Kids And Zoos
Adventure Park USA, 11113 W. Baldwin Road, New Market, (301) 865-6800, adventureparkusa.com. Perhaps your kids have already noticed the rollercoaster jutting up beside I-70, hmmm? If you finally listen to them and turn around, you'll find an indoor/outdoor fun-park with rides, arcade games, laser tag, the whole nine. Everything costs, but can you put a price on a great time?
Clark's Elioak Farm, 10500 Clarksville Pike, Ellicott City, (410) 730-4049, clarklandfarm.com. This outsized petting zoo is also home to the fairytale papier-mache figures that once populated the late 40 East roadside attraction Enchanted Forest. Plenty of gamboling fun, but not much shade for hot days.
Druid Hill Park, druidhillpark.org. Don't skip the rolling grassy hills and playground equipment of the city's green heart. Climbing all over the William Wallace statue by the reservoir is a half-hour of fun by itself.
Hershey Park, 100 W. Hersheypark Drive, Hershey, Pa., (717) 534-3900, hersheypark.com. Serious rides and games and fried food and serious chocolate. What's not to love?
Irvine Nature Center, 11201 Garrison Forest Road, Owings Mills, (443) 738-9200, explorenature.org. This patch of suburban wildness features a super-cool nature center, fun activities, and acres of trails and fields to explore.
Knoebels Amusement Park, Route 487 between Elysburg and Catawissa, Pa. (800) 487-4386, knoebels.com. Where old amusement park rides go to live again. Your kids won't know or care how throwback it is. There's no admission charge; you pay by the ride, and everything is cheap. Well worth the drive.
Maryland Science Center, 601 Light St., (410) 685-2370, mdsci.org. Pound for pound perhaps the most engaging kid activity in Baltimore City, with cool hands-on experimentation at every turn plus IMAX movies and traveling exhibits (this summer it's Wonder Warehouse, which opens May 22).
Meadowood Regional Park, 10650 Falls Road, Lutherville, (410) 887-3678, baltimorecountymd.gov/Agencies/recreation/programdivision/northwestarea/meadowoodrlgpark.html. Just outside the beltway lie playing fields, playgrounds, and a jogging loop, plus a hard-to-resist creek right next to the parking lot.
Oregon Ridge Park, 13555 Beaver Dam Road, Cockeysville, (410) 887-1818, baltimorecountymd.gov/go/oregonridgelodge. Take one fork and you find yourself prepped to enjoy a swimming beach, a nature center, and miles of trails. Take the other and you hit a ginormous playground and acres of wide-open fields to run in. Win-win.
Patterson Park, pattersonpark.com. The city's other, less-isolated major green space, with all the sports facilities and playgrounds you can handle.
Please Touch Museum, Memorial Hall, Fairmount Park, 4231 Avenue of the Republic, Philadelphia, Pa., (215) 581-3181, pleasetouchmuseum.org. Located in a soaring old pile of a building, repurposed for the kids, this glorified indoor playground provides ample space and opportunity for running around and imaginative play.
Port Discovery, 35 Market Place, (410) 727-8120, portdiscovery.org. Baltimore's own hands-on children's museum rises up instead of expanding out, via its towering central climbing structure. It's a godsend on rainy days.
Scrap Tire Playground, Hilton Area, Patapsco State Park, Ellicott City, (410) 461-5005, mde.state.us/programs/landprograms/recycling/scraptire/tp_baltimore.asp. A fabulous playground built from old tires nestled in the center of a picnic area. There's a small charge to enter the park, but it's worth it.
Six Flags America, 13710 Central Ave., Upper Marlboro, (301) 249-1500, sixflags.com. PG County's big-time amusement park, with all the usual rides, games, attractions, etc.
Rock the Farm Family Festival, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. May 22, 7612 Willow Road, Frederick, tots2tweens.com. Kid-music acts Cathy and Marcy, Milkshake, and the Dirty Sock Funtime Band headline this day-long music and kiddie-fun festival to benefit the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, plus food, vendors, and so on.
Balticon, May 28-31, Marriott Hunt Valley Inn, 245 Shawan Road, Hunt Valley, balticon.org. Four 24-hour days of the finest in sci-fi fandom/freakout, featuring vendors, workshops, panels, film screenings, costumes, and tons more, including the guest of honor, Canadian author Tanya Huff.
UniverSoul Circus, June 1-6, Security Square Mall, 6901 Security Blvd., universoulcircus.com. The renowned African-American traveling circus makes its annual summer visit to Baltimore with the usual panoply of acrobats, clowns, animal acts, and more. Get your tickets early.
Family Fun Day at Harborplace and the Gallery, 10-11 a.m. Wednesdays June 2-Aug. 25, second floor, Light Street Pavilion, 200 E. Pratt St., harborplace.com. The city's waterfront shopping/entertainment complex hosts kiddie entertainment (music, magic, clowns) in the Light Street Pavilion every Wednesday morning.
Patterson Park Fishing Festival, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. June 5, Patterson Park, pattersonpark.com. Kids love fishing, even if they sometimes have trouble mustering the patience to stick with it long enough to actually catch anything.
Imagination Bethesda, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. June 5, Woodmont Avenue and Elm Street, Bethesda, bethesda.org. This street festival is specially geared at the kiddos with a full schedule of fun stuff including performances by the Grandsons Jr., Spinny Johnson, Flumpa and Friends, Rocknoceros, and more.
Keep Your Cool Family Fun Fair, 1-4 p.m. June 5, Druid Hill Park, familytreemd.org. The Family Tree organization hosts this free afternoon for city kids that feeds them and keeps them busy with books, giveaways, activities, and rides.
They Might Be Giants, 1 p.m. June 12, Rams Head Live, 20 Market, (410) 244-1131, ramsheadlive.com. The "Family Four Pack" tickets for perhaps the nation's brainiest, oddest, and most popular kid-friendly band have already sold out, so hurry up and pick up singles for this all-ages event. Your kids could do worse for a first concert.
Nickelodeon Presents Storytime Live!, June 19-20, Hippodrome, (410) 752-7444, nicklivetour.com. All your pre-schooler's favorite Nickelodeon characters, from Dora to the Backyardigans, the Wonder Pets to Kai-lan, come to Baltimore to sing, tell stories, and care and share live. It'll be just like TV, but, you know, not in the living room.
Go Skateboarding Day, June 21, goskateboardingday.org. Grab your deck and hit the street.
Otakon, July 30-Aug. 1, Baltimore Convention Center, otakon.com. Remember seeing all the kids, teens, and twentysomethings in colorful costumes wandering Pratt Street last July? They're coming back again this summer for another enormo helping of intense bonding over Japanese anime, manga, cosplay, and more.
Adventure Aquarium, 1 Riverside Drive, Camden, N.J., (856) 365-3300, adventureaquarium.com. The closest rival to our own harborside fish tank is just a day-trip away. This Philly-adjacent attraction is a little more focused on play than science, but there's nothing wrong with a big ol' shark tank or getting to touch a stingray.
Maryland Zoo at Baltimore, Druid Hill Park, (410) 396-7102, marylandzoo.org. Baltimore's venerable zoological park continues to battle back from budget troubles and storm damage with baby elephant Samson and a new zoo train coming in June. Still one of the best walks in town.
Catoctin Wildlife Preserve Zoo, 13019 Catoctin Furnace Road, Thurmont, (301) 271-3180, cwpzoo.com. This pleasant mom-and-pop zoo is surprisingly well stocked with animals, including kid-pleasers such as tigers, lions, jaguars, and big snakes. A cup of "zoo food" for certain animals = rapt kid entertainment.
National Aquarium in Baltimore, 501 E. Pratt St., (410)576-3800, aqua.org. Our own harborside fish tank, still full of engrossing aquatic fauna (and tourists). It's showing Dora and Diego's 4-D Adventure in June and celebrating the 50th anniversary of Dr. Seuss' One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish with story times 10 a.m. July 11, 18, and 25.
Plumpton Park Zoo, 1416 Telegraph Road, Rising Sun, (410) 658-6850, plumptonparkzoo.org. This deceptively modest roadside attraction surprises with, say, a bison herd, or a whole cage full of spazzy coatimundis.
National Zoo, 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, nationalzoo.si.edu. An expansive (and free) park full of indoor and outdoor exhibits, including a farm-themed kiddie area, primates, big cats, elephants, and, yes, giant pandas.
Philadelphia Zoo, 3400 W. Girard Ave., Philadelphia, Pa., (215)243-1100, philadephiazoo.org. Philly has a very cool urban zoo (gorillas! African wild dogs!).
Salisbury Zoological Park, 755 S. Park Drive, Salisbury, (410) 548-3188, salisburyzoo.org. A modest little municipal zoo in a park along a shady stream just off the main road to and from Downy Ocean.
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201