Are you visiting the Hampton Roads area and want somewhere exciting and educational to go with your kids? Look no further than the Children's Museum of Virginia in Portsmouth.
Your kids will love the multitude of exhibits that take on real-life such as experiencing a fire truck, bus, and bank, and many more entertaining play spaces!
The Children's Museum offers several hands-on exhibits, so it's no wonder it recently won gold in the Science and Nature category from Coastal Virginia Magazine. Read on for some fantastic exhibits you can see and experience.
The first floor in the Children's Museum arguably has some of the best exhibits a children's museum can offer. Kids of all ages can enjoy an array of playspaces, many of which are based on real-life scenes.
One of the main attractions is the Beazley Planetarium, a digital theater "where science, astronomy, and history come alive." The theater has 63 seats and makes for an awe-inspiring experience for any child -- especially ones who love nature and space!
The Lancaster Antique Toy & Train Collection is a fan-favorite at the museum. With over 500 trains on display and over 100,00 total items in the collection, it is quite a sight to behold. Seeing the trains run is always fun to watch, as is learning about who collected them. Arthur “Junie” Lancaster and his wife, Millie, started collecting trains from 1905 until Junie’s passing in 1996.
The Lancasters decided to donate their train collection to the Portsmouth Museums Foundation. Skip Novak, the primary technician of the exhibit, loves being around the trains. "It’s probably the greatest part," he says. "The second greatest part is probably seeing the little kids' faces when they come into the train exhibit for the first time and experience the trains moving.”
Winding your way through the first floor, the Working Port is another great playscape for your little ones and family to experience. This area is modeled after a real port, teaching children how tug boats operate, what goods can be transported, and other neat functions of a port. This is a great practical and hands-on experience for children to see the operations and trades of the world.
Another popular activity spot is the bubble play area, where you can create life-size bubbles and experiment with different frames to create a variety of shaped bubbles. Be sure to also visit the newly renovated Happy Paws exhibit, which encourages families to think of adopting a rescue animal. Kids will pretend to play with stuffed dogs, cats, and birds, feeding, grooming, and giving them a check-up. Another fun playscape option is the TowneBank branch, where children can learn important financial lessons. And there are many more sites to see, along with the Safety Zone, Reach Library, Wegman's grocery, the Tot Lot, Bodyworks, HRT bus, and more.
The second floor of the museum has even more amazing spaces to experience.
Let your youngster's creativity flow with the CreaARTivity play area centered around visual arts, including painting, sculpture, drawing, and architecture. The Recollections playscape is a wonderful world of music and light projections. Your child's imagination will run wild as they view their reflection in an ever-changing kaleidoscope of colors and shapes. If your child loves to perform, there's no better spotlight for them than the Performance Stage. Here your child can create their own show by changing the backdrop, lighting, and sound.
If your youngsters love to learn about science, natural energy, biology, physics, and more, then you're on the right floor! The Backyard and Beyond Exhibit is set up like you're entering your own backyard. In "My House," youth and families alike are educated on recycling and energy consumption. In the backyard area, toddlers to teens can explore different natural science subjects such as geology, astronomy, and biology.
The Dr. Forces Traveling Energy Extravaganza orients your child's senses to educational yet fun topics on force, energy, and motion. Children can touch, play and interact with many areas. These educational areas include releasing a rocket, testing strength by lifting an elephant, and watching electrical currents twist and turn.
If your kids are interested in specific classes, they can go the more creative route or a scientific STEM route. Stop by the Make N Take Room for a fun themed craft. The Make N Take room hours are Wednesday – Sunday, with AM sessions at 9:30; 10:00; 10:30; and 11:00. PM sessions are 1:30; 2:00; 2:30 and 3:00.
On the second floor, you can also try a STEM activity which is a fun family activity. STEM studio sessions are in the AM at 9:45 and 10:45, while PM sessions are at 1:45 and 2:45. If you are looking for some new activities to try at home with your kids, the Children's Museum also has various online learning activities available on their website.
The Children’s Museum is located at 221 High Street in Portsmouth, VA. If you are coming from the north or east, you will use the Downtown Tunnel. If you're coming from the Virginia Beach or Norfolk area, a fun way to create an extra adventure is to take a ferry to the museum. You can easily do this by taking the ferry from the Waterside district over to the High Street stop, which is closest to the museum. The Hampton roads transit website has more information about the Elizabeth River Ferry Schedule, so you can coordinate your trip with the museum hours and any other activities you may have planned.
The museum has recently opened to the public again after a long precautionary COVID-19 closure. We are excited to see this local favorite welcoming families through its doors again! The museum's hours are currently: Wednesday - Sunday and closed Monday and Tuesday within time blocks from 9 am-11:45 am and 1:15 pm-4 pm.
Be sure to keep in mind that you must reserve your tickets ahead of time for the museum, including member tickets. Admission may vary for special events. But the usual pricing is $11 for adults, $10 for children, and children under 2 are free. Ticket pricing for military, AAA, and seniors is $10. Members get in free. For any other questions regarding membership, classes, and exhibits, call (757) 393-5258
If you’d like to support the Children's Museum of Virginia, the Portsmouth Museums Foundation helps support public learning for the community. You can learn more about supporting the Portsmouth museums on their website.
The Children's Museum of Virginia in Portsmouth is ready for families to explore, play, and discover! The Hampton Roads area has lots to see, but your family won't want to miss out on the Children's Museum.
If you're looking for more family-friendly attractions in Hampton Roads, you can discover more helpful area-themed guides and articles on FamilyApp.