The National Space Centre in Leicester is a must visit destination for any budding astronauts. We love space-themed learning, and have visited a number of Observatories around the world, so we were all too happy to have to opportunity to explore the National Space Centre as part of the Stay Play Explore package.
The National Space Centre is large, but not huge. My children are 3 & 5 and it took us about half a day – around 4 hours – to work our way through the centre, and watch a show in the Planetarium. If you have older children specifically interested in space exploration and better able to grasp the information, it can quite easily be an entire day’s activity.
Set over two main floors, there’s plenty of walking to do, and a cafe on site too.
On arrival you can book your viewing time at the Sir Patrick Moore Planetarium too.
We arrived just in time for the show, so went straight in to see We Are Aliens, (which I’m sure we saw at Scitech in Perth in December!) The Sir Patrick Moore Planetarium is beautiful, looking like an opera house when you enter, before being swept away on a tour of the galaxies. I’ve yet to meet a Planetarium show I’ve not enjoyed!
The National Space Centre has six interactive galleries, with over 150 hands-on challenges and exhibitions that can be touched, moved and played with. Each gallery also has fancy dress costumes that kids can dress up in as they traverse that aspect of the universe – a scientist, a star, aliens and so on.
Many of these were a bit over my little ones’ heads, but that’s okay, they still loved snippets and have come away with new information too.
The ‘real life’ space crafts and space ships that you can climb into really put space travel into perspective, and you can see why astronauts go through so much training and preparation. Honestly, I couldn’t stand up inside the Russian shuttle!
There’s quite a futuristic feel to a lot of the National Space Centre too, with touch screen movie boards and fluorescent lighting moving around the exhibits. It’s all very stimulating and exciting.
Leaving the exhibits behind, visitors head up the stairs and past the education rooms, to the foot of the rocket, where you can watch the first ever sci-fi short film before heading up the Rocket Tower. On level 2 become Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space as you sit inside the Vostok Capsule and blast off into space. Take a seat to discover the Russian firsts in a mini 360 degree cinema, see a dog spacesuit and look up for the first man-made object in space, Sputnik.
Join Neil and Buzz as Apollo 11 lands on the moon on level 3. Along with the last piece of genuine moon rock to be returned to Earth challenge yourself to pilot the “Eagle” onto the lunar surface and have your photo taken on the moon. As you walk along see history written out on the walls, and step back into a family home, listening to the moon landing happening.
There were a few things we weren’t able to do at the National Space Centre because our little ones were just that little bit too little, like testing our mettle against real (simulated) astronauts, and going in the 3D SIM ride and so on, and I’m sure these things would have made the day epic, but in my view it just gives us reason to return again another time. We certainly didn’t leave feeling like we’d missed out on much.
National Space Centre Facilities:
There is plenty parking at the Space Centre, but it’s pay and display, which we didn’t realise till we left. Fortunately no one checked! I can’t imagine you’d know how long you’re going to be each time though!
There’s a gift shop with everything you could wish to buy about space, experiments and science.
The canteen style cafe looked fairly well attended and prices were fair for this type of attraction, but we didn’t stop in to try anything.
Usefully there’s a free cash machine on site, as well as baby changing facilities.
Overall we had a really good half day at the National Space Centre, and we could easily have spent even more time there.
For more information on opening times and prices, visit the National Space Centre here.
Visit their Facebook page to keep up to date with what’s happening at the National Space Centre.
To find out what else to do in and around Leicestershire, click here.
To find out how to enjoy this as part of the Stay Play Explore package, click here.