Maybe Florida isn’t in the cards this year. Maybe one of our winter break day trip ideas isn’t enough of a getaway. Maybe a 3-day mini-vacation is a better option. If so, consider Baltimore. It’s easy to get to and has something for everyone in your family, from preschool to high school. And you can enjoy it without breaking the bank.
Where to stay: The hotels near the Inner Harbor are lovely, but not in my budget. I usually stay at the Best Western Hotel & Conference Center that’s on I-95 just before the Inner Harbor exit. It’s not fancy, but it has an indoor pool, wireless Internet, a lovely buffet breakfast (with waffles!) and a complimentary shuttle that takes you to the eastern edge of the Harbor district. (You can also use your GPS to drive downtown via nearby O’Donnell Street.) The hotel’s Web site is showing rates of about $99 a night during winter break, and there’s a $10 discount for AAA members. If I’m taking the kids to DC, too, I stay at the Springhill Suites hotel near BWI airport, about halfway from both Baltimore and Washington. It also has an indoor pool and buffet breakfast, and break week rates start at $89 a night.
What to do: I’m not a sports fan, but I usually start our trips at Camden Yards because it’s also the site of Geppi’s Entertainment Museum. Founder Stephen Geppi is the president of Diamond Comics and a life-long collector of comic books and pop culture memorabilia. He’s arranged the museum to tell the history of America through these unusual items and it really works. Tickets are $7 to $10, but half price on Tuesdays, Thursdays and home game days. You can also start your own pop culture collection because Geppi sells things from his personal holdings through the museum’s gift store.
The National Aquarium is a must, as is the Port Discovery Children’s Museum for the under 10 set. Older kids will want to go to the Maryland Science Center, which is one of the best science museums in the country. If the weather is good and your child weighs at least 100 pounds, he or she can try riding one of the museum’s Segway scooters. General admission tickets are $11.95 to $14.95, but drop to $8 on Fridays after 5 p.m. My kids have also enjoyed the B&O Railroad Museum, Fort McHenry (easily reachable by water taxi) and the quirky American Visionary Art Museum.
But rather than get individual tickets, you might consider a Harbor Pass. It gets you into the Science Center, Aquarium, Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards, Top of the World Observation Level, and either the Visionary Art museum or Port Discovery. If you buy the pass at the Baltimore Visitors Center on the Inner Harbor, it costs $37.95 for kids and $56.85 for adults. But if you buy it at least 3 days in advance, the cost drops to $35.70 and $49.95. Details are here.
Where to eat: This is never a problem in Baltimore. We like Edo Sushi and Phillips Harborplace at the Inner Harbor. The best crab cakes are at Faidley’s in the Lexington Market a few blocks away. In Fell’s Point, which you drive through coming in from the Best Western, try the mussels at the inimitable Bertha’s.
Baltimore has an easy-to-use visitor’s site with deals, coupons and information on a lot of other things to see and do.