What are some cool things to do in Baltimore for a day?
January 23, 2013 2:13 PM   Subscribe

I've got maybe a day to kill with my wife and kid in Baltimore... never really been there before, so what are some must-see things in the area? I've vaguely heard something about cherry blossoms... when do those bloom or where is the best place to view them? I'll be going in mid-April, so I've got some time to plan. TIA!
posted by mhh5 to Travel & Transportation around Baltimore, MD (21 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
The American Visionary Art Museum is really cool, and bound to be less crowded than the National Aquarium (although it's a very nice aquarium).
posted by amarynth at 2:19 PM on January 23, 2013 [9 favorites]

I like visiting the aquarium and wandering around the harbor -- lots of cool old ships and stuff. The Black history museum is really interesting, but has some stuff that'd be too scary for young kids -- well worth taking a teenager too, though.
posted by Margalo Epps at 2:23 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

The cherry blossoms are indeed a fantastic sight, but they're in DC. Peak bloom is usually in late March/early April, but there's no way to know this far out.

The Inner Harbor is frustratingly tourist-y in the summer, but it's a lot of fun for a kid, with buskers and cool old ships, etc, and there's a museum there, I think called Port Discover or something like that? that is a pretty great children's museum. The National Aquarium (also Inner Harbor) is expensive but very, very good. And the MD Science Center around there is good, too. Basically you'd be fine spending the day walking around the Inner Harbor and dropping in on the attractions there. Beware that non-chain restaurant options are very limited, though.

If you are at all into baseball, think seriously about taking in a day game at Camden Yards. It was among the first revival vintage-style stadiums, and it's a very fun place to watch a game, even from the nosebleed seats.
posted by peachfuzz at 2:24 PM on January 23, 2013

Came in to say American Visionary Art Museum, but now I'll just second it. Lots of fun art that kids would enjoy.
posted by orme at 2:24 PM on January 23, 2013

Book Thing is the coolest thing.
posted by nathancaswell at 2:26 PM on January 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Lots to do in the Inner Harbor area besides just the aquarium (although that's really fun too).
If the weather is nice, and you've never been to Baltimore before, you can do the Duck Tours. Also the Maryland Science Center is fun for kids. Depending on when you go, maybe an Orioles game? Fort McHenry is nearby if you are into history.

If the Inner Harbor area isn't your thing, there are also a lot of museums, both of the art and historical varieties, in and around the harbor as well.
posted by trivia genius at 2:26 PM on January 23, 2013

The American Visionary Art Museum can be somewhat disturbing, although it has a lot of rather striking stuff.

Just down the road from AVAM there is the Museum of Industry, which has some cool metal hulks, a functional workshop, and several cool exhibits about Baltimore's industrial past that don't require much reading.

About a mile west along Pratt Avenue, which is the northern edge of Inner Harbor, there's a cool railroad museum with lots of interesting-looking trains. A bus runs up and down Pratt if it's too far to walk.

From the harbor, you can take the light rail 10-12 blocks north to the Walters Museum, which is a fantastic art museum that has a giant room with stuffed animals, alligators, butterflies, and beetles. I always see young children there.
posted by Nomyte at 2:35 PM on January 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

I would not get your heart set on cherry blossoms, as the bizarre weather we've had the past few winters has caused them to bloom at unexpected times. But apparently there are cherry blossoms at Ft. McHenry, which would be a good place to visit anyway on a nice day, especially if it's picnic weather.

It's probably more kid-friendly at the Inner Harbor, but Fell's Point is a more interesting neighborhood for food, drinks, and people-watching. Federal Hill and Canton are also waterfront neighborhoods that have interesting street scenes.

The Bromo Seltzer Tower has open house days where you get to see what the artists in residence are working on.

Mid-town Mt. Vernon, around the Washington Monument, is rather charming, and the Walters Art Museum is a pretty neat museum. The Washington Monument and the Basilica might be worth seeing, depending on your interests.

The Baltimore Museum of Art has kids' programs and a nice sculpture garden. Sherwood Gardens is in the neighborhood, too. (And it's not too far from the Book Thing.)

On preview, the B&O Railroad Museum, yes!
posted by EvaDestruction at 2:39 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nthing Camden Yards if you ever go back in baseball season. And the aquarium in any season.

You really, really want to go to the food markets. They are scattered about the city and it is food and cookie nirvana.

Also, don't miss eating Italian in the Little Italy district, which is also amazingly cool to walk around in.

In general, Baltimore is a heck of a food town. Oh, the blue crabs when they are in season (sadly for you, for only 4 months starting in June), to name just one great item.

We had fun taking a harbor tour too.
posted by bearwife at 2:40 PM on January 23, 2013

If I were you, I'd spend the morning at the aquarium, then walk from the Inner Harbor to Fells Point for lunch (perhaps crab cakes at the Thames Oyster House?). Wander around Fells Point for fun window shopping (or real shopping). Stop at Bonaparte's Bakery for pastries/coffee. Dinner in Little Italy. I'm kind of into food, though.

Be sure to watch the entirety of The Wire before your trip.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 2:46 PM on January 23, 2013

Yeah, definitely go to Faidley's at Lexington Market (if you're not used to city life, it may look a little "rough" on the way there, but don't worry about it). If you can get to an O's game absolutely do that as well - it's an amazing stadium and the team ain't half bad anymore.
posted by downing street memo at 2:51 PM on January 23, 2013

Response by poster: Great suggestions so far! I guess I also should have mentioned one other thing -- pictures! Any particularly good spots to take pictures of my kid/wife while we're in Baltimore? Sounds like the cherry blossoms at Ft. McHenry might be one good place... any others?
posted by mhh5 at 2:54 PM on January 23, 2013

Nobody mentioned that the BMA and Walters museums are always free, which is a nice bonus. The AVAM is totally unique to Baltimore, though (and wonderful.)
posted by spbmp at 2:55 PM on January 23, 2013

The AVAM has really toned down in recent years, so I think it's safer for kids. I used to visit in the late 90s, and it was quite disturbing.
posted by scruss at 3:03 PM on January 23, 2013

The Bromo Seltzer Tower has open house days where you get to see what the artists in residence are working on.

It is also managed by a MeFite, feel free to ping me if you'd like details. The things I liked in Baltimore, because I am a book nerd, are Book Thing and the downtown library (which has an old and funky flat file, or did, but I don't know if non-librarians would care about it) and the George Peabody Library which is just a place to peek in at but it's so so amazing looking.
posted by jessamyn at 3:23 PM on January 23, 2013

Located only a few blocks away from Camden Yards, where the Orioles play, is the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum.
posted by obscure simpsons reference at 3:41 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Having worked with schizophrenia in a research setting, I found the AVAM to be a little "there's no such thing as mental illness!" and "these people aren't sick, they're visionaries!" It was fascinating in a bit of a macabre sense; I felt a little bad about all the people marveling at the products of very real suffering. I don't regret going, but I'm not sure how (or if) I'd put it in context for a kid.


That said, I really enjoyed the art museum at Hopkins and the Walters Art Museum. If your kid likes medieval weapons as much as I did/do, I bet that'll be a hit. (There's a lot of really amazing art as well, of course.)
posted by supercres at 3:41 PM on January 23, 2013

(Though those artists might just be the ones that stood out to me with my background.)
posted by supercres at 3:45 PM on January 23, 2013

Phoenix Shot Tower!
posted by jindc at 6:00 PM on January 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

If your child is, say 7 or younger, definitely go to Port Discovery, which is just a few blocks from the Inner Harbor. If a bit older - 7 to 10 range, perhaps - I'd say go only if the weather is lousy.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 7:09 AM on January 24, 2013

Best places to take pictures depends on what you want.

If you want urban: there's a good view of the harbor and city skyline from Federal Hill. You can get the Bromo Seltzer Tower in the background of shots from the University of Maryland area. The University of Baltimore has been doing streetscape work that makes the streets around their campus rather interesting.

If you want more greenery: the sculpture garden at the BMA would offer some interesting backdrops. The Johns Hopkins Homewood campus has brick-and-greenery Ivy League-type thing going on, and some interesting nooks and crannies. Sherwood Gardens.

Urban but quaint or old-fashioned: Little Italy, Fells Point (friends of mine got their wedding pictures taken at the pier, and they turned out nicely), the Federal Hill neighborhood (rather than Federal Hill the hill), the gardens and square around the Washingon Monument.
posted by EvaDestruction at 8:53 AM on January 24, 2013

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