We're blessed in the UK to have free admission to lots of museums, thanks to government funding as part of the free admissions policy. This is a godsend for parents looking to keep the kids entertained, especially when the weather's awful and the park just isn't an option. The National Science and Media Museum in Bradford is one of the museums which is free to enter and is a gem of a family day out, with the chance to explore science and media (including gaming and animation) all in one space.
Media and Science combined -who would have thought it could be the perfect pairing?
What's On for Families at the Science and Media Museum?
If you don't have long to explore, make sure you head to the Wonderlab first. There is plenty for kids to get their teeth into, from the chance to make and change their own music in the Sound Lab and looking at what sounds look like, to seeing their bodies projected into infrared images. It's a great space where the whole family is encouraged to get hands-on with lots of different experiments, and there are live shows on selected dates too. By far, the biggest hit with my whole family was the Infinity Mirror Maze, which was as baffling for the grown-ups as it was for the kids.
Another exciting space for gamers is the Games Lounge, where the adults got to reminisce on arcade favourites such as Gauntlet and R-Type and the kids got competitive at Pac-Man. There's also the chance to look at the consoles of the past, with consoles like the Commodore, Atari and Nintendo all on display. Some of the consoles are free to play (expect to wait your turn) whilst the classic arcade games like Space Invaders, Galaxian, Gauntlet and Street Fighter II range from 10- 50p a game so bring some loose change if you fancy having a go.
Finally, take a trip to the Animation Gallery, to explore the history of animation, and spot a few much-loved characters from your childhood. I think I enjoyed this area more than the kids, with the chance to revisit my childhood TV favourites like Morph, and Zippy and George from Rainbow.
Throughout the museum, there is a lot to keep children engaged, especially during the school holidays, from dressing up and playing with LEGO, to hands-on experiments.
All the above exhibitions are permanent, and run every day at the Science and Media Museum. However, there are lots of temporary exhibitions on offer too, meaning that things won't get boring if you fancy a repeat visit. On the day we visited, we got to find out more about space in the Hello Universe exhibition, where the kids got to make rockets from LEGO, listen to stories of how technology works in space, explore planets and lots more. This exhibition is on until 22nd January 2020.
We also got to see Luke Jerram's Gaia, a 7 metre replica of the Earth which uses NASA's images of the Earth's surface. This exhibition has since finished.
As well as the free museum, the Science and Media Museum houses three cinemas, including a massive 60ft tall IMAX screen, where as well as catching the latest blockbusters, you can watch 45 minute 3D documentaries which explore our world. Admission costs apply to all cinema screenings. For more details about what's on at the cinemas, see here
Where to Eat at the Science and Media Museum
When we popped along to visit the museum, we brought a picnic, as it was at the end of the summer holidays and we were quite frankly broke. This was no problem, as there are three picnic areas which you can find on levels 0, 1 and 4. If you can't find a space to eat, a member of staff is happy to help direct you to the best place to enjoy your packed lunch.
However, if you fancy some hot food, the cafe on the ground floor looked lovely, and serves up family favourites like pasta, pizza, soup, sandwiches and kids meal deals.
If you fancy more of a snack, or the cafe is busy, there's also the choice of going to the Pictureville Bar. This cafe serves more nibbly sharing platters, cakes and ice cream and is a great choice for a light bite.
How to Get to the Science and Media Museum
The National Science and Media Museum is located in Bradford city centre, and is well signposted. Take junction 26 from the M62 onto the M606 and follow signs for the museum. There are several car parks close by. Sharpe Street and Radwell Drive are closest but we found these filled up quickly. There are also multi-storey car parks at Hall Ings, Broadway and Southgate which are still not too far to walk. For blue badge holders, there are three parking spaces located at the front of the museum (max stay 4 hours).
If arriving by public transport, it's only a 5 minute walk from Bradford Interchange (both train and bus), or 15 minutes from Bradford Forster Square Trail Station.
We visited the National Science and Media Museum with an 18, 11, 9 and 6 year old, and everyone found something special to enjoy during out visit. We'll definitely be back as with a massive eight floors to explore, there just wasn't time to see it all. Next time, I definitely want to bring the kids along to one of the documentaries at the IMAX too.
I enjoyed my visit there last year. I seem to remember more interactive TV features, when I visited as a teenager but was pleased to go back and will do so again
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000d1rx The Man Who Invented British Cinema