Author: Helena Chapman
Helena and her family recently visited the Winchester Science centre and Planetarium, which is in Hampshire. This is a review of their day out to the centre where you can find out everything that there is to see and do there.
Review of the Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium
I arrived at the Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium after a short bus ride from the Winchester Park and Ride with my 3 excited children, aged 5, 7 and 10. There is a car park on site but as we visited during half term this service was offered. The entrance price is a reasonable £10 per person (under 3’s are free) for which turned out to be a full day of activity. If you want to see a show in the Planetarium this costs an additional £3.50. Please click here to book online to Save 25% when booking online at least three days in advance or 10% the day before your visit.
Upon arrival we booked ourselves into a couple of shows available on that day – the ‘Live Science Show’ and the newly open ‘You are Here’ Planetarium Theatre show.
After our journey the kids were hungry so we headed to the café for a quick refuel before our first show. There was plenty to choose from including cakes, fruit and biscuits.
Live Science Show
We then joined the queue for the Live Science Show on the lower ground floor which can be accessed via stairs or a lift. We chose a seasonal option – a fun Firework show where we were shown how Fireworks get their colours and sounds. The facts were explained in really interesting and fun ways to keep children engaged and the length of the show was just right. My only critique would be that unless you were seated right near the front, it was tricky to see the experiments happening as the seating area was quite deep. We had trouble seeing and it was even harder for the children – mine ended up sitting in the aisle on the floor. Maybe more of a higher raised platform would work better but a great show none the less. There are various different shows running during the day so check out the website ‘what’s on’ calendar to choose.
Space Zone at the Winchester Science Centre
As we were on the lower floor by this point we explored the new Space Zone. What a fantastic area! You’re taken on a journey through the Solar System by exploring the lit up and colourful interactive panels and areas. You feel like you’ve stepped into an enormous spaceship!
We dressed in a space suit, controlled robots, changed the surface of the Moon into the Earth with just the touch of a button and flossed in front of a thermal imaging camera! There was plenty to keep younger children enthralled, along with more detailed facts and explanations for older children and adults. All the exhibits and experiments were so well built, clean and enticing – I was so impressed.
The lower floor also boasts a soft play area for younger children, a walk in perspective room, hands-on exhibits including creating a whirlpool and a picnic area with seats and tables. There is also an outdoor picnic area with a brilliant wooden adventure playground.
Cafe at the Science Centre
We were ready for lunch by this point so headed back up to the café. Although busy, the queue for the food and drink went quickly. We ordered jacket potatoes (£5.20 for a large) and toasted panini’s (£3.25) Kids lunch box deals were also available at reasonable prices. There was plenty of seating available and the area was really clean.
You Are Here – Planetarium Show – Touring the UK
It was soon time for our next show – a presenter-led live Planetarium show by WOW tours – ‘YOU ARE HERE’. I’ve not visited a Planetarium since I was a child and my kids had never been so we were really looking forward to it. We were not disappointed – what a magical and unique experience! We laid back in such comfortable reclined chairs I feared I may fall asleep but the show started and the 2 presenters entertained and wowed us with mind-blowing facts, great performances and amazing graphics on the 360-degree cinema screen. The show took us on a journey around the Solar System from the comfort of our chairs! Prepare for twinkly light umbrellas, an A-Z of the Universe and a missing Professor.
We attended an autism-friendly performance which meant that sensory friendly changes had been made to the show including lower lighting, reduced sound and the freedom to move from your seat but the performance was the same. I thought this was a brilliant and necessary option to offer.
Tour Dates 2018-19 You Are Here
Winchester Science Centre & Planetarium, 24 October – 4 November 2018
We The Curious, Bristol, 9 – 11 November 2018
Glasgow Science Centre, 14 – 18 November 2018
Winchester Science Centre & Planetarium, 13 – 24 February 2019
Thinktank, Birmingham, 28 February – 3 March 2019
National Space Centre, Leicester, 5 – 9 March 2019
More Interactive Exhibits
After the show, it was time to explore the top floor of the Science Centre. So many exciting hands-on, interactive exhibits helping us understand all things STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths). Even though we visited during half term and the Centre was busy, we didn’t need to wait long to try out each activity.
The firm favourite of my children was the wind tube which enabled the launch of mini-parachutes to travel up and out the top of the chamber, catching them on their descent.
We tested our balance ability in the Sports Zone and how fast we could sprint in the running lanes. Don’t forget to pose for your 1st place photo on the podium close by!
I loved the colour changing sound pod where we spoke into the funnels and changed our played back voices by touching the little copper pads. The boys loved operating the huge rotating cog to shoot balls across the building to try to hit the targets.
Some of the exhibits are designed for one person to use at a time but many can be enjoyed by a few at a time which worked really well as we have 3 children so no taking in turns! We all had a go at operating a huge brain by pushing levers, flicking pinball flippers and guiding marbles.
We operated a big tower crane, built a bridge from blocks to demonstrate force and gravity, tried to balance an inflatable ball by directing a jet of air through a tube, tested how much voltage can travel through our body and my favourite which involved using a Harmonograph to create beautiful line drawings.
The Colon Café was a really well thought out exhibit. It demonstrates the impact that different food types have on the body and how they’re processed through the digestive system. Choose your food type from the menu, grab your ticket and enter the Colon to find out! My children thoroughly enjoyed putting their hands through the toilet seat to feel what was within!
I loved the fact that all the exhibits were interactive and not full of long-winded written descriptions. This meant that the children were able to get involved and learn immediately by having fun and see the results of what they were doing. The kids and I were thoroughly engaged the entire time and will return for sure. I highly recommend the Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium – it was one of the best days out we’ve had.
These are the words displayed on huge banners above your heads whilst you explore the Science Centre and to us, this summed up our visit perfectly!
(All prices were correct at time of publishing)
Disclaimer: Helena and her family received complimentary tickets for the purpose of their review. All words, photos and opinions are entirely her own.
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