One of the regulars at a bar where I used to work once told me, “In Baltimore, you can’t leave the house without a jacket until after Preakness.” It’s a message that bubbles up in my thoughts every May as I compulsively check the weather and stick my head out our window, daring myself to walk to work sans outerwear. (I know good advice when I hear it: I have yet to leave the house without a coat this year.)
As the distance to that magical, jacketless Preakness day quickly nears, I’ve been getting really excited about Lou’s first real nice weather adventures. Last spring and summer, he wasn’t yet able to walk, and while his immobility allowed us to have fun, low key days, we’ve been anticipating the beginning of doing fun toddler-friendly stuff. Baltimore has been a pretty great city to raise our kid in so far, and the older he gets, the more opportunities for fun emerge. Here are a few places and events we can’t wait to take advantage of once our coats are finally packed away.
Center Plaza Play Dates
Center Plaza is an awesome green space in the heart of the city that not enough people know about. It’s protected on three sides by tall buildings, and set back enough from the street to feel quiet and cozy. Lots of events are held here (like free yoga and concerts), but this is the first year with dedicated children’s programming. The season kicked off last month with an egg hunt, and continues with a screening of Moana, workshops with Baby Beats with Max and Root, a tot lot with sprinklers, a family happy hour, and monthly Stroller Strides classes—all for free.
(Full disclosure: I am an employee of the Downtown Partnership, who produces these events. Even fuller disclosure: I am also a downtown parent who would take my kid to these events even if the presenting entity didn’t sign my paychecks.)
West Shore Park splash pad
On a recent warm day, I received a video from our nanny of Lou crouched down low, inspecting a mini-geyser erupting from the sidewalk. He vacillated between being totally elated and totally engrossed in figuring out how the hell water was shooting out of the ground and no one was stopping him from playing in it.
The West Shore Park splash pad is located just north of the Maryland Science Center and it’s perfect for swinging by to cool off children on a hot day, and having their minds be repeatedly blown for a couple of hours.
Druid Hill Park
Obviously the main attraction in Druid Hill Park is the Maryland Zoo, but may I suggest an alternative use for the park? Bubble party. The park itself is massive, and even on a crowded day it’s not hard to carve out a little space for your group. Fill a tote bag with every kind of bubble/dispenser you can get your hands on, post up on a blanket with an iced tea and a book, and let your kids get lost in the dreamy world of floating, soapy orbs. Though he sometimes ends up French kissing the wand, Lou learned the art of blowing bubbles a few weeks ago. I found catnip bubbles and now our cats—once angered by his mere existence—follow Lou around like he’s a Beatle.
Baltimore is getting super spoiled as our food and booze worlds keep improving. Take advantage of these riches by meeting friends at one of the many outdoor events hosted by our city’s breweries. Union, Waverly, and Monument City all have outdoor space and their events toe the glorious line between feeling like you’re still cool and part of the scene, but also a good parent who has brought their kid to an event they’ll actually enjoy. My advice is to show up on time and leave when you think you’ve caught your first whiff of unhappiness from your child.
Throw some snacks and an activity they can share with the other kids (and there will be lots of other kids) like a large beach ball or those fabulous bubbles. And be mindful that, even if your progeny is having a blast and on their best behavior, at a certain point in the evening the other adults in attendance have the right to continue the evening sans children.