It’s not often that we can tell you about a cultural fun day in Baltimore that is totally FREE. So, we’re overjoyed to tell you about a free museum in Baltimore! It is a hidden gem tucked in the heart of the city. The museum is the perfect place to visit for families with young children as well as adults. It is one of Baltimore’s underrated attractions and includes a collection of over 36,000 pieces from around the world dating all the way back from 5,000 BC to present day.
Getting to the Museum
This fantastic free museum in Baltimore is located only about a mile from the Inner Harbor in the Mount Vernon Cultural District. The Walters Art Museum is located at 600 N. Charles Street, Baltimore, MD, just north of the downtown business district, near the city’s Washington Monument.
The Walters Art Museum is easily accessible to families visiting the tourist attractions of the Inner Harbor. It is located at 600 North Charles Street in Baltimore’s charming Mt. Vernon Cultural District, just over a mile from the Inner Harbor. It is easy to grab a taxi, Uber or Lyft and head over.
Since we are local, we drove to the museum. There are a few public lots within walking distance. We used the SpotHero app to find the best lot price and location to the museum.
The Walters Art Museum is located near the free Charm City Circulator Purple line, Centre Street Light Rail stop, and accessible by the MTA buses. The main entrance is located on Centre Street near the corner of Centre and Cathedral streets.
It is important to note that the museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. It opens at 10 a.m. all other days of the week and closes at 5 p.m. except on Thursdays when it has extended hours until 9 p.m.
Eating at the Museum
This part is especially important if you’re heading to The Walters Art Museum with kids in tow! Nobody can enjoy a museum with a hungry child!
The Walters Cafe is located on the first level. It is open until 4:30 pm when the museum is open and until 8:30 pm on Thursday nights only. It is a convenient place to grab a meal, take a coffee break, or enjoy a glass of wine or beer. It also has free wifi.
As an alternative, you can pack your own food and save some money. Plus, it is the safest option if you have picky kids like me!
Admission and Special Events
In 2006, the City and Counties of Baltimore through their art agencies and authorities awarded the Walters Art Museum substantial grants which allow them to provide visitors free admission. Over 98% of the activities at the museum are FREE, including admission.
When there is a fee for a special event, they are all below $10 with most at $5. There are monthly special cultural events such as musical performances, art-making opportunities for kids and adults, talks and lectures. For locals, this museum in Baltimore even offers half-day and full-day summer camps!
The Family Art Center
Along with FREE admission for the whole family every day that they are open, the Walters Art Museum is focused on bringing the experience of art to children of all ages. Offerings for children include hands-on experiences that encourage creativity while exploring their artistic talents.
While touring the museum, visitors with children can take a break, read, play and create at the Family Art Center located on the lower level of the main building. Just follow the sign of the friendly Egyptian lion to find the family fun! The Family Art Center space is dedicated to family time. It is an open space that encourages playing integrated with creating.
The Family Art Center provides parents with a needed break when touring a museum with children while allowing children to release pent up energy. With all the essentials needed for creating art, including paper, templates, crayons, pencils paints and more, the Family Art Center enables children to channel their energy into art. The area has an open floor plan, allowing parents to either participate or sit back while keeping an eye on children.
Weekends at The Walters
On weekends, the Walters Museum offers special activities for families and children, some with a nominal fee. Check their calendar for specific times and programs. On Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Family Art Center hosts Drop-In Art Activities for families to enjoy together.
During our visit, we made a Fantastic Flipbook. Our kids were encouraged to draw their creativity from the featured artist, Edgar Degas. His ‘Before the Race’ artwork was on display in the center. This created a meaningful connection between doing and seeing for our kids and helped them appreciate the artwork that we saw throughout the museum.
Other Family-Friendly Features
The Art Cart is another special of The Walters Art Museum children friendly weekend experiences. On the Sculptor Court, every Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Art Cart is rolled out. The Art Cart contains all the necessary materials for children to play dress up, build a tower, borrow a drawing kit or read a book. Adults who accompany children are encouraged to participate in this exploration of artistic imagination.
Another great weekend experience for families is the Walk-In Family Tours. This 30-minute interactive tour led by a museum educator provides an educational foundation in the art collections of the museum. The Tour begins at the Sculptor Court and ends with a drop-in art activity at the Family Art Center.
The Walters for Babies
The educators at the Walters Art Museum believe that art appreciation begins at birth. Special interactive museum programs include Art Babies, a program geared to children from newborn to 11 months. These hands-on or rather crawl on the floor experiences are titled, Animals and Earth Art.
Together with parents, grandparents or caregivers, these special first introductions to art programs encourage sensory perception for children in private studios at the museum. The Art Babies program uses art to enhance the bonding experience. Art Babies is also available for the next age group of 11-23-month-old children who continue the exploration of animals and earth art.
Educational Art Experiences
Enhancing the Walters Art Museum dedication to art appreciation for children, they offer programs for teachers from preschool all the way up to high school which includes lesson plans and classroom activities. The mission statement of the Walters Art Museum School Programs is based on their desire to “stimulate curiosity, invite participation, and encourage reflection about art” as a part of history as well as daily life.
For Home School Students, The Walters Art Museum has workshops taught by museum educators for students of all ages. The Home School Programs include programs for those under 13 years old, with special teen workshops and curriculum for those 13 to 17 years old.
Adults Only Art Events
Adults who want to enjoy special events without children should also check the calendar of events that include Garden Tours, Thursday Night Gallery Drawing as well as Spotlight on Opera. Some events have nominal fees, while most are free.
Walters Art Museum History
The foundation of the Walters Art Museum is the private collection of William Thompson Walters. Upon his death, the collection was refined by his son Henry Walters. The Walters Father and Son amassed an art collection that contained almost 36,000 objects of art. They would certainly be proud of the way the curators, educators as well as the staff at the Walters Art Museum have made art accessible.
It was Henry who opened the collection of sculptures and artwork to the public, holding viewing on selected days for the citizens of Baltimore at his mansion. Henry arranged for the construction of an elaborate stone palace-style building to house the collection. His mansion along with the building containing his art collection was willed to the City of Baltimore upon his death.
Today the Walters Art Museum is comprised of three buildings, the original Charles Street building, The Centre Street Annex built in 1974 along with the Hackerman House, a premier example of Greek Revival Architecture.
Walters Art Museum Collections
The Art Collection left by the Walters Family to the City of Baltimore is exhibited in permanent galleries which are complemented by featured exhibits throughout the year. The Walters Art Museum features paintings, sculptures, along with pottery which represents art across a wide spectrum of history and cultures.
The collections of the Walters Art Museum are extensive, and it is hard to see it all in one day! They include exhibits including
- Ancient Art (Near East, Egypt, Nubia, Greece)
- Art of Ancient Americas
- Asian Art
- Islamic Art
- Medieval European Art
- 18th Century European Art
- 19th Century European Art
Best Exhibits for Kids
One of the things we especially love about touring The Walters Art Museum with kids is the seating and books in many of the galleries. Our kids can take a break and browse some books while we take our time appreciating the artwork!
Our favorite areas at this free museum in Baltimore to explore with the kids are:
- Sculpture Court and Upper Stair Hall magnificent statues.
- Hall of Wonders filled with unique artifacts everywhere you look and seems like it would be the office of a wacky professor.
- From Rye to Raphael, the Walters Story includes statues, paintings, and other works “chosen for their beauty and craftsmanship”. Plus, personal photos and historical material from the museum archive.
- The Egyptian Art collection has an intact mummy, sarcophagi, and two 3,000-pound statues of a lion-headed goddess.
Why You Should Visit
As a kid-centric museum, the Walters Art Museum stands out. Its diversity of programs, events, workshops as well as educational opportunities for children of all ages. It is a great choice especially during the temperature extremes of the winter and summer.
We can highly recommend a visit to this free museum in Baltimore whether you are traveling through the city or local to the neighborhood and looking for a budget-friendly cultural experience.
Looks like a great museum to visit! I was shocked that museums cost so much when we visited the states, many museums are free in the UK. Think this is great that this museum is free to visit. Would love to see the Eygptian art section.
Yeah, the rooms are artwork in and of themselves too! There are marble staircases and sculptures on the wall. You can easily think you are in Europe if you don’t look out the window to see the streets of Baltimore!