Museums reviewed by parents: W5, Belfast
I have become something of an expert in children's science museums in the past five years, even to the point of developing science museum ennui.
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Filled with enough games and puzzles to fill a week of visits our children were in seventh heaven as they built, span, cycled, blew and climbed. In fact, it was extremely difficult to persuade them to leave.
Tickets to W5 include all-day entry, which means you can arrive at ten, pop out for lunch or a visit to Titanic Belfast (situated close by) and then drop back in again to allow your children to tear round madly until six o'clock.
Best for nursery and Reception kids
The Discovery centre on level two is designed for under eights and offers life size cars to drive, shops to run, boats to sail, a rock star studio, a play cafe, a fairy tale castle and endless computer-generated interactive games to try. Rosalind also enjoyed the galleries for older children, especially the See/Do exhibit which encourages all its visitors to build and construct.
Best for KS1 kids
While Alice loved the Discovery centre she also enjoyed the Go exhibit next door where kids can – amongst other activities – test out the theory and physics of using Rapunzel's hair to climb a tower as they winch themselves up and down using ropes and pulleys. The See/Do exhibition gave her the chance to examine butterflies under microscopes and build teetering wooden towers.
Best for KS2 kids
Unlike some other science museums we've visited there is more emphasis on play and discovery and less on text-based information. I personally think this is a strength of W5 but much older children might sometimes wish for more in-depth information.
The Climbit climbing frame – unlike anything we'd ever seen before. The children were thrilled to be allowed to climb so high and it was brilliantly designed to keep everyone safe!
Half-term and holiday events for familiesFor Easter there were a range of fairground games and carnival attractions included in the price of admission. At Christmas, there is normally a chance to visit Santa and other seasonal entertainments. Everything apart from the present from Santa is included in the ticket price and you don't need to book in advance. Throughout the year W5 hosts special days and weekends themed around topics such as robots, space exploration, Star Wars and dinosaurs. These are always included in the price of entry. See the website's What’s on guide for details.
As well as the permanent exhibition galleries there are temporary exhibitions. When we visited these included tiny fairy tale sets designed by the man who devised the sets for The Hobbit. There was also an exhibition of bird photography.
Food and drink options
There is a large cafe on the mezzanine level offering sandwiches, snacks and coffee and a coffee stand with tables on level two.
Alongside the mezzanine level cafe there are a range of picnic tables, with more available on level three, so you can bring your own food.
Getting there, prices and opening hours
Family tickets (2 Adults & 2 Children) start at £25.50, with under 3s free, and allow all-day admission. Season tickets are also available.
Opening hours are Monday - Friday: 10am - 5pm, last admission 4pm; Saturday: 10am - 6pm, last admission 5pm; Sunday: 12pm - 6pm, last admission 5pm. Allow at least two hours to visit W5.
Pocket-money shop purchases
There is an excellent science-themed shop on the ground floor offering toys, models, science apparatus and outdoor play things. Pocket money options include funky torches, mini microscopes and lots of glow in the dark goodies.
Links to the National Curriculum
- Materials (KS1)
- Light (KS1)
- Forces (KS1)
- Bones / the human skeleton (KS2)
- Healthy lifestyle (KS2)
- Reversible and irreversible reactions (KS2)
- Energy and energy production (KS2)
- Changes of state (KS2)
Photography: © W5
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