Staycation: Exploring Baltimore & Annapolis Maryland

Gas prices are rising and many vacations have turned into “Staycations.”  Save money this summer by exploring your local area. I’m sure there’s more to do than you realize.

If you live in the Baltimore/ Annapolis area there are numerous fun and inexpensive activities awaiting your family this summer. In fact there are so many great possibilities I couldn’t list them all, so here are my highlights.

If you don’t live in Maryland (or aren’t planning a trip in the near future) come back tomorrow. I’ll be sharing over 75 links to staycation articles written by bloggers around the web.

Year of the Staycation

Exploring Baltimore and Annapolis, Maryland

Free Outdoor Movies in Little Italy

Every Friday starting July 1, movies are projected on the outside wall of Ciao Bella Restaurant. Live music starts at 7pm, the movie starts at 9pm. Movies are free and so is the popcorn.

Baltimore Farmer’s Market

Baltimore Farmer's Market

Every Sunday from April to December the Baltimore Farmer’s Market is located under the Jones Falls Expressway at Holliday and Saratoga streets. A trip to the Farmer’s Market is a great way to encourage your children to try new foods. My kids tend to eat food they discover at these markets.

Free parking is located at Guilford and Pleasant streets.

Inner Harbor

Baltimore Inner Harbor

I love strolling around Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Even when it is hot there’s a breeze and people watching is always entertaining. The Inner Harbor is filled with shops and stores, but window shopping is just as fun.

The Walter’s Art Museum

Free admission except for special exhibits. There are numerous free art museums in the greater D.C./ Baltimore area, but if you live close to this one stop by for a visit.

Historic Ships of Baltimore

My husband promoted on the USS Constellation, and I highly recommend taking a tour of this ship. A pass to visit all five ships in the harbor is only $11 for adults, $5 for children, free for military and children under 6.

U.S. Naval Academy

2008 USNA Commissioning Week

The U.S. Naval Academy’s campus is beautiful and the museum admission is free. Check the security requirements and bring an id for access to the campus.

Quiet Waters Park

The Quiet Waters Park is beautiful and admission is only $6 a vehicle, free for military and their dependents. The park has a beautiful playground, plenty of green grass to throw the frisbee or stretch out and enjoy the weather, and art exhibits. You could easily spend the entire day at this park.

Chesapeake Children’s Museum

I wouldn’t pay full price to visit the Chesapeake Children’s Museum, but take advantage of discounted days. This museum is old, and could use a little face lift, but it is totally hands on and your kids will love it! From finger painting to puppet shows your kids can enjoy the day exploring the different rooms of the museum, with minimal supervision.

Wednesday Night Boat Races


Every Wednesday during the summer months, hundreds of sailors take to the Severn River for this weekly race. Get a great view of the finish line from the drawbridge that separates Annapolis from Eastport.

National Cryptologic Museum

This free museum located next door to the National Security Agency is a fun place to spend the afternoon. If you plan ahead you can arrange for a scavenger hunt for the kids and learn more about our nation’s cryptologic history.

National Wildlife Center

The National Wildlife Center is actually closer to D.C. than Baltimore or Annapolis, but I highly recommend visiting this refuge. My family went a few years ago and thoroughly enjoyed their time. The crowds are minimal and it is free. There is a small charge for the guided tram tours.

My Favorite Places

These are not inexpensive but are on my short list of favorite places to visit in the Baltimore/ Annapolis area.


If you want a taste of “real Maryland” try Cantlers. Butcher paper tablecloths, waitresses that call you “hon” and “sugar” and full crabs tossed right on your table is all part of this experience. This place is a local favorite so be prepared to wait on a weekend evening just to get a parking space.

National Aquarium

The National Aquarium is expensive but well worth the price of admission. When we lived in Maryland we received a membership to the aquarium for Christmas. Personally, I think touring the aquarium takes more than one day if you have several children. My kids of every age loved our visits and learned a ton while exploring the multilevel building.

What are some of your favorite frugal activities in Maryland?

Photo Credits: Jeff Kubina, Radio Rover, ursusdave, The ClayTaurus

This post may contain a link to an affiliate. See my disclosure policy for more information.


  1. Oooh! I love this post! (guess where I live 🙂 We have a bucket list each summer for area free/ nearly free activities too. This summer we’ve added Fort Washington Park, Fort McHenry, Irvine Nature Center, Bass Pro Family Summer Camps, South Mountain Creamery, AMF Free Summer bowling, local firehall carnivals each week, county fair in August, Baugher’s Farm…..just TONS of free stuff to do in the area! We’re also planning a few days in DC – can’t beat free admission to Smithsonian museum and the “new” Air and Space Museum near Dulles is just fantastic!

  2. I agree that the National Aquarium is a great place to visit! I love it and so do my kids.

    The animals are, of course, interesting to watch, but I also love that there are shows and hands-on activities for the kids (and adults) throughout the aquarium.

    You’re right… you could easily spend more than one day there and not get bored!

  3. We live less than 2 hours from Baltimore and I haven’t been there in years. I think we might have to plan a day trip this summer, there is so much to do.

    Annapolis is my new favorite get-away. My husband surprised me with a weekend there last fall to celebrate our 10th anniversary. We had so much fun and want to go back again. We toured The Naval Academy and it was so fascinating. We also ate very well that weekend, lots of great restaurants.

  4. dgsandbjsmom says:

    We have a membership to our local children’s museum which will get us up to 10 people in as often as we want and it also allows us to go to 150 other museums for free or reduced admission. We do not vacation so it is well worth it because our kids look forward to playing at the museum, going out to eat and shopping in Memphis.

  5. Thanks so much for this post. We’re new to the DC area and am planning our day trip to Baltimore. Lots of great ideas! We just visited DC this weekend and loved all the free things. Our only out of pocket costs were lunch and souvenirs (postcards).

  6. The Baltimore Museum of Art is also free admission, except certain special events. Also in the categories of expensive but worth a visit: the B&O Railroad Museum (my kids LOVE the trains), the Maryland Science Center, and the Maryland Zoo (with polar bears!).

  7. I love Annapolis and have spent *lots* of time there. If you go and need to eat (duh), check out Lebanese Taverna. It’s a local chain (MD/DC) and has great, inexpensive food. There’s also the-best-ice-cream-you’ll-ever-eat on Main Street (Annapolis Ice Cream Co.) They make everything at the shop. (In the summer they have a blackberry cobbler ice cream that is to die for.)

    If you like baseball, Orioles games usually aren’t TOO expensive. However, there’s a minor league team in Bowie, MD, as well. Tickets to those games are an inexpensive way to spend an afternoon.

  8. Baltimore is one of our favorite day trip destinations! I could easily sit outside at Phillip’s Seafood in the Inner Harbor and just watch people, boats and the going’s on all day. ESPN Zone is also fun.

  9. Oh my – I grew up outside of Annapolis and Cantler’s was one of my fave backwoods places to go for crabs! Good memories!

    I haven’t been back to MD since I married my Navy guy in 95 but some of my fave memories of growing up in MD were all the great state parks (find ’em here: )on the water and all the great historic sites and battlegrounds.

    Ooh – don’t forget Cactoctin Mountain Park (US National Park) in Western MD – there are some amazing waterfalls and easy climbs! (more info here: )

    One of these days I’ll take my kiddos back to where I grew up…

  10. ESPN Zone is closed – boo!

  11. I love these ideas. Makes me wish I lived closer. I guess I will have to visit more often.

  12. I just remembered another thing you can do at the Naval Academy. Besides the museum (which my family loves to visit), there’s John Paul Jones’ crypt over at the Chapel. Especially a good trip for history buffs and school-aged children.

  13. the surrounding counties have lots of nice free stuff (promenade in Havre de Grace), places with small admision in state parks like Gunpowder, the Ladew Topiary Gardens in Monkton–so much to do

    visiting from WiC Project

  14. We visited the Chesapeake Children’s Museum last year and were sorely disappointed. This isn’t a museum as much as an after school/community center. The “displays” consisted of tanks of fish and lizards, turtles, and a bunch of well-used and worn out toys. The planet display looks like it was salvaged from a dumpster after a real museum threw it away. Personally, it was not worth the time it took to find it.
    We live near the National Aquarium and the Smithsonian – how can anyone who has been to those museums call this place a museum?

  15. Another *free* family favorite are the events at St. John’s college. From the annual Navy vs. Johnnies croquet match (everyone dresses up) to the Mitchell gallery family days.
    Parking can be a pain, so wear walking shoes!

  16. When we lived in MD we loved going to Larriland Farms. They have lots of great events for kids through Summer and fall as well as a huge selection of pick your own produce. The prices were amazing back in 2004-07, but don’t know what they look like now. It may be a little bit of a drive but we found it to be well worth it.

  17. I love just outside Baltimore. Our favorite free activity is the Gunpowder River. There’s a parking lot in northern Perry Hall with trails down to the river side. It’s NEVER been crowded, in fact if we see 2 more groups the whole time we’re there (several hours) it’s a lot. The river is usually calm and shallow in this area. We pack a lunch and a blanket, eat lunch beside the river then let the exploring begin. The kids can walk though the river from one side to the other. They find tadpoles, crayfish, fish, shells, etc. We skip rocks and sun ourselves on the large rocks in the river. I highly recommend it.

    For just a few dollars per car you can visit the same river at the Gunpowder State Park Hammerman area where there’s a HUGE beach area and a roped of swimming area, tons of fun to be had there as well.

  18. Love this post! I grew up in Annapolis and lived in Baltimore for a number of years, so the places are near and dear to my heart. Now I have three kids in New York City and my blog is devoted to fun things to do with little ones up here–has someone claimed NYC for staycation posts and if not, can I throw my hat in the ring for that? We are still gearing up for this summer, but last summer’s blog was chockful of summer activities for the fam…

  19. TheHappyHousewife says:

    Jennifer- I don’t think we had NYC. We aren’t posting any more this year, but we’d love to have you participate next year.


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