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“Not nearly as expensive as the aquarium!”

Port Discovery Children's Museum
Ranked #28 of 229 things to do in Baltimore
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Owner description: Port Discovery Children’s Museum is ranked among the top 5 children’s museums in the United States! (Child Magazine)Port Discovery offers three floors of interactive, educational exhibits and ever-changing programs for children ages birth through 10. Toddle and crawl through Tot Trails. Get healthy and fit in Kick It Up!. Splish splash in Wonders of Water. Shop and pump gas at the Royal Farms Convenience Store and Fill’er Up Station. Cook and serve food in Tiny’s Diner or climb and slide through KidWorks, a 3-story urban treehouse.Port Discovery Children's Museum is pleased to partner with the Let’s Move! Museums and Gardens Initiative launched by First Lady Michelle Obama and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to fight childhood obesity. The national initiative helps children learn about healthy food choices and promotes physical activity through interactive exhibits and programs.
Useful Information: Activities for young children
nc
Level Contributor
110 reviews
15 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 73 helpful votes
“Not nearly as expensive as the aquarium!”
Reviewed 29 March 2014

This was definitely the largest children's museum I have been in and it is not too pricey but, other than that, it was a disappointment. Thank goodness we went on an afternoon where there were very few kids present as the climbing apparatus in the center would be an absolute disaster if there were many children present. I am not sure who would design a play structure in a public area with multiple exits on multiple floors. Absolutely crazy...there is some comfort in that, when you check in, you are given a wrist band that allows only your children to leave with you.... but what about all the time they might be running around in the museum? Thank goodness my children know how uptight I am in public places and constantly waved from the structure and only explored a bit. I wore high heel boots and therefore couldn't climb in after them... had I known, however, we just wouldn't have gone as climbing enclosed areas with screaming children is not my thing. The kitchen area was my kids favorite part. However, they need to restock some of the utensils, plates and food. The water area would have been a hit, however, much of the water pressure was low when we were there and the woman manning the area said "oh well, its been acting like that all day." No interest on her part to find someone who might be able to fix it. The Egyptian mystery area was okay and the other mystery area with a missing family was just down right weird. My five year old son liked the grocery area with car and gas station. There seemed to be some nice tot areas but my children are 5 and 8 and these did not interest them. It was a cold day in Baltimore so it wasn't a horrible way to spend an afternoon but we won't be going back. We will try the zoo next time, an art museum or possibly the Ripley's museum.

Visited March 2014
Helpful?
1 Thank buttercup16
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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English first
Baltimore, Maryland
1 review
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
“what happened?!”
Reviewed 24 March 2014

place needs to be renovated or remodeled....looked very old and kinda run down, def a disappointment...came here as a child prob wont go back til it gets fixed up...the "house area" was very "antique"...other than that my kid had fun in the water and kitchen area...thats about it...

Visited January 2014
Helpful?
1 Thank Deavo90
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
PortDiscoveryCM, Public Relations Manager at Port Discovery Children's Museum, responded to this review, 4 April 2014
Thank you for your review. Your experience is important to us. Please contact our guest services department at mruthke@portdiscovery.org so that your specific concerns can be addressed. Thank you!
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Lancaster, Virginia
Level Contributor
374 reviews
165 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 87 helpful votes
“The Kids Had a Blast!”
Reviewed 4 March 2014

We brought our grandchildren for an afternoon at the museum. The price was reasonable and on Sunday they validate half the price of the $15 parking. The kids loved the giant play scape that dominated the center of the museum and was three stories high. They also loved the train and car and the dance room with the light wall. Even our three year old enjoyed herself. Although they don't have a cafeteria, there are plenty of places to eat in the immediate area. At 13.95 the price was reasonable for the fun the kids were having. Surely, a better value than the $35 for the aquarium.

Visited March 2014
Helpful?
Thank Ernjack1972
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
PortDiscoveryCM, Public Relations Manager at Port Discovery Children's Museum, responded to this review, 6 March 2014
Thank you so much for sharing your review. KidWorks, our 3-floor tall climbing structure is a hit with children of all ages and we are so glad that your family enjoyed it! We are glad to be located in such a close proximity of great family friendly restaurants, shops and convenient parking. We hope that you will join us again soon!
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Ellicott City, Maryland
1 review
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
“Such a disappointment.”
Reviewed 24 February 2014

My boyfriend and I loved port discovery as young kids and we decided to go back for old times sake and were denied admission because we did not have kids. We are extremely disappointed.

Visited February 2014
Helpful?
6 Thank lauren w
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
PortDiscoveryCM, Guest Relations Manager at Port Discovery Children's Museum, responded to this review, 6 March 2014
Good Afternoon,

I have read this review thoroughly and would like to do my best to reply point-by-point. Before I begin, guests reading should realize that Presidents Day weekend is one of the most attended weekends in Baltimore (and likely most other places in the U.S.). On Sunday, February 16th we had over 1,700 guests visit in just 5 hours. This is about 1,000 more people than we would normally have in attendance on a given Sunday and even more than a normal President's Day weekend due to the weather that occurred on Saturday keeping guests indoors. When I arrived to work on Monday, I was shocked to know how many guests were here the day before. In addition to our high attendance, we were serving 5 children's birthday parties, we were open an extra day that week for our guests (Monday, February 17th), and hosted a 100 person evening event the evening prior.

It should also be made known that most children's museums are non-for-profit institutions that very much rely on admission fees and donations to operate. Though it was busy that particular weekend, we are always working hard to make ends meet in order provide staff, supplies, programming, satisfy repair needs, pay utilities, and more. Every single dollar that we make from our guests goes back into the museum operation. Exhibits, design, major building repairs, etc. - most of these items are allocated through capital funds, matching bond bills, or donations.

Unfortunately, yes, due to staffing circumstances there were not a lot of hands to be had on the museum floor on Sunday, February 17th. Many were allocated to birthday parties (we provide one staff member, per party) and the rest were placed in exhibit areas that require supervision by staff (Kidworks, Wonders of Water, Studio Workshop, Exerkid Games in Kick It Up, Tot Trails, the security/information office, and the museum entry (we have a wristband policy where all kids must be matched to one adult before exiting the museum). There is a manager on duty to respond to radio calls, reconnect separated children, relieve staff for lunch, help clean as much as possible, take care of administrative tasks, etc. Needless to say, Chris had his hands full that day. So I agree that this was not the most ideal situation. If staff members were standing around, talking to one another, it was either a supervisor speaking to a staff member, birthday staff members talking to each other, or a staff member relieving another from a position. I apologize if this was misperceived.

As far as the museum not being the same place that was visited 4 year ago, I am quite surprised. Since then (I have been with the museum for 13 years, beginning as an entry level Program Associate), we have added 2 new permanent exhibits (Tot Trails - the infant/toddler area and Kick It Up - the "sports" area) and one semi-permanent exhibit focused on Nano science (presently in our rotating gallery space while we wait for Curious George to arrive in May). The Oasis has a brand new health corner with games, puzzles, books, and other healthy habit based activities. Two years ago all of the carpeting in the museum was replaced, in addition to new impact flooring inserted around the entire base of Kidworks and at the exits of all Kidworks landings. Most walls were re-painted in bright, new colors at that time as well in addition to the ceiling grids being repainted on the 1st and 2nd floor. We began our ArtWay program 1 year ago that allowed the addition of an art installation in the entry space and above it. We've also added two new, very large, mosaics made by children and a local artist. One is in the Pier (lunch room) and one is outside of Studio Workshop. Three years ago we completely upgraded our HVAC system (a huge undertaking for a historic building). This is merely what we've done inside the building. We have done a great deal more beyond for schools and the community.

I will concede, as would the rest of the staff here, that there is some wear and tear in Miss Perceptions Mystery House and in the other, older exhibits. We do our best to complete repairs as quickly as possible, but over busy weekends it can be difficult to keep up. Miss Perceptions is in our current 5 year plan to become something completely new. We are also looking at upgrading/re-designing Kidworks in some way. This all takes a great deal of time, planning, and money, so in the meantime we are doing our best to maintain our 15 year old original exhibits as they are. The primary educational point to Miss Perceptions Mystery House is problem solving. Turning the handle on the car out front activates the voice of 'Miss Perceptions' who tells you that everyone in the house has 'disappeared' and it is up to you to find them. If you follow the clue tags for an individual family member then read, touch, and listen throughout the exhibit, you will find out what happened to them, why it happened to them, and where they are in the house. The 'depuzzlers' at the end of the exhibit help you determine if you solved the mystery or should go back and try again.

The educational components of Adventure Expeditions (the Egyptian exhibit) are similar. It's an older exhibit based on problem solving. After going through the space time travelator you are asked "when and where you are" on the sign in front of you. It explains that you are in Egypt in 1922 and the archeologists looking for the pharaoh Neferhotep have gone missing and you are asked to pick up the where they left off in order to find the pharaoh (who is at the end of the exhibit). Granted, this exhibit involves a great deal of reading in order to solve the puzzle as it was originally meant for ages 7-14 years. But it's still a lot of fun for little guys in terms of sensory experiences, as is the Mystery House.

I fully admit that Kidworks on busy days can come across as intimidating. This is a challenge that I have worked with over my 13 years with the museum. It takes some time to read signage to fully get the sense of it. It is a three-story climbing structure that is up only. There are 4 different trails that all begin from the 1st floor and exit on either the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd floor. Each entrance, to each trail is labeled. The label instructs guests which floor the trail exits on. Different trails are suggested for different age groups. There is a very large sign nearby labeled "Kidworks" that explains each trail and gives the suggested age range. On our museum map, we ask that adults meet their children at the exit of the given trail so they can stay together, or they can climb together if they choose (if you are able/willing). So yes, if kids are sent to climb alone and before reading about the exhibit, it can be a bit chaotic. We always recommend taking the time to read the signs first and then climbing so there is an idea of where to meet.

Unfortunately, many guests do let older children go off on their own. Know that Port Discovery requires supervision of children under the age of 18. This can be quite a challenge to maintain on busy days. This language is posted on our website and on our activity sheet for the day, we also make overhead announcements reminding guests of this if necessary. If we see children in an exhibit without an adult, we will ask them to go find them (and sometimes vice versa). This is a constant struggle at busy times for Guest Services but the longer I've been director, the better and better it becomes as guests, over time, understand that our museum is more than just a big climbing structure and that there are real learning opportunities to be had between caregivers and children everywhere you go throughout the building.

Royal Farms Fill'er Up Station (grocery center) is one of the most popular areas on busy days. It is almost impossible to get items back on the shelves for long, so we do our best to keep things off the floor and encourage kids and adults to help put things back when they are done, if possible. I imagine this Sunday, that would have been difficult. I have been in that exhibit myself many times when the museum is busy. You clean it up, literally turn around, and everything you just did is on the floor. Most of the money and food from the exhibit was probably in the back of the car if it was missing. Children pile it up in there all of the time. We empty the car several times per day, even on slow days. We have about 25 baskets for shopping in the exhibit. They were either all full, being used, or again, inside the car at the time. Our exhibits techs are constantly making repairs to this exhibit due to its popularity (they just made one today actually). If you ever see something broken or not in good repair, report it to a staff member as it may have just happened and may be unaware of it.

To address concerns with the Oasis, the walls were painted in this space when the carpet was replaced and the fabric on the trees were newly designed and painted this past September. Many of the toys, games, and books are new as of September too. If anything in the space looks too worn or does not work, we will remove it. I remove items monthly myself and repair them if we can. Many of the items listed in this review are in the space or somewhere else in the museum. For example there are currently giant blocks on the second floor outside of the Oasis as well as many building materials in the Oasis itself, there is a gym mat in the space, there is a magnet wall with lots of words on it on the first floor of the museum, the Oasis and Tot trails have many chunky puzzles for the little ones to practice fine motor skills, and there are tons of wipeable board books located throughout exhibits (Royals Farms, the Oasis, the Diner, Tot Trails, Studio Workshop). We do not use bean bag chairs any more. If/when they open, static-driven foam beads wind up everywhere in the space.

We limited the amount of toys and games in Tot Trails on purpose. All of these items are already in the Oasis and we did not want pieces littered on the floors where babies are crawling and toddlers are practicing walking. We perform early education programming in this space almost every day. The program witnessed was most likely Jingle Jangle Music Time with Summer, a staff member from our Education department. The sand table is at the height it is on purpose as well. Any lower and it would turn into a sand box with kids sitting in it as it has at other museums. There are portable steps around the sand table for our youngest visitors. We do not mind if sand gets on the floor, but if it was being thrown or other unsafe behavior was occurring, please let Summer or someone else know so we can address it. The staff member in the space will generally stay near the front door when busy to make sure that older children, over the age of three, do not come in and disrupt the visit for our infants and toddlers. Shoes only need to be taken off in the exhibit if one is playing with their child on the tidal pool mats. It states this on the shoe cubby when you enter the exhibit. This is why the rule was perceived as 'not being enforced'. Tot Trails has its own restroom, with an adaptable little kid potty, right next to the sand table. Hands can be washed here. There is another portable step there to reach the sink. As far as other activities in the space, there is a 'puppet theatre' in the form of a tree with holes in it for puppet play, there is overhead music throughout the museum every day, the 'sand dune' area is specifically designed with multiple textures, levels, and elevations for crawlers and new walkers to explore. The tidal pool mats for infants have several different pieces made out of foam (leaves, geometric shapes) for babies to explore as well. Again, we do not wish to have bins of loose toys in the space, however, we do have some blocks by the light bright wall, puzzles and other activities in the book nook, and more natural wood blocks, and a butterfly launch by the mountain climber. We used to have a ball pit in an old exhibit called Sensation Station. Ball pits are highly unhygienic and incredibly difficult to clean. There are tons of studies and reports that show this. I insisted we not have one ever again for the safety of our guests and staff.

In regard to limiting the amount of children by time in an exhibit space, we have tried to do this in the past and wound up in a spiral of hard-to-manage customer service issues. Timing an exhibit limits the amount of children allowed in a space over the course of a day. On a day with 1,700 people and only 5 hours you can imagine how some guests might react to their child not getting a chance to play in the Diner. Some children play in this exhibit for 5 minutes, some for 30. We do not want to put limits on a child's play in this manner. Besides that, we would have to have a staff member dedicated to this activity, as well as time to re-set the space between each session. As I mentioned, we've tried this in other exhibits, and it just does not work for our guests. We will start a line outside of the Wonders of Water, but this is only due to safety within the exhibit space.

The Legos in the Wonders of Water are indeed for the space. There is a balancing activity called "The Block Dock" where they are used. Within the Wonders of Water there are cards for each main activity for those parents that wish to engage differently with their children. There are 4 in total and they are located in holders on walls throughout the exhibit. These exist at the entrance of Tot Trails too.

Kick It Up can be very popular. We change the programming daily. Sometimes it is an open play soccer field for kids to develop team skills and work on physical fitness, at other times, we set up a number of electronic, healthy-based games called "ExerKid Games". During the week, we also do sessions of Parachute Games with the little ones on Wednesdays. Kick It Up is part of our health platform throughout the museum. Kidworks is a part of this too as it encourages physical activity.

The section with the "giant put together type toys" are in a space that is normally for travelling exhibits. Until we receive Curious George in May, SNUG's are filling that area, otherwise, it would be empty. SNUG's are a very strong, creative playground set that allows kids to build, move, crawl, balance, and work as a group to create their own climbing structures. It's generally very popular. There are two large signs there as well explaining the equipment.

We are currently in the process of building a farm exhibit called "Here We Grow". Again, this takes planning, time, design and redesign. It should be on the floor within the next year or two. Currently, there are remnants of a smaller farm exhibit on the first floor. There are two cows for pretend milking, chicken Twister, and a silo that takes "eggs" up a conveyer.

Much of the "empty space" in the museum is needed for general traffic flow, events, or other purposes. We are working with an architect (Cambridge 7) to develop new uses for our space over the next 5 -10 years. Until those plans are finalized, we will utilize the exhibits and spaces we have with the funds allotted to us to the best of our ability.

Cleaning of the museum happens every single day. Our staff members disinfect all surfaces and toys at the end of each work day and during the visit as needed. Bathrooms are cleaned and disinfected multiple times in a day. Carpets are deep cleaned every week and vacuumed daily. Tile floors are swept and mopped daily. I help with the cleaning every day that I am here so I can speak honestly about it. I have crawled through Kidworks to pick up trash and yes, even cleaned restrooms. When it is busy, we do our best to keep up. If ever things look messy, trust me, we notice and will be around to clean it or pick it up as soon as we are able. If something needs our immediate attention, all a guest needs to do is ask for our help and we will get there as soon as we can.

I believe that covers most points noted. Any readers of this review, please know that I very much want all of our guests to have the best experience possible. Because of that desire, any guest may call me or email me directly in order to find out exactly what the day of their planned visit might look like. If it's going to be busy, I will be very honest about it. The info email on our website also comes directly to me and I answer it within 2 work days at the very most. I work Tuesday - Saturday most often but will usually note a schedule change on my out of office email with an alternative contact if you need to get in touch with someone last minute. So please, if you wish to come again, and avoid the crowds, contact us first and we'll be happy to guide your visit to be the best possible experience for your family.

Magan Ruthke
Director of Guest Services
Email: mruthke@portdiscovery.org
Phone: 410-864-2650
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Pennsylvania
Level Contributor
10 reviews
4 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
“Kids beg to go back”
Reviewed 22 February 2014

Lots of fun things to do for kids. It is very hands on. Sometimes they have free tickets for military. My kids ask to go there each visit!

Visited March 2013
Helpful?
3 Thank TrvlSkr
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
PortDiscoveryCM, Public Relations Manager at Port Discovery Children's Museum, responded to this review, 24 February 2014
Awesome! Thank you so much for sharing your experience. We are glad that you were able to take advantage of our military discount and hope that you will join us again soon!
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