Baltimore's Inner Harbor What do shrunken heads, sharks, and nanotechnology have in common?  You can find them all within walking distance of each other in downtown Baltimore, Maryland.

Downtown Charm City is packed with a plethora of family fun at any age. There are even some great things for that oft dreamed of, if all too elusive “grownup getaway”, which is one of the reasons I love living just a short drive away from Baltimore.

Toddlers to tweens will have a blast with the hands-on learning experience at Port Discovery Children’s Museum. KidWorks, a three story urban tree house and Nano, an interactive nano-scale science experience, are among the museum’s most popular permanent exhibits. Port Discovery also hosts wonderful visiting exhibits, craft sessions, storytelling and more. Best of all, everything offered here is included with the price of admission.

A short stroll down Market Street brings you to the jewel of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the National Aquarium, home to the all-new Black Tip Reef. Have a close encounter with jellyfish of all sorts, even the sort that glow, or make friends with Calypso a 518 pound Green Sea Turtle rescued off the coast of Long Island, New York.

Get up close and personal with sea creatures of a different sort at the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium. Here you’ll find wonders to amuse and amaze, from relics to rarities this collection boasts some creepy, amazing, and astounding art and artifacts from around the globe and provide2013-10-03 18.28.59s endless entertainment for the whole family.

Looking for a little retail therapy? Harbor Place has dozens of shops offering everything from the works of local artisans to kitschy souvenirs and mainstream retail stores like H&M. Be sure to stop by the McCormick Spice Store for some local flavor. Maryland’s signature spice, Old Bay, is produced right here in Baltimore making it a short trip to the tables at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company’s Harbor Place location. Though not quite the authentic Maryland seafood experience, this is still a family friendly spot with lots of charm, good service and plenty of Forrest Gump nostalgia.

2013-10-03 19.02.37Some of my family’s personal favorites include:

  • Best of Lucky Candy Shop, an independent sweets boutique
  • Barnes & Noble bookstore at Power Plant Live, it’s three stories of bookworm bliss
  • “Chessie” the sea monster themed paddle boats
  • The Mirror Maze at Ripley’s Believe It or Not
  • Cannon firing from the USS Constellation

Tip: Notice some friendly folks sporting bright yellow shirts that look a bit like crossing guards? These are Downtown Baltimore Hospitality guides — go say “Hello” to them. They’ll help you find your way, give you a hand and a history lesson. 2013-10-05 20.32.29

Heading to Charm City without the kids? The Harbor East area plays host to some great grownup activities. Make a reservation at Wit and Wisdom Tavern at the Four Seasons Baltimore. Arrive early and cozy up in one of their over-stuffed sofas for appetizers, like their famed lobster corn dogs. Ask to be seated near the kitchen and you’ll be treated the ultimate sensory experience as flames dance from within the wood fired ovens filling the space with the heady aroma of seared meats, seafood and farm-to-table delights.

Take a short stroll around the corner to Landmark Theater where you can catch the latest Hollywood offering and also enjoy a top-shelf bar and gourmet concessions. note: children under 6 are not admitted after 6pm. Round out your evening with a walk along the water, alight with sparking ship masts, and neon signs reflecting in the waves. It won’t take long to figure out why Baltimore has been deemed “Charm City.”