Calvert Marine Museum in Southern Maryland
by June Santini
No trip to Southern Maryland would be complete without a visit to the Calvert Marine Museum. The museum has tons of stuff for kids to do...and they just might pick up a bit of history along the way if they’re not careful.
Southern Maryland is inextricably linked to the Chesapeake Bay and all of the history and culture that goes with it. Fishing, crabbing, and boatbuilding (to support all of that fishing and crabbing) have been the backbone of the local economy since it was first settled. The Museum offers visitors the chance to explore all kinds of topics related to the bay.
We vacationed in Southern Maryland, and spent an afternoon at the Museum. We had a great time. I have two teenagers who are about as unjaded as teenagers go; they loved it. Kids as young as 3 or 4 would have much to see and do at the museum.
The Main Exhibition Hall is the place to start. Before we even made it to the admissions desk, everyone made a beeline for the skate wing exhibit. These fascinating creatures glide around a large tank and seem to fly through the water. I could watch them for hours. My kids were mesmerized.
If you can manage to pull your kids away from the skate wings, you‘ll make your way to the admissions desk, where you’ll pay a modest admission fee ($7 adults, $6 seniors, $2 children 5-12, and children under 5 are free) and wander in to the first main exhibition hall to learn about the paleontological history of the Chesapeake, which sounds much more boring than it is. After all, what kid doesn’t love fossils?
When asked what tips he would have for other kids visiting the museum, my son’s suggestion was not to miss the Megalodon; he said it made the whole trip worthwhile. The Carcharodon Megalodon is a pre-historic white shark, and the Calvert Marine Museum is home to the only full skeleton of a Megalodon in existence. Even though it is a reproduction, and not the actual, fossil, it is mighty impressive. Any dinosaur loving 18 and 14 year old young kid would be over-the-moon to see this specimen.
It was also very cool that vistors can peek into the actual archaeology lab on as they exit the prehistoric section; we were lucky enough to see some actual work going on. Big open windows look in on the lab from only slightly above it; you're high enough that you can get a good look at what they are working on, but close enough that you almost feel like you’re in the same room with them.
Other exhibits in the main hall are also engaging, although very young children may want quickly to make their way to the Otter exhibit and discovery room. The otters are most active early or very late in the day; mid-afternoon they can be found mostly sleeping. Keep this in mind when planning the time of your visit. If possible, try to get the kids to go outside to visit the actual lighthouse before they go to the Discovery room; they will get much more out of playing in the Discovery room if they do.
The Drum Point Lighthouse is one of only three remaining screw-pile lighthouses in Maryland. Screwpile lighthouses are literally screwed into the ground to anchor them. The lighthouse is a cottage-style house where the keepers used to live with their families as they kept the light lit 24 hours per day.
Important Thing We Learned The Hard Way at the Lighthouse: Do not wear skirts! The staircase is quite steep; it's not quite like climbing a ladder, but it's close. Toddlers will need close supervision to ascend the staircase. Old Mother of Teenagers who Stupidly Wore a Skirt decided it would be best for everyone if she declined to go up. Everyone else reported back to me that it was delightful, furnished for family life in the early 20th century; guides are present to answer questions and talk about life in the lighthouse.
You can’t talk about Southern Maryland without talking about boats and boating. The Museum has a boat shed where they both build and exhibit many different type of water craft used on the bay. Inside the museum, in the discovery room, children can pretend to sail a skiff.The collection includes everything from single log canoes to a 45-foot draketail. You can watch master boat builders preserve and build small craft, and if you're going to spend some time in the area, you can even take a course in how to build your own.
We didn’t have the opportunity to take a river excursion on the Tennyson, an authentic bugeye. We’re sorry we missed it. We made up for it by eating some soft-shell crab sandwiches at the Captain's Table restaurant right next door.
© 2013, KidsOutAndAbout.com
June Santini is Vice President of Operations, KidsOutAndAbout.com