Several years ago, on Labor Day weekend, we took the boys to Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve lived in the state of Maryland my entire life and hadn’t visited this gem of a historic site until this day. I’m going to blame it on maybe being sick the day of this school field trip?!?
Fort McHenry was the site of the Battle of Baltimore on September 13-14, 1814. The defense of the Fort inspired Francis Scott Key to write the “Star-Spangled Banner,” our National Anthem. My boys LOVE history and we just thought it was high time our family visited this historic site. We were not disappointed.
A couple notes….as I’m not a huge fan of driving in a large city (still love going to Baltimore), the directions on the park’s website were great. It was fairly easy to get to the Fort, without many turns off of the highway (the Ranger gave us quick and easy directions to return to the highway when it was time to leave).
I would also recommend arriving early. The parking lot is quite small and you’ll want to get a parking spot. You can also take a Baltimore Water Taxi from other spots on the Harbor. The Water Taxi site posted that the Water Taxi stops at Fort McHenry only from April 30-Sept.30th–check before you go!. The Water Taxi stop is a few steps from the Visitor Center and Fort. Last but not least, if you go on a hot day (which we did!), bring lots of water. Most of the paths are un-shaded. You’ll want to stay hydrated so you can enjoy the Fort.
We started our visit to Fort McHenry at the Visitor Center, which is adjacent to the parking lot. There is an admission to the Fort. The current rates can be found on the website. Most admissions to the National Parks and Historical Sites are very reasonable. If you are reading this in 2016, this is the 100th Anniversary of the National Parks. There is an initiative to get kids into the Parks to explore and enjoy them, thus every Fourth Grader can get a FREE pass to the National Parks this year through Every Kid in a Park. With this pass, a Fourth Grader and his family can enter most National Parks for FREE!
Fort McHenry does offer a Junior Ranger program for kids. Their workbook is beautiful and very well done. The boys did the activities and earned their badges. I will try and post a future blog more about the Junior Ranger program at our National Parks as it’s truly one of my favorite programs for kids. Make sure you pick up your Junior Ranger Book when you arrive at Fort McHenry!
We arrived early enough to enjoy one of the wonderful Ranger Talks. Our family are HUGE fans of our Nation’s National Parks. We have always been amazed with the information we gain at a Ranger Talk. The Rangers are always friendly, full of information and are very patient with children. The Ranger Talk that we participated in was about the Battle of Baltimore and our American Flag. It was a hands-on talk where we got to help unroll a huge American Flag. Personally, I thought this was super cool. The pictures were amazing and the boys learned a lot.
After the Ranger Talk, we walked around the buildings of the Fort. It’s interesting to imagine what life was like for the soldiers and folks who lived and worked at the Fort. The barracks and jail interested the boys…as did the gun powder room!
Both had to be “locked” in the jail!!
After exploring the Fort, we walked around outside to explore the grounds of the Fort. There are of course cannons and some cool hiding spots to see. The boys couldn’t help but image the cool Nerf Gun battle that could be had there!! Most likely not allowed but they are boys! The views of the Baltimore Harbor are amazing from the Fort as well. It’s a nice place to walk and get some exercise.
After walking around outside, we headed back to the Visitor Center. There’s a great little museum that features a movie at the Visitor Center. We enjoyed the A/C, cooled down and learned a bit of wonderful Maryland History. The gift store is nice here as well. The gift store does sell water but food is not sold at this National Park.
Before we left, the boys showed the Rangers their completed Junior Ranger workbooks and were sworn in as Junior Rangers of Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine!
What a perfect day in Maryland!
(on the way home, it’s nice to sing the Star Spangled Banner, our National Anthem. Link here for the words. Thank you Francis Scott Key for writing this amazing song!).