I’ve been here at least 50 times in ten years – a sign that it’s either amazing, or I have some sort of syndrome.
Location: South Kensington, SW7 2D
Type of Museum: I think you can probably work this one out for yourself.
Admission times/prices: 10am-6pm every day. Free entry except for special exhibitions. Late opening for adults once a month.
Facilities: A really good shop (actually 2), a couple of cafes and restaurants, an Imax cinema, simulators, special exhibitions, an area for under-5s and an area for older kids, the adults-only Dana Centre, lectures, workshops, oh just about everything really.
Transport: Even I can’t get lost if I use the tunnel from South Ken tube. Buses: 14, 49, 70, 74, 345, 360, 414, 430 and C, 9, 10, 52, 452 and 7. Car parking is practically impossible unless you have a disabled drivers’ badge, but why would you want to drive with all those buses?
The main bits.
Like I’m intending for many of 100 museum visits, this was an evening adults-only event, but it’s not like I don’t what the place is like during the day; I got mistaken for staff a couple of times.
On this occasion, we didn’t actually visit much of the main museum, but from past experience: the downstairs hall with the Stevenson’s Rocket and all the other old machinery is greatly improved by going for the guided tour. Otherwise, it’s just the section you walk through on the way to the more interesting bits.
Upstairs, next to the Launchpad, is a small section with lots of ancient gold orreries (which spellcheck insists is ‘orderlies,’ which conjures up a rather different image), maps and other scientific instruments that aimed for beauty as well as function. This section is always, sometimes deserted; it feels like a well-kept secret even inside one of the biggest museums in the world.
One of the reasons I’ve visited so often is that the main galleries revamped so frequently; I’ll be back soon to post an update after my next visit.
The extra bits.
One of the main reasons I got Plus membership is because it works out really good value for the Imax cinema: you and a friend et free entry as many times as you like for a year. Although this Imax does occasionally show mainstream films, it’s mainly a sneaky way of getting my daughter to watch and enjoy film on serious subjects. A word of warning: the cinema is about fifteen stories up a spiral staircase, so allow extra time to get up there and shake off the dizziness.
There are always paid-for special exhibitions, but there’s so much to see and do in the main museum that I rarely have time for them. However, for a change from the educational I do recommend the interactive space visit where you get jiggled around and sprayed on – which is generally fun, in my experience.
Really, the whole of this visit was ‘extra bits’ since it was a Lates event. There was booze, pies, workshops, the opportunity to dress up as a cockroach, speed dating, talks on things like punk science, and, our choice, a pub quiz. Sadly, it’s simply not possible to take part in many of these events – it’s smorgasbord of delights laid out for you, then you’re told you can have only one.
Don’t worry that the pub quiz will be difficult science – it’s pitched at about the right level for the general public and is not serious at all. There was even a fiercely-contested colouring-in competition; we were very disappointed that our multimedia entry didn’t win, with the corrugated cardboard fan, the bottletop hat, the mustard hair and the ketchup cloak. We were beaten by someone who made theirs into a jigsaw. Boo, clever people!
The bits that cost you money.
And boy, can it cost you a lot of money! Sure, the main museum’s free, but the shop is so tempting; it’s probably a good thing that it closes at the same time of the museum (some museums keep their shops open for an extra ten minutes), or I’d probably have my name on a plaque somewhere as one of the museum’s biggest donors.
Anyway, check out the Science Museum shop on the link above. They’ve got so popular that they’ve started to sell stuff in other outlets too, but it’s probably best to give them your money directly. There are tons of toys that most adults I know would love, from colour0changing mugs to crystal radio kits to fingerprint kits to watches that a real spy could wear. In the unlikely event that I ever get married, I’m going to have my wedding list here.
Stuff for kids and people who act like them.
The Science Museum is always top of my recommendation list for people looking to entertain kids in London. Even tiny kids have a great time in their own section with water play, giant jigsaws and climbing frames. Then, of course, there’s the Launchpad.
The Launchpad is so popular that one of the main draws of the adults-only Lates events is that grown-ups get a chance to have a go – not much chance during the day unless you want to push a kid out of a queue.
Every time I go there, I improve the length of my erection. It’s not often you use that word sincerely, but I mean the bridge-like pier-like thing that’s made by piling slabs as far as they’ll go. I always get way beyond the bit they have marked as ‘record!’ so I think they might just be underestimating to make
me kids feel like they’ve achieved something.
If you ever go there, the part I most recommend is the bit where you put a straw in your mouth, bite down on a wire and put your fingers in your ears. It demonstrates how good modern hearing aids really are – the sound is clearer this way than with regular hearing.
And definitely try to get in to the Bubble Show. You need to arrive early, because it’s popular and has limited spaces. We’ve been to it so many times that my daughter’s started heckling the Explainers if they miss a bit. But where else can you hold a bubble in your hands and see a methane bubble set on fire?