The Charm City Circulator, a bus for tourists running five routes from the Inner Harbor, is free. So, what to do? Baltimore has both attractions and history to keep kids interested.
The National Aquarium
The National Aquarium is on Pier 3 in the Inner Harbor. The Aquarium tanks hold some 8,300,000 l of water, and it has more around 17,000 specimens from 750 different species. Tickets are $39.95 for adults and $24.95 for children (under twos go free). You can spend most of the day here as there is so much to see. Exhibits include the Upland Tropical Rain Forest, a multiple-storey Atlantic Coral Reef, an open ocean shark tank, and Australia: Wild Extremes. There is also a 4D Immersion Theatre and a marine mammal pavilion with seven Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. It is expensive but if you make a day of it and pace yourself it’s not bad value.
The Historic Ships
Historic Ships in Baltimore, is a maritime museum in the Inner Harbor. It consists of four ships and a light house located between Piers 1 and 5. Ticket prices vary but it is around $18 for adults and $9 for under 14’s. Ships include the USS Constellation (1854), a tall sailing ship, the USCGC Taney (WHEC-37), a Coast Guard cutter, the USS Torsk (SS-423), a World War II submarine and the Chesapeake, a lightship. The museums are staffed by knowledgeable costumed guides and it you can spend half a day seeing over these interesting ships.
The B&O Railroad Museum
The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum is one of my personal favourites. Ok, it is outside the Inner Harbor area but it is within walking distance. There are around 200 locomotive and carriage exhibits in the Roundhouse (an old railway turntable) and the old Mount Clare station and yards. Known as the ‘birthplace of American railroading’ this is well worth a visit to experience everything engine and rail. You need about 3 hours to see it all. There are some great Civil War exhibits and a huge range of locomotives. On the walk back to the Inner Harbor call in at ‘Peace and a Cup of Joe’ for the best coffee in Baltimore. You can’t miss it, it’s on Pratt Street. You can go and see the Babe Ruth birthplace and baseball museum (just off Pratt Street) too – and maybe take a tour of nearby Oriole Park, the Baltimore Orioles stadium.
The Maryland Science Center
The Maryland Science Center is a great attraction. Situated on the Inner Harbor on Light Street it has loads of exhibits featuring dinosaurs, a Planetarium, space exhibits, a science lab, Newtons Alley, Science and Main, Your Body and loads more. There are lots of hands-on things for kids such as an electroplating demo as well as food fight catapults in the Chaos Café and the Shed a workshop/lab where you can learn a new skill (animation, woodworking, design etc). The tickets are $24.95 for adults and $18.95 for kids. The IMAX exhibits, which change all of the time cost an extra $4.
Definitely a must, the kids will love it and there is loads to see and do. Because you are paying to get in spend half a day here at least. When you leave to walk back to your hotel, take a tip and complete your circuit of the Inner Harbor … a little further on climb up to Federal Hill Park to take some great photos of the city. You will also see the American Visionary Art Museum; you can’t miss it with its giant birds and unusual sculptures. If it is open make a visit and check it out for an hour or so. Just under Federal Hill, behind the Science Centre on Key Highway, check out Three Bean Coffee for a very nice coffee and maybe a lavender latte or an Affagato.
Fort McHenry is a special place with oodles of history that you must visit. To get there catch the free Banner Route bus from the Inner Harbor. At the terminus walk up the hill through the gates and take in the areas surrounding the fort as well as the views of the Patapsco River estuary. Go to the visitor’s centre and pay $10 for entry (this does allow you to come back as many times as you like within seven days). The fort is full of cannons, exhibits and history. There is also a presentation about the war of 1812 when the British were repelled by the guns of the fort. A song written about the defence of Fort McHenry became the US National Anthem, the Star-Spangled Banner. An excellent visit for families interested in history but a really nice place for a picnic as well.
Baltimore has loads to offer for a family vacation. Other suggestions are to visit the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore in Druids Hill Park (about 4.5 miles from the Inner Harbor). Also, there is Fells Point where the pirates used to roam but now a great place to grab some coffee and a sandwich and then catch a water taxi across the harbour. You could visit Edgar Alan Poe’s house and see where he is buried. There is also Ripley’s Believe It or Not, the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum the Civil War Museum in Fleet Street, as well as countless art galleries. So visit, see it, enjoy it and check out the fine crab cakes at Dudas Tavern (corner of Thames Street and South Bond Street).