Best museums for kids in the UK
From Thinktank in Birmingham to the National Space Centre in Leicester, we look at the best museums for wee ones
Let's face it: most kids don't want to stand around looking at old books and dusty statues. They want hands-on activities, interesting exhibitions and, well, fun. Here, we've rounded-up some of the best museums in the UK for keeping children occupied, with everything from dinosaurs to rocket ships on the table.
In Halifax, West Yorkshire lies a museum that's built especially for the little ones. Fully-interactive for ages 0–11, Eureka is the only museum dedicated to children in the UK, boasting over 400 exhibits designed to spark their curiosity. Visit at any time of the year for various themed events, workshops and activities.
Discovery Road, Halifax, 01422 330069, eureka.org.uk, Tue–Fri 10am–4pm; Sat & Sun 10am–5pm. 0-11 months free; 1-2 years £5.95; 3 plus £12.95
Horniman Museum (London)
The Horniman Museum has a collection that's been steadily growing since it was opened by Frederick John Horniman back in the Victorian times. Today, you'll find everything from musical instruments to taxidermy, as well as 16-acre gardens and an aquarium. Along with the main collection, the separate Education Handling Collection contains over 3,700 objects which kids can pick up, explore and play with.
100 London Road, London, 020 8699 1872, horniman.ac.uk, Mon–Sun 10.30am–5.30pm. Free.
Natural History Museum (London)
Known for its world famous dinosaur gallery and annual festive ice rink, the Natural History Museum is a haven for kids that are into exploring their surroundings. Though Dippy the Diplodocus, who greets guests in the main entrance hall, will soon be off on his travels around the UK, he'll be replaced with the 25 metre long blue whale skeleton that currently hangs in the mammals gallery. As well as the exhibits, the regular Dino Snores events, where kids get to sleep over and investigate the museum after dark, are particularly popular.
Cromwell Rd, Kensington, London, 020 7942 5511, nhm.ac.uk, Mon–Sun 10am–5.50pm. Free.
Science Museum (London)
With seven floors of fun in the form of educational and interesting artefacts, London's Science Museum has much to offer young adventurers, from the Apollo 10 command module to the in-house IMAX cinema showing educational 3D films. In the basement, you'll find The Garden, an interactive space for children aged three to six. The main areas, construction, water, light and sound, all aim to introduce toddlers to science through observation and play.
Exhibition Rd, Kensington, London, 0333 241 4000, sciencemuseum.org.uk, Mon–Sun 10am–6pm. Free.
The Roald Dahl Museum (Great Missenden)
As the home of Roald Dahl for 36 years, Great Missenden was where many famous children's stories were penned. Today, if you visit the Buckinghamshire village where Dahl spent much of his time, you'll come across the award-winning Roald Dahl Museum. Aimed at six to 12 year olds, the museum allows kids to look back at Dahl's life through quirky mementos and activities, inspiring budding writers that have an avid imagination.
81-83, High Street, Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, 01494 892192, roalddahl.com/museum, Tue–Fri 10am–5pm; Sat & Sun 11am–5pm. Adult £6.60; 5-18 years £4.40; under 5 free.
Glasgow Science Centre (Glasgow)
The Science Mall in the Glasgow Science Centre features three floors of over 300 exhibits, some of which you can touch and play with. Kids can go for a run on the giant hamster wheel, or learn about oxygen by making their own lungs. There's also a soft play area for children under seven. The centre's themed Little Explorer Days include special activities and workshops for three to five year olds every month.
50 Pacific Quay, Glasgow, 0141 420 5000, glasgowsciencecentre.org, Wed–Fri 10am–3pm, Sat & Sun 10am–5pm. Adult £11; child £9; under 3 free.
V&A Museum of Childhood (London)
A great way to look back at the many wonderful toys and games of years past, the V&A Museum of Childhood introduces kids to popular toys like old bricks, construction sets and doll's houses. Free daily activities include story-telling inspired by animal tales and drop-in arts and crafts sessions designed for babies and older children.
Cambridge Heath Road, London, 020 8983 5200, vam.ac.uk, Mon–Sun 10am–5.45pm. Free.
National Space Centre (Leicester)
With the UK's largest planetarium in the building, along with a 42-metre high rocket tower and six interactive galleries, the National Space Centre is a trip worth taking with the whole family. A packed calendar of events means there's always something to get involved with, especially for wannabe astronauts and scientists. In early 2017, families will get the chance to look at the facts behind Doctor Who in a special weekend event called 'Science of the Time Lords'.
Exploration Dr, Leicester, 0116 261 0261, spacecentre.co.uk, Mon–Fri 10am–4pm; Sat & Sun 10am–5pm. Adult £14; 5-16 years £11; under 5 free.
Yorkshire Sculpture Park (Wakefield)
With 500 acres of parkland for children to run around in, Yorkshire Sculpture Park is ideal for something a little different. Finding the various treasures in the park is a challenge that kids will enjoy but unlike other galleries, they'll actually be able to touch the sculptures once they've hunted them down. The walks around the historic woodland and lakes are recommended to catch sight of interesting features like the land-locked boat house and shell grotto.
West Bretton, Wakefield, 01924 832631, ysp.co.uk, Mon–Sun 10am–5pm. Free; parking charges apply.
National Museum of Scotland (Edinburgh)
The Adventure Planet gallery in the National Museum of Scotland is a definite highlight for kids, with an interactive learning zone that features dressing up opportunities, a mini archaeological dig and a giant oak tree that you can crawl through. The museum offers a number of family-friendly activities throughout the year including Mini Makers, a hands-on activity session for three to five year-olds on the first weekend of every month.
Chambers Street, Edinburgh, 0300 123 6789, nms.ac.uk, Mon–Sun 10am–5pm. Free.
Life Science Centre (Newcastle)
Split into different zones, the Life Science Centre is a massive, immersive playground for kids that are into science, with a 4D motion ride and planetarium for added excitement. The Experiment Zone lets kids get stuck in by using real tools and materials to carry out experiments while the Curiosity Zone gives them the chance to ask questions and make their own discoveries.
Times Square, Newcastle Upon Tyne, 0191 243 8210, life.org.uk, Mon–Sat 10am–6pm, Sun 11am–6pm. Adult £14; child £8; under 4 free.
The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum (Coventry)
The Herbert in Coventry encourages children to touch, smell and explore their way round the museum to discover more about the history and art on offer. From storytelling and puzzles to a multi-sensory Elements gallery, there are plenty of activities to keep little ones entertained. But if you're ever stuck, the museum's robot mascot, Herbot, is there to guide families with suggestions on things to do.
Jordan Well, Coventry, 024 7623 7521, theherbert.org, Mon–Sat 10am–4pm, Sun 12–4pm. Free.
World Museum (Liverpool)
From Egyptian mummies to Samurai armour, the World Museum in Liverpool is a great place to discover treasures from around the world. Kids will love looking at all the tropical fish in the aquarium or popping into the planetarium for an exciting show that teaches them about the universe. There's also a free bug house that allows kids to get up close and personal with creepy crawlies like scorpions and centipedes.
William Brown Street, Liverpool, 0151 478 4393, liverpoolmuseums.org.uk, Mon–Sun 10am–5pm. Free.
Themed days, science shows and workshops are just some of the fun options for kids at At-Bristol. With exhibition spaces covering two floors, there are a wide range of topics to delve into and always something to suit every interest. Keen scientists will enjoy the Move It! exhibition, where they can investigate the power of water and natural forces through hands-on experiments.
Anchor Road, Bristol, 0117 915 1000, at-bristol.org.uk, Mon–Fri 10am–5pm, Sat & Sun 10am–6pm. Adult £14.60; child £9.40; under 2 free.
Museum of Science and Industry (Manchester)
At the Museum of Science and Industry, you'll encounter machines that have influenced industry, experiments that will impress future scientists and daily demonstrations for kids to learn and observe. The monthly Experitots sessions, which are recommended for babies and children under four, give an insight into the world of science through puppets and storytelling.
Liverpool Road, Manchester, 0161 832 2244, msimanchester.org.uk, Mon–Sun 10am–5pm. Free.
National Railway Museum (York)
With 300 years of railway history covered, the National Railway Museum has an impressive collection that includes rail vehicles and furniture, fixtures and timepieces from railway buildings. Daily science shows take kids through the science of speed and force and the simulator ride allows them to experience the world's fastest steam locomotive. The Little Play Station is a space especially for babies and toddlers, where they can learn about railways through play.
Leeman Road, York, 0844 815 3139, nrm.org.uk, Mon–Sun 10am–5pm. Free.
With 10 galleries and a Science Garden, Thinktank is a family-friendly museum that tells the stories of some of the most important scientific discoveries of the past. The planetarium's shows cover astronomy, space, the solar system and much more, taking kids off to the edge of the universe. In the Science Garden, the different activities bring engineering to life through exhibits like the eight metre high Terminus machine.
Millennium Point, Birmingham, 0121 348 8000, birminghammuseums.org.uk, Mon–Sun 10am–5pm. Adult £13; Child £9.50; under 3 free.
Riverside Museum (Glasgow)
The huge collection of cars, bicycles, trams and trains, along with other types of transport, makes Glasgow Riverside Museum a special place to take kids. As well as being able to climb inside many of the different vehicles on display, there's also the historic Glasgow street scenes that are fun to spend some time in.
100 Pointhouse Road, Glasgow, 0141 287 2720, glasgowlife.org.uk/museums/riverside, Mon–Thu & Sat 10am–5pm; Fri & Sun 11am–5pm. Free.