Fun Activities for Children and Families at Salem’s Waterfront Park
At the A.C. Gilbert Discover Village, children find fun, interactive exhibits while learning about science, design, biology, and more, near the Willamette River in Salem.
At Riverfront Park in Salem, Oregon, this private, nonprofit children’s museum has been providing fun, educational activities and experiences for children since 1989. The A.C. Discover Village is open year-round, offering excellent learning opportunities with exhibits and classes, along the Willamette River.
The children’s museum is named for A.C. Gilbert, a native Oregonian who created the Erector Set, American Flyer trains, and Mysto Magic sets. He held over 150 patents by the end of his life, dedicated to making learning fun. His uncle’s 1887 Victorian house is now home to one of the three-building that make up the A.C. Gilbert Village. The Gilbert House, Parrish House and Rockenfield House make up the A.C. Gilbert Village facilities. The Wilson-Durbin House burned down in 1990, originally built in 1861 and on the National Register of Historic Places. The house was reconstructed in 1999 and is home to classes and meetings.
At the Gilbert House, children find learning fun by discovering exhibits throughout the Victorian-style house. Gilbert House exhibits include:
- Bubble Room, where children can make giant bubbles, learn about airflow, geometry, shapes and color,
- Body Basic exhibit, where children discover the human body by following the Magic School Bus characters,
- Toy Inventors’ Workshop, where children create toys and fun take-home projects,
- Brazilian Rainforest Theater, here children dress-up and create their own performance and adventures, viewable on a TV screen, and
- Shadow Room, one of the most favorite exhibits where children create shadows in an Undersea Cave of Frozen Shadows.
The Parrish House is home to the popular Dinostories exhibit. Dinostories is a hands-on exhibit from OMSI, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. Children can crawl through a dinosaur nest and discover fossils. The Imagination Station is a tribute to A.C. Gilbert, complete with an Erector Set, puzzle station, and other creations of A.C. Gilbert.
Exhibits at the Rockenfield House include:
- Village Grocery, a child-size grocery store, where children learn about the Food Pyramid,
- Recollections, where children create colorful images of themselves,
- A Child’s Trip to China, a hands-on cultural exhibit for children to learn about life in China and
- The River Room, an interactive exhibit where children learn about biology, ecology and discover facts about the Willamette River, which runs through the city of Salem.
The A.C. Gilbert Village also offers children a 20,000 square-foot outdoor facility, A.C.’s Backyard, complete with a 52 ft high Erector Set tower. Children can climb through the tower, make it through a maze and slide down several tall slides. Other activities in the Outdoor Discovery Center include the Mammoth Dig, Gilbert Rocks, Musical Ensemble Deck, Discovery Garden, Giant Animal Cell and the Echo Tube.
The Gilbert House offers educational classes to children from kindergarten to 8th grade. throughout the year. A.C. Gilbert Discovery Village is a top destination for school children and field trips. Topics include World Cultures, Science, Art, Humanities, and Math. The center also offers after-school programming on similar topics.
The A.C. Gilbert Village is open Monday through Sunday, most days of the year, except Easter, Christmas Day, New Years Day, and Thanksgiving Day. General admission is $5.50, toddlers are $2.50, and children under age 1 are free. Foster Family Fridays are free days for children living in foster families. The A.C. Gilbert Discover Village is located at 116 Marion Street under the Marion Street Bridge at Salem’s Waterfront Park. Contact the A.C. Gilbert Discover Village for more information on hours, programs, and directions. While in Salem at Waterfront Park, children also enjoy the Salem Waterfront Carousel.