After a recent weekend trip to Washington D.C., my family stopped at the Inner Harbor neighborhood of Baltimore for an afternoon of fun before heading home. The city on the harbor is a perfect side trip after a historic visit to our nation’s capital. There’s much more to do than an afternoon allows, but alas, that’s all the time we had. Still, we managed to get a little taste of Baltimore by spending time at some main attractions.
The National Aquarium is a must visit for families. Featuring a collection of more than 20,000 fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and marine mammals in natural habitats, you really feel as if you’re under the sea.
The aquarium’s shark tank and Atlantic coral reef exhibits are the highlights. You walk down a spiral ramp around a massive glass enclosure filled with sharks, tropical fish, stingray, and even scuba-diving staff during feeding time.
Younger children will love the hands-on exhibits and touch tanks where they can touch live jellyfish, horseshoe crabs, starfish, and rays.
And definitely purchase the $5 additional tickets for the Aquarium’s 4-D Immersion Theater. We saw SpongeBob SquarePants 4-D: The Great Jelly Rescue! and my girls LOVED it. Think 3-D film, but with added sensory special effects like mist, wind, bubbles, leg ticklers, smells, flashing lights, and seat vibrations. You’ll laugh, scream, get wet (just a little), and squirm for 15 minutes— it’s really a lot of fun.
501 E Pratt Street, Baltimore, MD
Cost: Adults: $39.95 / Children (3-11): $24.95. Purchase advance tickets here, because you’ll need to choose your entry time. Tip: visit before 11 am or after 3 pm for less crowds.
Parking: Park in a participating garage and validate your ticket for a discount.
Here are other great family spots at Inner Harbor:
- Maryland Science Center: An IMAX film, a Planetarium, and three levels of hands-on exhibits.
- American Visionary Art Museum: Grab a ferry across the harbor to this wildly wonderful museum that infuses a bit of John Waters kitsch with some truly out-of-the-box outsider art. Think: A blinged-out bus; robots made entirely out of recycled material; and wildly spinning whirligigs. There’s a fantastic gift shop filled with inexpensive oddities, too.
- Port Discovery Children’s Museum: Three floors of interactive, hands-on exhibits for the toddlers through age 10.
Where to Eat
Get a real taste of Baltimore at Miss Shirley’s Cafe—a breakfast and brunch spot praised for its Southern roots and fresh Chesapeake Bay ingredients. But be prepared to wait A LONG TIME…..
The cafe is hugely popular, especially after it was featured on the Food Networks’ Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. After our visit to the aquarium, we arrived at Miss Shirley’s at 11 am on Sunday morning, joined the other large crowd in an outdoor waiting area with our pagers, and didn’t get a table until over an hour later. But, honestly it was so worth the wait.
I had to order the famous Signature Crab Cake Po’ Boy featured on Food Network and because when in Baltimore, you eat crab cakes. Holy crab cake it was amazing! The rest of the family went with the Belgium waffles and were very happy.(When I managed to steal a few bites, I could see why.)
Miss Shirley’s gets major bonus points for its thorough knowledge of food allergies. The first thing our server asked us was if anyone at our table had allergies. After my 12 year old told her she did (peanuts and tree nuts), our server asked if cross contamination was an issue.(it is) and then explained what foods were safe for her to to order (waffles) and what weren’t (pancakes because they are cooked on the same griddle as the almond-crusted French Toast.) We were really impressed and grateful that Miss Shirley’s tries to accommodate those with food allergies. A perfect ending to our Baltimore Inner Harbor trip!