Now that the pre-winter break lull has set in, families desperately need a distraction from gray skies and shopping madness. Bust out of the cold weather blues with a kid-friendly, art-filled day trip to Baltimore. The American Visionary Art Museum, the Walters, and the Baltimore Museum of Art each has its charms, and they’re barely an hour away by car. You could stop in at all three—or just hit one and call it a day.

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Baltimore Museum of Art
A haven for modern-art lovers, the BMA features art from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries, including paintings, ceramics, and sculptures 10 times the size of your tot. The museum also boasts the world’s largest collection of works by Henri Matisse, whose straight forward paintings (including twirling dancers, bright bowls of fruit, and detailed window views) appeal to the under-10 set. Younger visitors will also enjoy the current show of work by Morris Louis, whose funky Abstract Expressionist work is bound to inspire your pint-size imitators to decorate their own drippy, colorful, large-scale canvases.

Where to Refuel: A semi-fancy, fam-friendly afternoon tea with mini-grilled cheeses and beignets is served at Gertrude’s (located near the museum’s Sculpture Garden entrance) on the first weekend of each month, Thursday through Saturday.

Insider Tip: Learn to fold paper lanterns, draw Matisse’s daughter or make musical instruments at the museum’s special family workshops that happen every Sunday.

Open: Wed-Fri, 10 am-5 pm; Sat-Sun, 11 am-6 pm
Cost: Free

10 Art Museum Dr. (Baltimore, Md)
443-573-1700
Online: artbma.org

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American Visionary Art Museum
AVAM, located a stone’s throw from the Inner Harbor on Federal Hill, is best described as an offbeat art museum, making it a great stop for creatively quirky kiddos. Right now (through Aug. 31) there’s a special exhibit, “Human, Soul, and Machine: The Coming Singularity!” inspired by artificial intelligence, robotics, and nanotechnology, where kids can explore artists’ takes on the scientific future. Don’t leave without checking out the seven-foot-tall Godzilla sculpture and wooden carvings inspired by humans’ impact on the natural world.

Where to Refuel: Mr. Rain’s Funhouse is located inside the museum (through the Covington St. entrance), and serves up lunch and brunch dishes like burgers and soups made from locally sourced ingredients.

Insider Tip: If your little one gets especially psyched about science and art, make a pit stop at the nearby Maryland Science Center, where they’ll get hands-on inspiration to create their own artwork.

Open: Tue-Sun, 10 am-6 pm
Cost: $15.95/adults; $9.95/kids; free/kids under 6

800 Key Hwy. (Baltimore, Md)
410-244-1900
Online: avam.org

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The Walters Art Museum
The Walters—tucked away in the historic Mount Vernon district—offers a survey of art throughout history. Kids will get a kick out of the displays of ancient Buddha heads, medieval armor, and Renaissance paintings. Swing your creative crew by the Jacob Lawrence Exhibit (through Apr. 13) to see colorful paintings inspired by the artist’s childhood in Harlem.

Where to Refuel: Add pep to your steps by stopping by the museum’s Cafe Q for coffee, smoothies, and sandwiches. If your brood is in full meal mode check out one of the restaurants around Mt. Vernon, like kid faves Iggie’s Pizza, Donna’s, or City Cafe.

Insider Tip: The Walters hosts free drop-in sessions for kids to create their own art around themes like “marvelous music” and “heroes and legends.” No reservations are required, but do check the museum’s website for specific dates.

Open: Wed-Sun, 10 am-5 pm
Cost: Free

600 N. Charles St. (Baltimore, Md)
410-547-9000
Online: thewalters.org

Have you been to any of the art museums in Baltimore with your family? Tell us about it in the Comments section below. 

—Nadya Sagner

 Photos courtesy of American Visionary Art Museum via Facebook, The Baltimore Museum of Art via Facebook, The Walters Art Museum via Flickr