London with kids: Science Museum
Father-Hood.co.uk’s guide to the best things to do in London with your kids continues with our review of the Science Museum…
Where is it?
The Science Museum is in South Kensington, right across the street from the V&A museum and just up the road from the Natural History Museum. If you’re driving, the official address is Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London, SW7 2DD. And if you’re arriving on public transport, the best tube is South Kensington (District and Circle lines) and the best buses are the 9, 10, 70 and 360.
How much does it cost?
Initially, zero. Like all of the museums in South Kensington, walking through the front doors costs you nothing. Happily, this gives you access to loads of displays, a number of exhibitions and a couple of interactive play areas, including The Garden. Unhappily, it doesn’t get you into the museum’s triple-A, 5-star attraction for school kids – aka Wonderlab: The Equinor Gallery. If you want to get in here, and, trust me, if you have a kid aged four or over, you do, the prices are as follows:
- Adults (aged 17-59) £10 for a day, £15 for an annual pass
- Senior citizen (aged 60+) £9 for a day, £14 for an annual pass
- Concessions (children aged 4-16, students, unemployed people and disabled people) £8 for a day, £13 for an annual pass
- Children aged 3 or under are free
What are the best things about it?
I really want to try the Science Museum’s Red Arrows 3D flight simulator (you can hear people screaming as you walk past). But this post isn’t about the needs and wants of a 39-year-old man, so I’ll quickly can this thought and move on to the museum’s more kid-friendly attractions.
If your little one is four or under, he or she will love The Garden in the basement. In here, they can build towers with foam blocks, throw bean bags down a chute, push wheelbarrows, mess around with tactile exhibits and play with boats in a water feature.
If they are four or over, it’s all about the aforementioned Wonderlab: The Equinor Gallery. Time Out described this awesome interactive top floor playland as the best thing to do with kids in London and it’s hard to disagree with this verdict. From building shapes to exploring magnets to testing paper airplanes, riding slides, making shadows and shoving your head into mirrored boxes or lightbulbs, there’s something to tickle the fancy of every kid on the planet. And that’s before I even get onto the live demonstrations and talks, which feature things like a giant Tesla coil, fire, explosions and chemistry experiments.
And the worst?
Nothing stands out. But if you want to be incredibly picky, Wonderlab: The Equinor Gallery is often pretty busy (so your kid may have to wait in line to try the slides or play with the exhibits) and, throughout the museum, the price of the food is very “central London” (i.e. steep).
Is the food any good?
Inside the museum, you’ll find everything from a sit-down restaurant to an ice cream and milk share bar. Because it is near the front door and easy-to-find, we tend to eat in the Energy Café, which does a variety of sandwiches, two or three main meals, pizzas and a few options for kids. If you want something a bit more substantial, head to The Diner (back of the ground floor). If you fancy a hot wrap or salad, the Gallery Café (level 2) is the place for you. And if you simply want to fill your kid full of sugar, it’s all about the Shake Bar (level 3). Oh, and there are also places for visitors to crack out packed lunches on the top floor and in the basement.
What are the baby change/toilets like?
Really good. There are well-cleaned toilets and changing rooms scattered all over the building. The ones in or near the kids’ play areas even feature teeny toilets and easy-to-reach sinks – it’s like a potty trainer’s dream.
Any special insider tips?
- If you live in or near London, buy the annual pass for Wonderlab: The Equinor Gallery. It’s only £5 more than a one-off visit ticket and the place really is amazing.
- If you want your kid to be called up to take part in one of the shows, don’t sit in the front row. We’ve been to a couple and they always seem to pick children sitting in the middle or back of the audience.
- Look out for the bigger kids taking things from the smaller kids in The Garden. The Science Museum seems to attract children who like to hoard the beanbags, LEGO and foam bricks and aren’t very good at sharing.
- It can take ages for the lifts to get to the top floor, so if you have the energy you are much better walking up and down.
The bottom line
London’s best museum for school-aged kids.