Port Discovery Children’s Museum
Address for Parking Garage:
35 Market Place
Port Discovery is such an amazing place to spend the day with kids!
One thing that is important to mention: Port Discovery has one of the absolute BEST and most informative websites of any location we’ve ever been to. So while I’m sharing all about our experience during out visit – PLEASE make sure you explore their website when planning your trip – it really is the best and SO incredibly helpful! You can even search for activities based on your child’s age!
Admission and Hours
During the pandemic, the museum was open for 2 times play slots: 10am-1pm and 2pm-5pm. However, as of January 2023 – the museum is open regular hours and you can arrive at any time and stay as long as you’d like during this time frame! The current hours are Wed-Friday 9:30-3pm, Saturday 10a-5p and Sunday 11a-5p. Be sure to check here to verify the current hours before planning your trip!
Booking tickets online ahead of time is required for both visitors and members.
💰Cost: Ages 1 and up: $21.95/person (under 1 is free) For more information on tickets and admission, click here. There is a $2/person military discount. Families on WIC can receive tickets for $3/each (up to 5 tickets)
Memberships are $155 for up to 4 people, $185 for up to 6 people – this includes unlimited access to the museum for a year. For more information on memberships, click here!
Important to Note!
🛒The museum is totally stroller friendly! We brought our single stroller, however we had 3 adults for 3 kids so we didn’t end up using it and kept it in the stroller parking area on the first floor under the stairs. The whole place is easy to navigate with a stroller though – they only ask that you leave it outside of the water exhibit and “Tot Trails”.
♿️ Most areas of the museum are wheelchair accesible – they even have an area for wheelchairs to access the Sky Climber!
🍽Outside food and drink are welcome, but must be consumed in “The Pier.” This is a small eating area with tables near the front of the museum on the first floor. New for 2023 – the pier that features an “Orchard Bistro” – a self service food and snack station. They had snacks, drinks and a few pre-packaged lunch items like lunchables, Uncrustables, sandwiches, etc. Just grab what you want and pay at the self-service kiosk! We brought our lunches from home, but its nice to have the option if you forget to pack something. The Pier area has microwaves, so you can even bring food to reheat if you’d like! There are also water bottle fillers throughout the museum.
🎒What to bring: Be sure you and your kiddos have socks, because the Sky Climber and Chessie’s Grotto play area requires them. You’ll also want to be sure to bring extra clothes for your kiddos here! The “Wonders of Water” exhibit has the potential to get them very wet, so its good to be prepared. Because of the sock rule, I had my kids wear socks with sneakers. Since our last visit, the Wonders of Water exhibit now provides crocs and raincoats to help keep kids dry while playing. Such a nice feature!
🔐Free lockers are provided, they just ask that you wipe down with provided sanitizing wipes before and after use.
🚽There are bathrooms on every floor, and atleast the ones we used both had flip-down potty seats for toddlers and well as kid-height sinks and soap dispensers 🙌🏻 (its the little things, am I right!?) Such a huge help for my potty-training 2 year old!
👨👩👧👧On my first visit I had both my husband and my mom with me, so we had a 1:1 kid to adult ratio which was incredible helpful. It would have been really challenging for me to have all 3 kiddos here by myself on my first visit, before I knew my way around. Now that I’ve been a few times and have a good idea of the layout of the museum, I feel comfortable coming on my own, but still prefer to have help when possible!
🤱There is a nice, enclosed nursing room in the Tot Trails exhibit on the second floor. There is also a smaller area reserved for nursing moms inside “The Oasis” room, also on the second floor.
🗺I found this museum map really helpful when planning my trip. The museum is huge and it can be overwhelming if you enter without knowing what to expect – this map really helped give me an idea of what we wanted to see and where things were located!
I also found these two articles from their website helpful:
10 Tips for Visiting Port Discovery
Visiting Port Discovery with Infants and Toddlers
Getting to the Museum
The garage for Port Discovery is located directly next to the building. I prefer to take a ticket and get it validated at the museum – the cost is $15. You can also pre-pay on SpotHero but I’ve had some trouble with this at times so I find validating in person easier.
The entrance to the museum is just around the corner from the garage exit, look for the big sign and bright orange doors. There are tons of restaurants nearby, including the Leinenkugel “Leinie Lodge and Beer Garden” that serves beer and food starting at 11 am with both indoor and outdoor seating. During the summer they had a “kids eat free” program that we took advantage of on our last visit!
When you arrive at the museum you check in at the desk and show your tickets or membership card. They will give you a receipt – keep it out, because they will check it just around the corner before you enter the actual museum. If it is your first time, a guide will give you a super brief welcome/tour and send you on your way!
The Sky Climber and Storm Slide
The first thing you see when you enter the museum is the GIANT sky climber and storm slide and the Port. The center of the museum is an atrium – so you can see all 3 levels of the museum and the 4-story sky climber that goes all the way to the ceiling.
When you climb to the top of the sky-climber you can choose to go down the slide at the top, or climb down the other side of the climber to the exit. Adults are welcome to climb with their children – but it was tough for me to climb! It is important to note that while the climber is open to ages 3+, the slide is only for ages 5+. If your 3 year old enters the climber, they must climb down instead of sliding. The climber is designed for ages 5+ (according to their website). My twins began enjoying the climbing part at age 4, but even now at age 5 they still to not enjoy the slide – its big, fast and dark!
The great thing about this area is that children are fully contained. There is only one area to enter and exit the climber, so children can’t easily get separated from their parents.
At the base of the climber is “Chessie’s Grotto” – a playspace designed for children ages 3 and under. This is great for parents with both older and younger kids because you can play with your little ones in Chessie’s Grotto, while the older kids do the sky climber. The only way for them to exit the climber is in the same area as the Grotto. All 3 of my kids (3.5 twins and 18 months) loved Chessie’s Grotto, and it was especialyl perfect for the 18 month old – everything was just her size! Because we visited on a particularly quiet day, I was able to really let her wander around the whole base of the sky climber – I’m not sure she’d be able to have this much freedom on a busier day, but it was nice during our visit!
Socks are required in this area – they ask that you remove your shoes when entering this area. If you forget socks you can purchase from the museum for $1.
In the center of the museum, you can’t miss the GIANT life-sized cargo ship. This area is called “The Port”. You can climb aboard the SS Friendship and explore inside, including the engine room, crane, conveyor belts, etc. You can scan cargo and find out what is being loaded onto the ship. You can stear the boat and learn how to communicate using flags!
For more info about this area, click here!
Convenience Store and Gas Station
One of the first play areas when you enter the museum is the Royal Farms gas station and convenience store. This area features a real VW beetle (that you can actually go inside) with a realistic gas pump, air pump, etc. as well as a convenience story with groceries, and ATM, cash register, check out line and more! Everything is well stocked for dramatic play. My girls loved this area and spent a good amount of time here!
To the left of the entrance is a giant magnetic tangram wall! The girls loved moving the pieces around and making different creations with the magnets.
“Kick It Up!” Indoor Soccer Field
Behind the Ski Climber and Chessie’s Grotto is Kick It Up! An indoor soccer field – perfect space to run around and play a quick game of soccer!
Other First Floor Activities
We didn’t get to visit these areas, but click the links below to learn more about these exhibits!
In this room you can learn all about Ancient Egypt! There is a cool moving “bridge” where kids can pull themselves across the Nile River. There is also a tunnel that leads to a small climber. This area is recommended for ages 7+, but one of my twins (age 3.5) loved it. The tunnel area is dark and makes some spooky noises so the other twin was a little uneasy here. If you make it through the “spooky tunnel” (as my kids call it) there is a small climbing structure in this area a well!
The Oasis is a quieter space designed as a nice break from the sights and sounds of the rest of the museum. There are several tables with toys and activities set up like magnatiles, a barn with animals, “rock painting” (rocks, paintbrushes and water) as well as TONS of books to read. This room felt like a library and was truly a nice space to take a break and let the kids unwind for a few. This is room reserved for children ages 6 and under and also has a space reserved for nursing mothers.
Tot Trails is a room reserved for Children 3 and under. My 18 month old absolutely LOVED this room and I saw several other little ones younger than her enjoying it as well. There is a small, age appropriate climbing structure and a light up floor area that my little one loved. Her favorite part was the small wind tunnel – you could put pretend leaves in the bottom and they would come flying out the top. She played with this for a solid 15 minutes completely on her own. There is a “tidal pool” area made up of soft gymnastics mats, perfect for crawlers or early walkers. The “dunes” area is also great for this age group – with low to the ground textured walks that are perfect for pulling up to stand or walking along. There is a small sand table here with toys and step stools so even the little ones can reach. There is a family restroom here as a well as a nice nursing room.
This was a fun shape sorting conveyor belt that the twins LOVED! You had to pick up the shapes and set them in the correct spot (like a puzzle) all while the conveyor belt kept moving. This entertained my girls for a long time!
The overlook allows children to get a feel for the height of the Sky Climber without having to climb all the way to the top. This area has an ADA compliant entrance so all children can have the opportunity to interact with other children in the Sky Climber. My kiddos loves walking on the netted floor and climbing on the provided stepping-stone like structures.
Tiny’s Diner is my twins absolute favorite spot in the whole museum. They played here for a full hour before i had to gently encourage them to check out some other exhibits. They are very into playing “restaurant” at home, so this was perfect for them.
This area is set up like a 50’s style diner, and the attention to detail is amazing! The kitchen is fully stocked with realistic play food, pots and pans, sink, dishes, order tickets, etc. There are booths with menus, a cash register and a counter with barstools. Kids can pretend to be a chef, waitress, customer, etc.
Wonders of Water
Wonder’s of Water was a close second for all 3 girls favorite spots. This is an entire room dedicated to water play! At the entrance of this room there are crocs and rain coats provided – kids can swap out their shoes for crocs so they don’t get their shoes wet while playing, There is a huge water table for all ages – one end is super low to the ground for little ones, and even has a clip on high chair so the tiniest kiddos can play! Another water table is designated for lego play. There is a cool sink and float sorting tank as well as a bubble ring where you can stand inside a bubble! (though we had a hard time getting this to work!)
A favorite for my girls in this area was the window squeeges. Kids could spray the windows with a spray bottle and squeegee them off! So simple but so fun and really entertaining for kids! On our most recent visit, they had all new spray bottles and squeegees so there are plenty for everyone.
There is another mostly fenced off area that is designated for “very wet” water play. Water shoots out of the floor and kids can connect pipes to make their own fountain. There is also a hose where kids can aim at different objects to make different sounds. As I previously shared, I strongly suggest bringing an extra change of clothes in case your kids get soaked!
At the exit of the water room there are dryers mounted on the wall to help kids dry off after playing.
On our most recent visit, we spent about 4 hours here (including eating lunch in the cafeteria). I felt like this was a good amount of time for my crew to see and do everything that we wanted, but you could definitely stay even longer!
Upon exiting the museum, don’t forget to validate your parking!
I would love to hear your experiences if you decide to visit Port Discovery! We have so much fun every time we spend the day here!