Best of Baltimore with Grandchildren

BaltimoreWhy Baltimore, of all places?  Baltimore is an easy one hour drive from D.C. and a great day trip.  It is three hours from  N.Y.C . and a place to stop on the way to D.C.  With numerous attractions – centered around the bustling, pedestrian-friendly Inner Harbor, you won’t need to spend any time in the car.

WHEN TO GO

According to “Sports, Science and Fun on and Around the Water in Baltimore,” by Susan O’Keefe, in the New York Times travel section, April 16, 2006:

 As the Baltimore Orioles return home from spring training, and the Volvo Ocean Race yachts (including one that was used as the Black Pearl in “Pirates of the Caribbean”) visit here at the end of April during the city’s free waterfront festival, April 27 to 30, Baltimore embraces its rich sports and maritime history.

WHERE TO STAY

Ms. O’Keefe recommends three hotels:

Located on the Inner Harbor, the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel (202 Pratt Street; 410-547-1200; www.renaissancehotels.com) is connected to the Gallery at Harborplace (three floors of shops). Book early if you plan to be in town for July 4th; the Renaissance has some of the best views of the harbor fireworks.

The Hyatt Regency (300 Light Street; 410-528-1234; www.baltimore.hyatt.com), adjacent to the Inner Harbor, is completing a major renovation of its guest rooms and adding pillow-top beds and flat-screen televisions. There’s also an outdoor pool deck – a necessity during the steamy summer months.

The boutique Pier 5 Hotel (711 Eastern Avenue; 410-539-2000; www.harbormagic.com), steps from the Baltimore Aquarium, offers jewel-toned rooms and an inviting lobby where evening activities include cooking demonstrations and a chocolate fountain where guests can dip fruit in flowing chocolate. The hotel offers packages that include V.I.P. tickets to the aquarium.

www.tripadvisor.com recommends as number one The Four Seasons, 200 International Drive, Baltimore, MD 21202 (Downtown) http://www.fourseasons.com/baltimore/?source=tablbalt).

www.concierge.com  recommends the Marriott. 700 Aliceanna Street, Baltimore , Maryland,  21202,Tel: 410 385 3000 (http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/bwiwf-baltimore-marriott-waterfront/)

Here is what they say:

Not to be confused with the Marriott Inner Harbor at Camden Yards located near the baseball stadium, the Marriott Waterfront towers 31 stories over the Inner Harbor and offers unmatched room views of downtown and the busy port. The central location also places guests in the middle of the action; stow your car in the adjacent parking garage and get around by water taxi or on foot. The National Aquarium is a five-minute walk to the west; Little Italy is just to the north; and the heart of Fells Point is a ten-minute stroll east. The 733 rooms and 20 suites of this massive hotel host a mix of families, business travelers, and extra-large groups, and the not-too-modern, not-too-traditional decor aims to appeal to that diverse audience (think one part Pottery Barn, one part Ethan Allen). Besides the location, the appeal is in the amenities: Even standard rooms have 32-inch HD TVs, broadband Internet access, and large in-room safety boxes that can hold several laptops. The fifth floor has a decently equipped health club and indoor swimming pool. All quarters have harbor views, but shoot for west-facing rooms, which have the best sunset panoramas; those with a southern exposure overlook a construction site.

WHAT TO DO

http://baltimore.org/30-free-things/ is the official website for Baltimore.  The website has a wealth of information and lists 30 free things to do in Baltimore.

The Baltimore Harbor Pass provides you discounted entry into five of Baltimore’s most popular attractions and saves you 25% over single tickets prices.  The Baltimore Harbor Pass offers favorites like discounted entry into the National Aquarium, the Maryland Science Center and Top of the World Observation Level. But, in addition, Harbor Pass ticket holders will also receive a one-time entry to their choice of the American Visionary Art Museum or Port Discovery Children’s Museum and a choice of Sports Legends at Camden Yards or the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African American History & Culture. Adults: $49.95  Child: (3 – 12): $39.95. Call 1-877-Baltimore or buy on line at http://baltimore.org/harborpass . The call center hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.

  1. THE AQUARIUM. Number one of things to do in Baltimore Inner Harbor is see the Aquarium, considered one of the best aquariums in the world.  Ms. O’Keefe says:

On and Off the Water Jutting out into the harbor, the glass pyramid-topped National Aquarium in Baltimore (501 East Pratt Street; 410-576-3800, www.aqua.org; admission $21.95 for adults, $12.95 for ages 3 to 11) recently opened a 65,000-square-foot pavilion anchored by the “Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extreme” exhibit set in a red-rock river gorge with native plants and piped-in thunder. Child-level windows allow tots to go nose-to-nose with pig-nosed turtles and huge barramundi fish, while colorful rainbow lorikeet fly overhead. Order aquarium tickets online to avoid long waits; strollers are not allowed in the aquarium, but storage and child carriers are free.

This is what www.concierge.com says about the aquarium:

Just as Baltimore’s Camden Yards influenced sports stadia across America, the aquarium’s 1981 opening represented a watershed moment in urban fish-tank design. Rising five stories from the north side of the Inner Harbor and topped by a distinctive sail-shaped glass atrium, the structure is fins-down the city’s most beloved attraction, luring 1.6 million visitors a year. Its exhibits cover the waterfront: In addition to colorful reef fish, there are areas devoted to such ecosystems as western Maryland waterfalls, the Amazon River, Pacific kelp forests, Australia (including a freshwater croc), and a tropical rain forest, complete with exotic birds. There is also a 4-D big-screen theater and de rigueur dolphin show, but the main attraction is the gi-normous Atlantic coral reef exhibit; visitors are treated to 360-degree views of jacks and angelfish while descending a spiraling walkway in the middle of the doughnut-shaped tank. Another theater in the round holds nurse, lemon, and sand-tiger sharks. Every other weekend, Atlantic Edge Dive Center(301-519-9283; www.atlanticedge.com) leads certified divers on a pair of 30-minute plunges inside the Atlantic reef tank and nearby “Wings in the Water,” a shallow tray that holds sea turtles and stingrays.Open daily 9 am to 5 pm.

http://www.kidslovedowntownbaltimore.com/KidsEvents.aspx recommends National Aquarium Immersion Tours.   Immersion Tours include gallery tours before the Aquarium opens, behind-the-scenes dolphin and shark tours and sleepovers with the sharks.
Dive beneath the surface with the Aquarium’s Immersion Tours! Expert guides will help young explorers experience life at the Aquarium from an insider’s perspective. Kids 8 and up can enjoy an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at Atlantic bottlenose dolphins during the Dolphin Discovery Tour or get uncomfortably close with the Aquarium’s sharks during the Sharks! Behind-the-Scenes Tour. Visit www.aqua.org/immersiontours for a complete list of tours and dates.

The website also mentions: Maryland Mornings Discount at the National Aquarium, Sundays-Fridays, before 12noon: Maryland residents enjoy discounted admission before noon Sundays – Fridays. $8 off adult admission, $5 off senior admission, and $4 off child admission. Must purchase Maryland Mornings tickets on-site and show proof of Maryland residency. Black out dates apply. Aqua.org/Maryland

Ms. O’Keefe talks about all the other attractions to see as follows:

  1. BOAT RIDES

Getting on the water at the Inner Harbor is easy with boat rides to suit every age, from dragon-shaped pedal boats to two-seater electric boats, and a schooner (Clipper City; 803 Light Street, 410-539-6277; www.clippercity.com; $15 for a two-hour harbor sail, $5 for ages 10 and under).

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g60811-Activities-Baltimore_Maryland.html lists as number five attraction another boat ride: Urban Pirates, Ann Street Pier, South Ann St. & Thames St., Baltimore, MD (Fells Point) (http://urbanpirates.com/web/) opening again April 13, 2013, described as follows:

Urban Pirates offers family adventure cruises in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. The pirate ship called “Fearless” is based out of Fell’s Point, which is rich in nautical history itself and provides many shops and resturants. The adventure takes about an hour and a half, dressing up, tattoos, face painting happens on the boat prior to departure, and gives everyone a chance to get there on time. The cruise itself consists of three pirates leading an interactive pirate adventure- lots of songs, dancing, games, and of course treasure. All are encouraged to participate and adults usually have as much fun as the kids blasting the water cannons at the attacking Mad Dog Mike in his Cannon Dodger boat.  It’s a good idea to plan to arrive early as parking in Fell’s Point can be tricky, but a phone call to the Urban Pirates crew will keep them at the dock while you run down the cobble stone streets, they have even been known to park a customer’s car for them in time of haste.  Bring along some water and enjoy your day at “sea” with the beautiful sights of Baltimore from the water surrounding you, and songs of happy children fill your ears.  The kids will feel like they’ve been to Disney in just a short excursion, and your pockets won’t hurt too much, the prices are good for such a jam packed hour- leaving you enough for ice cream or lunch afterward.

  1. THE CONSTELLATION

For a look at life at sea in the Civil War era, children can board the 19th-century warship Constellation (permanently docked at Pier 1; 410-539-1797; www.constellation.org; admission $8.75, $4.75 for ages 6 to 14).

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g60811-Activities-Baltimore_Maryland.html names this the number seven attraction in Baltimore.

  1.  BALTIMORE MARITIME MUSEUM

On display at the Baltimore Maritime Museum, 410-396-3453; www.baltomaritimemuseum.org, Piers 3 and 5 next to the aquarium, are the World War II submarine Torsk and the bright red lightship Chesapeake; admission is $8 for adults, $4 for ages 6 to 14.

  1.  WATER TAXIS

But the best deal of all is an $8 day pass ($4 for children 10 and under) for Ed Kane’s Water Taxis (410-563-3901, www.thewatertaxi.com). The fleet of blue-and-white-canopied boats ply the harbor and stop at more than a dozen landings. You can stop off, for example, at historic Fells Point, Baltimore’s first seaport (there’s a Maggie Moos ice cream shop across from the stop) or at the star-shaped Fort McHenry National Monument (410-962-4290; www.nps.gov/fomc; admission $5, free for ages 15 and under); in 1814, Francis Scott Key composed the “Star-Spangled Banner” while observing the British naval bombardment of the fort.

  1. MARYLAND SCIENCE CENTER

Adults won’t mind spending time in the Maryland Science Center (601 Light Street; 410-685-5225; www.marylandsciencecenter.org; $14.50, $10 for ages 3 to 12) near the wave-shaped Baltimore Visitor Center (stop at 401 Light Street or visit www.baltimore.org for cost-saving combination sightseeing tickets) in the southwest corner of the harbor. The science center has three levels of hands-on exhibits (and 3D IMAX movies) that focus on earth sciences, space and the human body. Children can dig for dinosaur bones or try on a space flight suit.

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g60811-Activities-Baltimore_Maryland.html names this the nineteenth best attraction in Baltimore.

  1. BEYOND INNER HARBOR

Beyond the Inner Harbor Baltimore’s attractions beyond the Inner Harbor are more accessible thanks to the new London-based Big Bus Company, which started operation this month with red double-decker buses (buy tickets at the Visitor Center or on the bus; the fare is $20, $17 for students, and $12 ages 5 to 12. Ticketholders can hop on and off the bus at 16 stops. Black-footed penguins and polar bears can be seen at the Maryland Zoo (Druid Hill Park; 410-396-7102; www.marylandzoo.org; admission $15, $10 for ages 2 to 11); works by Picasso, Matisse and Van Gogh are on display at the Baltimore Museum of Art at 10 Art Museum Drive, 443-573-1700; www.artbma.org; $10 for 18 and older, free for those under 18 (art programs for children are available every day); and dozens of trains can be boarded at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum, 901 West Pratt Street, 410-752-2490; admission $14, $8 for ages 2 to 12; train rides are included in the admission price and available Tuesday to Sunday beginning in April.

  1. BALTIMORE ORIOLES

The Baltimore Orioles have returned to play at Camden Yards, and you can check out the ballpark and dugout during a 75-to-90 minute tour offered daily except when there are day games (410-547-6234; www.orioles.com; $7 for adults, $5 for children 12 and under). Babe Ruth was born in Baltimore, and the city pays tribute to him and other Maryland sports heroes including Johnny Unitas and Cal Ripken Jr. at the Babe Ruth Museum, at 216 Emory Street, and at the year-old Sports Legends Museum at nearby Camden Station. Admission at Sports Legends is $10 for adults, $6.50 for children 3 to 12; the Babe Ruth Museum is $6 for adults and $3 for children 3 to 12; a combination ticket is $14 for adults and $9 for children; 410-727-1539; www.baberuthmuseum.com.

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g60811-Activities-Baltimore_Maryland.html rates the Baltimore Orioles as the number two attraction in Baltimore.

Here is what www.concierge.com says about the Orioles and Camden Yards:

Camden Yards was the game-changer when it debuted in 1992, sparking a retro-ballpark boom that continues to this day. The old-school brick facade, steel trusses, asymmetrical outfield fences, and natural turf lend a sense of intimacy to America’s greatest pastime. Though the Orioles have long been mired in mediocrity, Baltimore still gets home-field advantage: The ballyard is just a ten-minute walk west of the Inner Harbor, and tickets are much easier to come by than at, say, Boston’s Fenway Park. You can order tickets from the team or drop by Gate F, a designated “scalp-free zone,” on most game days. Allow yourself pregame time to soak up the street-fair atmosphere on pedestrian-only Eutaw Street behind right field. The pavement holds baseball-shaped brass plaques commemorating epic home runs; a marker on the wall of the former B&O Railroad warehouse commemorates the longest ball, a 445-foot blast by Ken Griffey, Jr. Nearby, former Orioles slugger John “Boog” Powell rustles up pit beef and smoked-pork sandwiches at Boog’s BBQ, while Sawmill Slat Bat Factory (410-643-8357;www.sawmillslat.com) will have an engraved ash or maple bat waiting for you by game’s end. Once inside the park, follow the scent of Old Bay seasoning to Charm City Seafood, just behind home plate. Skip the peanuts and Cracker Jack and order a crab cake instead. On Tuesdays, Upper Reserve section seats are just $8, while kids 14 and under can run the bases after Sunday games. If the Birds aren’t in town, it’s still worth dropping by to tour the park.

  1. KID-POWERED MUSEUM

Downtime At Port Discovery, the Kid-PoweredMuseum (35 Market Place; 410-727-8120; www.portdiscovery.org; closed Mondays; admission $11, $8.50 for ages 2 to 12), in the city’s former fish market, it’s easy for children to while away several undemanding hours with little parental involvement needed. Highlights include a three-story urban treehouse with rope bridges where children can slide down chutes to their hearts’ content. Older children can decipher hieroglyphics and search for a lost pharaoh’s tomb in the Adventure Expedition. Toddlers and preschoolers have their own play areas.

WHERE TO EAT

Here is what www.concierge.com says about eating in Baltimore:

The best-known restaurants in Baltimore may be in Little Italy, but that neighborhood is only the starting point for exploring the city’s excellent ethnic and regional cooking. These days, the Baltimore dining scene is concentrated in Fells Point and adjacent Harbor East, where the emphasis is on Mediterranean cuisines, seafood (of course), and sinful Southern cooking. But nearly every self-respecting chef in Baltimore offers a special crab cake; the delicacy is even part of the ballpark-food lineup at Camden Yards. Much of the fun is in discovering fabulous food in unlikely locations, such as Gertrude’s Restaurant at the Baltimore Museum of Art or the city’s best crab cakes at a nondescript suburban intersection.

Ms. O’Keefe recommends the following:

You won’t lack dining options in and around the Inner Harbor, which teems with burger, pizza and seafood restaurants, as well as chains including the Hard Rock Cafe and ESPN Zone (with an entire floor of interactive sports games), housed in an old power plant. At Pier 5, next to the aquarium (but wonderfully far away, in spirit at least, from the buzzing harbor scene), McCormick & Schmick’s (410-234-1300; www.mccormickandschmicks.com) offers a great location on the water, outdoor seating and an extensive seafood menu that changes daily and features fresh fish including Cape May bluefish, and Idaho rainbow trout. Young ones get crayons and their own menu of fish and chips and burgers and fries served with a drink and ice cream.

There are several good crab houses throughout the city, but local people rave about Bo Brooks (steps from the Canton Waterfront landing on the water taxi route; 2701 Boston Street; 410-558-0202; www.bobrooks.com), where children can bang wooden mallets and no one will look twice (crabs priced by size and market price).

Little Italy offers several restaurants serving hearty pasta dishes family-style, but save room for dessert at Vaccaro’s Italian Pastry Shop (222 Albemarle Street; 410-685-4905). The menu features house specialties like chocolate-dipped cannolis ($4.95) and apple-strudel napoleons ($4.95).

www.concierge.com recommends the best ice cream parlor, and since we are coming to Baltimore with grandchildren, this is a must.  Pitango Gelato. 802 South Broadway
Baltimore , Maryland 21231 Tel: 410 702 5828  (http://pitangogelato.com/) Here is what they say:

There is gourmet ice cream, and then there is Noah Dan’s rich, organic gelato. Made on the premises of this stylish Fells Point storefront, the frozen treats reflect Dan’s obsession with quality ingredients. All milk, cream, and eggs are sourced from grass-fed cows and free-range chickens raised on a Mennonite organic dairy farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Organically grown cane sugar and fresh fruits kick up the sweetness. Esoteric flavors include rhubarb and minty-lime Mojito; classic tastes incorporate sinfully rich ingredients such as Papua New Guinea vanilla beans and Bronte pistachios, a rare variety grown on the slopes of Sicily’s Mt. Etna. There are a few stools inside the airy shop, but on a summer eve, grab a park bench out front and scoop away.

Open Mondays through Thursdays noon to 11 pm, Fridays 11 am to 1 am, Saturdays and Sundays 11 am to 11 pm.

Always end a trip with Grandma with sweetness and

Joy,

Mema

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