A Family Outing: Port Discovery Children’s Museum

A few Saturdays ago, we visited the Port Discovery Children’s Museum in Baltimore for the first time. It’s not the cheapest place to visit. Besides the entrance fee, you have to pay for parking.

Ticket prices vary. As of September 2016, general admission costs $14.95 for ages 2 and up, but they have specials. For example, military personnel receive $2 off general admission for themselves and up to 4 guests. Also, if you have an IKEA Family Card, you can get 50% off one general admission ticket.

If you park in the Harbor Park Garage, which is next to the museum, ask the staff in the museum to give you a discount card to reduce your parking price to $15. I did check on Parking Panda the day before, and I found cheaper garages, but they were a further walk to the museum. Drivers in Baltimore (actually, pretty much anywhere in Maryland) do not stop for pedestrians, even when they’re in crosswalks and even though it’s the law, so I did not want to walk any further with Little J than I had to!

We started on the top floor of the museum and worked our way down. The Wonders of Water play area (closed Tuesdays for maintenance) and Tiny’s Diner were probably Little J’s favorite places to play.

Port Discovery
Little J and Big J building a plumbing system at the Wonders of Water play area. The museum has Crocs (cleaned daily) for people to borrow for this exhibit if they want. They had rain jackets for the kids too.
Port Discovery
Tiny’s Diner has play food, pots, pans, and trays for kids to play with.

Port Discovery
The play food looks realistic!

I felt like the museum did a good job of catering to kids of almost all ages, from crawling infants to upper elementary ages. There were some areas that may appeal to middle school students (like the indoor soccer “stadium”), but I think they’d be a bit old for most of the exhibits.

Port Discovery
In the Adventure Expeditions, you can wander around in 1920’s Egypt, decipher hieroglyphics and more.

The museum also has a quiet room called The Oasis. I think this is a great place for kids who are overwhelmed by all of the busyness in the museum. There’s even a nursing room inside of The Oasis!

Port Discovery
The Oasis has quiet toys, lots of books and places to sit and relax.
Port Discovery
There’s a Nursing Station in The Oasis too! You have to duck down a little to get into it. There are windows between the room and the rest of The Oasis, so moms can nurse their little ones and still keep an eye on older kids.

The pictures in this post were on my iPhone, but once I eventually get picture off my Nikon, I’ll put up another post with more photos. That post will include photos of Tot Trails, which is the more infant-friendly area, and BGE Studio Workshop, the craft area.

Something I really liked about the museum, they don’t let adults in unless the adult is accompanying a child. Also, the adults will have the same wristband code as the child or children. Before you can walk out of the facility with a child, security will match the child’s wrist band with yours.

We spent a few hours there, and Little J still wasn’t able to do everything, so I think it’s feasible to spend an entire day. They don’t sell food there, but they do have a sitting area where you can eat food you brought with you. You can also leave the museum to eat at one of the numerous restaurants within walking distance, and you’ll be allowed back into the museum with your wrist band.

Bottom line- our whole family had fun, and we’d do it again!

What fun places did you visit this summer?

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A Family Outing: Montpelier Mansion

Note: I had issues with my site after publishing this post, so I recalled it, and I’m trying again!

Montpelier Mansion
The dining room

Hubby, Little J and I recently had the chance to visit Montpelier Mansion in Laurel, Maryland, which is about 40 minutes south of Baltimore. If you’re ever up that way, this is an inexpensive, interesting National Historic Landmark to visit. I’m used to visiting historic mansions and houses where you get to see the downstairs and that’s about it. At Montpelier, you actually get to climb the stairs and go to the upper level! It sounds like such a little thing, but it was neat to see the majority of the house. Tickets are $5 for adults, and kids are free or $2 depending on the age. Montpelier Mansion is a Blue Star Museum, so it’s free for active-duty military, National Guard, and reservists and their family members between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Montpelier Mansion
Walking up to the mansion

Montpelier Mansion was built between 1781 and 1785 by Maj. Thomas Snowden and his wife, Anne. Guests at the home included George Washington and Abigail Adams.

The not-so-nice reality of this mansion and its past

Upstairs, there’s a children’s room where almost everything is hands-on. They can try on clothes, write on chalk slates, and play with old-fashioned wooden toys.     Kids collage

Montpelier Mansion
This bed chamber belonged to the lady of the house. Do you think that bed is actually squishy in the middle?

One really cool thing about the property- they’ve found dinosaur skeletons there! Some of those bones are now on display at the Smithsonian, but there’s a cool kid’s dinosaur room on the property where Little J was able to play with some toy dinosaurs and dinosaur bone replicas, and even build a 3D wood dinosaur skeleton! Montpelier Mansion

We had a fun time, and considering that most of the exhibits had A/C, it was a great place to explore in this summer heat! I recommend visiting Montpelier Mansion if you’re in the area.

What historic places have you visited this summer?

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A Family Outing: The National Naval Aviation Museum

To update you all, Baby J and I are still here in Pensacola visiting Hubby, but we’ll be heading back up north soon. Hubby will be heading to Texas for a few more months of training, then we’ll all be reunited and move to the Baltimore/DC area together this summer. Busy, but fun times are coming! …Along with family outing posts about the Northern Virginia/DC/Maryland area.

Two Saturdays ago, the three of us visited the National Naval Aviation Museum on Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida. This was Baby J’s first air museum, and he clearly loved it. I took dozens of photos of him and could not get him to stand still for most of them. They’re almost all blurry!

Museum admission and parking are both free. The guided tours and flight line trolley tours are also free! You do need to sign up for those at the information desk. Attractions that charge include the IMAX, flight simulators, and the Blue Angels X4D Experience. See the website for current ticket info.

You will need a valid ID to enter base and the museum. Concealed weapons are not allowed on the naval station, and you cannot carry a backpack into the museum. We did bring a small diaper bag that we placed in the bottom of the stroller. Also, you’re not supposed to bring food or drinks in, but nobody stopped me over Baby J’s sippy cup, and I did have some of his snacks along (no one questioned that).

Other than Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, the museum is open all year, from 9am to 5pm. The IMAX theater, gift shop, and cafe hours differ, so check online before heading out there.

The museum has more than 150 restored aircraft on display. The exhibits include Homefront U.S.A., World War II, Pacific Island, and Naval Aviation in the Persian Gulf. There are really too many to mention here, but you can find a list on the museum’s website.

It’s been years since I visited this museum, so it was really neat to see how it’s changed and grown. There’s an entire second building now (a hangar) dedicated to more “modern” aircrafts including an unmanned aerial vehicle and Marine One.

One of Baby J’s favorite places in the museum was the Kiddie Hawk play area. It’s modeled after the island of an aircraft carrier, completely with rope ladders, binoculars, periscopes, and more. There’s also a slide, but Baby J was too chicken to go down by himself, and people older than 5 are not allowed on the play equipment. =D

Baby J kept pointing at the air planes and yelling, “Oh, wow!” so I definitely think he’s ready for an air show! I’m really enjoying taking him to museums and attractions now that he’s getting older; seeing the wonder on his little face is an amazing thing.

There were raised areas here with steps, but ramps were always easy to find. We did have a little trouble locating the elevators for the Second Deck. We ended up taking an elevator up, but carrying the stroller down the stairs to get back down (I wouldn’t recommend this). There are (supposedly) two elevators from the First to the Second Deck. I should confess that we never checked for a museum map.

We went spent a couple of hours there total, but you could definitely spend more time if you read all the plaques, watched the movies, and perhaps visited the simulators. Baby J refused to sit in his stroller -he wanted to run everywhere- and he was starting to really lag, so we ended up calling it a day without seeing everything.

If you’re in the Pensacola area, I recommend spending a morning or afternoon at the museum. If the Blue Angels are in town, you can even head outside, sit on the available bleachers, and watch them practice overhead! You can usually see them Tuesday and Wednesday mornings for about an hour beginning at 11:30, March to November. After Wednesday practices, the pilots will often come inside the museum to sign autographs.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to see them flying during our Pensacola visit, as the Blues are currently in California for some air shows. You can read the Blue Angel’s show schedule for more information.

Are you a homeschooling family? They have a distance learning program with on-demand video courses. Learn about air pressure, altitude, and more. The museum property is also home to the National Flight Academy, and registration is now open for their six-day educational summer camps.

Have you ever been to the National Naval Aviation Museum? Do you enjoy going to air shows and/or museums?

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