Fort McHenry located in Baltimore is the site of the Fort that inspired Francis Scott Key’s writing of the Star-Spangled Banner.
If you get the chance to go visit Fort McHenry, its makes a great day trip and is fun for all ages. Along with the visitor center and fort there is also a walking path near the bay that can be fun.
Fort McHenry Visitor Center
Fort McHenry has a Visitor Center as well as the Fort and paths along the bay.
The Visitor Center has a 10-minute film that plays on the hour and half-past the hour (:00 and :30) If you can fit the film into your schedule I really recommend watching it. I learned a lot about the writing of the Star-Spangled Banner. The film ends with the screen raising to reveal windows showing the flag flying over the fort as the National Anthem plays.
There is a small sign that says please stand. It’s very moving to stand and watch the flag flying over the fort while the National Anthem plays. After watching the film one of the volunteer rangers came up and thanked us for standing. He said many people stay sitting or walk away as the National Anthem plays.
The visitor center also has exhibits with information about Francis Scott Key and the National Anthem. It’s not a large area so I think you could do the visitor center exhibits in about 30-40 minutes.
* At the Visitor Center, you pay the Entrance Fee to see the Fort.
After watching the film and enjoying the visitor center we went and explored the fort. The tour inside the fort is self-guided so you can pick and choose what to see and how much time you spend.
Around the exterior of the fort are large canons and a brick path that makes it fun to walk around before entering the inner fort. On our most recent visit to Fort McHenry a guide told us that these canons on display are like the ones that were used in World War 2.
After exploring the visitor center and Fort we love to walk along the path that is right next to the water. Along the path are benches so you can sit and enjoy watching things happen on the water. Almost every time we have visited we have seen large ships and sailboats on the water.
Tips for Visiting Fort McHenry
- Start at the Visitor Center – the film at the visitor center is worth watching, it’s one of my favorite things to see at Fort McHenry. Also, make sure you checkout the display that shows how quickly the Star Spangled Banner spread through the colonies. At the Visitor center, you pay admission to the Fort. If you have an America, the Beautiful Pass this will get in up to 4 adults. Children 15 and under are free.
- Earn a Jr. Ranger Badge – Ask for an Activity Booklet at the counter when you arrive at the Visitor Center. Once your child has completed the activity booklet they earn a Junior Ranger Badge.
- Bring a Stroller – If you have an infant or young toddler be sure to bring a stroller it will make walking around the Fort so much easier.
- Water – This is especially important if you are visiting during the summer, because it can get really hot.
- Camera/Phone – Don’t forget to bring your Camera or phone and take pictures to remember your visit to Fort McHenry.
- Ask Questions – Throughout the park there are usually several volunteers that are happy to answer questions and tell you more about the park.
- Attend Daily Programs and Seasonal Events – Everyday there are Flag Changes and Ranger Talks and depending on the time of year additional programs. Throughout the year special events and activities also happen at the fort. (During the summer, there are people dressed in time period clothing teaching games and other activities)
Have you visited Fort McHenry? What was your favorite part?