Baltimore Maryland – Children’s Museum, Inner Harbor & Fort McHenry

Genie Davis December 11, 2010 1 Comment

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Baltimore Maryland may not be the first U.S. location you think of for a family friendly vacation. The major tourist attractions of Washington, D.C., are after all only a short drive away, and until recently, Baltimore had neighborhood’s geared more to urban renewal than tourism for children.

Baltimore has always been a fascinating cultural mix of working class city, bustling water front, unique ethnic neighborhoods, and historical attractions. Francis Scott Key wrote our nation’s National Anthem, The Star Spangled Banner, here. Little Italy is an expansive and delicious neighborhood. Water taxis are a fun way to get around and explore the town. Best of all, prices are relatively low for excellent accommodations, restaurants are varied and friendly, and one of the best children’s museums in the nation is located here.

Port Discovery Children’s Museum is a modern, exciting children’s museum, located at the Inner Harbor in down town Baltimore. Geared to kids ages 2 to 10, the museum houses an immense three-level climbing structure, with its other exhibits surrounding this over size jungle gym. Called KidWorks, this structure lets kids jump, slide, squirm and crawl over rope bridges and through tunnels. How interactive is that? And the exhibits are wonderful. Kids can travel back to 1920′s Egypt and play Indiana Jones while deciphering hieroglyphics and following clues to a pharaoh’s tomb. At the Down at the Farm exhibit, kids get to plant vegetables and brush a horse tail. A linked exhibit, Harvest Hill, allows junior farmers to sell or trade their products and work a massive crane to move the goods from market to transportation sites.

There’s also a Blue’s Clues like exhibit called Miss Perception, a detective story dedicated to solve the case of a missing family. Musical performances and kareoke are offered at the MPT Studio; when we were there we got to experience the resident Sunday performers known as The World Rhythm Drum Circus, which employs percussion instruments made of barrels, bowls, and tubes to explore their motto: “The world is a giant drum.” And there’s Tiny’s Diner, a retro spot for kid’s to play-cook and serve and even play a song from the jukebox. Still, hands down, our favorite exhibit was Color Diffusion in Nature, an interactive exhibit that allows kids to make their own color diffused art, similar to the color of leaves.

Near the children’s museum in the Inner Harbor is The Maryland Science Center. With a state of the art planetarium and IMAX theater, the center has excellent hands on science exhibits ranging from earth science to computer technology. Our favorite exhibit was the Maryland-centric Follow the Blue Crab. Baltimore loves its crabs – you can get crab cakes or crack open a fresh crab at many cafes all along the inner harbor. This exhibit focuses on the habitat of this resilient and tasty creature in the Chesapeake Bay. We got to see ane enormous mechanical blue crab, with waving claws and legs, stroll through wetlands and see live crabs and fish in aquatic displays. We really enjoyed walking across a full color satellite image of the bay itself.

We also liked the Newton’s Alley exhibit, where hands on activities lets kids – and adults – experience Newtonian principles based on the concept that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction – gravity experiments, water vortexes – wonderful interactive fun.

Baltimore Water Taxis

Baltimore Inner Harbor Water Taxi Rides

Water taxis are a fun way to explore Baltimore.

Ready for some outside fun? Take a trip on a water taxi. This uniquely Baltimorean way to travel will take you from the Inner Harbor to historic Fort McHenry or a variety of waterfront residential neighborhoods such as Fells Point or Canton. It may take you a little longer to get between attractions than driving or hopping in a land-taxi, but it’s a fun way to see the city and get some fresh sea air. The stops are all clearly marked, just find one and wait for the next boat. During holidays and summer months you may have a short wait, at other times the taxi is waiting for you. Tickets on board are cash only; you’ll receive a hand stop allowing on and off travel all day. You can buy tickets in advance from kiosks in the Inner Harbor area using a credit or debit card as well. Think of the water taxi as Baltimore’s fun-travel equivalent of San Francisco’s cable cars – they’re an attraction in and of themselves. Our kids enjoyed just taking rides on the taxis from the inner harbor to Fells Point and across the bay. A caveat: in winter the water can be choppy.

The water taxi is a convenient way to get to Baltimore’s premiere historic site, Fort McHenry. Shaped like a star, this fort extends into the harbor, and it was from this vantage point that U.S. forces protected the city from British invaders during the war of 1812. It was also here where Francis Scott Key wrote the words to the “Star-Spangled Banner.” Today, the fort is a national park with interesting historic displays and presentations by historical re-enactors. The grounds around the fort itself are great for a relaxing picnic or just to let the kids run around and watch the boats sail by in the harbor.

Baltimore Fort McHenry barracks

Fort McHenry barracks – one of many interesting aspects of the fort to explore.

Every day of the week you can watch a flag change in the morning or afternoon; or stroll through the massive fort constructed in 1798, and named for George Washington’s Secretary of War, James McHenry. We spent a great afternoon strolling the grounds and exploring the many nooks and crannies of the fort.

While the historic fort and the inner harbor area are among the most well known of Baltimore’s attractions, there are plenty of other neighborhoods and attractions to explore, as well as unique restaurants and accommodations to house your brood and create a truly memorable vacation. Next I explore some of Baltimore’s dining, hotel, and off the beaten track attractions. Until then, climb in your water taxi and enjoy the view from the inner harbor!

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Genie Davis is a multi-published fiction author, screen and TV writer, and travel writer. If it was possible, she'd like to spend every day traveling. www.geniedavis.com

Tags: , Reviews, Travel Excursions
One Comments to “Baltimore Maryland – Children’s Museum, Inner Harbor & Fort McHenry”
  1. avatar Baltimore Family Attractions - Little Italy, Trains and Hotels says:

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