Despite its gritty depiction in ‘The Wire’, 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. So, if you’re contemplating a visit to Baltimore, perched on the Chesapeake Bay and you have kids in tow, then here’s my shortlist of top spots to keep both mom and dad happy as well as the kids active and engaged.
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 tonnes 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.
The National Aquarium
Baltimore’s regenerated Inner Harbor is no doubt worth a visit but a particular ‘must-see’ within the harbor itself, is the National Aquarium – impossible to miss with all its steel and glass jutting out at all angles, it 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!
And of course, step outside the aquarium and you have the whole inner harbor to explore with its family restaurants and crabs a-plenty diners and cafes…and you can’t visit Baltimore without experiencing Chesapeake’s finest crab cakes!