Port Discovery Children’s Museum, ranked among the top children’s museums in the country and one of the leading non-traditional educational resources in the Mid-Atlantic region, offers three floors of interactive exhibitions and programs for children ages Birth through 8 years old.
Press Throughout the Years
Port Discovery’s mission is to provide unique opportunities and high-quality experiences that make play accessible, educational, and fun for all. Throughout the years, we have had many special events, new partnership and initiatives that help support our goals and overarching mission. We are so appreciative of the community news connections, who are spreading the word about our work.
Port Discovery Overview
Our Mission & Who We Serve
- We provide unique opportunities and high-quality experiences that make play accessible, educational, and fun for all.
To foster joy, connections, laughter, and learning through purposeful play.
At Port Discovery, we believe that to be successful in pursuing our mission and vision, we must embody and exemplify the following values that define how (and why) we do the work we do:
- Playfulness, Joy, and Fun
- Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging
- Connection and Compassion
- Creativity and Innovation
- Empowerment and Shared Purpose
Who We Serve
Children 0-8 years old and their families, educators and caregivers.
Hands-On Exhibits & Learning Environments
Port Discovery features three floors of hands-on, interactive exhibits that encourage children and the adults in their lives to play, learn and engage with one another. While children use their imaginations, ask questions, and explore, they are learning, developing and figuring out how the world works.
Open Play Areas Include:
- A four-story SkyClimber and spiral Storm Slide that challenges children to build confidence.
- A large Port exhibit that encourages collaboration, and that teaches visitors about the history and heritage of Baltimore – and the many jobs and products that make up one of the world’s most active ports!
- Tiny’s Diner, a 50’s-style diner where pretend play rules supreme. Here, little learners play together and prepare pretend meals (and creative bills) for their friends and adults.
- The Playhouse, a theater space for both hands-on exploration and theater programming. This exhibit promotes creativity, coordination, oral language development, early math development, concentration and social-emotional skills.
Our Initiatives Include
Providing Access for All
Port Discovery is committed to being an accessible museum for all. We eliminate financial barriers by providing free and reduced admission and enrollment to Maryland school students, low-income families, and military families through our Access Programs such as PlayMakers, Community Days, Family Fun Nights, and Salute the Troops. Additionally, access includes training staff and improving facility capacity to serve families with specific disabilities and educational needs, demonstrated by our Sensory Friendly Sundays and Access and Inclusion Afternoons.
Education and Discovery Programs
Educational programs are the core of Port Discovery’s work. Programs include arts- and science-based workshops, nature-based learning opportunities, and engagement through the arts, movement, and STEM. The Museum’s education and discovery programs take place on site and at libraries and with other community partners. Additional support allows us to increase the number of Title I schools (and organizations serving Title I schools) that we are able to serve with focused programming for free or significantly reduced costs.
This suite of programs provides resources to those who hold the most important role in the healthy development and well-being of Maryland young children—parents, caregivers, and educators. The Museum is focusing on scaling a suite of new and enhanced programs that include Fathers at Play and Parents at Play, both of which empower parents through purposeful play strategies and peer learning; and Professionals At Play, which supports our early childhood workforce across various settings and throughout the state.
Awards and Accolades
Port Discovery is recognized as one of the top children’s museums in the United States, and one of the top children’s attractions in the Baltimore region, as well as having received several newsworthy highlights.
Notable Media Mentions 2022- May 2023
Children’s Museums Are Growing Intellectually and Emotionally, New York Times
Laila’s Gift – May 2023, WMAR
Port Discovery to begin vaccination clinics for children, WBAL
StudyFinds, Best Children’s Museums In America: Top 5 Venues For The Family, According to Experts, 2023
Baltimore’s Child, Best Indoor Activity, 2021
Baltimore Sun, Critics’ Choice for Best Place to Take the Kids, 2019
Baltimore Magazine, Best of Baltimore Winner for Best Kids’ Activity, 2019
Trekaroo, The Best Parent-Rated Children’s Museums, 2018
Red Tricycle, The Best Kids’ Museums, 2018
Parents Magazine, The Best Children’s Museums in the U.S., 2015
Destination Travel Magazine, Best Children’s Museums in the Nation, 2014
Forbes, 12 Best Children’s Museums in the U.S., 2012
Nickelodeon Parents Pick, Best Museum, 2010
Attendance and Audience
- 225,000 Port Discovery guests served annually on average
- 60% of our visitors are from Baltimore City and the surrounding counties
- 35% from across Maryland
- 5% from out of state
- Reach includes 22,000+ email subscribers, over 2,200 museum members, and social media audience of approximately 25,000
- Over 50% of students who come to Port Discovery on a field trip represent Title I schools
Port Discovery Children’s Museum is a non-profit institution. Support in part comes from earned income, which includes admission, memberships, program and event rental income. Support also comes from contributions and grants by individuals, foundations, corporations, and local, state, and federal government agencies as well as from investment income.
Governance & Leadership
Port Discovery is governed by a robust 36-member Board of Directors, who represents a broad array of regional corporate anchors and community institutions. The Board supports Museum President and CEO, Carter Arnot Polakoff, and a 6-person senior leadership team. In total, Port Discovery employs 35 full time staff and 35 part time staff. In 2024, the Museum will be celebrating its 25th anniversary.
Port Discovery’s predecessor, Baltimore Children’s Museum, was a City agency founded in 1976. The museum quickly reached capacity, and in 1990 merged with the Maryland Children’s Museum and formed its own 501(c)(3) non-profit. After renovations to the Inner Harbor’s historic Fish Market building – selected for its potential to reach the broadest possible audience – the new Port Discovery Children’s Museum opened in December 1998.
Port Discovery employs 70 staff (35 FT and 35 PT) and spends $1 million per year on goods and services for the community. Port Discovery is an integral community partner in the Inner Harbor and Downtown business districts and a recipient of the historic investment taking place in these business districts – including $166 million in FY23 state funds across anchor institutions and the announcement of the redevelopment of the Harborplace – taken together, are making improvements for the area to reach its fullest potential, including long-term growth in visitor numbers, jobs, and neighborhood vitality.