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{Family-Friendly} DC & Baltimore

As promised, here are my Best Bets for Washington and Baltimore – these come from a recent family spring break trip and over ten years of living in the area. By now the cherry blossoms have come and gone, but so have the crowds. Here are a few ideas for you if you’re planning a trip to the Nation’s Capital and Baltimore.

* Best Place to eat lunch on the Mall in Washington = The Mitsitam Café at The National Museum of the American Indian – (Mitsitam means “Let’s eat!” in the Native language of the Delaware and Piscataway peoples) offers Native foods found throughout the Western Hemisphere. Each food station features ingredients, flavors and cooking techniques, found in both traditional and contemporary dishes. After lunch, stop upstairs at the Lelawi Theater and see the multimedia presentation Who We Are, a great introduction to the museum.

* Best Museum to take children on the MallThe National Museum of Natural History our favorites are the mammal exhibit, the dinosaurs, the insect zoo and the Hope Diamond! Opened Recently – The Oceans Hall, the museum’s largest permanent exhibit.

* Very close second Best Museum for childrenThe National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall features hundreds of original, historic artifacts on display, including the Wright 1903 Flyer; the Spirit of St. Louis; the Apollo 11 command module Columbia; and a Lunar rock sample that visitors can touch. The trip out to the NASM’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is well worth it. The two hangars (aviation and space) feature acres of flying machines including the Enola Gay and the Space Shuttle Enterprise.

*Our favorite Museum for Grown-ups - The National Portrait Gallery it is peaceful, beautifully restored and so inspirational…and it has grown-up hours- 11:30 to 7 pm.

*Best way to see the DC monuments and memorials – at night! or better yet, at twilight! my favorite is the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. There is something magical about seeing the radiant white marble contrast against the deep blue sky. The reflecting pool gives it a special effect.

*Best detours to Baltimore - Heading north? plan to stop at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Md. A gorgeous garden smack dab in the suburbs with plenty of walking paths, a Japanese garden and a butterfly exhibit that opens in May. After the gardens, you’ll be ready for a beer and free happy hour nibbles at the Ram’s Head Tavern in the Historic Savage Mill. If the weather is nice, you can sit out on the deck and enjoy the mill and the rushing stream below. The 19th century textile mill has been restored and now is a unique home design and arts/craft retail center.

*Best Baltimore Outings -For sunny days, head over to Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, the birthplace of the National Anthem. A great fort to explore, the oversized American flag flaps high above your heads, and you can watch the boats come in and out of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. For rainy days, or any day really, check out the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum and Sports Legends at Camden Yards. Sports Legends, an interactive museum in the shadow of Camden Yards and the Baltimore Orioles; and the birthplace, a few blocks away, are a great way to steep yourself in Baltimore sports history. Don’t forget the National Aquarium – Baltimore and the Maryland Science Center – great places to take children!

*Best Baltimore Food - Oh I knew you’d ask…well the truth is there are too many places to mention. Two (non-inner Harbor) places to go to (nothing against the Inner Harbor, but there is more to Baltimore than that bit of real estate)…are the Cross Street Market in South Baltimore and the Mount Vernon Cultural District up Charles Street. You can’t miss with either one, plenty of options to be had… Enjoy!