A lot of times it is the tourists who hit up places like the Inner Harbor or Maryland Zoo more than those who live here. However, this spring and summer, the main attractions in Baltimore are that for a reason — and some of the best kid-oriented, family-friendly destinations.
From cruises on the Bay and retired ship tours to the National Aquarium and numerous summer festivals near the pavilion, it’s easy to imagine the Inner Harbor as a return stop for any family.
But take special notice this season of Port Discovery Children’s Museum and the Maryland Science Center, both of which have programming to delight children of all ages.
Port Discovery gears itself toward younger kids, getting them interested in the world around them through hands-on play and learning. The littlest ones even get their own shout-out with Little Days, when the museum is focused on those 5 years old and younger. These happen once each month this summer: May 13, June 10, July 8 and Aug. 12.
And for those kids who may struggle a bit more or who have special needs, Port Discovery has a whole week dedicated to activities and experiments that will specifically appeal to them, May 9-12.
The museum also has its usual big events for the 4th of July and Labor Day, as well as themed carnivals and bashes throughout the summer.
“We have programs literally every day of the week and weekend,” said Abbi Ludwig, marketing director for the museum.
One of the key tenets for Port Discovery is accessibility, she added. Ticket prices can be out of reach for some families, so she encouraged people to check out Target nights the third Friday of each month when it’s $2 admission from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
“When people visit, the looks on faces is always one of amazement,” Ludwig said. “And what I hear is that they can’t see it all in one visit.”
The Maryland Science Center caters generally to middle-school-aged kids, although almost all kids will find something they like, said Chris Cropper, senior director of marketing.
The Science Center’s big summer showstopper programming is its weeklong summer camp sessions. This year, there are five sessions in July and August, and families can choose from full-day camps (with lunch provided) or half-day ones.
The session themes are broken down by recommended age groups (6-7, 8-9, 9-11 or 11-13) and themes, which range from Nature Crafters and Astronaut Training Camp to Sci-Fi Investigators and Dinosaurs Rock!
“I think the thing that’s unique about us as opposed to regular day camps with sports and activities is we’re engaged in exploration here,” Cropper said. “We’re having fun but also learning and engaging.”
Aside from the camps, the center also features theme festivals each month during the summer, like Mess Fest in June, Bubble Days in July and Backyard Science Days in August.
The Maryland Zoo is a perennial favorite, of course, offering a variety of programming all year. But event series pick up in the spring and summer. One of the most popular series is Breakfast with the Animals (including penguins, giraffes, elephants and chimps, depending on the day), presented on one or two Sundays a month starting in March. Some days are already sold out.
Parents with little kids can rejoice because Stroller Safari will continue, offering animal stories and songs while parents, yes, stroll through the park the third Thursday of each month.
And the zoo event that tends to sell out in advance is the Zoo Snooze, an overnight stay among the animals for those lucky families who are able to secure tickets. The next kid-friendly ones are coming up Aug. 5-6 and Sept. 9-10.
Summer camp doesn’t have to mean sleepaway camp. Local attractions offer up options fit for any family.