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By Kim Humphrey
Posted Nov 01, 2018
Posted Nov 01, 2018
Known for its scenic Inner Harbor and famous blue crabs, Baltimore is a fun destination for families with lots of kid-friendly attractions. Rated one of America's most walkable cities, Baltimore's numerous pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods and clustering of most tourist attractions in or near the Inner Harbor make it easy for families to navigate with kids in tow.
While a destination in its own right, Baltimore's close proximity to Philadelphia to the north and Washington, D.C. to the south also make it a great option for a day or side trip for families visiting these historic Mid-Atlantic cities. Just hop in the car, or on the train or bus, and you can be in Baltimore by breakfast! Crab Cake Benedict with Old Bay Hollandaise, anyone?
Families visiting Baltimore will find a kid-pleasing mix of cool historical sites, mesmerizing museums, mouth-watering eats, and fun recreational activities that appeal to kids (and grown ups!) of all ages. Whether you only have a day to explore Baltimore, or two or three or more, we've put together our list of top places for families to eat and play when visiting this charming city.
Where to Eat
While all things crab and the iconic Baltimore Snowball - a shaved ice treat with distinctive marshmallow topping - are perhaps the best known Baltimore eats, Charm City is full of fun, family-friendly eateries with diverse food options. If your family are fans of Chef Duff and "Ace of Cakes" on Food Network, don't forget to swing by their home base, Charm City Cakes, on Remington Ave.
Photo Courtesy of Charm City Cakes
Named one of America's Favorite Family-Friendly Restaurants by FoodNetwork.com, Miss Shirley's Cafe also gets our vote for top family brunch spot. Parents will love their unique Southern-infused, over-the-top breakfast dishes and Mornin' Cocktails, while their Kids Meals come in a fun Bento box. Check out Miss Shirley's original location in Roland Park (featured on Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives) or their newer Inner Harbor location.
Photo Courtesy of Miss Shirley's Cafe
If you're visiting Baltimore in the summer, head to Harbor Point for some eats and drinks with a beachy vibe at Sandlot. This waterfront oasis features sand-in-your-toes dining, beach chairs, live entertainment and events, and fun yard games for all ages. This is a great spot for parents to relax with a cold drink while the kids play in the sand.
Located in Baltimore's charming Hampden neighborhood away from the touristy bustle of the Inner Harbor, Cafe Hon is a quirky diner that serves up classic Baltimore eats as well as kid faves like mac n cheese and chicken nuggets. Kids will get a kick out of the towering flamingo sculpture that greets guests above the restaurant. Hampden's main drag, known as The Avenue, is also a great place to take a stroll after filling your belly.
Photo Courtesy of Cafe Hon
If it's ice cream you're craving, then head straight to The Charmery in Hampden or BMORE LICKS near Patterson Park in the Canton neighborhood, our top two picks for homemade creamy goodness. These Baltimore family-owned ice cream shops serve up super-premium deliciousness on a cone (or in a dish, if that's the way you roll). At The Charmery, you can order up unique flavors like Baklava, Black Sesame, and Saturday Morning Cartoons. BMORE LICKS offers more than 100 flavors of handmade soft serve - every flavor made to order! - plus 30 rotating flavors of hard ice cream.
Photo Courtesy of The Charmery
For a feast for ALL of your senses, head to funky PaperMoon Diner. Kids and adults alike will be endlessly entertained by the thousands of zany knickknacks plastered all over the walls and ceiling of this Baltimore favorite - toys, dolls, figurines, robots, action figures, Pez dispensers. And did we mention the all-day breakfast menu?
Main Street in Baltimore's Little Italy
Located in the heart of downtown Baltimore, the charming streets of Little Italy hold some of the top family-friendly eats in the city. Duck into one of the dozens of family-owned restaurants for dinner and then head to Vaccaro's for the most authentic and tasty Italian pastries in Baltimore.
Photo Courtesy of Vaccaro's
A visit to Baltimore isn't complete without feasting on some iconic Chesapeake Blue Crab. For Oprah's favorite crab cakes, head to Pappas, named one of her "Favorite Things" in 2015. Other top picks include Rusty Scupper, located right on the Inner Harbor, Nick's Fish House, Obrycki's in Fell's Point, and Costas Inn.
Family can't agree on what to eat? The R. House food hall has something for everyone, including a play area for the little ones. Formerly a body shop, this "industrial chic" eatery offers ten different chef-driven counters serving everything from pizza and tacos to poke bowls and Korean BBQ eaten at communal tables with seating for up to 350.
Where to Play
Chessie Monster Paddle Boats in Baltimore's Inner Harbor
If your family is visiting Baltimore for the first time, or you only have a short time to spend, we recommend heading straight to the Inner Harbor. The Harbor is not only the epicenter for most of Baltimore's most popular tourist attractions, it's also a great place to take a scenic waterfront stroll, catch a boat tour, paddle around the harbor on a famous Chessie Monster paddle boat, get a bite to eat, and do some shopping - all within close proximity.
The National Aquarium is Baltimore's most popular family attraction. Consistently ranked as one of the top three aquariums in the nation, the National Aquarium is home to nearly 20,000 animals, including sharks, stingrays, sea turtles, and dolphins. Their award-winning, interactive Living Seashore exhibit allows little hands to touch Atlantic stingrays, horseshoe crabs, moon jellys and more.
Port Discovery Children's Museum is a must for families with young children. Ranked among the top five children's museums in the country, Port Discovery features three floors of hands-on, interactive exhibits for children to explore and learn through play. KidWorks, their three-story urban treehouse, is a perennial kid favorite.
Kids and adults alike can't get enough of the weird and wacky inside Baltimore's Ripley's Believe it or Not! museum. Where else can you see a T-Rex made entirely from pop tart wrappers and a real shrunken head?!
Also located on the Inner Harbor is the Maryland Science Center, home to hair-raising science experiments, a star-studded planetarium, dinosaurs!, and out-of-this-world experiences for kids of all ages.
USS Constellation in Baltimore's Inner Harbor
If you're seeking more of a maritime vibe, the Inner Harbor has it in spades. For a hands-on encounter with maritime history, hop aboard Baltimore's Historic Ships, four in all, each representing a different era of military history. Or, get a view of Baltimore from the water aboard a boat cruise or ferry tour. Urban Pirates Family Adventure Cruise is a family favorite, combining scenic water views of the Harbor with swashbuckling fun for the kiddos.
Photo Courtesy of Urban Pirates
The Water Taxi is a fun, family-friendly way to navigate around the Inner Harbor's many attractions, particularly those that are a bit far for little feet to walk. We recommend taxiing over to Fell's Point, a quaint, historic area on the water with cobblestone streets and many galleries, boutiques and restaurants to explore.
Photo Courtesy of Baltimore Water Taxi
Located just a block from the Inner Harbor is Power Plant Live!, an entertainment complex that includes a wide variety of restaurants, bars, and live entertainment and events. Check their calendar before your visit for family-friendly events.
Photo Courtesy of Power Plant Live!
If you have more than a day to stay and play in Baltimore, venture out of the Inner Harbor area to these sites.
Animal lovers should proceed 15 minutes north from the Inner Harbor to The Maryland Zoo where you'll encounter nearly 200 different species of birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles. The adorable African penguins are our personal faves!
Photo Courtesy of The Maryland Zoo
Just down Harbor from the Maryland Science Center, you will find the Baltimore Museum of Industry (BMI). The BMI is uniquely Baltimore-Hon! showing what life was like "back in the day" for hard-working Marylanders who built the city's history. If you're visiting on a Saturday, be sure to check out their Weekend Workers hands-on program for kids.
Photo Courtesy of Baltimore Museum of Industry
A trip to Fort McHenry is a must for history buffs. The site of the Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812 where American troops thwarted a British invasion, the American flag flying above Fort McHenry was the inspiration for Francis Scott Key to pen the words that would become "The Star Spangled Banner." Even if your kids are too young to appreciate the history part, they are sure to get a kick out of the cannons lined up and aimed at the Chesapeake!
Cannons at Fort McHenry
Baltimore's B&O Railroad Museum will delight train lovers big and small, allowing guests to explore the oldest and most historic American railroad collection in the world! The museum's youngest guests will enjoy play time in the Choo Choo Blue Kid Zone and taking a spin on the B&O Train Carousel.
Oriole Park at Camden Yards Photo Credit: Visit Baltimore
Not far from the B&O Railroad Museum, you can catch a game of America's pastime at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, home to the Baltimore Orioles. The legend himself, Babe Ruth, was born and raised in Baltimore and signed his first professional contract with the Orioles. Fans of The Great Bambino can tour the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum, located just three blocks west of the ballpark. Kids will get a kick out of following the 60 baseballs painted on the sidewalk that lead you from the Babe Ruth statue at the ballpark to the Museum.
Baltimore's Federal Hill neighborhood is home to charming shops and restaurants and an amazing view of the harbor and downtown from Federal Hill Park (plus a playground for the kids, making this the perfect spot for a family picnic!). The quirky American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM) is located here as well, which specializes in unusual and imaginative art by self-taught artists. Always a hit with the kids!
Washington Monument in Baltimore's Mt. Vernon Neighborhood
Located in Baltimore's Mt. Vernon neighborhood about a 20-minute walk north from the Inner Harbor, the Washington Monument is another great place to take in an awesome city view. However, getting that view requires climbing all 227 steps to the top! Climbs are scheduled every 20 minutes starting on the hour and require a ticket.
Also in the Mt. Vernon neighborhood is The Walters Art Museum, which offers many special programs that make art fun and accessible for kids. Every Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m., they offer drop-in themed art making activities for kids of all ages. They even have a special program for families with children with autism and sensory processing disorders.
Patterson Park Pagoda
If you're looking to escape the city buzz for a bit and spend some time in nature, Baltimore is full of beautiful parks to explore. Patterson Park is a family favorite, best known for its iconic Pagoda with its beautiful view of Baltimore from the top. The Park also features a pool, ice skating rink, and dog park. While stunning all year round, Sherwood Gardens' famous annual tulip display is not to be missed in the spring! Cylburn Arboretum is a 200-acre oasis in Baltimore City filled with gorgeous gardens, wooded trails and an historic mansion. The Arboretum is free and open to the public year round and hosts a variety of fun events and programs for children and families.
Christmas Village in Baltimore Photo Credit: Russ Brown Photography
A few family-friendly seasonal events worth mentioning: If you're visiting Baltimore during the holiday season, Baltimore's Christmas Village in the Inner Harbor is a must, featuring vendors selling authentic European food and drinks, arts & crafts and ornaments from all over the world, visits with Santa and more. The Hampden neighborhood's Miracle on 34th Street over-the-top holiday decorations, funky sculptures and dazzling lights are a can't miss-holiday attraction drawing thousands of visitors every year! In the spring, Light City takes center stage, a huge temporary visual light art installation and festival.
Planning a trip to Baltimore? Don't forget to check out our Baltimore deals and coupons for many of the family-friendly attractions listed here.
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