Reviewed by Amanda Hayes
We arrived at the Living History Museum in Basingstoke, Hampshire to find the car park outside full and people queuing outside the door. Luckily there is loads of other free parking within a couple of minutes walk away and by the time we had sorted out the push chair, picnic and generally got ourselves organised and walked over the queue had disappeared. I was a bit worried that it would be packed and difficult to get around as the car park was full but it was really easy. There were 3 people on the ticket desk so we were dealt with quickly and asked if we would like to buy some old pennies for the sweet shop, we brought two at 70 pence each, they both came with a ration book which we were told we could get stamped at the shop. We then set off down to the museum floor via the lift as we had the pushchair. On leaving the lift there is a large reception type desk where we were given a map and also a Lego Lost World leaflet and pencil so that we could find and tick off the Lego exhibits. You can also pick up here a free audio guide that tells you all about each area as you walk through it.
The museum is a mock-up of an old town with cobbled streets, shops, factories, workshops and vehicles. Two of these buildings were actually working, the sweet shop, where we spent our old pennies and the public house where you could enjoy a drink in the authentic building. I thought the sweet shop was a really good idea, you exchange your penny for a quarter of sweets from the jar, you could choose from several varieties, these were then weighed out for you and you then got your ration book stamped. We didn’t try the pub as we had a picnic but it looked fun and even smelt like an old traditional pub.
We followed the streets, looking at all the buildings on the way; it takes quite a while as there is lots to see in each one. In each section there was some Lego to find from some small exhibits to a massive mammoth with 250,000 bricks. Fairly near the entrance there are lots of Lego tables and boxes of Lego, this kept my son and many other children busy for ages. There were all sorts of different buildings from a shoemaker to a garage and each one was packed with items relevant to the era and dummies dressed up to look the part. There was an old bus you could go on and several other vehicles had steps up to them so you could see in the cab, it was all very interesting.
Ethan started to get hungry around 1.30pm but it was a bit chilly for an outdoor picnic, luckily there is also a room set aside indoors for picnics and we joined several other families and had our lunch inside. We didn’t eat in the café but the prices seemed very reasonable at £3.30 for a baked potato and £3.70 for a children’s lunch including drink.
The great thing about the museum is that it’s really interactive, there are lots of things for children to do, touch and look at without worrying. Lots of places I have been to before have “Do not touch” written on practically everything but it is not like that at all. I felt totally comfortable letting my toddler run around everywhere joining in with Lego tables, playing in the wendy house or dressing up in the dressing up tent. He had a really good time.
From upstairs the museum looks fairly small but it’s really deceiving and took us a good two and a half hours to go round it. If we had visited the pub or café you could easily add another hour making it good value for money especially on a cold or rainy day. I would recommend it as a good day out for all ages.
Children under 5: FREE
Children 5-15 years: £5.25
Concession (aged 60+/ Disabled/ Student with ID): £7.95
For more information visit www.hants.gov.uk/milestones.
Milestones Museum, Leisure Park, Churchill Way West, Basingstoke, RG22 6PG
01256 477766 | firstname.lastname@example.org