Calvert Marine Museum – DC area day trips with kids

Calvert Marine Museum

IMG_4367What to do with a one-year-old on a muggy, stormy day? Dave suggested an old standby: the Calvert Marine Museum down in Solomons Island.  The museum is a 1-1.5 hour drive out of DC down route 4 in Calvert County, Maryland.

Why we like it:IMG_4330

Otters. There is an outdoor (though shaded) otter habitat where you can watch two river otters cavorting about. What was extra cool about this visit was that right behind us, in the water around the docks, were three wild otters swimming about! We spotted them snuffling around on the far part of the dock itself, but then watched them swish through the reeds and play under the docks. So cool!

Some lucky kids (and adults) seemed to be able to check out the staff feeding the otters. We will look into this in the future.

Boats! The museum has a big boat collection both on the water and in a giant shed. You can’t climb in them but you can see them up close. There are also boats inside that you can get a look at from the second floor/catwalk area.IMG_4336

Aquarium. This is one of Wyeth’s faves, and a big reason for us to go. There are some smaller displays of seahorses and little fish, and a snakehead (ack!), as well as some jellyfish. The big draw is the larger tank of bigger local fish. Wyeth also liked the stuff duck.

Fossils. Who doesn’t like big bony models of aquatic creatures hanging from the ceiling? There was a spooky shark video playing too…

The Discovery Room. This place rules. There is a little-kid-sized lighthouse (with a blue light inside) with three steps to climb. An active toddler’s dream come true… There is also a little play house with some wooden “cookies” and a tin and a little chair and a window. Too fun! There are some not-so-clean looking dress-up clothes – a good wash and they’d be fine. There is also a real boat you can climb in with a very cool mural of sailboats behind it – makes for good photos – and some sailor hats. Finally, there’s a tank full of terrapins and conch and other sea friends and a staff member there to tell you about them.

We didn’t check out the upstairs part… next time?

IMG_4373The stingray tank. Wyeth loved this – he could perch on the edge and watch the rays go round and round. It’s cool that you can see them from above on one side, or up closer if you walk around the pool.

The lighthouse. Can explore the different rooms and see the set-up that the lighthouse keeper and family had. Our favorite part, even though it’s hot and stuffy, is the light itself and the view of the bay. We also like the deck around the lighthouse. Doesn’t look like such bad digs!  This is not the most infant/toddler friendly lighthouse unless you are comfortable climbing up ladder-like stairs and going through a relatively small hatch in the floor.

Some drawbacks to keep in mind:

$7 admission… but under 5 is free! Yay for free toddlers and preschoolers who have limited attention spans!

There is very slow turnover on the main exhibits, on the order of years.


All in all, the CMM is a manageable size – not overwhelming like many larger museums. There’s also enough to do that even kids (and parents) with short attention spans will be able to enjoy the variety of exhibits.

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