Reviewed by Amanda Hayes
As a family we can honestly say that it would take something pretty spectacular to beat Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium as a destination for a day out. It is not a museum but a fully interactive, totally hands on science and technology centre which would be a hit for any age child or adult.
We visited on a Sunday, yet the large car park a few hundred metres from the centre’s entrance had plenty of parking spaces. The Science Centre is run by a charity and It costs £2.00 to park for the day which provides funds towards the upkeep of the site, building and new exhibits. The Centre is situated on the outskirts of Winchester, next to The Holiday Inn, and is easy to find and well signposted from all major routes such as the M3 and A272.
We arrived at around 11am and it took no time at all to get our tickets from the well informed reception desk. The staff member that served us was more than happy to run through the various shows that were playing and suggest ones that may be most suitable for our 6 year old. We were given entry tickets to the main Science Centre, the Planetarium and the free science show running, they had a clear barcode and time printed on them which you scanned under a barcode reader to gain entry to the centre and shows. Using this system you can go in and out from the main exhibit centre as many times as you like.
We were booked in to see a show in the Planetarium called Khrumka and the Magic Rocket at 12.30 so we had an hour to look around before the show started, never has an hourly gone so quickly! There is so much to see and do. The show was an animated cartoon type lasting 30 minutes and was just perfect for our 6 year old. He was in awe as we entered and sat in the big comfy reclined seats and watched the stars twinkling above our heads. The magic rocket took us on a trip around the planets after a fantastic start showing a solar eclipse and how it works. The whole show was fascinating, although aimed at younger viewers I think everyone in the audience learned something they didn’t know. When the show finished we just sat in our seats for a minute or two just taking in everything we had learned.
We then decided it was lunch time so we headed to the Hub Café for lunch, we had jacket potatoes which were a good and filling choice at £4.80 but there were also children’s lunch boxes, paninis and plenty of cake and drink options. Water is supplied free in a large jug so that you can help yourself. In the summer there are plenty of places to eat, in the café itself, outside in the picnic area, where there is also a children’s playground, or downstairs where there are plenty of picnic tables laid out.
We then went back into the main exhibition area, what to do next, there was so much choice. Everything is really hands on, with not a single sign saying don’t touch, and things to try and experiment on suitable for every age group. The upstairs section has lots of exhibits relating to the human body, electricity, motion and sport, you can race against the clock, test how high you can jump and even have a go playing wheelchair basketball. Also upstairs is the Invention Studio, a staffed area where you can craft things such as building your own bee house or creating a bee-friendly plant pot. Unfortunately we ran out of time to do much here but all taking part looked like they were enjoying themselves.
Downstairs is dedicated to a brand new immersive zone, Explorer Space, we headed down there then realised our next show was about to begin, this was a live science show, Operation Earth. Lasting about half an hour it included games and experiments showing how we can protect our planet through recycling etc. Watching the scientist making a fire tornado was one of my son’s highlights!
On our return to the exhibit area we continued through Explorer Space where there was another vast array of things to do, including actually wearing a space suit. There is also a soft play area for under sixes if you need a rest and the children still have energy.
There is so much to see, do and learn at Winchester Science Centre and with more than 100 interactive exhibits you definitely won’t get bored. As the exhibits cover all age groups, including a choice of different films in the Planetarium you can come back again and again. We spent all day there and we still hadn’t done everything, in fact we practically had to drag our son out as it was getting ready to close. I thought it was fantastic value for money at £9.90 for an advance ticket, and highly recommend it as a place to visit to keep the children entertained, especially with our unpredictable English weather.
A resounding 5 out of 5!
Tickets cost from £9 to £13.20 (book online in advance for best prices).
For more information or to book tickets visit www.winchestersciencecentre.org.
Winchester Science Centre, Telegraph Way, Winchester, Hampshire, SO21 1HZ | 01962 863791