Reviewed by Tracey Flintham
with Kevin, Raya (7) and Erin (2)
We visited the Catalyst Science Discovery Centre on Monday 25 August. We found it very easy to find despite none of us having ever been to Widnes before. The directions given on the venue’s website were very detailed and we were able to drive straight there without getting lost! The parking is free and there is a small play park opposite. It’s a very short walk to the main entrance, the reception desk is straight ahead of you once inside and the toilets are located in this area, along with the cafe and gift shop. Our daughter was delighted to receive an explorer’s backpack (suitable for ages 3-7 years) for the duration of the visit, with hard hat, hi-vis jacket and some essential exploring tools (magnifying glass, torch, tape measure etc…) which would enable her to fully interact with all the displays in the centre. The staff were very friendly and we were given a map and explanations on how to find our way around the centre. For a small fee (£1 per person) there are optional workshops that change on a regular basis throughout the year, available to participate in.
The centre is based over several levels each with specific themes. As you head towards the back from the reception area you enter the main interactive display (Scientrific). In this area there were several dozen displays and activities all with lots of buttons to press or things to do from making giant bubbles and using solar energy to fly planes to friction and magnets which will help keep children highly entertained. There is also a mini area for under 5s which included large Lego bricks, chunky toys and craft works.
Next we took the lift up to the top floor – the Observatory, which had great views over the surrounding areas. There were also a few smaller exhibits in this region and my 2 girls had great fun building a small arch bridge from foam bricks and walking over it. Moving down, the conference level was set up as a puzzle room with several stations and puzzles to solve, for all ages. The final part of our visit was the first floor, where there is a small museum dedicated to the chemical industry development and growth in the UK.
On leaving the centre, we browsed through the shop where there are science books and other products for sale. Although we didn’t use the cafe, the prices appeared very reasonable. All in all, our visit was just under 2 hours, although if your children were older and understood more of the science behind the exhibits then the visit may take longer.
Overall it was enjoyable and our 2 children had great fun pressing buttons and playing with the displays even if the background science went over their heads.
I would give this venue 3.5/5 and with its low entry price it’s very good value for money.
Tickets cost £5.95 (adult), £4.95 (children 5-16 years and concessions), £17.95/£19.95 (family ticket).
For more details or to book tickets online visit www.catalyst.org.uk.
Catalyst Science Discovery Centre, Mersey Road, Widnes, Cheshire, England, WA8 0DF