Reviewed by Angela Paull
On Saturday we went to visit the Winchester Science Centre. The Centre is situated on the outskirts of Winchester and easily accessible (and well signposted) from all major routes. On arrival there is a large, free, car park just a few hundred metres from the centre’s entrance.
We arrived at around 11am and the centre was already quite busy but it took no time at all to get our tickets from the well-staffed reception desk. We were given entry tickets which had a barcode printed on them and you just waved these under a barcode reader to gain entry to the main building and exhibits. Using this system you can come and go from the main exhibit centre as many times as you like. This is a great way of doing things as there is also a Planetarium on site and, I suspect, most visitors would want to see at least one of the shows on offer within it.
We were booked in to see “Secret of the Cardboard Rocket” at 11.30 so briefly looked at some of the exhibits before heading to the Planetarium. The show lasted about 30 minutes and was just perfect for our 4 year old, being a cartoon trip around the Solar System in a cardboard rocket. Though this film is intended for younger children it has a wealth of facts crammed in and we all came away having learnt something – did you know that Jupiter is just a big ball of gas that you could fit 1,000 earths into? No, me neither! We watched this show from the second row and the seats were really reclined (almost to the point that you could fall asleep!).
We then moved into the exhibition area. What is great about the centre is that it is really really hands on, with exhibits that are accessible and useable for all ages. There is a large area relating to the science of sport as you walk in – complete with a sprint track, jumping tests, light walls, wheelchair basketball area to name but a few. We loved this section but my 4 year old also really loved a “Stem Cell” model which operated like a big marble run – I think he could have watched and turned handles on this for hours! Also on the first floor was an area relating to art, a new exhibit since we visited about a year ago, and he really enjoyed playing with the primary colour paddles to create secondary colours – whilst I decided to “Mona Lisa” myself.
After some experimenting we headed to the “Chompers” cafe for lunch. This was on the same level as the entrance and served a good variety of food and drinks. The jacket potato was gorgeous and our bacon & brie paninis were tasty but could have benefited from having a handful of side salad served with them. There were also several carafes of water from which you could help yourself (there is also a water point in the main exhibit area). Downstairs there is also a very large area full of tables where you can eat your own packed lunch. If the weather is good there are also plenty of picnic tables outside and an outdoor play area.
After lunch we saw our second show in the Planetarium – “Astronaut”. This was a 21 minute film which explained about the work of an astronaut, their training and how space affects their body. We all found this really interesting – the 4 year old was silent and enthralled throughout! We saw this from the back row of the auditorium and felt this position was probably better than being at the front as you could see more of the dome without having to turn around/look behind you.
On our return to the exhibit area we headed downstairs where there was another vast array of things to play with. The “Electricity” area had some great visual exhibits – such as Jacob’s ladder and a Plasma ball. Down here there is also a soft play area – perfect for the adults to sit at the side on the sofas and have a breather – puzzle tables (a big hit with the 4 year old), recycling exhibits and the really fascinating #LittleBig room. Go in there and your perceptions of size will really be turned on their head!
It’s fair to say that there is loads to do here – 100+ hands on exhibits – and we didn’t look at everything. Some items didn’t interest the 4 year old so we bypassed them but that is the great thing about this centre – there is something for all ages. For all the things we didn’t do there were plenty that we did. After a day of running, jumping, wheel turning, pushing and pulling I went home feeling quite exhausted and exercised!
Likewise the Planetarium also has a range of films that are suitable for all ages. They also have special event nights (and singles nights too!) so this really is a multi-purpose and multi-enjoyment venue.
I could easily see this being somewhere we will visit again and again as our wee man’s interests change!
Admission prices (with Gift Aid): Adult £12 / Children £8.40 / Planetarium Admission from £2.80 with General Admission ticket. Book online for discounts.
For more information visit www.winchestersciencecentre.org.
Telegraph Way, Morn Hill, Winchester, Hampshire SO21 1HZ | 01962 863791