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Land Your Boatload in Baltimore's Inner Harbor

6 Jun 2006  We had the best long weekend of our lives here.
4.5 of 5 stars based on 6 votes

Bring the family to Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Sticking to a budget here won't sink your ship.

  • Explore locations featured in this Trip List: Baltimore
  • Category: Perfect weekend
  • Traveler type: Sightseeing, Never been before, Repeat visitors
  • Appeals to: Families with small children, Families with teenagers, Budget travellers , Tourists
  • Seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall
  • 1. Apartment on Federal Hill
    http://www.bbonline.com/md/federalapt/index.html

    NOTE: This property is no longer handled by bbonline (Nov. 2006). I am trying to find out if someone else is handling it.

    Hotel rooms are pricey around the Inner Harbor, and cramped for a family. Instead, rent this apartment in the Federal Hill neighborhood for about $120 a night, with parking. It's a small but lovely one-bedroom apartment with a sleeper sofa in the living room, a kitchen, breakfast bar and dining table. The owner stocks the kitchen with breakfast and lunch items, and provides a TV and VCR. It's just a five-minute walk to the harbor, and you're living like a local. (Earplugs will help you sleep; the neighborhood comes complete with street noise.)

  • 2. Harbor Pass
    http://www.baltimore.org/visitors/v_reservations_hp.html

    This three-day pass will save you a lot of money ($49/adult; $35/ages 3-12; free/under 3). It provides admission to five attractions and services -- the aquarium, science museum, children's museum, observation tower and water taxis. It also gives discounts on other museums, Orioles tickets and harbor cruises and allows you to bypass entrance lines. Get one in the visitors center at the harbor.

  • 3. Cross Street Market
    Cross Street Market, Baltimore, Maryland

    Since you have a kitchen, go to this indoor farm market in the Federal Hill neighborhood for take-out, produce, seafood, chocolate and gourmet items. Cook a simple (and oh-so-fresh) seafood dinner in your apartment. No wrestling with weary children in a restaurant and no pricey tabs!

  • 4. Maryland Science Center
    Maryland Science Center, Baltimore, Maryland

    This terrific museum is double the size it was when we visited it a few years ago. We had fun then, and you'll have even more fun now. The museum has plenty of hands-on experiments with light, sound, electricity, motion, etc. as well as a planetarium and IMAX theater. A room for children under 8 years old has water play and lego-building areas, and much more. When we visited, the museum's observatory was open at night (free) to view an eclipse. If you don't use a Harbor Pass, you could get in free if you have a reciprocal agreement as a member of one of 250 other science museums around the country.

  • 5. Port Discovery
    Port Discovery Children's Museum, Baltimore, Maryland

    This children's museum is good for kids maybe up to 5-6 years old (older, if your kids would like the Design Your Dreams Gallery, where they can create music mixes, produce movies and fool with digital animation). Plenty of opportunities for physical as well as imaginative play. Our son loved the KidWorks play area. Avoid a food bill at the nextdoor McDonald's and bring a bag lunch -- there are seating areas for those who want to picnic. This is another museum that offers free admission to members of other children's museums (if you're not using a Harbor Pass).

  • 6. Water Taxis and Nessie Paddle Boats

    Of course you have to take to the water here. The water taxis are not only a way to get from one attraction to another, they can make a great (and inexpensive)destination in and of themselves. Bring a lunch, sit outside on the boat deck and ride around for a while. The harbor is so picturesque, it doesn't matter that you don't have a destination! Our son loved the dragon-inspired Nessie paddle boats. Yes, they do cost ($15/half hour?) but check your ticket -- you'll get a discount on another Inner Harbor attraction; ours was to the USS Constellation. In fact, always check your tickets in Baltimore -- we got free ice cream cones at a harbor snack bar from our Constellation tickets.

  • 7. Federal Hill Park
    http://www.baltimore.to/FederalHill/index.html

    Bring a soccer ball or football on your trip and just let the kids run around here. The park overlooks the Inner Harbor and is just a few minutes' walk through the historic Federal Hill neighborhood from your apartment. The view is spectacular at night with the moon looming large and luminous over the water.

  • 8. USS Constellation
    Historic Ships in Baltimore, Baltimore, Maryland

    This is the last sailing ship built by the Navy. Take your own tour ($8.75/adults; $4.75/ages 6-14; free for 5 and under), or kids 10 and older can take a "powder monkey" tour to find out what life was like for young recruits on a ship. Our son loved the cannons and the bunks. If you're also touring the Baltimore Maritime Museum, you can get a discount on your visit here.

  • 9. Oriole Park at Camden Yards
    Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, Maryland

    If you don't score tickets for a game (or don't have the budget for it), take your baseball fans on a tour of the park ($7/adults; $5/ages 4-12; free, 3 and under). Our son loved sitting in the dugout and seeing the press box. He was the only child on the tour that day, so the guide let him help with lots of little things that made his day.

  • 10. Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum
    Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum, Baltimore, Maryland

    If you have baseball fans, this is a great little museum ($6/adults; $3/ages 3-12; free, under 3). It's within walking distance of Camden Yards, so stop in when you go to a game or stadium tour. In fact, your ticket for a stadium tour includes a discount here at the museum, so go on the tour first. Babe Ruth was born in this house turned museum. The museum also has exhibits on other Baltimore sports heros.

  • 11. Harborplace & The Gallery
    http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/local/57019,1,6387491.venue?coll=bal...

    With the kids in tow, you won't be shopping here. You can't afford it anyway! But if you want a reasonable meal overlooking the harbor, Pizzeria Uno here is a good place. The kids get an activity pack and you can dine alfresco if the weather's good.

  • 12. World Trade Center
    Top of the World Observation Level, Baltimore, Maryland

    The observation deck on the 27th floor is a free admittance site with a Harbor Pass. The exhibits on Baltimore's renaissance are interesting for adults, and the views worthwhile for those who like to look down on things and get their bearings. Our son liked picking out the spots we had visited around the harbor, and finding our apartment. He also liked seeing helicopters at eye level. It's not a must-do, but we spent quite a while here.

  • 13. A Cook's Table
    http://www.acookstable.com/

    This is an idea for those of you whose spouses are willing to assume child care duties for a few hours. It's a kitchenware shop in your neighborhood (717 Light Street) that offers cooking classes. One evening, I took a French country cooking class, where we prepared and enjoyed a four-course dinner. As the 10 of us chopped and sauteed, we drifted out into the night to gaze up at the lunar eclipse, wine glasses in hand, chatting genially. A welcome break from the intense parenting that family vacations necessitate.

  • 14. Fort McHenry National Monument
    Fort McHenry National Monument, Baltimore, Maryland

    Take the water taxi, or visit by car on your way out of town. The Battle of Baltimore took place here, at which Francis Scott Key wrote The Star-Spangled Banner while captive aboard a British ship. Walking around the fort is free and it's another cannon fix for your battle-loving kids. Entrance to the fort is $5/adults; free for children 15 and younger. The visitors center shows a fairly good (free) movie re-enacting the story, at the end of which a curtain covering a wall of windows opens to the stirring sight of a waving flag on the grounds outside (or it should; the mechanism failed during our visit).

  • 15. Next time...

    We just didn't have time for everything! There is so much more to Baltimore -- the B&O Railroad Museum (housed in a roundhouse), the Edgar Allen Poe House & Museum and gravesite, the maritime museum (including tours of docked ships and a submarine), Duck Tours (when you can splurge), the 220-year-old Lexington Market, the historic Fell's Point waterfront neighborhood. Next time, I guess!