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

The latest immersive exhibition at Discover Children’s Story Centre in Stratford is now open. Discover is a brilliant place to go with children in East London and we have been going for years. We were invited to a press preview of the new exhibition and I thought now would be a good time to provide a new post about Discover as they have updated the playground and there are Covid related changes. If you have been before and just want to find out more about The 100 Story Hotel Immersive Exhibition 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. 

The outside of Discover in Stratford, a very unique museum for children in East London
The new 100 Story Hotel exhibition is now open at Discover

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 or a storytelling session. You used to be able to stay and play as long as you like, but they currently still have timed entry slots with a maximum stay of 2 hours. It is a great place to go with young children on a rainy day, or for a couple of hours of it until they open up to longer sessions again.

Discover is suitable for children from birth to about age 11 although I would personally only take a baby if bringing an older sibling too or meeting up with friends. 

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 things to see. From lights, sounds, dressing up clothes there are things where ever you look. There are also lots of models behind glass to look at which my 3 year old found frustrating as he wanted to play with them, but my other children have never been bothered by this. 

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 walled off section with a cushioned bench and books to read, on the other side there are the “spoon trees”. Get a wooden spoon from reception and create your own spoon person which you can then take home, or tape to the tree.

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 which lead on to a patio area with seats where you can eat and then steps down to the garden play area. The garden area has had a makeover since last time I was there with a great new play frame which will appeal to the older children. 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 the full 2 hours of your entry time 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

Second Floor Story World

If you head back inside and up the stairs you can go to the second story world. If you think of the ground floor as more of a forest, the upstairs is more 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 cafe.

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 100 Story Hotel Immersive Exhibition 

(We received gifted entry) The new exhibit opened at the beginning of April and will run until February 2023. It gets booked up quickly in holidays and weekends, especially when new so if this is your main reason for visiting make sure there is availability before booking your main entry tickets. 

Just like previous exhibitions you get a set entry time with a group of people and the 45 minutes for most 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.

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

The current exhibition is 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

Practical Facts and Need to Knows About Discover

Prebooking tickets is required, even if not going into any sessions due to limited numbers and the 2 hour visiting windows. In between the windows they have time to tidy up and clean. Make sure you arrive on time to get the most out of your visit.

There is an area to the left of reception where you can leave pushchairs and coats (at your own risk).  You can’t bring pushchairs into the rest of the building so you might want a sling if you have a small baby. It’s nice that you don’t have to carry a load of coats or bags around.

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

There are occasionally bookings (like school visits) and private sessions closing the cafe.

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 in the cafe, outside or possibly in the basement area.

If you 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 To 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

Parking for Discover. There is no parking for the centre so public transport is a good choice. 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 to do before and after your visit to Discover

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, head towards Stratford station and cross the large bridge to the right of the station.

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