We wanted to go on a big babymoon, but with a twin pregnancy it's just really not recommended (can you imagine going into preterm labor on a cruise or caribbean island and losing the babies because you couldn't get appropriate care in time??? SOOOO NOT worth it!) and I was advised against flying and long car rides. So, we decided to do a quick family vacation for 4th of July weekend. I researched for a family-friendly destination within 5 hours of NYC, easily accessible via mass transport, and that we hadn't been to yet and landed on Baltimore. In case you're looking for somewhere to go, here's the quick and dirty on what we did and recommend - feel free to copy it play by play!
Accommodation: Baltimore Harbor Hotel
There are tons of great hotels to choose from. My requirements were being within walking distance of the Inner Harbor (basically tourist and activity central for Baltimore), having an outdoor pool (though it ended up being not warm enough for us to swim, boo!!), having breakfast included, and being under $200 per night. We went with Baltimore Harbor Hotel and couldn't have been happier. It was in a nice area, about a 10 minute walk to Inner Harbor, nicely managed and decorated, and the breakfast was pretty good - even had a make your own waffle station!
We don't have a car and by the time I got around to booking tickets, Amtrak was charging an arm and a leg. So, we did what anybody on a tight budget would do... booked the Chinatown bus!! There are a ton of companies to choose from and we ended up booking with GoToBus online. For 3 people roundtrip on the direct bus between NYC and Baltimore was all of $105. WOW!! It's certainly not luxurious, but it's pretty much the cheapest way between NYC and any nearby cities! We considered bringing a car seat but it turns out the bus didn't even have seat belts! Whoops!!
Once in Baltimore, we took a cab from the bus station to our hotel (and again back to the bus for the return trip). We just didn't feel like navigating the city bus with a stroller and luggage.
We were advised by an employee at Top of the World that there is a FREE bus in Baltimore. We never did end up using it, but it seems like an amazing service!! The Charm City Circular has several different routes to choose from and is completely free. Check it out if you'll be visiting Baltimore!
I'm not surprised this place is ranked one of the top 5 children's museums in the country... it is AMAZING!!! We went just after they opened on Sunday and it was completely empty (I imagine later in the day it might become somewhat of a zoo). We had to rush through it in an hour, and somehow managed to see everything (very quickly), but we easily could have spent an entire day there, I kid you not!
My personal favorite was the physical fitness room - they had a few of those dance machines and I had a little dance-off with my hubby (probably not something a 7 month preggo lady should be doing in flip flops no less, but it was so much fun and our toddler couldn't stop laughing at us). My son loved the jungle gym areas, the water play room, the Lego displays, heck, he even loved the tots room!! Seriously, it was painful having to rush him through (we had a bus back to NYC to catch), he could not have been more in love with that place!
I know, a science center doesn't exactly scream toddler friendly, but this one really is!! They start you off with hands-on activities and shows going on right in the lobby. We saw one where they were filling up balloons (with gasses other than air) and then blowing them up (see video below) - I don't know who was more excited by that, us or our kid!! They have a large hands-on dinosaur area, and the complete winner for our son was the Kids Room which was like a mini Children's Museum! From Legos to water play to a fun little "fishing" area, it was really cool. There's an IMAX as well but I don't know if I would recommend that for small children - we attempted to watch one about tornados but Kenzo lasted all of 10 minutes before we had to do the hustle of shame out of the theater.
I was on the fence about this one because it's very pricey ($39.95 for adults, children under 3 are free - phew!) and many people told us it's not worth it. But we went anyway because I love aquariums and I love air-conditioned activities in summer! We decided to risk the crowds and go on Friday night during their half-price hours. We purchased tickets online in advance and only had to wait in line about 10 minutes. And you know what? It wasn't terribly crowded and we LOVED it!!
The layout is very interesting - a series of escalators connecting each level which makes it architecturally quite intriguing. They have sharks, dolphin shows, jelly fish and other sea creatures to touch, you name it! We all had a great time and were able to see it all in the 2 hours we were there from 6-8pm (though, all the shows and feeding times are finished by then). You should know that they do not allow strollers - you can check yours for free and they'll keep it for you, and if you want they'll lend you one of those hiking backpack carriers, also for no charge!
Believe it or not, despite there being a location of this chain right here in NYC, we'd never been! I guess I thought it was just some cheesy tourist trap, but it definitely was not. It was jam packed with things from around the world - the gross, the amazing, and the truly unbelievable. There were lots of hands on exhibits and even a few interactive ones where you could play games or dance using cool projection technology (my son was especially into those and gave us a good show!). There were a few images and sounds that could be considered frightening for small children, mine wasn't bothered one bit, but keep that in mind before taking yours if they're very sensitive. It was stroller friendly (elevator and all).
Despite how much fun our toddler had there, I kinda wish we could have gone without him. There were so many things I wanted to read and learn more about, but he just didn't have the attention span and was always running off to the next thing. Maybe we'll get a babysitter one of these days and check out the location in NYC sans kiddos.
If you're a sucker for observation towers, don't miss this one. At only $6 per adult (3 and under free) it's definitely the cheapest I've seen, and on a clear day I'm told you can see 30 miles in each direction! Unfortunately the morning we went it was rainy, but we still got a decent view and it's a great place to start your Baltimore trip out so you can get a lay of the land so to speak. They also have some great knowledgeable guides walking around who can educate you about Baltimore's history. For example, did you know the Star Spangled Banner was written here at Fort McHenry during one of the battles in the War of 1812?? I sure didn't!
Located on the 27th floor, this observation deck is all indoors with and a vast wide open layout. It was empty when we went, probably thanks to the weather, and our toddler had a field day running too and fro.
That's all we had time for in our 2 days in Baltimore, but I highly recommend visiting each and every one of these! If time allows, some other ones that seem worth a venture include the B&O Railroad Museum, the Maryland Zoo, Historic Ships in Baltimore, the Jewish Museum of Maryland, and the Baltimore Museum of Art.
About Me ^_^
I'm a NYC metro area mom blogger living in NJ with my Japanese husband & our 3 kids (twins plus 1). This blog is chock full of product reviews, family travel guides, and giveaways galore! It's also home to Bay Ridge Families, and several guides focused on kid-friendly activities and guides to South Brooklyn, Hudson Valley, and New Jersey, as well as family-friendly destinations beyond the NYC area (check the menu bar!)