A museum just for kids with a giant three-floor climbing structure as its centerpiece? Yes, please! Port Discovery Children’s Museum located in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is more than worth the trip. Visitors can easily spend an entire day there and still not see everything. Port Discovery has something for kids of all ages.
Kidworks has three floors of climbing nearly every type of structure imaginable. There are ladders, ropes, a mini rock-climbing wall, and mats. Up at the top and not sure how to get down? Try the tube slide that takes you from the third floor to the first floor in seconds. There are several climbing trails to follow divided by level of difficulty. Although Port Discovery recommends Kidworks for ages five and up my two-year old was able to easily navigate the simplest climbing trail herself and can make it up the more complex climbing areas with varying levels of assistance.
My five year-old can quickly zip up all of the climbing trails independently. Some parents climb with their children while many parents of older children allow their children to climb on their own. If you let your child loose on Kidworks just be sure to note where the trail lets out at the entrance and make a plan to meet your child there. Some children are so enamored with Kidworks that they don’t want to leave to see the rest of the museum. You may want to set some ground rules about how many climbs your child can do before moving onto one of the museum’s other many exhibits. For climbing, closed toe, flat soled shoes are required for kids and adults.
Wonders of Water
One of the more popular activities is the simple squirting and squeegeeing of the exhibit’s large glass windows. As you might expect, your children will get wet in this exhibit. Raincoats and Crocs are provided, but won’t keep splashing children completely dry. It is recommended that you visit the water play room during the earlier part of your visit so that you will dry off before it’s time to leave.
For babies and very young children Port Discovery offers two rooms dedicated to their littlest visitors. Tot Trails has a soft-play area, a sandbox where children can dig for fossils, and a Mountain Trail and Paw Paw Tunnel. Wednesday through Friday and Sunday interactive movie and story times are held throughout the day. The Oasis is designed to be a calm area for kids and families who need a little downtime. There are several large pillows on the floor where families can sit and read or do a puzzle. There are books and activities, including painting rocks with water, throughout the room. There is also a room for nursing or pumping available. Both Tot Trails and The Oasis are good places for families with a toddler and a baby to enjoy.
Adventure Expeditions is another don’t-miss exhibit appropriate for toddlers on up. Upon entering the exhibit visitors are greeted with a scene of 1920s Egypt complete with an image of the Nile projected on the ground. Children can choose to cross the river by using stepping stones or a movable raft. Things only get better from there with a sarcophagus children can hide in, a climbing tower with treasure at the top, hieroglyphics to decipher, x-ray machines to examine the inside of a mummy and secret codes to crack.
Many other exhibits at Port Discovery are a hit. Kick It Up! encourages exercise by hosting activities including soccer and electronic movement and motion games. Miss Perception’s Mystery House asks children to use all of their senses to solve a missing-person mystery. There are four different family members who have gone missing so you can choose to solve a different mystery over the course of several visits. Children love the full-scale Tiny’s Diner because it’s true-to-life with a complete kitchen and parents love the Dine because it has plenty seating for parents to sit down and relax while children prepare and serve food.
The Convenience Store and Fill’er Up Station allows children to shop with mini-cart and get in and gas-up a real car. There is also a mini-farmer’s market and train playing structure. Nano examines all types of nano-technology and, among other activities, provides children with the opportunity to experiment with a mock sterile lab and plan a city. Younger children can play with Alice-In-Wonderland dolls. The Studio Workshop is a haven for young artists with an area dedicated to drawing and a guided art project that changes a few times a year and during special events.
Port Discovery also has a large space dedicated to traveling exhibits. Currently, The Wizard of Oz is on display. This exhibit is full of fun hands-on activities that go beyond just following the Yellow Brick Road. Among other things, children can: create a tornado; change their voices to sound like the Great and Powerful Oz; find their courage by crawling through a tunnel; test their engineering skills by building a giant rainbow arch; experiment with color by projecting different colored lights on a horse; and search for the Wicked Witch’s flying broom in a castle complete with a climbing wall and slide.
Every day Port Discovery has “extra” activities such as story times and music times throughout the museum. Schedules are posted at the entrance and at various points in the building. Be sure to check the schedule when you arrive to see if you want to attend any activities that day. Port Discovery regularly hosts special events ranging from a Chinese New Year’s party to celebrating Dr. Seuss’ birthday. On Wednesday’s special activities designed for children under six occur throughout the museum. Check out Port Discovery’s calendar on their website for more information about when special events are occurring.
Port Discovery does not have its own cafeteria but it does have vending machines with drinks and snacks. There are also two areas with tables and chairs where visitors can eat a packed lunch or a meal purchased from one of the kid-friendly restaurants within walking distance. Port Discovery also has hangers available where you can leave your coats. There are lockers available for bags and other items you would rather not carry. With so much climbing and activity, it is recommended that you leave bulky purses and snacks behind while you explore you the museum. There is ample metered parking around Port Discovery as well as multiple garages.
Admission and Other Info
Tickets are $13.95 for everyone ages two and up and can be purchased online. Family memberships at various levels may be a good value if you plan on visiting two or more times in a year. Admission prices can be applied towards a membership if you join the same day. If you want to save some money, join Port Discovery on the 3rd Friday of every month for Target $2 Family Night. General admission is just $2/person from 4 to 7pm (tickets must be purchased at the door).
Photo by Jamie Davis Smith.