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Thinktank - it's a place where Science is never boring.
Member Name: azana
Date: 13/08/09, updated on 13/08/09 (93 review reads)
Advantages: lots to see
Disadvantages: you won't get the most out of it if you don't check the website before your visit
Our recent visit to Thinktank, Birmingham's Science museum, started out rather unpromisingly. Having navigated Birmingham's rather "interesting" ring road which had a myriad of speed cameras and very few actual signs to tell you the speed limit, we arrived to lashing rain and more lack of signage as we failed to find the actual entrance to Thinktank.
Things got better.
Thinktank is part of Millenium Point, a large modern structure that seemed to contain part of the University too and was planted between a ruined factory and a building site. Having found the entrance we were greeted by a very large dinosaur model from "walking with dinosaurs" and the ubiquitous large lobby area that modern architects seem to favour for public spaces. There is a sense that you are about to go into a different and modern kind of place; and this proved to be true as we entered the Thinktank and were indeed made to think, whilst having a great deal of fun along the way.
The Thinktank is on the 2nd floor, with good access via lift or escalator. We arrived at the entrance clutching a rather paltry 25% off one entry ticket - perhaps had we come by public transport (Snow Hill train station is nearby)we could have avoided all those cameras and we also could have got 30% off the price. Check the website for current prices but the day we visited children 3 and above and concessions paid £7.15 and Adults were £9.00. There are details of family tickets and the like at http://www.thinktank.ac/
I would also advise checking this site for details of events - they run workshops and lectures, had we done so we would have avoided the disappointment of the "dig for a dinosaur" event being late in the afternoon about 2 hours after we had peaked, however apart from that we had a great visit.
When we arrived we saw that there were 3 floors for visitors to see and plenty of hands-on fun. We started in Kids' City, which is a mini town for smaller visitors with a mini garage, surgery, shop and cafe. My children especially enjoyed serving up a meal at the cafe with pretend food, they laid the table and "cooked" everything suprisingly well. All the exhibits had been well thought through, though they had suffered a little bit from small visitors - the mini phones between the areas didn't work and spanners from the garage had gone astray, however playing with the mini dentist chair and fixing the pipes under the road was lots of fun.
For adults too other areas were hands on whilst quietly educational, on the second floor who couldn't help join in on the recycling sushi bar, where you picked up something to be recycled from the conveyor belt? We joined in and grabbed a tin of beans , and happily posted it into the right bin and then had a look at how the different materials are recycled.
There were also areas about the Wild, medicine, and on the third floor robots to be programmed to bang drums and the very interesting "walking with dinosaurs" exhibit at the time of my visit - this area hosts different events. There was also a lego mind lab where workshops were available for older children or the young at heart for an additional small charge.
We spent a few hours vistiting all three floors - level 0 held all the transport exhibits including a huge steam train and tram. We had Granny with us, so plenty of opportunity for her to exclaim "I remember that" as we looked at the items and tools from Birmingham's glorious manufacturing past, the city of 1000 trades once, so Granny told us. The children enjoyed the "see and stamp" cards as they followed a trail in this section.
We also enjoyed the "all about me" section, which brought biology to life and the wildlife section made even the stuffed polar bear and fossils seem interesting.
Every area of the museum was fascinating and well planned and there was a lot to see, I would imagine we would notice things we had missed on a return visit.
We hadn't taken a picnic, but in fact could have eaten one in the area provided on the 1st floor - again something I wish I had known before our visit. Our £3.50 sandwiches were nice enough, but I would rather have spent our pennies in the shop which had lots of toys and sciency gifts for every age.
The museum did get very busy during our school holiday trip. I would love to visit on a weekday, but if you can't do that I would advise going early as it opens or leaving your visit to the end of the day to avoid a crush at the entrance. Pre-bought tickets would also allow you to sail past the queue. The museum is laid out so that despite large visitor numbers you still can see and enjoy things but it was very noisy at times.
Overall I was impressed by this attraction and we had a very good day. I would allow at least 3 hours for a visit, and would say it is a great family destination. Older children may well get most out of it but for the preschool child there is also plenty to stimulate and inform. We enjoyed our visit and will go back soon.
Summary: a fab hands on science museum
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