Port Discovery is located in Baltimore, Maryland just a short walk from the historic and bustling Inner Harbor. The building is located in a sort of cul-de-sac, with the Power Plant music venue beside and a few restaurants directly across from the entrance. The entry is bright and cheery, and when we arrived shortly after opening on a Sunday morning there was no line to buy tickets.
This is a hands-on museum. Everything in there is meant to be touched, played with and experimented with by even the most tiny of fingers. There is a range of age-appropriate activities and my kids were both bummed that we wouldn't let them explore the older-kid mazes in the jungle gym area that snakes its way around much of the center of the building. Luckily, there are plenty of other things to do that even a fixated child should perk up quickly and forget about what they're not able to do.
I have a few recommendations. My kids are 2.5 (Lotus), and we went for Asher's 4th birthday. They're generally fine kids, well-behaved for the most part and usually happy. Lotus can get a bit disagreeable when she's tired and wanting a nap, and we were hoping she'd take care of that detail on the way down to Baltimore, a little less than an hour's drive from home. She didn't, so we kind of expected that she might be a bit of a grumpball here and there while at Port Discovery.
She was. I mean, we managed fine and she wasn't awful, but we didn't stay as long as we could have if she was feeling rested. Therein is my first bit of advice.
Go with the flow.
I say that over and over when it comes to kids. You have to adapt to their mood to keep the peace. I'm not talking about being a pushover, certainly not that. However, even if you plan on spending four hours in a museum, if Kid 1 is tired and hungry then adapt to that situation. It isn't fair to anyone if Kid 1 is screaming and throwing a fit every five minutes. I understand you paid for a ticket and that Kid 2 might be disappointed that he/she has to leave early but you have to do what's right for everyone.
So you're all hungry, right?
Go to Joe Squared Pizza.
It's directly across from the entrance to Port Discovery and there is outside dining. If you haven't guessed, we ate there after our brief time at Port Discovery. Lotus was still acting out, so she was walked away from the table one time until she settled down. Our server assured me after my apology that they see fussy kids all the time, tired from their day exploring the museum. They were wonderful at making me feel like they still wanted my business. Our server was attentive, the pizza came quickly and the craft beer menu was impressive for a pizza joint. Also, the pizza was delicious, making Joe Squared an ideal spot for a family meal after Port Discovery.
Walk to the Inner Harbor before or after Port Discovery.
There is a wide range of things to see and do in the Inner Harbor area. From buskers and street performers to restaurants and cafes to shopping, there are plenty of activities here to keep you busy for an entire day or even a whole weekend. If you just have a couple hours then check out the Dragon Boats, the USS Constellation tall ship and the Top of the World observation deck in the World Trade Building.
Port Discovery is suitable for kids of all age groups.
Heck, I had a blast too. There is a field for soccer. One room is dedicated to teaching kids how a grocery store, gas pump and ATM work. My favorite section was probably the archaeology room, which guided kids through a dig and taught basic research skills. (Awesome!)
The underwater/outer space loft was loads of fun and full of buttons, bells and whistles. We didn't do much in the water room because I'm a lame mom and didn't want the kids to get soaked because we didn't bring a change of clothes. One section is dedicated to the youngest explorers, with age-appropriate puzzles, books and toys.
For the older kids there is a mystery exhibit with weird and creepy sounds, music and themed rooms where they can solve the puzzle using clues. The entire center of the building is a giant jungle gym with tunnels, rope ladders and places to climb. The nanotechnology exhibit was fascinating for us all.
This is the place to go if you live close to Baltimore and have kids. There are photographs of the museum in the slideshow below. All photos by Amber DeGrace.
I daresay Baltimore should be a strong consideration on your list of possible travel destinations. There's so much to see and do in the city!
Hours: Widely varied between days and different times of the year. Please call or check their website for what is current.
Parking: Harbor Park Garage at 55 Market Place (it's just down from the Port Discovery entrance)
Admission Price: Ages 2+ is $13.95 and under 2 is free. Group pricing is available.
The entry to Port Discovery is bright and cheery, thanks to the many windows. You can't miss the sign!
We were the only individuals in line at the ticket desk.
I would say that they achieve their goal with this museum.
I appreciated the large, easy to read signs throughout the grocery store area because they help explain healthy eating habits to kids.
There were various items set up throughout the grocery store. Fruits, veggies, canned goods, packaged items and a dairy section. Kids can collect their groceries in shopping baskets and take them to the checkout.
Little customers are able to weigh out their own fruits and vegetables at the checkout desk.
In the underwater loft, children can decorate exhibit edges with coral. It's a fun visual way for them to learn about the creatures.
Look at the wonder in those eyes!
Sitting in the captain's chair with a cape on, it's easy to pretend one is was controlling a spaceship!
The upper level loft is full of underwater and outer space adventure.
I thought this rug was a great piece to have in the learning room designed for younger children. This is also where a large selection of books was located.
This room was wonderful for my 2.5 year old but they both had a great time in here.
This massive jungle gym stretches from floor to ceiling through the very heart of the museum.
This view is from Joe Squared, a great family-friendly spot that's perfect for lunch after a busy day at Port Discovery.
Follow Amber DeGrace on Twitter: www.twitter.com/amberdegrace