If you live in Baltimore, you already know it’s a family-friendly city, but there may be some great things to do with kids that you’ve overlooked. As a visitor, see how many free or cheap activities and attractions there are to do with your kids.
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1. Enjoy interactive and educational family concerts with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
2. At the Baltimore Museum of Art, admission is free everyday. Use the family activity booklets in the African, American and Modern galleries. Take an audio guided tour of 20 items of special interest to kids. Participate in Free Family Sundays (2pm-5pm), with hands-on art-making workshops.
3. Visit the Carrie Murray Nature Center and get up close and personal with rescued raptors, tortoises and insects. Located within Gwynns Falls Leakin Park, the 3rd largest urban wilderness park in the U.S., the nature center is free to visit — some activities may require a small fee.
4. Get wet and stay cool in the summertime in the 53 interactive jets of the Walter Sondheim Fountain in West Shore Park on the Baltimore Waterfront. West Shore park features a “great lawn” that provides fun, family-friendly opportunities at the harbor.
6. Check out Fort McHenry, the place where American troops stopped a British invasion during the War of 1812 and also inspired our national anthem. Listen to a ranger talk. Watch weekend drill, musket and artillery demonstrations.
7. Stop by Pierce’s Park near Waterfront’s Pier 5. Children can climb on locally created sculptures, interact with a musical fence, and play in a living willow tunnel (all free). This sustainable park also offers free wireless internet access courtesy of the Pier 5 Hotel.
8. Enjoy a month of free cultural programming every October with Free Fall Baltimore.
9. Chill out while the kids play by the lake at Patterson Park, a beautiful inner-city green space. Climb to the top of the park’s iconic pagoda to get a bird’s eye view of the city or go ice skating at the Dominic “Mimi” DiPietro Family Skating Center.
10. Watch a free family movie outdoors during the American Visionary Arts Museum’s “Flicks from the Hill” series on Thursdays during July and August. The natural amphitheater of the Hughes Family Outdoor Theater on Federal Hill seats more than a thousand people with a great view of the 30-foot wide screen and the lights of the city. The museum is also open and free from 5pm to 9pm on movie nights.
11. Watch street performers–musicians, singers, magicians, dancers, jugglers–free at the Harborplace Amphitheater between the Harborplace Pavilions. In the summer, a variety of bands give free concerts on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings.
12. Bike or hike along the 15-mile Gwynns Falls Trail, a continuous recreation corridor connecting parks, environmental areas, historic landmarks and more than 30 neighborhoods in west and southwest Baltimore.
13. Lunch with the ducks in the Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Waterfront Park, a Certified Wildlife Habitat just outside of the National Aquarium. The area provides wildlife with food, water, shelter, and a place to raise their young — see a map of naturally occurring species sightings here.
14. Take a guided walking tour of cool historic sites on the Heritage Walk, the city’s oldest urban trail. Meet your guide at the Baltimore Visitors Center at the Inner Harbor. The three-mile walk passes 20 historic sites and museums. Children 12 and under are free; adults $10; seniors/military/students with ID, $7.
15. Rent a dragon boat in the Inner Harbor AND get some exercise! Not insanely cheap but certainly fun for the kids.
16. Learn to be a powder monkey on the historic USS Constellation in Baltimore Harbor. During the Civil War young boys carried powder to the guns on fighting ships. Today’s youngsters (six years and older) can experience what life on the ship was like.
17. Stargaze for free on Fridays from 5:30pm to 9pm at the observatory in the Maryland Science Center.
18. See a tall ship, lightship, warship and submarine in the Inner Harbor. Historic Ships in Baltimore charges a fee to explore the historic vessels, but you can ogle them for free, along with any visiting tall ships and yachts.
Bonus: Okay, the Maryland Zoo isn’t free–or particularly cheap–but there are so many cool family friendly activities that it’s worth a splurge for one of the special events for kids. If your family really enjoys the zoo, you may want to consider becoming a member.