Day four of our #80dayschallenge, our challenge to take 80 days out in 2019. We visited the Magna Science Adventure Centre in Rotherham, South Yorkshire. January has suddenly turned very cold. Sunday was no exception and my Mum came up with the suggestion of meeting at Magna for a day out. We haven’t been in over a year. Mostly because the last time we visited we were a little disappointed as there were so many interactive exhibits not working. I had seen online that they had been shut for about 2 months to renovate and repair some of their attractions. So I decided it would be a great reason to visit them again as they have only just recently re-opened.
Admittedly I was a little disappointed again. I do love it at Magna, don’t get me wrong. It’s an incredibly unique attraction and it’s a great place for kids to learn all about our world and how special it is. But there were things that I remember from before not being great and they were also still not great. It was incredibly difficult to find anyone in charge to quiz about the lack of real improvements. The major bonus is that your tickets can be upgraded to an annual pass for no extra charge so you can visit as many times as you like for the next 12 months. Please read on below to find out what there is to see and do at Magna.
A bit about Magna
The Magna Science Adventure Centre is an indoor attraction in a very large and no longer used steelworks. It is located just on the outskirts of Rotherham and is easy to get to from the M1. It is free to park at Magna.
The area that the centre takes up is vast. Because of this, it is not heated. The only area heated during our visit was the large hall with the cafe. I don’t remember the actual exhibition rooms not being heated in the past but they certainly weren’t during our visit. We were all very cold and although we had wrapped up well it didn’t improve. It was very windy outside so it did feel a bit warmer indoors but warm is not really a word I can use. If you plan on visiting because it’s an indoor attraction please wrap up well during the colder weather.
They also have a very large outdoor play area with plenty of play equipment. There’s even a splash park for the summer months. I will cover more about the play areas later in this post. Indoors they have four main areas focusing on air, fire, water and earth. Plus a ‘big melt’ every hour on the hour from 11am. They have over 100 exhibits but we found that not all of them were working.
Magna is a registered charity.
Things to do at Magna Science Adventure – A Review
The Steelworks history
Once you have bought your ticket or presented your online ticket purchase you can either head off into the cafe or start your tour around the impressive ex steelworks. You arrive via a small room with mostly written exhibits explaining all about the history of the Templeborough Steelworks.
It was once one of the largest melting shops in the world. Walking around you really get a feel for how it once was as a lot of the old machinery is still in place and it is vast.
The large area before you reach the 4 exhibitions
After this be prepared to get very cold. You then enter the main building of the old steelworks. There are a few exhibits to look at in here and you can then either walk up the stairs to the top or take the lift.
At Magna they have huge pieces of machinery still in situ which are mostly unlit. Your challenge is to light them up with one of the large lights along the walkway. We were already off to a bad start as quite a few of these lights weren’t working and neither were some of the TV’s and displays telling you about the people that worked there. The spooky’s were still there for my son to light up which he was delighted about.
This area is where I always remember being freezing cold in. But my memory is that of then feeling warm again in the four exhibit areas. Sadly that never happened during this visit.
You then enter a room where the lifts are. There is a surprise in here which you will see in my vlog at the end of this post. The first time we walked in nothing happened but luckily it was up and running later on. This room is then your access room to the other floors with the four main exhibits. You can choose to keep going to see the big melt and then continue on down to Fire.
The Big Melt
The Big Melt happens on the hour every hour from 11am. Please check the notice for when the last Big Melt of the day is. The show lasts for about 12 minutes. I don’t remember it being quite as underwhelming. Mostly you stand and look at the old furnace while a voiceover tells you about the history of the building and how they made the steel. Towards the end, they pretend to ignite the furnace and it lights up with a few fireworks. I am sure something else happened in the past but none of us could quite put our finger on what we were missing. It’s interesting but it certainly wasn’t spectacular.
Fire is one of the four exhibition pavilions. You enter a room with screens playing images of fire. This then leads to another room with interactive exhibits which teach you all about fire and heat and how it is used. The main exhibit in here is a 5 metre tornado made of fire. This is fascinating. It ignites every few minutes and turns into a hot whirlwind of fire ignited by a spark on some oil. This then burns out and briefly becomes a tornado of smoke. Oddly my son wasn’t as obsessed by this as he used to be.
There is an electromagnetic crane to play with in here. The crane was working on one of them but sadly not the electromagnet. There are a few other exhibits which were working which we all had a try at. My favourite is the hand plates which spookily change the temperature of your hands when you move them from plate to plate.
After fire, we took the lift down one floor to the Water Pavilion. The entrance into here has water on either side which runs down the walls. Be warned if your kids like playing in water they are probably going to get pretty wet in here. I wish I’d taken Jamie’s coat off him and rolled his sleeves up as let’s just say that his sleeves of his top and his coat spent a long time under the dryer after. He loved it in here! I felt bad for persuading him away for his lunch. They do have some aprons in here but they were too small for my son.
They had a new exhibit which is supposed to show how the water cycle works but it looked unfished. They’ve taken a few things away in here to be fixed and on a whole, most things worked in water, but not all. They had all sorts of hands-on exhibits which taught you all about water. There are locks, ways to create waves, water sprayers that can turn fun signs just with the force of the water, damns and much more.
After water, we stopped for some lunch so that we could warm up and dry Jamie’s coat. To walk back to the cafe and then back to the pavilions you have to walk back and forth along the long walkway again. I highly recommend getting the lift back up as well as down as it cuts down on the walking.
At the entrance to air, there is a machine that blows wind from mild to gale force every few minutes. After this, you then enter a blimp-like room. There’s plenty to interact with. Highlights for us are the musical bottles which create music via wind and water. There’s also a bridge where you can recreate an earthquake. Plus a whirlwind that you can try and blow out and noises to create by squeezing on the end of a pipe. There is, even more, to do here than that and we spent quite a long time playing with various things.
Around 2 years ago when we made our first ever visit to Magna we loved the earth pavilion. Mostly because it’s the most fun of all of the areas but for our last two visits (this one and just over a year ago) it has been very disappointing in comparison. There used to be hundreds of pretend rocks that you could collect in wheelbarrows and send along conveyor belts. These would then collect and someone would explode the rock face and out would come the rocks again. You’d then collect them and start again. Our last visit there were about 5 rocks and this time there were none. We searched high and low to no avail. This was so disappointing. We could see everything working and there was even a warning sign about the rocks but there were no rocks to be seen. I don’t get why not!
At the entrance to earth, there are a couple of interactive exhibits which are more for older children. There are a few low down passages to show people the cramped conditions kids used to have to work in. In this area there is a voice that comes from down a hole. My son loves this and was so disappointed that it wasn’t working. Another great shame.
In the main area, there is a raised sand pit with diggers to play with. For the more able child (and adult) they have JCB digger arms that you can operate and collect things with. It’s complicated to understand but great fun once you get the hang of it.
Cafe at Magna
The cafe at Magna is in the red hall. Their menu has greatly improved since our last visit. They had a choice of hot food for children plus sandwich boxes. We had a great choice with jacket potatoes with fillings, burger, paninis and more. They even had a choice of specials which were nachos with chilli beef, soup with or without a sandwich and a steak pie. The food came very quickly and wasn’t overpriced. It wasn’t amazing but it was hot and it tasted OK and that was all that mattered to us in our cold states.
Outdoor Play Area and Splash Park at Magna
Across from the Magna building you will find the very large outdoor play area and splash park. The playground is open all year but the splash park is just for the warmer months. There is a never-ending amount of things to play on at Magna. There’s a good mix of equipment for toddlers up to older children. There’s lots of sand so you may want to take a change of clothes if it’s not been dry weather for a few days.
Events at Magna
Magna has a few events on throughout the year. One we’d love to try is Magna Mayhem. They fill one of their halls with massive inflatables – now what’s not to love about that? They also have live concerts and special Christmas events.
I should point out that these photos were taken during our last visit. Silly me forgot the battery for my decent camera so I only filmed on my phone during this visit. Please watch below to see Magna in more detail through our vlog.
Please check their website for opening times and days before leaving home. If you book online in advance you can save 10% on your entry ticket. You can also upgrade this to an annual pass upon arrival at Magna for no extra charge. Which means you can visit again as much as you like for the next 12 months for no extra.
A full day Magna ticket bought online in advance is £10.95 (ages 16 and over). A child of 4-15 is £8.95 and 2-3 year olds are £4.50. Under 2’s are free.
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