The Marshy Point Nature Center is enshrouded in nearly 3,000 acres of natural terrain from the combined Marshy Point Park and neighboring federal land. In this emerald oasis, a variety of wildlife including Barred Owls, Bald Eagles, and Red Fox make their home amongst the three miles of wooded trails and ponds. Hikers and birdwatchers can gather to see these creatures in their natural habitats or take a canoe out to the middle of the Dundee Creek and practice walking back to shore. Throughout the year, the Marshy Point Nature Center also runs activities including a spring festival with a muddy obstacle course and the Popsicle Plunge, which immerses swimmers into the Chesapeake Bay for the sake of charity or really sweaty tendencies.
Drivers rev their engines across three separate raceways at The Go-Kart Track, where thrill seekers can split their time between high-speed chases and rounds of mini golf. The family-oriented entertainment center's three distinct go-kart tracks cater to drivers young and old. The junior track safeguards youngsters with an automatic braking system every time they release the gas pedal, and the family track, recently expanded and made more challenging, lets people ride shotgun in double-seater cars. Finally, the drift track—coated in a special powder—allows drivers 54 inches and taller to slip and slide around turns, drifting like their favorite racecar driver or continent. Aside from its automotive pursuits, The Go-Kart track features a mini-golf course with nine professionally designed holes peppered with obstacles such as cacti and tires.
On a 187-acre parcel of Gunpowder Falls State Park sits Graham Equestrian Center, a horse haven named one of the region's best places for horseback riding by CBS Baltimore. Here, trainers specialize in all facets of equine education, teaching students how to handle and ride horses in a way that's both safe and fun. Visitors can put these lessons to use in a number of settings; the center features access to many miles of tree-lined trails, as well as a large outdoor arena and training pen.
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.
Since 1844, Maryland Historical Society has kept residents connected to their state's heritage by publishing educational books and a quarterly magazine. These days, its museum brings that archived history to life with more than 350,000 objects, most notably the oldest-known surviving manuscript of Francis Scott Key's "The Star-Spangled Banner," which includes its original, crossed out title, "Get Ready for Baseball, America." Guests can also marvel at artifacts ranging from 900 pieces of furniture made between 1634 and 2000 to more than 2,000 paintings, including seven by Joshua Johnson, America's first professional African American portrait painter. Meanwhile, its Civil War exhibit occupies more than 5,000 square feet with 3-D video presentations. The society also sponsors extensive educational programs that enlighten young students with field trips, plus adult programs that include lectures, concerts, and symposia.