Is your kid’s idea of fun brushing a baby goat? Or do they really dig dinosaurs? Perhaps they prefer practicing kickflips or traversing hiking trails. Whether your child is into Picasso or planets, skipping rocks or riding roller coasters, there is something for every interest, every age, and every family in the Baltimore area.
For Rachel Zillig, a mom of two in Baltimore County, the pandemic had a huge impact on her family’s activities. With libraries, museums, and just about every other kid-friendly place shut down, “We had to seek out other stuff or we’d have gone insane just sitting in the house,” says Zillig, whose Instagram account, @BaltimoreFamilyFun, details their adventures in the area. Now that most places have opened back up, she’s looking forward to visiting old favorites like Port Discovery and the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, but she’s not giving up the local parks and outdoor activities they enjoyed during COVID-19. “Just walking around the Inner Harbor during the day is a fun activity for my kids. They love looking at the boats.”
If your family has a particular place you love to visit again and again, consider purchasing a membership. The pandemic had a devastating impact on the arts, entertainment, and recreation sector, with nearly 60 percent of museums forced to cut back on education, programming, and other public services, according to Artnet News.
But things are looking up, with plenty of Baltimore regional destinations open and ready to safely do business. Check out our guide to find out what’s happening at new and old family favorites throughout the region this summer.
PORT DISCOVERY CHILDREN’S MUSEUM
35 Market Pl., Baltimore, MD 21202.
Three floors of interactive exhibits and settings for imaginative play will keep toddlers and preschoolers entertained for hours. Kids ages 5-12 can build confidence and motor skills as they scale the multi-story SkyClimber. This always-changing museum is “huge but never seems crowded,” says Zillig, whose family’s favorites include the replica Royal Farms, a delightfully realistic pretend diner, and a water playroom. (Pro tip: bring a change of clothes!)
THE NATIONAL AQUARIUM
501 E Pratt St., Baltimore, MD 21202.
No matter how many times you visit the Aquarium, there’s always something new to see. You could spend an entire day searching for the sloths in the tropical rainforest or being mesmerized by all the different kinds of jellyfish. With more than 20,000 aquatic creatures, an enormous shark tank, and hands-on exhibits, kids will be educated and entertained every time. Note: strollers are not permitted.
MARYLAND SCIENCE CENTER
601 Light St., Baltimore, MD 21230.
Come for the dinosaurs, stay for the interactive science exhibits. Kids can create their own inventions, lie on a bed of nails, learn about the human body, and experience the electromagnetic spectrum through light and prisms. Don’t miss the planetarium, rooftop observatory, and IMAX theater, too.
THE MARYLAND ZOO
1 Safari Pl., Baltimore, MD 21217.
From the perky prairie dogs to the gentle giraffes to the cheeky chimpanzees, this world-class zoo is home to more than 1,500 amazing animals—including the largest African penguin breeding colony in North America. Your wild things can run amok along the shady paved paths and ride the new zero emissions electric shuttles back to the free parking lot when they’re tired.
BALTIMORE MUSEUM OF ART
10 Art Museum Dr., Baltimore, MD 21218.
There’s more to the BMA than the Cone Collection’s Matisses and Monets. Kids who like dollhouses will adore the Cheney Miniatures Gallery, and the museum’s African art collection features 2,500
masks, textiles, and other works from more than 200 cultures. Indoor voices are not required to explore the outdoor sculpture garden. Currently, reservations are required for free admission. Strollers and front baby carriers are permitted in the museum.
LAKE ROLAND PARK & NATURE CENTER
1000 Lakeside Dr., Baltimore, MD, 21210.
The Lake Roland Dam is the focal point of this 500-acre sanctuary in the middle of Baltimore. Popular among pet owners for its fenced-in Paw Point dog park (membership required), Lake Roland features a unique playground, a new nature center, various hiking and biking trails, and a boardwalk from the Falls Road Light Rail station. Stop by Tropicool Italian Ice afterward for a sweet treat.
OREGON RIDGE PARK & NATURE CENTER
13555 Beaver Dam Rd., Cockeysville, MD 21030.
This 1000-plus-acre park is a great place to burn off energy. It features several playgrounds, picnic areas, plenty of trails ranging from easy to challenging, and a quarry where you can skip rocks and watch the ducks. Several animal enclosures house bunnies, geese, chickens and more, and the nature center hosts educational events and storytimes.
LADEW TOPIARY GARDENS
3535 Jarrettsville Pike, Monkton, MD 21111.
Unicorn-shaped shrubs, windows carved into hedges, koi ponds, an enchanting teahouse, butterfly house, and gift shop are just some of the delights you’ll find here, along with 22 acres of space to run wild and enjoy nature. Admission required; children under two are free.
RASH FIELD PARK
300 Key Highway, Baltimore, MD 21230.
Baltimore’s newest park opened last November in the heart of the Inner Harbor. Kids can clamber up a pair of 35-foot wooden towers in the Adventure Park, slip down a giant slide, soar on the swings, dig in the sand pit, or bring their board and drop into the skate park.
THE GO-KART TRACK
10907 Pulaski Hwy., White Marsh, MD 21162.
Feel the need for speed? With three different go-kart tracks, a mini-golf course (half price on weekdays), and all the classic arcade games, there’s something for everyone here. Kids aged 3 and up can join a driver age 16+ on the Family Track, and speed demons at least 52” tall can drop the pedal to the medal on the Drift Track.
SKATEPARK OF BALTIMORE
1121 W 36th St., Baltimore, MD 21211.
Got a budding skateboarder or trick scooter rider? Strap on your pads and helmet and hit this Hampden hotspot. It’s free and open daily from dawn to dusk. If you need some new grip tape, Vu Skate Shop is just around the corner on Falls Road.
4001 Bay Dr., 7200 Graces Quarters Rd., and 7400 Graces Quarters Rd., Middle River, MD 21220.
You don’t have to drive to Annapolis or Ocean City to get a taste of salt life. With three locations, two within Gunpowder Falls State Park and two with legitimate sandy beaches, this seasonal shop rents kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and canoes by the hour. Children under 10 can accompany a parent or guardian on a tandem kayak or paddleboard. Kids 10 and up can rent their own with a renting adult.
Looking to cool down and get wet on a hot day, no pool membership required? Baltimore City is home to several splash pads, including at West Shore Park in the Inner Harbor, Mt. Vernon Children’s Park, and The Rotunda. Visit BaltimoreFamilies.org/pools for locations.
BALTIMORE COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY “STORYVILLE”
There’s more to the library than storytime. Storyville, located at Baltimore County Public Library’s Rosedale and Woodlawn branches, is a play-and-learn center designed to promote early literacy and school-readiness skills in children ages 0-5. This enchanting child-sized village features books, toys, and activities for tots and their parents or caregivers.
2249 Lincoln Hwy. E, Lancaster, PA 17602.
This amusement park in Amish country is extremely popular with young families for a reason. The 48-acre layout is accessible, not overwhelming, and the rides are geared toward little kids. Duke’s Lagoon is a water park within the park that’s worth a visit all on its own.
100 Hersheypark Dr., Hershey, PA 17033.
Thrillseekers throng to this family theme park, created by the famous chocolatier Milton S. Hershey, which features tons of rides, including 15 roller coasters. There are plenty of attractions for the littler set, too. The one-price admission includes all the rides, the water park, and ZooAmerica.
SIX FLAGS AMERICA
13710 Central Ave., Bowie, MD 20721.
Six Flags is home to some of the fastest, tallest, wildest rides in the country, including Firebird, billed as “America’s only floorless roller coaster.” Younger kids can enjoy at least a dozen rides all by themselves. Admission includes access to the Hurricane Harbor waterpark, featuring an 800,000-gallon wave pool and 25 water slides.
16000 Theme Park Way, Doswell, VA 23047.
Got tweens and teens? Take a three-hour drive to this amusement park near Richmond. Already home to 13 roller coasters, the park will introduce Tumbili, a brand-new, 4D spin coaster, as part of its new-in-2022 immersive Jungle X-pedition. For the little ones, there’s Planet Snoopy. Admission includes access to the Soak City waterpark.
GROWN UP DINING, KID APPROVED
Dining out with kids doesn’t have to be expensive or stressful if you choose one of these family-friendly eateries, offering everything from pizza to medieval feasts.
301 W. 29th St., Baltimore, MD 21211.
Food courts and food halls, like this one located in Remington, are great options for dining with kids for a few reasons. First, there’s something for even the pickiest eater. Choose from 10 stalls offering a variety of fare, from pizza and fried chicken sandwiches to poké bowls and Korean BBQ. Second, the kids can be as loud as they like, and there’s room to stretch your legs when sitting at a table gets tiresome.
BELVEDERE SQUARE MARKET
529 E Belvedere Ave., Baltimore, MD 21212.
More than a food market, this North Baltimore hotspot near The Senator Theatre is a great place to dine indoors or out at any time of day. Food vendors include Atwater’s, Ejji Ramen, Plantbar, and The Pizza Trust. The Square hosts a Friday night concert series during the summer months.
STONE MILL BAKERY & CAFE
10751 Falls Rd. Suite 123, Lutherville-Timonium, MD 21093.
If you’re shopping at Greenspring Station or have a kids’ sporting event across the street at Meadowood Regional Park, pop into this bustling cafe for refreshments. Choose from salads, soups, sandwiches, and unparalleled sugar cookies. If the weather’s nice, sit outside by a babbling brook and let the kids climb on the stone turtles.
8874 McGaw Rd., Columbia, MD 21045.
With menus for kids, vegetarians, and gluten-sensitive diners, this reasonably priced chain has long been a favorite for families. (The free ice cream doesn’t hurt!) Sadly, the Timonium location closed during COVID, but the Columbia restaurant is open for business.
7000 Arundel Mills Circle, Hanover, MD 21076.
If you dread family dinners or just want something different, there’s nothing like a meal and a show set in a medieval Spanish “castle.” Feast on turkey legs–or a surprisingly tasty vegetarian option–as you watch knights on horseback jousting for a fair maiden’s hand. Yes, it’s a bit sexist and over-the-top, but the spectacle is part of the fun. If you’re looking to get your kids off screens and into a real-life adventure, this is it.