Everyone’s favorite number one blue engine has rolled into Port Discovery Children’s Museum; featuring a traveling tour called Thomas & Friends: Explore the Rails. This interactive exhibit emphasizes the importance of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning. Thomas made his début at the grand opening this weekend and will stay on display now through May 7, 2017. He traveled all the way from Minnesota Children’s Museum and will make his way to different cities all over the country.
Thomas & Friends: Explore the Rails is inspired by the children’s popular television Thomas & Friends by HIT Entertainment and is designed to engage children and families in foundation skills that encourage STEM thinking. You will find this exhibit promotes your little one(s) to use their imaginations, problem solving techniques and mathematic skills to stimulate investigation, think creatively, make predictions and test their ideas. Through the use of this icon character, children will help Thomas and his friends solve challenges, all in ways that are naturally engaging to them.
My family had the honor to attend the Breakfast with Thomas event open to Members this weekend. From the moment we entered the museum you could hear the toots and whistles of their favorite engine. After being spoiled by a healthy and tasty breakfast; we moved full steam ahead to the third floor where the Thomas exhibit is located. It was like stepping on to the Island of Sodor as we entered the exhibit. Our little engineers were beaming as their eyes darted around the room to take in all that was on display. There is so much to see and do, so let me share a little about the activities to do while visiting this train-tastic show case:
Your eye is automatically drawn to the life sized Thomas Train that you can actually climb aboard! My boys were so excited to hop into Thomas’s cab and pretend to be a real engineer. You can flip levers and operate moveable parts that will make noises of Thomas; braking, tooting his whistle or chuffing along. Be sure to check out the stand next to the ticket booth with conductor hat and jacket so your little one can dress up to make the experience even more fun!
To the left of Thomas you will find Victor waiting at Sodor Steamworks; enter into the repair shed to fix Percy’s wobbly wheels. Little engineers are encouraged to experiment with different ways to combine various sized wheels, rods and bolts as they remove and replace parts to make solutions for Percy’s wobbly wheels.
Also by the Wobbly Wheels station, you will find a display that encourages collaborate! By working as a team to load coal into Percy’s fire box and fill Percy’s tank with water from a water tower you can get Percy moving again.
One of my favorite activities was the Knapford Station display. I found it great that this section encourages friends to work together to load luggage, cargo and freight into a box car and coach. My son enjoyed loading the box car than taking a seat to ride the train. It was impressive to find a ticket collection box which shows the different stations connect together. You can find tickets and travel brochures at the ticket station. Don’t forget to check out the clock tower to be sure you’re on time and a really useful engine.
The most popular display seemed to be the Sodor Search & Rescue Station, a large scale wooden railway train table. It is the biggest wooden railway train table that I have ever seen; which means a lot from a train enthusiast family. I found it really cool that kids could craw under to the center of the table where opening were located to make reaching all areas of track easy for little arms.
I was also impressed that there was even a small section designated for younger fans designed for infants and toddlers. It included sensory integrated texture walls and shape sorting activities. Not to mention a few larger sized pull along Thomas toy trains.
Make sure you take the time to chug over to the Thomas & Friends display at the back show casing the history and evolution of Thomas & Friends through books, television, toys and other memorabilia.
If you didn’t bring your camera, have no fear. There is a tech Sauvé photo station next to the train table. You can stand in front of a back drop with Sir Topham Hatt and Thomas; a digital picture will be taken that you can have automatically sent to your email.
To avoid the crowds- It’s recommended to come on a week day after 1pm due to school field trips. Also coming on Wonderful Wednesday which runs October through April is a great day to visit if have children under the age of six. If you come on a weekend the best day to visit is a Sunday.
Exploring it all- The museum itself is huge. It almost seems like there isn’t enough time in the day to see and do all that’s offered. I highly recommend considering a membership pass so that you come back and enjoy the museum on at your leisure. Being a member also gives you the chance to attend special events. A membership pass pays for itself in just three visits!!! http://www.portdiscovery.org/generalinfo/membership
To stroll or not to stroll that is the question- Port Discovery is handicap and stroller accessible. The hallways are spacious and there is an elevator to transport you to each floor. There are plenty of spots to park your wheels. I recommend that you not push the stroller through the Thomas exhibit as well as a few others as things can get a little tight.
One silly tip- Be sure to secure all loss items before you play in the giant play area. We almost lost our car keys. I’m sure the kids wouldn’t have been upset about getting stuck at the museum. There are also lockers by the entrance if you need a place secure items or store your jackets or other personal items. Lockers are $1 for small lockers and $2 for large lockers.
Safety First- I love that the museum has a strict security procedure. Before leaving the security officer will check each child’s bracelet to ensure it matches the code on the adult they are exiting the museum with.
Parking preference- Park in the lot next to the museum and ask for parking validation before you leave the museum to save $5 ($15 to park all day). Parking discount available to patrons, be sure to only park with-in one hour of opening and leave within one hour after closing.
Dining options- Bringing a lunch is a great way to save time and money. There is seating area with tables near the front of the museum where you can eat lunch. Just remember food and drinks are prohibited from the exhibit areas. There are also quite a lot of food options if you wish to dine out. It seemed that a lot of the restaurants to the right were bars with food choices. However, if you walk back to the left towards the harbor there are a lot more family friendly options. I recommend Blaze Pizza where you design your own pie and have it baked fresh in brick fired oven. Keep in mind, many of the restaurants offer a discount if you show your museum bracelet! Also, the harbor is only a short three block walk from the museum if you wanted to check out the sites and restaurants in that area.
Port Discovery Children’s Museum
35 Market Pl
Baltimore, MD 21202
For other great ideas on in-door fun check out: The Playful Parents Mega List of Indoor Entertaining
CONTEST RULES: Contest is open now until February 1, 2017 12AM on The Playful Parent Facebook Page. To enter be sure to like and follow the page, share by commenting a friends name or posting on your page, for fun comment your favorite engine from Thomas & Friends to win! Extra points for sharing with friends you think would like the exhibit. Let’s spread the word, Thomas is in town and The Playful Parent’s got you covered!!!