It’s time for a field trip! Baltimore is full of educational and inspiring attractions. Although many of them are perfect for kids, these places aren’t just child’s play — no matter what your age, you’re sure to learn something new.
Hands On and Historical
One of the best ways to learn about the past is to come face to face with historical places. Spend some time exploring Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, the location of the War of 1812 battle that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen what would become our national anthem. Check the fort’s schedule for a chance to see “on duty” guards demonstrating muskets and other artillery, or for a chance to help unfurl a full-sized replica of the Star-Spangled Banner.
To learn about the flag itself, head to the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House, once the home and business place of Mary Pickersgill, who made the garrison flag Key witnessed flying over Fort McHenry. Learn about Pickersgill, her family, household, and neighborhood; touch reproduction fabric and attempt to hoist the flag’s weight; or spend some time designing your own flag.
In the Inner Harbor, take in a panoramic view of the city from Federal Hill Park, which served as a defensive stronghold during the War of 1812 and the Civil War. Nearby is Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, where 500 trademark “oddities” make learning fun and engaging. Among them is a tribute to sideshow performer Johnny Eck, known as the amazing “Half Boy,” a Baltimore native who was missing the lower part of his torso and legs.
For more Baltimore lore, you can’t miss the Baltimore Museum of Industry. Literally. A 100-foot tall crane that was instrumental in Bethlehem Steel’s prolific World War II shipbuilding effort marks its entrance. The museum is a celebration of Maryland’s industrial legacy, and it’s the perfect place to learn about the men and women who laid the groundwork for Baltimore. Currently, you can also try your hand at creating virtual experiences at the Video Games Wizards exhibition.
Baltimore also has several options for learning about the fascinating history of transportation. Uncover the history of American railroads at the B&O Railroad Museum; ride on historic streetcars at the Baltimore Streetcar Museum; or climb aboard several historic ships—including a submarine and famed Coast Guard cutter—that are permanently docked in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
Because … Science
Science can be so much more engaging when you get to experiment in person. At the Maryland Science Center, you’ll find three floors of hands-on exhibits, including a voyage through the human body, a kinetic energy demonstration powered by visitors, and The Shed, where you can learn new DIY engineering skills (or new applications for old ones). There’s also an IMAX and a planetarium; stop in on Fridays after 5 p.m. for $10 admission to the museum and some free stargazing on a computer controlled Alvan Clark & Sons 8″ refracting telescope.
The kid-centric Port Discovery Children’s Museum is ranked among the top five children’s museum in the country. Kids can climb, crawl, jump, and slide through a three-story urban treehouse, "cook" meals at Tiny's Diner, use math skills to ring up orders at a cash register, and learn how to make healthy choices at a mini interactive convenience store.
If animal activity is more your style, you can explore a tropical rainforest, Atlantic and Indo-Pacific coral reefs, and the Australian outback at the National Aquarium, one of Baltimore’s most popular attractions. There are more than 750 species to discover, including Calypso, a 500-pound green sea turtle who was rescued off the shore of Long Island in 2000 when her front flipper became infected and required amputation. Learn about some of the smaller animals, like the tiger salamander or the Madagascar hissing cockroach, during free Critter Chats.
The 135-acre Maryland Zoo is another animal-filled option. The zoo has bred the greatest number of African penguins, an endangered species that lives in the newly revamped Penguin Coast. Other animals include giraffes, elephants, lions, flamingos, and a polar bear.
Challenge your brain while enjoying nature’s wonder. The 200-acre Cylburn Arboretum is a green oasis in the city with hundreds of specimens, gorgeous gardens, a historic mansion, and wooded trails. Learn about aquaponics and sustainable food systems at the arboretum’s urban teaching farm, which is operated by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. Guided walks, tree tours, art classes, and lectures also take place regularly.
Irvine Nature Center is a nonprofit environmental education center located just northwest of Baltimore. There are 210 acres of forests, meadows, and wetlands to explore, plus an educational center filled with the sounds of bird calls, insect sounds, and frog croaks from its 70 animal residents. Explore exhibits on woodlands, wetlands, and meadows, or take part in one of the centers many natural history programs.
For an adrenaline-filled outdoor experience, Terrapin Adventures is where you can climb, swing, jump, kayak, bike hike, or zipline. Test your skills on the climbing tower or aerial challenge course, or take a guided kayak, river tubing, or bike tour. You might end up learning a little something about yourself!