I wasn’t sure what to expect from the long awaited changes. I wasn’t even convinced that much would have changed, but this is a totally new museum.
In just a few more weeks, summer will be upon us.
If you happen to have children, the season brings additional responsibility of entertaining your kids. Luckily, one of our family’s favorite kid spots has reopened.
Since our family moved to Hampton Roads in 2008, we have been members of the Children’s Museum of Virginia in Portsmouth. It was always nice entertainment with various hands on activities for our boys. In 2009, the main building closed to begin a multi-million dollar remodeling project. With great anticipation, the Children’s Museum reopened its doors to the public on Thursday, May 26th. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the long awaited changes. I wasn’t even convinced that much would have changed, but this is a totally new museum.
Our boys had always loved the train area at the museum, but it was nothing compared to the set up now. For those who are collectors at heart, there are various displays of quirky and interesting model trains. For the more interactive types, there are buttons to push that make the trains speed up, light up and make noises. Smaller kiddos can even crawl through tunnels and stand in the middle of the set-up as trains whoosh by their faces. I nearly had to drag our 3-year old out of those tunnels. If more hands-on fun is your preference, there is a room off to the side with trains, tracks, Thomas the Tank Engine books, and train tables.
For any who are able to escape the Lancaster Antique Train and Toy Collection before the day ends, other first floor fun includes: a child-sized, realistic city with updates and additions, such as firefighter costumes kids can wear (though sadly, no adult sizes); a better play market; Pets and Vets; Bodyworks; a Working Port with magnetic fishing poles and fish; and a controllable crane to move cargo boxes at the port. For younger children, the new Tot Yard is nicer than ever and situated out of the high traffic, older kid areas. One of our favorite (and messiest) exhibits still exists: Bubbles! If you’ve never been to the Children’s Museum, plan to stay in there a while, and plan to leave soapy. Other exhibits, such as the Beazley Planetarium and Sounds Around, will open in the Fall.
Upstairs offers an updated nature section, My Backyard and Beyond, that is made to put children at a bug’s eye view. There is also a ‘CreARTvity’ exhibit that engages children in various hands-on activities using different art activities. One of my personal favorite changes is the entrance to the more scientific section of the museum. The design is reminiscent of an old circus set up and is called, “Dr. Forces’ Traveling Energy Extravaganza.” Inside, you’ll find a few old favorites, but you’ll also enjoy physics dressed in a circus disguise. Yes, that’s right: you will actually enjoy physics. Our son’s absolute favorite in this section was a bottle racing set up. One pumps the pressure into the machine, and then hits a button to send the 2-liter bottle rocket up to the sky. It is loud, and it makes a child squeal with excitement. Next to the bottle rocket, there is a very interesting room that focuses on frequencies. We spent quite a bit of time there.
Overall, I was quite impressed with the new exhibits. Additionally, as any mother would understand, I loved the clean feel and organization to the place. From a child’s point of view, the best parts were the trains. And the rockets. And the boat. And the police motorcycle. And the Fire Engine….well, you get the point.
From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the Museum is open Monday through Saturday, 9am to 5pm, and Sunday 11am to 5pm. If you plan to go often, you can pick up an “Enthusiast” Membership for $80 that allows 4 people to visit as much as they want for one year, and offers a 10% discount in the Gift Shop, (along with other privileges). And, if you’re not already located in Portsmouth, and you really want to make your kid’s day, park your car in Norfolk and ride the ferry to Portsmouth. The Museum is in walking distance, and it is a great start to the adventure on which you will be embarking.
For more information on the Children’s Museum of Portsmouth, click here.