There’s a reason why Baltimore is also known affectionately as ‘Charm City’ and it’s more than just a pleasant surprise to discover that this quirky and friendly place is one of the best family holidays. If you want to pack in the most bang for your buck, then this is where you need to be. Read on for a comprehensive list of things to do in Baltimore Inner Harbor.
The National Aquarium
A particular ‘must-see’ within the harbor itself is the National Aquarium. It’s impossible to miss with its steel and glass jutting out at all angles!
The National Aquarium houses a pretty impressive and varied collection of aquatic life, not least of which are the ominous gliding sharks kept in the tomb-like, room sized tanks in the lower levels of the aquarium where your kids can scare themselves silly! There are more than 750 species such as rays, sea turtles, sharks, crabs, puffins and other birds, frogs, coral, and plants.
Historic Ships including the USS Constellation
Fans of naval history and seagoing vessels will enjoy visiting the historic ships in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. The most famous is the USS Constellation. The last sail-only warship constructed by the United States Navy, the Constellation served during the Civil War. Later, she was used as a training vessel.
Now, she is a National Historic Landmark and serves as a museum to delight and educate the public. You can tour the Constellation’s four decks while you learn about its history.
That’s not the only ship to see in the Baltimore inner harbor, however! At other piers you will find the Lightship Chesapeake, a lightship in service from 1930 to 1971. Her red hull painted with the word “Chesapeake” makes her easy to spot in the harbor!
The USS Torsk is a World War II-era submarine also open to the public. She was preserved as a museum in 1972.
Finally, you’ll find the US Coast Guard Cutter Taney, the last warship in the battle of Pearl Harbor.
Ticket prices depend on age and which ship(s) you want to tour. Plan ahead as this is one of people’s favorite things to do in the Baltimore Inner Harbor.
Enjoy the Water Yourself with a Cruise or Dragon Boat
If you prefer to get out on the waters yourself, then you have several great options. The first is a cruise. You’ll get to enjoy the experience of a cruise and also see some of the sights of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor at the same time. Options include a sunset cruise, a city lights cruise (at night), dinner cruises, and cruises that feature historical information from days gone by.
Here are a couple of cruise options to consider:
Another option is to rent a dragon boat. These are easy-to-operate paddle boats in the shape of – you guessed it – a dragon! What could be more fun than the experience the harbor on your own while paddling around in a dragon!
Dine on Delicious Seafood
If you like seafood, you absolutely must try the offerings in Baltimore. The Chesapeake Bay offers unparalleled seafood, and your options for dining in the Inner Harbor feel nearly unlimited!
Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls – best for lobster rolls and lobster bisque
Rusty Scupper – offers a variety of delicious fish and shellfish dishes, and also has amazing steaks (in case someone in your party is not into seafood!)
Miss Shirley’s Cafe – a delicious breakfast-and-lunch venue that’s popular for its variety of American food options
The Oceanaire Seafood Room – the perfect choice for fresh oysters, Maryland-style crab cakes, and even octopus!
There are also common chain restaurants such as Hard Rock Cafe, The Cheesecake Factory, Fogo de Chão, and McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood & Steaks. One thing to note – if you wanted to go to Bubba Gump Shrimp Company – a restaurant chain based on the movie Forrest Gump – you’re out of luck. They were shut down in 2022 and have no plans to reopen.
Visit a Museum
There is certainly no shortage of museums in the Baltimore Inner Harbor! Here are some museum choices to consider.
Maryland Science Center
The Maryland Science Center is a great choice for families due to its more interactive nature. For those who love space, it features both a planetarium and an observatory. Other exhibits feature information about the dinosaurs, the human body, and the Chesapeake Bay’s special blue crabs.
There’s a special Kids Room display perfect for young children who like to get active, whether dressing up or splashing around. Newton’s Alley is a people-powered display, while Science Aglow focuses on the science of light. There are so many other exhibits that this can keep your family busy for the entire day!
Port Discovery Children’s Museum
If you think you’ve seen all the children’s museums you need to see in your lifetime, then think again! The Port Discovery Children’s Museum is one of the top-5 children’s museums in the country. Kids can pilot a ship in The Port, work out their extra energy in the Sky Climber, or get crafty in the Studio Workshop. There’s even a kid-sized theater they can participate in.
American Visionary Art Museum
The American Visionary Art Museum specializes in “outsider art”, or art by self-taught artists. A better way to describe it is in their own words: AVAM specializes in original thematic exhibitions that seamlessly combine art, science, philosophy, humor and especially social justice and betterment.
Permanent collections include specimens from Leonard Knight (Salvation Mountain), Andrew Logan (Black Icarus), Adam Kurtzman (Giant Golden Hand), Patty Kuzbida (What Me Worry? Bed), and many others.
Reginald F. Lewis Museum
The Reginald F. Lewis Museum celebrates African-American history and culture in the state of Maryland. Their permanent collection includes African artifacts. military historical items, photographs by Robert Houston (who documented the civil rights movement), a collection of slavery documents, and an entire collection related to American jazz music.
Baltimore Museum of Industry
The Baltimore Museum of Industry has a couple of outdoor exhibits: a giant green crane, and a tugboat from 1906. Inside, you will find exhibits related to steel production, oyster canning, aeronautics, a pharmacy, a print shop and many other displays related to industry in Baltimore and further.
Power Plant Live!
Power Plant Live! bills itself as the premier dining and entertainment destination in Baltimore. Here, you will find eleven options for things to do, from restaurants to bars, an escape room to ax throwing. Special events include music and other entertainment. Yoga events are frequent, but perhaps the most exciting event is Brooklyn Heights’ Drag Queen Brunch (ages 21+ only).
World Trade Center
Baltimore’s World Trade Center is a beautiful building designed by famed architect I.M. Pei. Built in 1977, it is primarily an office building. But for tourists, the attraction is the Top of the World Observation Tower. Purchase tickets and visit to see the best views of the city of Baltimore that you will find anywhere!
For an even better view, you can take a 15-minute helicopter tour!
Other Family-Friendly Activities in Baltimore
If you have time to venture further around Baltimore, there’s lots more to do that isn’t at the Baltimore Inner Harbor. Here are a few additional suggestions for sights to see!
Okay, so the idea of a zoo may not ignite that spark straight off the bat, but when you consider Maryland Zoo’s location with its 160 acres of ‘natural environments’, you may need to reconsider.
The winding, tree-canopied pathways offer tempting shade from the sun for a perfect trek over rope bridges and boardwalks throughout this city zoo. Discovering their 1500 or so birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles whilst hiking through this beautiful woodland setting really is a neat way for you and your family to combine hiking and exploration without having to go to all the trouble of much planning and preparation.
And if you’ve got any energy left over after zoo trekking, venture out into Druid Hill Park, in which the zoo is situated, and you’ll discover some further 700 or so more acres of woods, fields, ball fields, tennis courts and pathways – just remember to pack the Frisbee with the picnic!
Gunpowder Falls & Trail
Venturing north of Baltimore into Baltimore County, Gunpowder Falls & Trail is the ‘go-to’ park for family hiking and trekking. Despite its spaghetti-western sounding name, this park is well managed with tons to keep everyone happy and active. Hiking, kayaking, cycling and fishing to name but a few!
Or, if you and your family are feeling a little more low-key on the active side, then leisurely family picnics in glorious woodland settings should probably feature on your schedule with a stop off at one of the many superior kids’ activity playgrounds situated around the park.
With all this fancy footwork, cooling off tired aching feet at the refreshing woodland swimming beach is another great option. Over 120 miles of trails make the area perfect for family holidays with all the natural beauty and wildlife that Maryland has to offer.
The B&O Railroad Museum
There are few places which can instantly ignite a childlike excitement and thrill like arriving at the B&O Railroad Museum in Inner City Baltimore. With its gorgeous pale brick rounded central building, there are beasts of trains surrounding the outside where the start of the original Baltimore & Ohio railway line once stood.
Even if trains aren’t your thing, I challenge you not to be excited by the sight and sheer size of these incredible machines. Ranging from the early days of railroading to modern day commuter trains, which serve between Baltimore and DC, this truly is an inspiring place for the family to spend the day together discovering America’s glory days of railroading.
Hopefully we’ve given you some great ideas for things to do in Baltimore Inner Harbor, as well as throughout the rest of the city. Before you finish, make sure you get a photograph of yourself near the Visit Baltimore sculpture. It’s a great souvenir and perfect for sharing your travels with friends, family, or on social media!