Travelling in the US is always a delight, but destinations can get crowded. Sometimes it is nice to go off the beaten track and go to a destination that is less well-known.

Baltimore in Maryland is not as popular as New York, Washington, or Boston, but it has a load of things to do and is ideal for a city-based family trip. British Airways also fly a direct service from Heathrow on their new Dreamliner planes.

Baltimore is by and large a safe city. The Inner Harbor area is the touristy part, and here you will be close to most of the main attractions. In addition, transport around Baltimore is simple: the buses and light rail are low-cost. Also, you can use the Charm City Circulator, which is a bus for tourists that runs five routes from the Inner Harbor – this is free!

Ok, so you are in Baltimore, what can you do? Here are some ideas that will keep both kids and adults happy.

The National Aquarium

Pier 3 in the Inner Harbor hosts the national aquarium. Tickets are $39.95 for adults and $24.95 for children (under twos go free). This is definitely one not to miss. It is a very special place with a good mix of exhibits and interaction.

The aquarium has more than 17,000 specimens from 750 different species. You can spend the day because there is so much to see and do.

Highlights include an Upland Tropical Rain Forest, an open ocean shark tank, an Atlantic Coral Reef, thousands of colourful jellyfish, and Australia: Wild Extremes. There is also a 4D Immersion Theatre showing a variety of interactive nature films. Finally, there is a marine mammal pavilion with seven Atlantic bottlenose dolphins that star in educational shows.

The Historic Ships

The Inner Harbor in Baltimore plays host to a fabulous maritime museum. There are three ships, a submarine, and a lighthouse located in the area between Piers 1 and 5. Ticket prices vary depending upon how many ships you want to see but it is around $18 for adults and $9 for under 14s (to see them all).

All the ships are well worth visiting. They include the 1854 USS Constellation (a tall sailing ship), the USCGC Taney (a Coast Guard cutter), the Tench class submarine USS Torsk, and the Chesapeake lightship. The museums are staffed by knowledgeable costumed volunteers and you can spend half a day seeing over these interesting ships.

The B&O Railroad Museum

The Baltimore and Ohio railroad museum is a must see. It is within a reasonable walk from the Inner Harbor, but you can get a cab if you want to. There are more than 200 locomotive and carriage exhibits in the Roundhouse, which is an old railway turntable and the adjoining old Mount Clare station, yards, and workshops.

The B&O is known as the ‘birthplace of American railroading’. Here you can experience everything engine and rail. You can get around it in about three hours, but on a nice day, there are some great outside areas for kids to see model railways and maybe have a picnic. There are some great Civil War exhibits and a huge range of locomotives, some of which you can walk inside.

On the walk back to the Inner Harbor, you can stop off and see the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Baseball Museum (just off Pratt Street) – and take a tour of the Baltimore Orioles’ stadium Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Close to here is Pigtown – a great place for lunch or a coffee.

The Maryland Science Center

Situated on the Inner Harbor on Light Street, the Maryland Science Center has loads of exhibits including Dinosaurs, a Planetarium, Space exhibits, a Science Lab, Newtons Alley, Science and Main, Your Body, and loads more. The tickets are $24.95 for adults and $18.95 for kids. The IMAX exhibits, which change often, cost an extra $4.

Interactive exhibits for children include an electroplating demo, as well as food fight catapults in the Chaos Café! T0he Shed is a workshop/lab where you can learn a new skill (animation, woodworking, design etc). Children will love it, and there is lots to see and do. Figure on spending at least half a day.

From here you can complete your circuit of the Inner Harbor and maybe climb up to Federal Hill Park to take some vistas of the city. The American Visionary Art Museum is also not far away. You can’t miss it with its giant birds and unusual windmill sculptures. Make sure it is open and give it a whirl!

Fort McHenry

Fort McHenry is a very special place as this is the birthplace of the Stars and Stripes and The Star-Spangled Banner. To get there, catch the free Banner Route bus from the Inner Harbor. At the terminus walk up the hill through the gates. Go to the visitor’s centre and pay $10 for entry (you get 7-day access).

The fort is full of cannons, exhibits and history. There are exhibits about the war of 1812 as well as the Civil War and First World War. This is an excellent visit for families interested in history and a really nice place to take in the areas surrounding the fort as well as the views of the Patapsco River estuary.

There’s more too!

Baltimore has lots more to offer, over and above these few highlights.

You could visit Maryland Zoo in Druids Hill Park (about 4.5 miles from the Inner Harbor). Fells Point, where the pirates used to roam, is now a great place for bars and restaurants (take a water taxi from Inner Harbor). Edgar Alan Poe’s house and grave are in Baltimore too. There is also a Civil War Museum in Fleet Street.

Gastronomic highlights include the famous Baltimore crab cakes. Foodies should head to Pigtown. Pigtown's annual festival is usually held in October each year. It famously features a pig race, called ‘The Squeekness’, to commemorate its history. You can run with the pigs if you want!

About PackThePJs

This article was submitted by blogger Tracey Kifford of PackThePJs, a blog that follows the travelling adventures of Tracey, Huw, Millie-Mae (12) and Toby (10). Their family travel blog started out focusing on family cruise holidays, as this is an industry that Huw and Tracey used to work in.

From there, the blog diversified into days out and events, and then caravanning in the UK. Having toured a lot of Europe with their dogs, they now travel much further afield too, ‘ticking off’ new countries each year.

There’s still plenty of family cruise content, as well as camping and days out, but there’s lots of long-haul travel content too now – San Francisco, Baltimore, Washington DC, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and The Maldives are recent places PackThePJs has visited.

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