Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- Baltimore's Charm
- 12. Free Fall Baltimore
- 13. Free Movies Federal Hill, Fells Point, Charles Village and Little Italy
- 14. Take in an Outdoor Performance at the Harborplace Amphitheater
- 15. Burn Off Lunch Exploring the Heritage Walk
- 16. Spend the Weekend at the Baltimore Book Festival
- 17. Play Volleyball at Rash Field
- 18. Museum and a Movie at the American Visionary Art Museum
- 19. Artscape
- 20. See a concert at the National Harbor
Baltimore often plays second fiddle to Washington, DC, just 45 minutes to the south. But Baltimore, aka Charm City, has tons of historical, educational and fun things to do, many of them free. If you’re taking a road trip to DC, or just looking for family friendly free things to do, check out Baltimore.
Maryland’s largest city, Baltimore has played an important historical role. Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner here, and Babe Ruth was actually signed by the Baltimore Orioles (but then sold to the Boston Red Sox).
The Inner Harbor seaport, with the National Aquarium and Port Discovery Children’s Museum, attracts lots of visitors, who frequent the abundant seafood restaurants nearby.
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Baltimore also has more public monuments per capita than any other city in the United States, which led President John Quincy Adams to nickname it “Monument City.” But whatever you call it, you will find lots of free things to do in Baltimore.
And if you are pressed for time, the city also makes a nice day trip from Washington, DC (by train or car) or one of the nearby East Coast beaches. Extend your trip with a farm stay on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
TravelingMom Tip: During the current Covid-19 crisis, some of these attractions are closed, though you can walk around the harbor and see the historic ships. And if, like me, you have always been worried about medical crises on vacation, Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins is one of the top hospitals in the United States.
Free Things to Do in Baltimore Year Round
1. Charm City Circulator
This free bus can take you to attractions like the Maryland Science Center and Baltimore Museum of Industry. The bus has routes from the Inner Harbor to Fort McHenry National Monument, Federal Hill and Fell’s Point. There is even a Harbor Connector, a free ferry to waterfront parks and historic ships. For transit obsessed children, this is heaven. (There also are water taxis, but you have to pay for those.)
2. Picnic in Federal Hill Park
A well-known lookout during the Civil War and the War of 1812, Federal Hill lies on the south side of the Inner Harbor. Now a historic park, it features fantastic views of the entire Baltimore Inner Harbor area. Get here for free on the Charm City Circulator. Plus, there is a playground for children. All ages.
3. Climb the Washington Monument in Baltimore
Climbing the 228 steps to the top of the first monument to George Washington provides an excellent view of the city from historic Mount Vernon where it is located. The Washington Monument in Washington, DC, may be taller, but you have to use the elevator to get to the top. Best for ages 7 and up, and a good way to tire out kids.
TravelingMom Tip: $1 donation is suggested, but not mandatory.
4. Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, aka the Baltimore Basilica, was America’s First Cathedral. Built from 1806-1821, the Basilica is still a working church.
There are guided tours Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday – Sunday, with a requested donation of $5 per person. During Covid you have to reserve 2 weeks in advance. You can also explore the cathedral on your own, except during Mass.
5. Enoch Pratt Free Library
The main branch of the Baltimore library system has frequent story times, readings and other free events (except during Covid-19). The grand 1930s building has a rare street-level entrance, instead of the more typical stately staircase, offering access to all well before the days of accessibility requirements.
6. Edgar Allan Poe’s Grave at Westminster Hall & Burying Ground
The cemetery is open daily, during daylight hours. There is a paid guided tour, but you can go through the burying ground on your own. Be sure to see the stained glass in the 1852 church, which is on the National Register of Historic Sites.
TravelingMom Tip: Get into the Reginald F. Lewis Museum free on first full weekend of every month. With a Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit or debit card, you can tour this Maryland African American History & Culture museum.
Free Art in Baltimore
7. The Walters Art Museum
This major art museum offers free general admission except for special exhibits. Exhibits aimed at kids include the displays of knights’ armor, the statues, the colorful paintings, the furniture and the many small and lovely trinkets, including Faberge eggs. The museum owns more than 25,000 pieces of art. Best for ages 7 and up.
8. Visit the Baltimore Museum of Art
As a major cultural destination for the greater Baltimore region, The Baltimore Museum of Art presents a variety of exhibitions and innovative programs throughout the year. The BMA does charge for some special exhibits, so stick to the comprehensive permanent collection. The museum boasts more than 1,000 works by Henri Matisse, as well as large collections of African art, ancient mosaics and European and American paintings. Don’t miss BMA’s Sculpture Gardens. Best for ages 7 and up.
9. Maryland Institute College of Art
The art school has galleries around campus showcasing local, national and international artists.. The main building is on on the National Register of Historic Places. Look for Greek and Roman statues, the large marble staircase and stained-glass skylight.
10. Free Fridays at Fell’s Point
Before Covid-19, on the first Friday of each month, the Fell’s Point Art Loop had an art crawl. This is on pause now, but when it resumes, you can visit galleries, meet artists and enjoy free wine and cheese.
11. School 33 Art Center
This contemporary art center specializes in visual arts. Housed in a former elementary school, School 33 Art Center appeals to young kids through teens.
Seasonal Free Things to Do in Baltimore
12. Free Fall Baltimore
Every October, Baltimore has more than 300 free things to do, including music, dance, film, tours and theater. Some events require reservations, but everything is completely free. The 2021 version will be a hybrid of virtual and small in-person events.
There are rare free admission days at The Maryland Zoo and the National Aquarium, along with many other family-friendly venues. All ages.
13. Free Movies Federal Hill, Fells Point, Charles Village and Little Italy
See free movies all over Baltimore every summer. Bring a blanket or a folding chair and catch a free film after dusk. Best for ages 6 and up.
14. Take in an Outdoor Performance at the Harborplace Amphitheater
The Amphitheater, located between the Harborplace Pavilions, hosts free performances spring and summer. See singers, dancers, magicians and more. Best for ages 5 and up.
15. Burn Off Lunch Exploring the Heritage Walk
Beginning in the Inner Harbor, this free, guided walking tour takes visitors off the beaten path and deep into Baltimore’s history. Walkers visit little known but fascinating sites in the nearby neighborhoods of Little Italy, Jonestown and downtown. It is like an open air history museum. The tour begins at the Visitor Center in the Inner Harbor. Tours are paused during Covid-19. Best for ages 10 and up.
16. Spend the Weekend at the Baltimore Book Festival
The mid-Atlantic’s premier celebration of the literary arts, held in September, offers well-known authors, local bookstores, publishers, children’s writers, storytellers, author signings, crafts, refreshments and entertainment. Best for ages 5 and up.
17. Play Volleyball at Rash Field
Check out “Baltimore Beach” and its seven volleyball courts made up of 1,000 tons of sand located at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Local and visitor, beginner to expert, meet and play organized games. The beach is open spring and summer. Best for ages 8 and up.
18. Museum and a Movie at the American Visionary Art Museum
Every Thursday, July through August, enjoy free AVAM museum admission from 5 p.m.-9 p.m. Then stay for a free outdoor film screening, “Flicks from the Hill” at 9 p.m. All ages.
This annual free festival in July is the largest free outdoor arts festival in the United States. The three-day Artscape festival includes visual and performing arts, from decorative arts to concerts, dance, opera and theater. All ages.
20. See a concert at the National Harbor
Live music Friday nights at the National Harbor Marina from May through September. All ages.
TravelingMom Tip: Although many attractions will reopen soon, some will not run due to COVID-19. Check Visit Baltimore for the latest updates.