Baltimore’s Inner Harbor hasn’t seen ship traffic since the 1950s; instead, it’s been transformed into a major tourist destination — just an hour’s drive or train ride from Washington, D.C. — known for family-friendly activities.
The top draw, without a doubt, is the National Aquarium in Baltimore (not to be confused with the National Aquarium in Washington, D.C.), consistently regarded as one of the best in the world. The main building is a cylinder with one spiral of exhibits going up and a second coming down, covering freshwater and marine fish, coastal regions, and the open ocean, with a special section on beautiful, delicate jellyfish. In the center is a big tank full of sharks and rays, cruising endlessly, and at the top is a rainforest reconstruction full of birds. An addition completed in 2005 houses a dolphin show and habitat.
Facing the Aquarium, across the harbor, is the Maryland Science Center, a kids’ museum full of hands-on exhibits geared to make science fun. In Newton’s Alley, kids can learn basic principles of physics and play a harp that has laser beams in place of strings. In the Bodylink exhibit, they can put on lab coats and goggles and conduct experiments with bacteria. And in Dinosaur Mysteries, they can touch full-sized fossils and participate in a simulated paleontological dig.
For lunch visit Harborplace, an indoor mall halfway between the Aquarium and the Science Center, with dozens of stores, 10 restaurants, and 30 eateries. At the end of the day, stick around and watch the sun set from an outdoor café. Families may also enjoy the Port Discovery Children’s Museum, located a few blocks Northeast of the Aquarium. For more about the Aquarium visit www.aqua.org; for more about the Science Center go to www.mdsci.org.
Click here to buy tickets online for the Maryland Science Center.
Baltimore’s Inner Harbor
Hours: Aquarium: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Admission: Aquarium: $24.95 for adults ages 12 to 59; $23.95 for adults 60 and older; and $19.95 for children between 3 and 11. Children 2 and younger free. It’s an additional $3 if you want to see the dolphin show, and $2 more for the “4-D Immersion Theater,” which combines a 3-D movie with effects like mist and wind.
Parking: Inner Harbor Garage at 100 South Gay Street, or there are garages nearby on Light Street and Key Highway.
Metrorail: Not accessible by Metro. To drive, take I-95 up to Baltimore, exit onto I-395 and take a right onto Conway Street when it ends. You can also take the MARC train from Union Station in Washington, D.C. to Penn Station in Baltimore for $7 each way in 50 minutes, or to Camden Yards (which is closer) for the same price in about an hour and ten minutes.