Bookworms and literary nuts unite this weekend for Baltimore’s annual book festival — taking place for the first time EVER at the Inner Harbor. That means plenty of story-fused FREE fun for all ages plus ample parking. With 100+ exhibitors and three days of events, Baltimore is set to show the world books are anything but boring.

“I think that sometimes when parents see book festival, they think of it being a dry, boring thing where their kids have to sit down and be quiet all the time,” said local author and Book Festival participant Kathy MacMillan. “But nothing is further from the truth!  There will be lots of hands-on, fun activities celebrating books!”

You’ll be able to catch Kathy during the story-time program geared towards children aged birth to six at the Children’s Stage. She’ll be sharing from her book Little Hands & Big Hands: Children and Adults Signing Together and is stoked about sharing sign language through songs,stories, rhymes, and interactive games.

“The most important early literacy skill your child can learn is a love of books,”says Kathy, “which happens when children see their grownups enjoying books and when they have positive experiences with books–which is everything this festival is about!”

Ann Berlin, owner of Baltimore’s favorite literary gem The Ivy Bookshop, is looking forward to everything that has been planned for the festival, which includes activities from 10 am on Friday to 7 pm on Sunday. “There is such a variety this year that’s going to be very exciting!” said Ann. The Ivy is hosting a wide range of national and local authors for adults including Laura Lippman, New York Times columnist, Mark Mazzetti, CNN’s Brian Stelter, science fiction legend, Jeff VanderMeer, and many more on their stage at Rash Field.

Planning to go? Here are our best bets for fam-friendly (and kid-approved!) fun!

baltimore book festival family guide: our (cool) picks

Friday, September 26 – Sunday, September 28th at The Inner Harbor

Friday, September 26, 2014

#EpicBookFest for children and young adults on Friday from 10am to 4pm. During the #EpicBookFest, multiple events take place throughout the festival.

Lunchbox Confidential: Chef Brigitte Bledsoe and David Dopkin of Miss Shirley’s Café will present creative lunch box and after-school snack ideas for children. On the menu: “Breakfast Banana Split.” 10:30 AM on Friday. {PS, I have a huge parent crush on Brigitte since she introduced the lunch-box style kid menu items at Miss Shirley’s!

Signing with Kathy MacMillan: Author Kathy MacMillan presents storytelling by hand. Friday at 11 AM.

Meeting Debbie Dadey: Children’s author Debbie Dadey will be at the National Aquarium’s Ocean Exploration Stage on 12 PM on Friday. She’s the author of the Mermaid Tales series.

Learn Book Making with Kevin Sherry: Author Kevin Sherry presents work from his new book with song, pictures and even puppets! He will teach you the goofy progress of book making, from thinking of story ideas to getting the book made. Friday at 1 PM. The Enoch Pratt Free Library Children’s Stage.

After School Art: Bike Customization and Anime: Andy Dahl of Baltimore Bike and artist Matthew Woodle lead bike customizing and anime drawing, presented by the Creative Alliance! Bring your bicycle to decorate and modify or create your own anime characters. Friday at 3 PM. The Enoch Pratt Free Library Children’s Stage.

Youth Poetry Jam with the Baltimore Citywide Youth Poetry Team: Start the Radical Bookfair off right with a special Friday night performance by The Baltimore City Youth Poetry Team, a youth program that engages youth between the ages of 13-21 who live in and around Baltimore City who are passionate about writing, performing and advocating for change in their community. 6:30 PM on Friday.

Book Festival Flick: “Fantastic Mr. Fox”:  The American Visionary Art Museum invites Baltimore Book Festival attendees to a free screening of “Fantastic Mr. Fox.”  Steps away from the Inner Harbor, the Hughes Family Outdoor Theater seats more a thousand on the natural amphitheater formed by Federal Hill.  Guests can watch this fun family film on a 30-foot wide screen held from above by a Giant Golden Hand. In the event of inclement weather, the screening will occur inside AVAM’s Jim Rouse Visionary Center building on the 3rd floor. * {Neighborhood Event during Festival}

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Say ‘Hi’ to Ben Hatke in Real Life!: New York Times Best-Selling author Ben Hatke is super-awesome (remember our interview with him?) Julia’s House is his first-ever picture book. He’ll be on the The Enoch Pratt Free Library Children’s Stage at 2 PM on Saturday.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Catch Up with Mr. Muller and Mirabelle: We love Mirabelle (and her owner!). Meet Mirabelle and Mr. Muller and check out their collection of whimsical board books. They have a new Halloween book out, too. The Enoch Pratt Free Library Children’s Stage, 12 PM on Sunday.

Throughout the Weekend

The Storybook Parade: Walk alongside Berenstain Bears, Clifford, Wild Thing, George Brown and Hedgie! Parade participants are encouraged to come dressed as their favorite storybook character. The parade steps off from the Inner Harbor Ampitheater. Friday at 11 AM, Saturday & Sunday at 3 PM.

The Charm City Comic Book Pavillion: New this year! Browse thousands of books and collectibles, stop and chat with professional comic book creators and game designers. Illustrator Phil Cho demonstrates how to draw superhero and sheheros, courtesy of Art Way Alliance, on Friday at 2 PM.  Cho will also host a demo about how to draw heros in the panel Get Into Comics at 4 PM on Friday. The Third Eye team will discuss a wide variety of genre offerings available for fans new to the world of comics and the first 50 attendees will receive a Third Eye Starter Bag, with two FREE comics, stickers, bookmarks, and coupons.

Animal Encounters with the National Aquarium: Get up close and personal with this Animal Encounter experience. Learn, ask questions, and get a closer look at the animals that make up the National Aquarium’s collection. Both kids and adults alike can enjoy this interactive session with audience participation, fun facts, and tips to help conserve natural environments. Sessions at 3 PM on Friday and Saturday.

Craft Corridor: Children of all ages can find hands-on projects at the Craft Corridor, located in front of the Maryland Science Center.

(cool) tip: Baltimore Office of Arts and Promotion, who host the festival each year, has put together a handy app to help you navigate the festival!

Editor’s Note: Gretchen Settle contributed to this article. Video and Image courtesy of Baltimore Office of Arts and Promotion Website.