“ Blandford Square / Newcastle upon Tyne / NE1 4JA / Tel: (0191) 232 6789 / „
I went to the Discovery Museum this year with my 2 boys, aged 5 and 6. We travelled by Metro, and the Museum is a short walk from Newcastle's Central Station.
The boys and I went to Play Tyne, which is the water play area that I have taken other young relatives to in the past. Previously this has been free, but there is now a £1 charge per child to use the area.
The room is set up with water trays to resemble the River Tyne - complete with some of the bridges etc. When I have visited in the past I have thought this area was fantastic. However, I was disappointed this time as not all of the features were working. The water wasn't flowing as it should have been, and so it was hard to fills the locks. The lighthouse wasn't lighting up, and the separate bit in which buckets used to fill and then tip out was not working at all. Because of this, my boys got bored more quickly than I thought they might. If it was free I wouldn't have been too bothered, but as everything had worked when I had been in the past when it was free it was quite annoying that things weren't working when I had paid for them to play there.
There are various exhibitions in the museum. Some of them weren't of much interest to my boys, but would be more appealing to older children and adults. Some areas with hands on bit weren't working. For example, there is one area that used to have a flushable toilet so you could see what happens when you flush the loo but, although still there, this no longer works.
We did enjoy the Science Zone, where there were hands on things to do, such as sending balls through overhead tubes. At the back of this area is some seating for picnics and, with hindsight, I wished we had taken our own food.
The cafe was quite busy, as we were visiting in the summer holidays, and I had to decide whether to sit my children at a table or make them wait in the long queue with me. I opted for them sitting at the table, but I was then in the queue for half an hour so was worried about what they might be getting up to! I am sure there must be a better system for their cafe. Table service would be more efficient I feel. I bought the children a lunchbox type meal each (you get to select a drink and 4 items in a box) but was disappointed there were no ready made sandwiches for adults. As the queue had been so long I was concerned that if I ordered food it would also take ages to arrive, by which time the children would have finished eating. So I ended up just having a bag of crisps.
The shop has a wide range of items - both expensive and fairly cheap, and my children spent a long time choosing a little item each from quite a big range of items costing less than £4.
The museum's admission is free and there is plenty to see, so we ended up spending 4-5 hours inside.
I have visited this museum twice during the 5 years that I have lived near Newcastle. The first time I took my then 4 year old niece, who had a great day there. The second time was earlier this year, with my husband and our nephew, who at the time was a couple of weeks shy of his 2nd birthday. It was in the middle of the school holidays, and we had been asked to babysit. I thought the Discovery might have been too 'old' for him, but after researching a few places I learned that it had a new water play area especially for little ones, and so decided to give it a go.
We got to the museum by travelling on the Metro. The nearest station is Central Station, and it's only a few minutes' walk from there. Entry to the museum is free. When you enter you are greeted by a large model ship, the gift shop, some exhibitions and the lift. Our nephew was asleep in his buggy when we arrived, so we decided to go into the first exhibition, which was about life through the ages, as we figured that once he was awake he probably wouldn't be interested so we wouldn't get to see it. It was very interesting, with lots of artefacts and life size models of people. It was quite a quick tour through the ages, but with enough information to actually give you some knowledge. It was fairly dark, and some of the models looked a bit gruesome, so I was glad our nephew was asleep as I thought he might be scared otherwise. He did wake up halfway through, when my husband tried out an interactive thing where you pretend to brand yourself with a branding iron, and then you hear a hiss and bloodcurdling scream. He was a little disorientated but got out of his buggy and walked through the rest of the exhibition with us.
After that, we went to the room that I thought he would enjoy - the water play area. I can't remember what the room was called, but it was easy to locate. Inside it is quite large, with small children height connected trays of water. Much of it is set up as if it was a river, and there are lots of little boats to float along, areas to stop the water, increase the flow, etc. There were plenty of long sleeved aprons, that generally went down to the knees of small children, that they were all encouraged to wear. I tried to get my nephew to wear one but he's not used to having to wear aprons for anything, and refused. As he wasn't my child I figured it best to avoid a full blown tantrum, plus, I'd asked his mum for a complete set of spare clothes for him, so I just let him get wet! He absolutely loved the area, and we literally played there for over an hour. As well as the 'river' part of the room there was another water area that you had to fill buckets etc and when they were full they would automatically empty. Like I say, my nephew and I had great fun, but I did notice some kids only spending 2 minutes in the room before getting bored. Usually that was because the adult they were with didn't get stuck in with them. If you have older children as well as little ones don't assume that it won't be suitable for them - the older children in the room seemed to play for longer than the little ones because they could explore more, and didn't need an adult to show them the possibilities. I highly recommend taking a spare set of clothes. The aprons cover the whole of the children's top half, but the water runs down the front and drips onto their legs. I saw a few children walking around with soaking trousers on!
Another nice area for the children (and my husband!) was a 'Science' type area upstairs. Inside there are various different science type activities, such as tubes with air coming out to make balls hover in the air. Disappointingly, quite a few of these seemed to have vital bits missing. One activity involved trying to make a bell ring by joining up a circuit by attaching clips onto various objects to see which would conduct electricity. There were bits of paper, and wood etc, which of course would not make the bell ring, but the metal object to use was missing, so the whole point of the exercise was lost. My husband improvised by using his key, and was then called back by a woman who asked him to demonstrate it again to her son! Inside that area there was also a small soft play area for under fives, which our nephew quite enjoyed.
Another interesting exhibition had lots of model ships, plus a few live creatures, such as spiders to look at. There were a couple of interactive displays such as one that showed how a toilet works, complete with full size model, flushable toilet.
We visited the restaurant, which was fairly pricey, but didn't break the bank, and kids' meals are quite good value. We had a look in the shop, which had quite a few inexpensive things that older kids would find appealing.
This museum is well worth a visit, with children of all ages. Older ones will enjoy the exhibitions, and younger ones will love the play area. There is also enough to keep adults interested. We had a pushchair with us at all times, and never felt that it was in the way, or that we couldn't get it into certain areas. We also saw quite a lot of visitors in wheelchairs. We went in the school holidays, and while busy, we never had to wait to try out the hands on activities, and there was plenty of room for our nephew to play in the water area. There was also plenty of seating in the cafe.
The only negative thing that I would say about this museum is that quite a few of the interactive activities were broken or had bits missing, and some of them looked as if they had been that way for a while, which I feel does not give a very good impression. They should be fixed immediately, or removed completely.
An excellent museum.
As the discovery museum is free there isn't really any excuse for anyone in Newcastle, either living there or just visiting, not to have a visit. A wide range of exhibits(from local history to nature) and an excellent games floor make it well worth the trip.
The only problem last time I visited was that many of the activites and the interactive parts seemed to be broken, and if I had had to pay to go I would have been very disappointed with this. However, if they could keep all the activities working at all times then it would definitely be worth paying and for free it is a must!
It is situated just a short walk out of the town centre and because of this never seems to be overly busy when I have visited.
Overall it is definitely worth a visit and for the price (FREE!) a must go!
The discovery museum which has mostly all permanent exhibitions about British history from the Victorians onwards. Much of their exhibitions concern the time from the world wars onwards however. Admission here is free but I would be surprised if many people were not more than happy to pay to go in because it is a great museum and there is lots to enjoy inside.
As you walk in, there is a shop with various things in. Some of these are typically museum shop like things (such as rubbers with the discovery museum printed on) however they also sell original things such as a contraption which fires a rocket made out of a bike coke bottle up into the sky.
The most apparent thing after the shop is a massive ship on your left, which you can see in the picture. Though it is not that big, it seems giantgantuous to little kids (in a good way). There are then a few floors of exhibitions and on the top floor a games section with all sorts of innovative games, such as bikes where you have to pedal as fast as possible to light as many lights as possible.
The Discovery Museum in Newcastle is a must!!
I recently returned home to Newcastle for a few days with my family, whom have only ever been to Newcastle twice before our recent visit.
The kids have become great fans of Newcastle and everything connected to it, but didn't register a great deal of enthusiasm when I suggested we could visit the museum - typical kids though!
However, on arrival, they soon began to change their minds about the idea and gradually became engrossed in exploring every nook and cranny of the place.
Funded entirely by grants, admission is free for everyone. The building itself is light and airy, and caters for all - ramps and rails are incorporated into the design for wheelchair access, a comfortable 1960's themed cafe, with a surprisingly wide range of reasonably priced food and drink is provided on site, along the now obligatory museum shop.
In keeping with the history of shipbuilding on the Tyne, the ground floor is dominated by the original prototype turbine driven ship, the Turbinia, which fills the main hall. Situated alongside are activity tables, offering drawing and colouring activities for kids. A range of models tracing Newcastles shipbuilding heritage is on display in an adjacent hall, along with an interactive display showing the length of the Tyne, and landmarks associated with it. A small room has been converted into a replica of the bridge of an old fashioned sailing ship, complete with wheels, lots of brass, pressure gauges etc. Also here, a range of display offer the opportunity to test your ability to get knotted - not as easy as it looks....
At the other side of hall, the social history of Newcastle is traced from the Great Fire, through the middle ages, the 1800 and 1900s are well documented through the Sixties and Seveties and to present day. Local people can be heard talking about various eras, their lives and community life through the ages. Again, much is interactive, with drawers to open, objects to identify and locate, and, of course, laugh at!! Unlike other museums, the seedier aspects of Newcastles history are fully documented, from witch hunts to gangsters, they are all here.
The first floor contains an area on fashion through the ages with some cringingly bad fashion sense on view, and some examples of what would have been considered the height of fashion through from the 1800s to date.
Science Works is where the museum excels - everything is interactive, ranging from producing your own electricity, demonstrating magnetic theory, sound and vision, the using the properties of light, and the history of everyday objects, such as the telephone, computers, and TV. A suite full of PCs is available, equipped with a range of educational software and free internet access for all. My kids checked their email accounts online!
There is a section for the younger children, allowing them to compose music, get to grips computer drawing and graphics, and an opportunity to dress up in authentic clothes of bygone ages. Strangely, my kids declined this option must be their age!.
The museum is open 7 days a week (Sundays are afternoon only 2pm to 5pm) and is easily accessible by road, rail and public transport.
The Discovery Museum is everything your traditional museum isn't - housed in a state of the art building (even the toilet doors and sinks are automatic!), with lifts and wheelchair lifts ideally situated, its noisy, its bright, and its full of kids having fun and learning at the same time - A brilliant day out, highly recommended.
I love to discover places that are free to visit and the Discovery museum in Newcastle is one of the best I have found.
How to get there.
The discovery museum is situated in Blandford Square a 5-minute walk from Newcastle central station. There are also buses from many areas that stop outside the station. From the station the museum is well sign posted.
If you want to drive then the museum is just off the A 6082. From Redheugh bridge head towards St James Boulevard. Parking is limited outside the museum and costs 40p per hour. Alternatively there is parking at the Times Square car park a 5-minute walk away.
Whats on offer?
The building is very impressive. Once inside there is a welcoming reception desk with maps and information about the museum. The museum feels light and spacious.
Just past the reception desk is the Turbinia, once the fastest steam ship in the world. To the side of the ship are a few interactive displays showing how the ship worked.
To the right of the reception desk and up a wheelchair friendly ramp is the open plan gift shop. As gift shops go this one is reasonably priced. My children recently bought a laminated poster of the solar system for £1.50. The shop is well stocked with some unusual gifts as well as pocket money souvenirs.
The museum is split into different galleries and is on 3 floors. There is a glass lift to all floors in addition to the stairs. I will try to give you a taste of each gallery with the highlights for me.
On the ground floor opposite the Turbinia is the Newcastle story. This is a walk through gallery that tells you the story of Newcastle from the Romans to the present day. I like to start at the present day and walk back in time to the Romans. This really is a fantastic gallery with lots of hands on exhibits and life-sized reconstructions.
There is a 1960s café complete with Beatles music playing on the duke box. There is a display showing you what TV programmes were popular at the time. Walk through the Tardis into the 1950s and there is a display case with popular toys of the time. This one fascinates my children! There is small screen cinema showing the blitz. A life-sized reconstruction of a bombed damage house is another favourite. There are real objects on display to show what a home would have looked like during the war.
In each time zone there are charts of local peoples memories. This gives a real sociological insight into how life has changed. For example one of the questions asks what was their favourite food. In the 1940s Beef dripping was popular!
Children can try on a Roman helmet and try to lift a sword. In the Roman section there are life sized animated models. As you can probably I think the gallery is fantastic! There really is something to interest everyone.
Take the lift to the first floor where you will find a soldiers life. This gallery shows 200 years of army life. Again there is something for all ages in here. There are life-sized figures dressed in the uniforms of the times. Step on a mat and a very life like Sergeant majors appears to put you through your drill paces! There is a rocking horse for children to sit on and look at themselves in a mirror to give an idea of what it would have been like to be a mounted soldier.
As you walk through the gallery there are headphones for you to listen to the stories of local soldiers from past eras. There is a life sized Anderson shelter and various weapons.
If you fancy driving a tank this is the place to try! Take a seat and look through the window to see what the world looks like from a tank.
However war is not glorified here and there is a list of names of those who have lost their lives from the area.
There is the working lives gallery where you can explore how work has changed over the past 300 years. There are lots of interesting objects on display and real stories about local peoples working lives.
Next to the working lives gallery is the Tyne side challenge. In this small gallery you can explore the North- easts history of scientific invention. There are various displays with models of interesting inventions to see.
Play Tyne is a fun place for little ones. A miniature river Tyne complete with working model lock. There are plastic boats to float and cars to push around the riverside roadway. My 5 year old enjoys operating the swing bridge to allow the cars to drive across the river. There are plastic aprons to wear to help keep your children dry. I also like the dryers provided-great for wet sleeves! There are 2 cranes that allow you to unload your cargo. One critism, the working lighthouse has been broken for several months now so I think it is time it was repaired!
Another highlight is the story of the Tyne.
Inside this gallery you will find life sized ships as well as models. My children love using the pulley system to load and unload one of the models, great fun! There is a display showing you the creatures living around and under the Tyne. My 5 year old likes to look at the live tarantula found in some cargo. Another highlight is the food chain interactive display, where you have to work out the order of a food chain. If you are correct the chain lights up.
Another favourite is the flushing loo. A display here shows you what happens to the waste when the loo is flushed. As you can imagine this is a hit with lots of children.
There is a huge map of Newcastle showing how it has developed over the years. Look on the list to find a street or landmark then press the button to see the place light up.
Take the lift to the second floor where you will find the fantastic interactive science maze. The science maze has dozens of interactive exhibits. This place is fantastic for children of all ages. There is a shadow wall where you can stand against a wall and see the outline of your shadow left behind after the light flashes. There is a working model of a house with lots of everyday domestic appliances. Press the corresponding buttons to see how much electricity each appliance uses.
There is a working telephone exchange and a model to demonstrate how a circuit is made.
One of our favourites is the ball column that shows how gravity works. There is a table where you can use the air blowing hoses to control a ball in the air.
There are a few picnic tables at the back of the science maze so you could have a lunch break in here!
For the under 7s there is a small soft play area with shapes to practice building. I think this area could have more however as there are only about 10 soft blocks, not nearly enough when there are a few children wanting to build. The science maze suits all ages as children can use the models to discover different things at their own age levels.
Next to the science maze is the fashion works gallery. This galley follows fashion through the ages. There are display cases showing what would have been worn from Victorian times onwards. There is an interactive colour chart, choose a colour to hear what it represents. There is a chart to show what colours are produced when different colours are mixed together.
I love the small room at the back of this gallery where there is comfy sofa and a wardrobe with childrens dressing up clothes. There are a few books too so you can read a story to your children. It would be nice to have some more books in here though!
Opposite the science maze is the small café with a seating area. The food served here is better that in most museums but is still expensive. There are both cooked meals and sandwiches on offer. There is a childrens menu but it is limited. The tables are positioned so that you can sit with a cup of tea and watch your children playing in the soft play area.
The great hall on the third floor is where you will find temporary exhibitions. At present there is the cyborg exhibition. This looks at what the future may hold in terms of inventions. There is an interactive robot and a T-shirt that can send a hug! Im not sure I would want the dress that can change lengths and shape though! This exhibition is on until the 27th of October.
There are well-maintained toilets situated on all floors. The discovery museum is particularly well suited for those with disabilities. There are plenty of places to sit and have a rest too!
I forgot to mention that the live wires (cant remember which floor its on) has free internet access for everyone to use.
The Discovery museum is open all year.
The museum can be contacted on 0191-2602907.
I would highly recommend the discovery museum its great fun for all ages. If you are planning a visit then be aware that it can get busy with school groups. However there are enough galleries to absorb everyone!
One of the great things about this museum, is that entrance is free. None of this paying a fortune when you step inside, only to find that it may not quite live up to your expectations. Being a free attraction, I have visited it on several occasions, usually taking school parties.
Address and contact information:
Blandford square, Newcastle upon Tyne. NE1 4JA
Tel: 0191 232 6789
The museum itself is set in a rather stately building, just as the visitor enters Newcastle, right on the North side of the bridge, on Blandford Square. There is pay and display parking available, but this is on road and very limited.
So, it goes without saying, that public transport is the best way to get here. It is only a very short walk of about 5 minutes from the central Station, which is easily accesses via train, bus and Metro.
Entrance is via the main gate, and the area is level, so its fine for wheelchair access.
The first thing that strikes me when I go through the sliding doors, is how clean and new it all looks. It is a very light and airy museum, and there is no feeling of being shut inside.
The shop is at the entrance as is the Information desk, so anything you need to know, its worth asking, because here you can pick up leaflets and information.
As soon as we enter the museum, we are faced with an extremely large ship, which is actually The Turbina, built on Tyneside, and the first ship to be powered by steam turbine. It really is an impressive opening to the museum, and much fun is to be had with the interactive displays, whilst the more sedate can read the documents and information dotted around the area.
As we walk around the museum, children notice that it really is full of fascinating bits and pieces. One of the displays we especially enjoy is the Newcastle Story, a permanent exhibition on the ground floor. This documents the history of Newcastle from Roman times to the present day. The gallery is particularly appealing to children because as we walk through the reconstructed streets, we see life size models, hear the sounds, and get a feel for what it was like in the specified times. Some of the displays are quite gruesome, in that they show life as less appealing, and harder than it is today, but there is nothing that will shock children. As well as the life size models, there is information in the form of writing and posters on the walls, so we can also read about it and also get a feel for the times. The information is all written in a child friendly manner, asking questions, such as what did we eat? And giving the answers in a simple to understand way.
The Science Maze is one of the displays which children tend to enjoy. In this very light and airy room, they get the chance to have a go at a range of interactive displays, including a working telephone exchange. Some of the activities, such as turning the big wheel take a lot of strength, but I always find that they will persevere until they manage the task. Its all very hands on, so be prepared to join in or stand for quite some time while they try their hand at the activities and experiments. A popular addition to the room is air hockey, although this has to be paid for, so if going with children who enjoy playing the game, I suggest you go armed with coins.
Another interactive display is Play Tyne, which is most suitable for young children. Here they can have fun with water play. They will be given aprons, but be prepared for a wet time. The activities are all carefully designed to ensure educational value, and children up to the age of about 8 will enjoy finding things out whilst messing about in the river!
I like the display showing the life of a soldier, because here we can dress up and meet a life size horse. Holding a great collection of uniforms, its strange walking around watching all the life sized soldiers.
Upstairs is a collection of clothes through the ages, all behind glass cases, and with explanations of the dates clothes and shoes such as the ones displayed were worn. There are also school uniforms, so children can compare with their own, and talk about how things have changed. This room is darker than the others, and I have on one occasion, been with a pupil who didnt like the whole concept, and found it spooky, but on the whole, it proves to be enjoyable.
There are of course other displays including the Story of the Tyne which gives information on the years of shipbuilding which has gone on, and the display on Working Lives. These are all very visual and frequently hands on. Some of the exhibitions are not permanent, so for visitors wanting to see something specific, its worth checking out the website.
Whilst most of the permanent displays are very much focused on life in Tyneside, such as The Tyneside Challenge which explores inventions made in Tyneside, they do have a very historical relevance in that they show the changes being made throughout the world.
Eating at the museum
There is a café upstairs, serving hot and cold dishes. Along with the rest of the museum, this is bright and spacious, and you dont feel as though you are struggling round tables. People with pushchairs and wheelchairs would have no trouble accessing the café.
Other bits of information
Wheelchairs are available for use by visitors, and these can be found at the entrance to the museum.
For anyone with mobility problems, or for people wanting to take rests, there is seating placed around the museum, so chances to sit down at most of the exhibitions.
Lifts and stairs access all floors, with the lifts having Braille indicators and stairs having tactile indicators on the hand rails. Its actually a relatively easy museum for blind and partially sighted people to negotiate although the only area with raised track floor is the Newcastle Story Gallery, and then only part of this.
What I think
Having been to this museum with my own children, and classes of children, I would recommend it, especially on those wet days when there is not a lot to do. Sometimes we just do not want to go to a play area, but prefer something a tad more sedate. This then, proves to be an excellent choice.
There is plenty to keep children entertained, and because it is so big, set on 4 floors, there is no waiting around in queues, and no feeling that you have to rush children because someone is waiting for their turn on one of the interactive displays. I always feel that we can spend as much time as we need to.
As well as being fun, there is also an incredible amount of information to be gleaned from the museum. It apparently houses the finest collections of scientific and technological material outside of London, and this I can believe. There is a huge amount of material, much more than anyone could see in a day, and certainly not when surrounded by hordes of children. I tend to focus on the child friendly aspects, and the play parts with some learning hopefully being gathered in a non obtrusive way.
The museum is well set out, with large wide corridors, and nothing cramped into corners. The high ceilings also give an illusion of space, so its a bright and pleasant experience.
Ramps and lifts make it easy for pushchairs and wheelchairs, and make it a lot of fun for those who want to, to run down.
All in all, I would recommend this museum. You cant get cheaper than free, and the fun and educational benefits are enormous.
Thanks for reading.
Discovery is the North East of England's most popular free museum. Discover all about life in Newcastle and Tyneside, from the area's renowned maritime history and world-changing science and technology right through to fashion through the eras and military history. The museum is bursting with interactive displays, which makes it the perfect place to learn and have fun.