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.
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.
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.
Handicap Accessible: Yes
Staff Size: 25?50
Parking: Parking garage
Most popular offering: African-American art, history, culture
Pro Tip: $6 validated parking is directly across the street at the PMI Parking Garage.
Good for Kids: Yes
Walk-ins Welcome: Yes
The Reginald F. Lewis Museum celebrates the achievements of African Americans, especially those from Maryland?which often means expanding on grade-school history lessons. For instance, Betsy Ross is typically credited with making the first American flag. However, one of the museum's rotating exhibits reveals that Grace Wisher, an African American indentured servant, also worked on the original star spangled banner. Dubbed "For Whom It Stands: The Flag and the American People," that exhibit was recognized as one of the country's best in the summer of 2014 by USA Today?in part because it featured a scrap of the real, first flag, covered in the bald eagle feathers that filled the air back then. That's just one of the myriad rotating exhibits that the museum has hosted, to complement permanent collections that highlight Maryland African Americans' endurance through two centuries of slavery, and their artistic and intellectual innovations.
What sets your business apart from your competition?
A Smithsonian affiliate, the museum is the east coast?s largest African-American museum. Besides rotating exhibitions, enjoy live musical performances from gospel jazz to steel drums. Films in our theater have enriched audiences on the history of soul food, civil rights, and more. For families, programs like art workshops and living history bring our mission to life. Lectures and our resource center enrich what you'll find in our permanent collection. We also nourish the body with the best soul food in Baltimore at our museum cafe. Visit our website for a full calendar of events.
What was the inspiration for starting this business?
To showcase the rich contributions of Maryland African Americans, from Harriet Tubman and Thurgood Marshall to the unsung heroes who helped make Maryland what it is today.
What?s your favorite part about your job?
Having people experience something new, different, and enriching to their lives.
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.