Review: Visiting Discover Children’s Story Centre in Stratford, East London

The latest immersive exhibition "The Box Rocket" at Discover Children’s Story Centre in Stratford, East London, is now open. We have been going to Discover for years because it's a great place to go in London with children under 8. 

I have updated this post with information about The Box Rocket Immersive Exhibition which is running until March 2024 after attending a press preview. If you have been before and just want to find out more about new hands on experience then scroll down the page to the last section. If you haven't visited then read all the review and get ready to book tickets, you'll love it. 

Skip straight to the following sections: 

Enjoying The Box Rocket Exhibition at Discover in Stratford, a very unique museum for children in East London
My Story Fixer exploring the new exhibition at Discover, Stratford: The Box Rocket

I also have a video walk through of Discover on YouTube if you want to see more of what it is like.

About Discover Children's Story Centre

We have been going to Discover for years and years and I have quite a few blog posts on previous exhibitions. I don’t know of anywhere quite like Discover and it is pretty hard to describe. It is essentially somewhere between a museum, soft play and role play centre where children’s imaginations can run free. 

With your entry ticket you get access to the two main story worlds and the outside play area. You can also get a ticket for the immersive exhibition, storytelling sessions and activities. Most of these are chargeable, but there are sometimes free sessions. If visiting off peak (weekdays in term time) you can stay all day, if visiting at a peak time (weekends or London Borough of Newham school holidays) you are limited to a 3 hour session.  It is a great place to go with young children on a rainy day.

Discover is suitable for children from birth to about age 11, but I think children age 2 to 6 years old will enjoy it best. 

The ground floor story world at Discover Children's story centre showing pretend trees and forest area
General entrance gives you access to two story worlds and the story garden

What Is There To Do At Discover?

Ground Floor Story World

Walk into the ground floor of Discover and it looks interesting, but it is one of those places that some children will see nothing to do where as others will see everything. Where ever you look there are touches to spark the imagination including: lights, sounds and dressing up clothes. There are also lots of models behind glass to look at which my son found frustrating  when he was 3 as he wanted to play with them, but when he back this time (age 4) he was fascinated.  

There is a boat to pretend to sail, a puppet castle to perform in and a hill to climb or hide in. At one side there is a sectioned off area with a cushioned bench and books to read, on the other side there are the “spoon trees”.  Get one of the wooden spoons and you can create a spoon person or anything else you can think of using the few craft bits and pencils available. You can take this home or tape it to the tree for others to enjoy.  

View across the ground floor story world showing a castle, pretend river and pretend trees
Climb the tree, explore alligator falls or put on a puppet show

View of the 3 tables each with a tree with lots of spoon people taped to them
Create a spoon person

The Story Garden

At the back of the ground floor story world are glass doors to an outside area. Initially you go out on to a patio area with seats (great for a picnic) and then there are steps down to the garden play area. The garden area had a makeover a year or so ago and there is now more to do for all ages. Just like inside there is a lot to explore in the garden with playhouses, musical instruments and sculptures. The garden isn’t big, but you could easily stay there for a few hours on a nice day (if you are local getting annual membership is well worth it).

View from the entrance of the story garden showing the newest play structure with two slides and wings
The Story Garden has been updated and is a lot of fun on dry days

First Floor Story World

If you head back inside and up the stairs you go to the second story world. If you think of the ground floor as more of a forest, the upstairs is like space. There is what I think is a spaceship to explore, a rocket, a flying machine, a slide and cloud shape seats. There are more seating areas and books you can read as well as areas to draw or write your own story. 

If you go out of the door next to the cloud seats and walk across the landing you get to the room where they do story telling sessions and a café.

view of inside a flying machine at discover stratford
The first floor story world has flying machines, a cave and a slide

A diverse selection of books on display for reading at Discover in East London
In both story worlds there are plenty of books you can read

Sign saying Story Factory next to a seating area with paper and pencils for creativity at Discover
Write a story or draw pictures at the Story Factory on the first floor

The Box Rocket Immersive Exhibition

(We received a PR invite) The Box Rocket is a space themed interactive exhibition created by Discover with award winning illustrator Dapo Adeola and author Tolá Okogwu. Just like previous exhibitions you book an entry time and go in with a small group of people. Head to the basement for the start of your session time to make sure you don't miss anything. There are a few books and toilets while you wait for the session to begin. 

The experience lasts about 45 minutes. For many children this won’t be long enough and they will want to go back again and again because there is so much to explore. It's better for them to want to go back than to get bored through so I think it is the right length.

When the session starts the Story Builder invites you into their homemade cardboard box spaceship and to become a Story Fixer. They set the scene as you go on an adventure with Rocket, Captain of the SSR Phoenix and her cat Luna. In The Box Rocket exhibition you are travelling through space to visit planet Nan. Unfortunately the Story Stone is damaged and the children need to find words to restore it.

You then leave the rocket and get to explore the planet. There are lots of different areas and plenty to play with. The more you look the more you find. There are lots of dressing up clothes, games to play and role play areas. You can also do activities including taking a clip board and looking for the words or tracing a face using a light board.

At the end of the session the Story Builder invites you back to meet at the Story Stone to find out which words you found and then it's back to Earth you go. 

Each area is based on books by illustrator Dapo Adeola this area is the sea
There is so much to explore in The Box Rocket

a room made to look like a bee hive with bee costumes, cuddly bees and magnetic letters on the wall
Look for words, dress up or just play

A preschooler with a clipboard saying "word hunt" in The Box Rocket Exhibit
Going on a Word Hunt on the Planet Nan with Captain Rocket

a preschooler playing on pretend record decks with words on
Rocking the decks

Heading into the Grizzly Cave store where you can role play being at the shops
There are lots of role play areas and interactive activities

Frequently Asked Questions About Discover

Do You Need To Book Tickets?

If you want to go into The Box Rocket Exhibit or any of the story telling sessions then prebooking is strongly recommended. If you just want to play in the story worlds then you wont always need to prebook.  On peak days make sure you arrive at the beginning of the session time to get the most out of your visit (10am or 1.45pm). 

It's worth noting that on some Off Peak days there may be school visits so a story world may be closed for part of your visit. School visits are less likely on Fridays and in afternoons. 

How Much Do Tickets Cost?

Tickets cost £9 for adults and children 2 years upwards, £3 for 1 year olds and free for under 1s. 
The Box Rocket tickets cost £3.50 on top of the general entry price. Other activity prices vary.

Can You Get Discounted Tickets?

I haven't ever seen any offer codes, however you can get a family ticket for 4 people at a reduced price and Newham residents get £1 discount per ticket. The £5 family discount is automatically applied when you select 4 tickets. 

What Age Is It Good For?

Toddlers and preschoolers will love playing and the story telling sessions. Children who can read will enjoy the books and a different perspective. It’s probably only worth visiting with children over 8 if with younger siblings. 

How Long Does A Visit Last?

We have spent all day at Discover on several occasions, especially when the weather is nice and we can go in the garden. If visiting in the 3 hour peak sessions then you will probably use the whole time, but this can depend on your child's interests and who you visit with. 

Can You Bring In Pushchairs?

Pushchairs and buggies are not allowed in any of the story worlds. If you have a small baby it is recommended that your bring a sling. They do have plenty of space to leave pushchairs just past the reception area.

Are There Lockers?

Yes there are plenty of lockers so you can leave coats, bags, scooters and anything else you want (at your own risk) rather than carry it round with you.  There are some small lockable lockers, but the larger ones don't have keys. I have left pushchairs, scooters, coats, bags etc in the past with no problems. 

Are There Toilets?

There are toilets including child size toilets and baby changing facilities on all 3 floors. 

Can You Bring Your Own Food?

No food or drink should be consumed in the immersive exhibition (or in any of the story worlds) so I would recommend eating before you go in. You can eat your own food outside or buy food from the café.

If you are visiting at a peak time and don’t want to use up your session time eating then there are a huge range of food venues in Stratford. The nearest McDonald’s is really close, but there are lots of independent places too including food stalls, sushi, in fact pretty much any cuisine you can think of.

How Do You Get To Discover?

Discover is a short walk from Stratford station (or really close to Stratford High Street DLR), next to the Magistrates Court. The address is: 383-387 High Street, Stratford, London E15 4QZ

Is There A Car Park? 

There is no parking for Discover so public transport is a good choice. Stratford is on the London Underground network with the Central Line, Jubilee Line, Elizabeth Line and DLR stopping there as well as some Overground and mainline lines. The Centre is also really close to Stratford Bus Station with a choice of 16 different buses. 

If you want to drive the nearest decent size car park is Stratford Multi-Story Car Park. Stratford Westfield car parks are probably about 20 minutes walk with children (or 10 if you are going adult speed). At weekends there is some free street parking and some smaller car parks on the roads around and behind the centre, but if you aren’t local these may be a challenge to find.

What Else Is Nearby?

If you plan to make a day of it in Stratford then you could head towards either Westfields Stratford (the shopping centre, which also has a playground)  or Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park where there are two playgrounds, splash park areas and lots of areas to explore. If you want to head to the large park without going via the shopping centre then head left out of Discover, cross the road and enter via the Greenway. If you want to head to Westfield then cross the roads in front of Discover, go towards Stratford station and cross the large bridge to the right of the station.

Now Closed: The 100 Story Hotel Immersive Exhibition 

(We received gifted entry) It was open from April 2022 to February 2023. 

The outside of The 100 Story Hotel Exhibition has a pretend garden area and columns
Introducing The 100 Story Hotel Exhibition - a review

The exhibition was from the imagination of Rob Biddulph. If you haven’t heard of him don’t worry, having no familiarity with him will not ruin your enjoyment of the exhibition in anyway. When it’s time for your session to start you will be asked to the entrance of the hotel in the basement. Here you will be met by the Hotel’s gardener who is also the story teller or narrator. He tells you a little about the hotel and then invites you inside to the lobby.

Previous exhibitions have had more of a sit down story telling start, this one still has a bit of a story, but it’s a bit more like a play than someone reading a book. The gardener stands next to a big hole in the wall so children will be keen to explore and it’s good that the story isn’t too long. 

An actor introducing the 100 story hotel story and the mystery of why there is a big hole in the wall behind
Introduction to The 100 Story Hotel and the mystery to be solved

The plot is that he doesn’t know how the big hole got there or where the 100th Story has gone, he asks the children to help find out and look for clues inside the hotel. Each child can take a clipboard with a sheet to write the clues down as they find them. My 3 year old liked carrying the clipboard for a while, but had no interest in looking for the clues. Older children will be more keen I imagine. 

Once you are free to explore children will love to investigate everything. There is lots to see in the lobby as well as quite a few different rooms including bedrooms, a swimming pool (complete with sunken pirate ship and treasure chest), the laundry room, an entertainment area, beach, tennis court, shop, office and sushi restaurant run by penguins. 

A pretend sushi restaurant that looks like it is in an igloo
In the Sushi restaurant you can dress as a penguin, throw balls and make a sushi meal

In the role play laundry room there are washing machines, ironing, vacuums and mops
The Laundry Room at The 100 Story Hotel

The swimming pool room is an under the sea adventure
The Swimming Pool is under the sea themed with a mermaid, treasure chest and sunken ship

In each room there are activities and things to explore, and in the corridors too. My son’s favourite was the laundry room where they had little Henry vacuums, a mop, washing machines and an iron. He kept going back to play with these. He also enjoyed playing with everything in the shop. Well he enjoyed it all, but those areas were particular favourites.

I’m honestly amazed that after each session they manage to get everything back to the right place and reset the scene as children seem to totally trash it each time (as in make a mess, hopefully parents are paying enough attention to prevent damage).

Every age and personality will get something out of the exhibition, whether they choose to role play, find all the clues, read a story, dress up or play games. 

At the end of the session you meet by the lift, just next to the hole in the wall, so the gardener/ story teller can finish the session off by revealing how the hole was caused. 

Preschooler playing in the 100 story hotel shop where you can buy cameras, crocodiles and more
The shop in the 100 Story Hotel is full of curious items

the corridor in the 100 story hotel
Lots of different areas to explore in the hotel

Visit Discover Children's Story Centre in Stratford, East London and the new exhibit the 100 story hotel
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