Ultrazone Laser Tag might be familiar to fans of The Real World, whose cast members?fed up with drama?blew off steam by ducking colorful laser beams in the sprawling multilevel arena's fog-filled maze. There's enough space for 45 vest-clad players to face off at one time, and plasma monitors let the next wave watch the game as they eagerly await their turn. The expansive recreation center also hosts sleepover parties that grant exclusive overnight use of the laser-tag facilities, the plasma-screen theater, and the room that's inexplicably full of doorknobs. Outside the arena, an arcade keeps synapses ablaze with video games, air hockey, and golf simulators, supplemented with slices of Papa John's pizza from the cafe.
Baltimore County's history stretches back nearly four centuries, and tracing and chronicling some 350 years of records, artifacts, and photographs is no small task. Just ask the Historical Society of Baltimore County, which houses thousands of historical pieces, including maps, photos, and books in an 1870s almshouse turned research center. The library houses hundreds of maps and primary sources from centuries past.
At the Fire Museum of Maryland, visitors learn the importance of fire safety through a trip through the history of firefighting. With vintage equipment and trucks, and even the fa?ade of a 1871 fire station, the museum is rife with relics that highlight how firefighting has changed through the years.
Size: The museum displays 40 antique fire engines, as well as gear that dates back to the early 1800s.
Eye Catcher: Museum staff carefully restored the cast-iron fa?ade of Baltimore Engine Co. #8; behind it lies an exhibit called Life of a Fireman, with the trappings of a typical firehouse.
Tribute: The Charles T. Holloway exhibit celebrates Baltimore's most famous firefighter, displaying his retirement watch as well as other artifacts from his life.
Hands-On Activities: In one corner of the museum, kids can try on firefighter gear and marvel at how much lighter it is than their bookbags.
Special Programs: Museum staff have carefully curated seven different tours, geared toward different age groups. In one, kids learn fire safety by working to rescue someone from a burning building; in another, adults see firsthand how the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904 was overcome.
Praise: CBS Baltimore named it one of the five best children's museums in Maryland.
A long fly ball from Oriole Park could hit the row house where, on February 6, 1895, Babe Ruth entered the world and sent chills down the spines of pitchers and outfielders across the country. After the legend earned more than 700 home runs and 2,200 RBIs, his career ended and his life faded, leaving his birthplace to fall into disrepair. In the late 1960s, a campaign restored both it and the adjoining structures to create the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum. Babe’s widow, daughters, and sister collaborated with the museum founders to create exhibits commemorating the record breaker’s life and career, filling glass cases with balls and jerseys and restoring his bedroom to how it would have looked the year that the stork pitched the little Bambino through the window.
Originally, this museum also explored the history of the Baltimore Orioles—Ruth’s first professional team—and hosted the Baltimore Colts’ archives. Its quickly growing collection of artifacts, however, soon led to the need for a larger location. In 2005, the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum retained those items relating to its titular legend while the rest found a new home in the Sports Legends Museum. This museum occupies the basement and first floor of the historic Camden Station, sprawling throughout 22,000 square feet with exhibits that delve into subjects such as the history of baseball in Maryland and collegiate ball.
The American Visionary Art Museum devotes its space to original work by self-taught artists who honed their craft—often unintentionally—while operating on the outskirts of the formal art world. As temporary exhibitions explore a particular artist or theme in depth, the permanent collection displays thousands of powerful and often whimsical items, such as Andrew Logan's mirror-winged Black Icarus, or the haunting Applewood Figure, an emaciated sculpture said to wince whenever someone eats a piece of fruit. The museum spreads its arresting pieces throughout three historical buildings, including the expansive main building, which boasts a reflective mirrored-mosaic exterior and neighbors the Tall Sculpture Barn, an ex-whiskey warehouse fully equipped with 45-foot ceilings for large-scale projects. A wildflower garden—complete with meditation chapel—and a sculpture plaza featuring a 55-foot whirligig beckon visitors to the museum's outdoor space, where envious clouds shape themselves into crude versions of Pietà. Completing any trip, the museum's Sideshow gift shop stuffs shopping bags with an ever-rotating collection of eclectic artwork, jewelry, toys, and more.
The Star-Spangled Banner Flag House was built in 1793, originally owned by the Young-Pickersgill family. Mary Pickersgill, maker of the Star-Spangled Banner Flag, is among the historical figures portrayed. Mary and her family?including her mother, Rebecca Young, and her apprentice, Grace Wisher?describe life in the 19th century and how Mary stitched the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key's poem and the national anthem.
After exploring the house on 30- to 40-minute self-guided or docent-led tours, guests can learn about America's defense of the Chesapeake Bay against the British navy, which culminated in the battle that inspired Key's verse. The first floor's permanent exhibition gallery focuses on that defense with artifacts such as a drum used by an American soldier during the bombardment of Ft. McHenry. Kid attendees, meanwhile, can head over to the Discovery Gallery to whip up a pretend meal at a replica of the Flag House kitchen or design their own flag to string up on the gallery's flagpole.