Baltimore is one of those cities that we like to revisit every few years. We have our favorite things to do, like eat boiled crabs and visit the sprawling National Aquarium. And there is always yet another restaurant or museum for us to discover.
Here are four museums that are a little off the beaten track, or that you might not think to visit with kids, that I think are worth a visit for families spending a weekend in the Charm City.
Give them on a try on your next visit.
The American Visionary Art Museum
My daughter loves this museum on the far side of the Inner Harbor, partly because its permanent exhibits include a collection of elaborate whirligigs and a kinetic car that looks like a giant poodle. Also, there’s a “flatulence post” (a fart machine) in the basement.
As you might have guessed, this isn’t your typical art museum; your first hint is the mirror-covered bus outside the entrance. The main building houses a different themed exhibit every year that always includes a range of American pop and folks artists. The new show, begun this late 2017, explores the use of mystery in art.
The museum has a new café, Encantada, featuring seasonal and local ingredients. And it has probably the best museum gift shop anywhere. The shop has a sideshow theme and plenty of inexpensive baubles (think wind-up chattering teeth) to entice both kids and adults.
The USS Constellation and other Ships
This “Museum” in the Inner Harbor is a collection of four ships that take you on a tour of maritime history from the early 1800s to the 1980s. Tour the Constellation, a sloop-of-war ship with a colorful history, plus a submarine, a lightship and a modern Coast Guard cutter. I like the way these ships demonstrate how navigation, jobs and life on board a ship has changed, and how it has remained the same through all these years.
Geppi’s Entertainment Museum
Geppi’s calls itself a museum of American pop culture. It seems like the sort of museum someone would set up in a storefront from things they found in their attic. It’s actually a well-curated collection that’s nicely housed in the former Camden train station. Its collection traces the evolution of pop culture–and with it American society– from the first newspaper comic strips, through the rise of movies, radio, comic books and television. It looks at the heroes, villains, stars, and related toys that have fed American children’s leisure time for more than 100 years. You’ll read more into than your kids will, but there is something here for everyone to appreciate.
If you plan your visit before or after lunch you stop at Dempsey’s Brew Pub and Restaurant, next door. We love their meat on a stick and crab dip along with their desserts.
The B&O Railroad Museum
Leave a good amount of time for visiting this train museum, which is out toward Mt. Clare. It has something for everyone, but the various ages in your family will be drawn to different parts of the space and you need time for everyone to get their turn.
The building itself, which is round and high ceilinged like a big circus tent, is really impressive. Inside, an exhibit on how trains affected the outcome of the Civil War was quite interesting for me (less so my 6-year-old). It was also fun to see how trains have evolved over time, both inside and out. There is some hands-on stuff for kids amid the indoor exhibits but the really fun stuff is outside. There’s a train-themed play area with large model train, a blue train kids can ride and train-themed carousel.
The museum offers short historic train rides, but our mid-20th century commuter train wasn’t all that different from what we have now. I can’t say this is something you have to do unless you have a child who is crazy about trains and doesn’t get to ride them very often.
Kids and adults who love trains will find much to love at this museum but even those who aren’t aficionados will find plenty to keep them occupied.
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