Choosing the right destination for our family trip is a thoughtful process, driven by practical considerations. This year, with a toddler and an infant in our midst, we opted for an experience-rich journey to Baltimore. Here's how we made our decision:
Climate Considerations - Given the ages of our children, we aimed to avoid extreme temperatures. Baltimore fit the bill with its milder climate, making it a more comfortable option compared to the scorching August heat in other places.
Travel Efficiency - Having a toddler and an infant requires streamlined travel plans. The availability of direct flights to Baltimore through Southwest Airlines simplified our journey and reduced potential travel-related stress.
Proximity to Water - In light of the heatwave, a location near water offered respite. Baltimore's waterfront setting met this criterion, providing the opportunity for a cooler escape and enjoyable experiences for the family.
Family-Centric Activities - With our little ones in mind, we considered attractions that would engage both a toddler and an infant. Baltimore's offerings, such as the National Aquarium and Fort McHenry for the history nerd in me, fit the bill, making it an appealing destination for our family.
Ultimately, Baltimore's combination of practicality and family-friendly amenities won us over. Its climate, accessibility, and suitability for young children made it an excellent choice. From leisurely walks by the Inner Harbor to relishing seafood specialties, our family experienced both relaxation and adventure. Looking back, our decision to explore Baltimore was grounded in the logistics, proving to be a rewarding getaway for all of us.
Here are the details of our long weekend in Baltimore.
And incase you want to skip ahead to other sections:
When traveling with a baby, we've discovered that "suite style" hotels offer many of the amenities one would appreciate in a vacation rental, but within a hotel's convenience. The Staybridge Suites Inner Harbor perfectly fulfilled our criteria with its spacious rooms, distinct sleeping areas for parents and kids, full kitchen or kitchenette choices for handling baby essentials and toddler mealtimes, continental breakfast offerings, and a captivating historic building ambiance.
Situated in the heart of downtown, the location was ideal for our family's aspirations of a car-free weekend (a goal we successfully achieved). Within a mere 5-minute stroll, we could access the harbor's water taxi service, enabling us to explore various Baltimore neighborhoods around the harbor or visit family-oriented attractions such as the National Aquarium.
Regrettably, the central downtown position also exposed us to the drawback of amplified street noise around the hotel. Despite using sound machines, we encountered sporadic disturbances, including instances of raucous car engines zooming down the streets at 2 or 3 am. Nonetheless, for us and many others, this is occasionally the trade-off one makes to relish a central location's advantages.
As mentioned above, our goal was to not need a car for this weekend. Whether that meant relying on taxis, walking a bit further, or other methods, I am happy to say we were more than successful!
Whenever we are not renting a car, I typically like to book a car in advance to pick us up from the airport. I want to make sure that we have reliable transportation with the two babies because oftentimes Uber XL likes to show up with the captains chairs instead of the bench and a nonexistent 3rd row especially when it comes to all of our bags. So this was no different but things didn’t quite go to plan…
The Good: We ended up taking a cab from the airport without any issue. If traveling internationally this can be a bit more dicey due to language barriers but since we were in the US, we didn’t have any trouble. We paid $38 for the ride before tip for about a 30 minute ride and all was fine for baggage and babies.
The Great: Additionally we used Baltimore Water Taxi and LOVED it.
We had direct access to the sites around Baltimore’s inner harbor including the Downtown Port which was a 5 minute walk from our hotel, Federal Hill, Fell’s Point, and even Fort McHenry. Considering each of these were our top to do’s for the weekend, it was the perfect way to get around town without the need of a car or our car seats.
Children 2 and under are free so we paid for 2 All Day tickets ($40 total) which gave us unlimited rides for our entire family throughout the day. You can purchase tickets in advance or once you get on board. They run Thursday - Sunday from 11 am to either 6 or 8 pm depending on the day. You can visit their website here for more details.
If you are visiting Baltimore during the week, have a look at the Harbor Connector for similar routes.
As mentioned before, I like to have things booked in advance for an airport pickup.
After contacting some private transfer companies asking $200 or $250 for pickup and drop off, I found the Independent Taxi Association on Facebook and they seemed fine. Some not great reviews but also a lot of good ones so I figured we would just go for it. One way fare was only $35, just a bit less than an uber so it seemed fair.
Unfortunately things went wrong right from the start with this company My family and I booked two rides in advance to our weekend stay in Baltimore both upon arrival from the airport to our hotel and again to take us back. I created an account on their website and filled out all of the information needed for a minivan pick up for 4 people, including two children with car seats and several bags.
When we arrived in Baltimore I called the company only to be told they had no taxis in the area and it didn't matter that I had made a reservation in advance. It would be an hour before a van could get to the airport to pick us up. We had two children aged 2 and under... so that wasn't happening. I canceled the ride.
A few hours before our pickup to take us back to the airport at the end of our stay I received a call to confirm our reservation. I had debated canceling it all together based on the first experience but figured if they were calling to confirm things would go better. All of the information was confirmed including pickup and drop off times, locations, and passengers so I stuck with it. And they showed up.... But with a minivan that only had one bench seat (3 spots) and quite literally no room for our bags. Which meant we had to frantically call an uber and hope they could get to us quick enough to make our flight.
0/10 do not recommend.
What We Did
Inner Harbor: Although we typically started our days at the Inner Harbor, we found that its charm was more of a launching point than a destination. The dining scene leaned towards touristy, and aside from the immediate area around the National Aquarium, we discovered a lack of diverse activities to enhance our stay.
Our hotel's central location in the Inner Harbor was indeed convenient for reaching other parts of the city, yet the harbor area itself lacked the depth we were hoping for. While it retains historical significance as a bustling port, the surrounding attractions failed to match its maritime character. As a result, we directed our exploration towards areas of Baltimore that offered a more distinct and fulfilling experience.
Fell’s Point: Our genuine admiration for this lively and beautiful neighborhood was truly well-founded. While leisurely strolling through Fell's Point with our little ones, we found ourselves enveloped in the captivating tales of its past. This area, dating back to the 18th century, stands as a living testament to Baltimore's maritime history.
Once a thriving shipbuilding and trading hub, Fell's Point has gracefully preserved its historical essence through its cobblestone streets, rowhouses, and maritime architecture. As a history nerd I really enjoyed the idea of walking the same paths that sailors, merchants, and craftsmen did centuries ago. This historical richness is seamlessly interwoven with the vibrant energy of today's Fell's Point, creating a unique atmosphere that appeals to all.
Beyond its historical allure, Fell's Point caters to various appetites, offering a plethora of dining options and watering holes. The waterfront, where ships once set sail on transatlantic voyages, now provides a tranquil backdrop, ideal for families seeking a moment of respite amidst the historical charm.
The National Aquarium: Our young adventurers were entranced by the marvels of the deep at the National Aquarium. This aquarium undoubtedly ranks among the most impressive I've visited. The intricate maze of pathways and multiple levels within the building ensured that we kept moving, each new exhibit unveiling fresh wonders before our eyes. A key tip for families is to aim for an early start. By being there right at opening, we managed to beat the crowds and relish the exhibits without the rush.
However, as the clock ticked towards 10:30, the place became notably busier, slightly hindering the opportunity to get up close and personal with the captivating displays. One essential aspect to consider is that strollers aren't allowed through the aquarium's corridors – and the facility is expansive. Thankfully, free stroller parking is available at the entrance, but it's advisable to carry a baby carrier and a well-stocked backpack with essentials like snacks and changing supplies. This strategic approach ensures a smooth and immersive experience, allowing you and your little ones to dive into the aquatic wonders without any hitches.
Camden Yards: While we didn’t get to see the energy of the area on game day, it was still cool to explore the outside of the ballpark and surrounding area. It certainly allowed us to catch a glimpse of Baltimore's sports culture.
Federal Hill Park & Playground: Beyond its stunning views, Federal Hill Park holds a piece of history as a lookout point during the Civil War. Today, it's a haven for families seeking relaxation and a playground for toddlers. This unique blend of history and family-friendly amenities makes it an enriching destination for both adults and kids.
Adventure Play and Nature Play Playground: The Adventure Play and Nature Play Playground was such a cool playground and captivated our little ones with its imaginative setup. It's a haven for toddlers exploring the world around them and a perfect location right at the end of the harbor!
Baltimore Water Taxi: Just as we shared earlier, our experience with the Baltimore Water Taxi was an absolute delight. This mode of transportation offered us a fresh and distinctive view of the city, all while keeping the convenience factor high for our little ones. The allure of boat rides isn't lost on young minds, and our toddler was certainly captivated. An added bonus was the informative audio guide, providing us with insights about the notable sites we encountered during our rides. This simple yet immersive feature enriched our exploration and made the experience all the more worthwhile.
Fort McHenry: While we understood that our little ones might not fully grasp its historical significance, we found that Fort McHenry offered more than just educational value. The open spaces and historical ambience created a welcoming environment for a family outing. The fort's expansive grounds allowed our toddler to move around freely, while the sense of history added an extra layer of interest for us adults. It's a testament to Fort McHenry's versatile appeal that makes it an enjoyable stop even for families with young children.
A Luxurious Pool Day at Sagamore Pendry Baltimore: We were generously hosted by the Sagamore Pendry Baltimore for a pool outing and it was nothing short of spectacular, graced by breathtaking views. For those looking to indulge a bit more (or maybe even a lot more), the option of reserving a cabana elevated our experience, providing a haven of comfort while we attended to our little ones amidst an aura of opulence. Upon arrival, we were greeted by a magnum of Moet & Chandon Ice Imperial and along with a seasonal selection of sliced fruit and berries, adding an exquisite touch to our already sumptuous day. However even without the cabana, you are sure to have a wonderful and comfortable experience.
Where We Dined
Mason’s Lobster: This was our first stop while we were killing time, waiting to check in to our hotel. They had a central location and a decent lobster roll. Nothing special but it was a fine place to get out of the heat.
Koopers Tavern: A comfortable setting for families to indulge in hearty meals on the main road in Fell’s Point, making it suitable for parents with young children. The inside is a bit small though so you may have trouble finding seating depending on the time of year and weather.
Pickles Pub: Right next to the ballpark, Pickles is a sports-centric atmosphere and was surprisingly welcoming for families. The lively vibe might engage toddlers who enjoy people-watching. Game days (especially at home) can get very crowded so keep that in mind.
Kiku Sushi in Federal Hill: Kiku Sushi provided a change of palate and some of the most authentic japanese food we have had while living in the US. Additionally the variety on the menu allowed us to cater to our toddlers' preferences too.
Bertha's Mussels: Tucked in the heart of Fell's Point, Bertha's Mussels is a seafood haven worth exploring. With a variety of delectable mussel preparations and a range of seafood and non-seafood options, the menu caters to just about everyone. Our kids loved their grilled cheese and we absolutely devoured the mussels (obviously). And special shout out to that fried oyster po boy. I think about you often.
Pool Bar & Grill at Sagamore Pendry: This place had it all. A comfy place to relax poolside, great service, a fully stocked bar menu and some incredible food. If you like spicy then I highly suggest the Soft Shell Crab Sandwich.
I always like to include a list of things that were on our list but we weren’t able to get to. Sometimes it is due to schedule, location or other factors but all worth mentioning in case you get the chance to add it into your own itinerary!
Ravens or Orioles Game
Nicks Fish House: This particular establishment came highly recommended by MANY people. Unfortunately we just never got the chance to make it there.
While our checklist wasn't entirely ticked, these options offer varied experiences that could cater to parents with infants and toddlers, allowing them to explore Baltimore while considering their little ones' needs.
Departure: A Chaotic Yet Memorable Farewell to Baltimore
Our departure day was a mixture of excitement and organized chaos. My preference for early exits usually stems from not wanting to spend hours idling around before a flight. The thought of finding a temporary storage solution for luggage and maintaining a balance between doing something productive yet not overly engrossing to avoid missing the flight is typically my challenge.
However, Baltimore had cast a spell on us with its attractions, making it a departure full of dilemmas. The allure of exploration was so strong that we even slotted our pool day at Sagamore Pendry for the morning of our departure.
That might have gone as planned if it weren't for the cabana reservation that included a generous champagne bottle. Given my reduced alcohol intake, I was feeling the effects more than usual. And when the time to leave arrived, we found ourselves grappling with the same Independent Taxi Association that I mentioned in the Transportation section – not the smoothest exit scenario. To make matters more amusing, I hadn't even had time to change out of my swimsuit before rushing to the airport. Thankfully I chose a dress coverup that made me semi respectable in public. Needless to say, combining that level of stress with my mildly tipsy state wasn't exactly the perfect send-off.
Fortunately, we managed to reach the airport in good time. Miraculously, despite our haphazard packing and liquids seemingly taking over our bags, security turned out to be a breeze. The jumbled aftermath of reorganizing our things at the pool was evident, but it didn't cause significant issues.
And for those who may have spotted me at BWI in an oversized T-shirt and no bra once I was able to get changed – no you didn't 😆