Fort McHenry, famously known as the inspiration for the Star Spangled Banner, is a historic fort in Baltimore, Maryland. In September 1814, the British navy needed to control Fort McHenry to invade Baltimore. The brutal attack lasted 25 hours.
Francis Scott Key, an attorney attempting to negotiate with the British to free a prisoner of war, observed the battle from a British boat in the harbor.
In the early morning hours after the battle, the victorious Americans raised the American flag to show that they still held the fort. This sight inspired Key to pen the famous words that became our national anthem.
Here are 5 reasons your family will enjoy a visit to Fort McHenry.
Fort McHenry's visitor center is kid-friendly
A 10-minute film explains the Battle of Baltimore and ends with an inspirational rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner.” The film was long enough to teach the story to my children while still holding their interest.
The visitor's center museum was filled with interesting displays, interactive video screens, and a cannon that kept my 3-year-old entertained while we explored the museum.
Kids can run and play at Fort McHenry
Fort McHenry, built in a the shape of a star, has a pathway all along the ramparts that my children loved exploring. I love to visit a historical site that inspires my children to learn history through play, and Fort McHenry did not disappoint. My eight-year-old son and his friends ran around all morning shouting “The British are coming” as they explored the fort and pretended to fire the cannons at the ships in the harbor.
Exhibits throughout Fort McHenry teach history
In the center of the fort, you can enter many smaller exhibits that show examples of officers quarters, traditional meals, sleeping arrangements, etc. You will see bomb shelters, magazines, gun powder storage, and much more at Fort McHenry.
The kids were entertained by exhibits like the flag below that they could play with as they learned about the history of this flag flown during the War of 1812.
Check the schedule for special events such as Civil War weekend, Star Spangled Banner weekend, reenactments, twilight tattoo ceremonies and more.
Fly your own flag at Fort McHenry
Take home a souvenir flag flown at Fort McHenry. Bring your own flag or purchase one in the gift shop and take it to a ranger near the flag pole, and you can fly your flag over Fort McHenry. The visitor's center will give you a certificate to certify that the flag was flown at Fort McHenry.
When we were there, a Boy Scout leader was there to fly a flag for one of his boys who had just earned his Eagle Scout award. He was kind enough to let my daughter help him raise and lower the flag.
Visit nearby Baltimore Harbor
Fort McHenry overlooks beautiful Baltimore Harbor, and if you've got time, you should consider riding the water taxi to Baltimore Harbor after visiting Fort McHenry.
Baltimore Harbor is home to many restaurants, battleships and cruise ships, and a world-class science museum and aquarium.
Good to Know
Location: Baltimore, Maryland.
Cost: $7 per adult. Children under 16 are free.
Amenities: The fort is wheelchair accessible and stroller friendly. There are restrooms at the visitor's center and the fort, as well as a nice gift shop at the visitor's center. I would have liked a place to eat a picnic lunch, but didn't see any picnic tables.
How long? Plan to spend about two hours exploring Fort McHenry.