A visit to Baltimore allows for many family-friendly activities. If you are looking for a place to enjoy the outdoors and still be in the city without the noise and traffic, head to Patterson Park. I like to think of this urban space as a mini version of Central Park, minus the horse drawn carriages and flocks of tourists.
Patterson Park is the oldest park in Baltimore City and home to a pagoda, marble fountain, two playgrounds, approximately three miles of paved paths, several multi-use playing fields, sports stadium, four full basketball courts, ten tennis courts, boat lake, enclosed ice skating rink, outdoor swimming pool, two pavilions and a rec center. Before letting the kids run amuck at the playgrounds, venture to the pagoda and ascend the staircase for a great view of Baltimore city.
The pagoda sits atop Hamstead Hill where a statue commemorates the centennial of the writing of the “Star-Spangled Banner and the site where soldiers engaged in battle.” Formerly a Civil War camp and hospital, several cannons dating from 1814 acknowledge the search for freedom. There are several benches and tables fitting for a picnic on this spectacular site.
The swimming pool opens in June after Baltimore City schools close for the summer and remains open until late August. Available for public use, the cost is $1.50 per visit or $25 for an individual season pass with kids under age 3 admitted free. The large pool is fenced in and has a separate toddler splash area.
Utz Stadium, located south of the skating rink, is a popular venue for soccer, lacrosse and football tournaments. The Dominic DiPietro Family Skating Center is a full-sized rink equipped with a warm-up room, fireplace, concession stand and skate shop. Often the site for ice hockey games and broomball, public ice skating sessions take place from October to March. Admission is $4 with an additional $2 for skate rental. Season passes and birthday parties are available.
Two playgrounds are situated on opposite ends of the park. We made sure to check out both, and while my child said the clock tower playground was her favorite, both have pros and cons.
The first playground can be accessed via Linwood Avenue. It is on a flat plane making it a breeze for strollers. For toddlers, there is a small area with one wide slide and monkey bars. While the equipment of the main play area is not brightly colored or overly appealing to the eye, I applaud the number of swings available to babies and older children. There is even an additional small set of swings under some mature trees making it appealing to visitors. There are plenty of benches and trees to shield you from the sun. It’s conveniently located near the tennis courts, pool, and ice rink. Street parking is easy to find and there is lots of open space.The newest playground is located near Eastern Avenue between Milton and Montford Avenues. The only entrance we found was accessible by stairs. They are a bit steep and there are no railings to assist you. There are many leaves and twigs making it slippery. I did find broken glass and trash throughout the park which makes me wonder how often it is cleaned. Unfortunately, this is common in a big city. Some of the trash cans were overflowing with litter which not only looked unappealing, but had squirrels entering both playgrounds.
The theme of the playground is “Old Baltimore” with facades of row houses and a Bromo-Seltzer clock tower. Even neater than the clock tower is the fortress-like entrance which forms the backdrop for the space. The area can be approached by descending a short and windy stairwell or by climbing up various ladders.
The playground features four slides and two climbing apparatuses, but no swings. There are tunnels to crawl through, a suspension bridge, two rock climbing walls, and five different types of slides. We saw some children riding scooters along the perimeter of the adjacent, fenced in tot lot. Sit on a bench and enjoy the view of the small boat lake dotted with seagulls. While architecturally beautiful, there is graffiti at both playgrounds.
There are several family friendly events that include Youth Volunteer Day, an annual Fishing Festival, Summer Concert Series, Great Halloween Lantern Parade and Fest Africa.
Things to Know
- The park is open dawn until dusk.
- The park has several entrances: Baltimore Street & Patterson Park Avenue; Baltimore Street & Linwood Avenue; Patterson Park Avenue & Eastern Avenue; South Patterson Park Avenue & Lombard Street.
- Street parking is difficult to find. We had the best luck parking on Linwood Avenue which is right by the one of the playgrounds.
- The inside of the pagoda is only open on Sundays from April to October.
- Dogs are allowed but they must be on leash and it goes without saying that you must pick up after your pet.
At the end of the day, remember that this is a city park. While not aesthetically pleasing, it is not that unusual to see litter and debris. While Patterson Park has a few flaws, its close proximity to the Inner Harbor make it all the more reason to stop and stay awhile.