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Best places for family fun in Towson and Baltimore

tf-family-fun-250-squareHere’s a huge list of the best places to take the kids for family fun in the Baltimore and Towson area.

Looking for a place where you and your infant can meet other families? Does your 3-year-old have some energy to burn off? Need a venue for your 2nd grader’s birthday party? Want to get your teen off the screen?

Whatever the age of your offspring, this list has tons of options.

American Visionary Art Museum, Federal Hill/Inner Harbor
“From carved roots to embroidered rags, tattoos to toothpicks, the visionary transforms dreams, loss, hopes, and ideals into powerful works of art.”

B&O Railroad Museum, Baltimore 
“The B&O Railroad Museum brings alive the magic and adventure of railroading every day! This historic national landmark allows you to see, touch, hear and explore the most important railroad collection in America.”

Baltimore Museum of Art, near the Hopkins Homewood campus 
“Visit the BMA for exciting family programs throughout the year—hands-on art workshops, special gallery tours, and more! Admission and activities are free, so bring the whole family and stay for as long or as short a time as you like.”

Baltimore Museum of Industry, downtown Baltimore
“The Baltimore Museum of Industry collects, preserves, and interprets the industrial and technological heritage of the Baltimore region for the public by presenting educational programs and exhibitions that explore the stories of Maryland’s industries and the people who created and worked in them.”

Baltimore Streetcar Museum, Baltimore
BSM is one of the greatest secrets of Baltimore City: a small all-volunteer museum dedicated to the history of street railways and transit in Baltimore (with representative operating streetcars also from Philadelphia). Numerous vintage cars operate at BSM from early 20th Century wooden open and closed streetcars to more modern WWI era and post-WWII era PCC cars (and everything in between)! Come take a ride into history! Unlimited streetcar rides with paid admission! 

Beaver Dam Swimming Club, Cockeysville (SUMMER ONLY)
Kids can swim in a fresh-water quarry or get Tarzan-y by jumping into the water with the club’s famous rope swing. There’s also a regular pool. Pay by the day; no membership required.

Cascade Lake, Hampstead (SUMMER ONLY) 
“Cascade Lake is a spring fed lake with a gently sloping sandy bottom. It has a large roped-off are for swimming which includes various size waterslides and platforms. All of the swimming areas are guarded by certified lifeguards. Our ‘Spray ‘N’ Playground’ features great wet fun away from the lake. With no standing water, this area is perfect for non-swimmers. Geysers, bubblers, and water tunnels entertain the young and young at heart.”

Children of the World Co-op, Guilford/Charles Village
“Learning through play in our mixed-age-program, gently structured for children 9 months to 4 years with their parents or caregivers.” We met lots of great families here when my son was little.

Cromwell Valley Park, Parkville
“The 426-acre park is a stream valley park comprised of pasture, cultivated gardens, open fields, woods, hedgerows, orchards and wooded piedmont hills.”

Earth Treks climbing center, Timonium
“With towering lead walls and ample moderate climbing, Earth Treks has climbing for all ages and abilities.”

Fire Museum of Maryland, Lutherville
“The Museum, which was founded in 1971, houses a world-class collection, comprising more than 40 pieces of fire fighting apparatus, dating from 1806 to 1957. The collection also includes over 1,700 smaller 3-dimensional objects, an extensive working telegraph system,  and a large archive and library with over 13,000 documents, catalogues, photographs, negatives and books.”

Fort McHenry, Baltimore 
A great place for kids to explore our country’s history (this is where Francis Scott Key was inspired to write the Star Spangled Banner) and to just run around. Take a Water Taxi there for extra fun.

Gunpowder Falls State Park, Middle River
Established in 1959 to protect the Gunpowder River and the Big and Little Gunpowder Falls, Gunpowder Falls State Park is now one of Maryland’s largest state parks. Comprised of over 18,000 acres in Harford and Baltimore Counties, Gunpowder’s narrow corridors host a varied topography ranging from tidal wetlands to steep and rugged slopes. Gunpowder features more than 120 miles of multi-use trails, protected state Wildlands, historic sites, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, a swimming beach and a marina. You can rent kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and more on site from Ultimate Watersports.

Hampton National Historic Site, Towson
We offer guided mansion tours, lower house tours, and grounds tours. We
 do suggest that you call ahead to confirm tour times and park hours of operation
 before you plan your visit. Seasonally we offer special programs and tours. Even a short visit can be a memorable one! Visitors are free to explore the
 63-acre park that is home to several state champion trees, a falling garden, 
dozens of historic structures, and various birds and other wildlife. We recommend that you plan to spend at least 2 hours on site, but you are
 more than welcome to stay longer!

Historic Ships, Inner Harbor
“Historic Ships in Baltimore represent one of the most impressive collections of military vessels in the world.  Located within easy walking distance of each other, the US Sloop-of-War Constellation, the US Submarine Torsk, the US Coast Guard Cutter Taney, and the Lightship Chesapeake exhibit life at sea from the mid-19th century to the mid-1980s.”

Hybridoma Organic Fruit Farm, Baldwin 
A pick-your-own farm about 25 minutes north of Towson.

Irvine Nature Center, Owings Mills
“Our state-of-the-art, green building and 116 acres of forests, wetlands and meadows are perfect for students, families and nature-lovers.”

Kiddie Crusoe, Timonium
“Come explore, learn, and discover our indoor playground of active and imaginative attractions, including a kid-sized town outfitted with themed toys and dress-up costumes, ride-ons, moon bounce inflatables, exciting slides, zip line and more.”

Ladew Topiary Gardens, Monkton
You need only meander through the 22 acres of Gardens, tour the historic Manor House, 

visit the seasonal Butterfly House, or hike along the Nature Walk to appreciate the unique beauty 
and charm of internationally renowned Ladew Gardens. Come visit and discover why Architectural Digest named Ladew Gardens one of the “10 incredible topiary gardens around the world.”

Lake Roland, North Baltimore 
Centered on Lake Roland in the Jones Falls valley, Lake Roland Park has over 500 acres of exceptionally diverse ecosystems including wetlands, meadows, and mature hardwood forests. Most significant is the environmentally sensitive serpentine barrens in the Bare Hills area, home to many rare and endangered species of flora and fauna. The park is historically significant, with not one, but two National Register Historic Districts. Walking trails, playground, nature center and a members-only dog park. 

Loch Raven Reservoir, Glen Arm
On weekends, car traffic is closed on Loch Raven Drive between Providence Road and Morgan Mill Road. (We generally take Dulaney Valley Road up then park on Morgan Mill.) The paved road is great for running, walking, roller blading, pushing a stroller and biking. There are also hiking trails and mountain-biking trails.

Marshy Point, Middle River
Situated on the Upper Chesapeake Bay along Dundee and Saltpeter Creeks, Marshy Point offers stands of old and young forest, open meadows, freshwater wetlands, and a web of tidal creeks and marshes for visitors to enjoy and explore. In combination with adjacent state and federal land, Marshy Point is part of a natural preserve encompassing more than 3,000 acres. Marshy Point Park features more than eight miles of hiking trails, two self-guided nature trails, a canoe launch and pier, a wildlife observation platform, and a butterfly garden.

Maryland Science Center, Inner Harbor 
Lots of fun stuff for babies through older kids.

Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, Druid Hill
“The Zoo’s animal collection encompasses birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles, representing nearly 200 species. Animals are displayed in natural settings replicating their native habitats.”

Meadowood Regional Park, Lutherville
This park has a large playground with an area designed especially for the younger set. There’s a paved trail (0.8 miles) around the entire park that’s nice for walking, biking, etc. Its crowning glory might be that it has decent bathrooms.

Monster Mini Golf, Parkville 
Glow-in-the-dark mini golf and laser tag. The monster figures move around and make noises, which some kids love but it can be scary for the younger ones.

National Aquarium in Baltimore, Inner Harbor 
Fun for all ages. Go at off-peak hours if you don’t like crowds.

Oregon Ridge Nature Center, Cockeysville/Hunt Valley
Lots of fun walking trails (some easy, some harder), a nature center, and a huge playground nearby.

Orokawa Family Center, Towson
More commonly known as “The Towson Y,” it has — along with traditional gym equipment — a rock wall, pools, basketball court, game room and smoothie bar.

Paddleboating at the Inner Harbor, downtown
You and the kids (ages 2 and up) will have a blast paddleboating around the harbor. Scotland may have it’s Nessie, but only at the Inner Harbor will you spot a Chesapeake Bay Chessie Monster paddleboat.

The Painting Workshop, Mount Washington
“Young or old, the art of creating is a joyous, exciting process, and we try to provide the room, space, and materials for that to happen. We encourage students to try new things, to be inspired by other artists, to find their voice.” Kids can take classes here, and they often offer school’s out day programs (for when it drizzles and BCPS shuts down).

Port Discovery Children’s Museum, Downtown Baltimore
“Port Discovery offers three floors of interactive, educational exhibits and ever-changing programs for children ages birth through 10.”

Rawlings Conservatory, Baltimore
Opened in 1888, the historical Rawlings Conservatory is one of Baltimore’s most beautiful structures. It features five distinct greenhouse rooms, one 1/2-acre garden with many flower beds and a kaleidoscope of colors all year round. 

Red Zone Adventures, Timonium
“Experience the excitement of our state-of-the-art laser tag system in a 6,000 square-foot multi-level futuristic haze-filled industrial cityscape.”

Reginald F. Lewis Museum, Baltimore 
“To share globally, and with integrity, the human drama of Maryland’s African American experience.”

Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Inner Harbor
“The only place in Baltimore where you’ll find shrunken heads, a 12-foot-tall Transformer sculpture made of scrap car parts, the fiji island mermaid, one-of-a-kind artwork, tons of hands-on interactives, and sculptures made out of matchsticks!”

Rockin’ Jump, Towson
“We decided to create a place where you can soar in open jump arenas, dive into pools of soft foam cubes, play trampoline dodgeball, do flips and somersaults. We also wanted a new alternative for birthday parties and family gatherings, where quality food and private party rooms were guaranteed, and our kids could safely play while we socialized with other parents.”

Sky Zone Trampoline Park, Timonium 
“We are dedicated to providing you with the pure joy that comes with flying. We are sky lovers, thrill seekers and people who believe that jumping is freedom.”

The Star Spangled Banner Flag House, near Little Italy
“Here, you’ll meet Mary Pickersgill, the spirited woman who made the flag. You’ll learn what life was like in the 19th century and your kids can take part in activities that let them experience it for themselves.”

Stoneleigh Lanes, Stoneleigh 
This duck pin bowling spot is popular for birthday parties or just an afternoon of fun. They seem to have Groupons quite a bit, so it’s worth a look there before you go.

Storyville, Rosedale or Woodlawn
An interactive early literacy and learning center for children ages birth to five and their caregivers. A child-sized village that includes developmentally appropriate books and activities. Specifically designed for parents and caregivers to help their young children enter Kindergarten ready to succeed. Caregivers and their young children can play interactively in the Baby Garden, Toddler Woods, Grocery Store and Mailroom, Puppet Stage & Theatre and more! 

Towson Library, Towson 
The library in downtown Towson has a great kids’ area with assorted toys, games, etc. There’s a special gated area for babies and their caregivers. The spiral walkway is a favorite place to run amongst the toddler set. If you park in the garage, be sure to get your ticket validated for lower rates. (The Cockeysville library also has a nice kids’ room.)

Towson Town Center play area, Towson
The “Tiny Town” play area, on the lower level, lets kids work off some energy when a trip to the mall can’t be avoided.

Ultimate Play Zone, Cockeysville
“It‘s a unique play experience with 6 top-of-the-line inflatable play stations and 2 wonder centers including a magical castle and life-like pirate ship. Your kids will literally bounce, pretend and climb away excess energy in a healthy safe and supervised setting.”

The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore 
“Spark your imagination with free art activities, exciting festivals and fun for all ages. The Walters offers a variety of extraordinary programs where you can make innovative art, enjoy live performances, play dress up or tour the museum with a kid-friendly Family Guide designed to foster discovery.”

Weber’s Cider Mill Farm, Parkville 
This is a must-go-to place for many families in the fall, when the farm has hay rides, a hay maze, barnyard animals to see up close, a giant slide and more — including pumpkins for carving.

Know of a place that you think should be added to the list? Contact me

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