When planning our weekend break to Hampshire we had lots of recommendations to visit the Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium in the South Downs National Park just outside of Winchester.
After our visit I can now see why, it is one of the best science centres that we have visited in the UK.
This is our review of Winchester Science Centre
Being indoors, it is the perfect rainy day attraction which was perfectly apt for our visit as started to rain heavily as we arrived at the science centre. We parked the car in the on-site car park (£2 charge) and excitedly made the short walk to the entrance, you can’t miss the dome shape structure of its planetarium against the skyline.
First impressions as you enter was just how many fun, interactive exhibits there were spread across its two floors, I instantly knew that there would be plenty here to keep all of us entertained for hours. At 11 and 8 year old the girls were the perfect age to really enjoy and appreciate Winchester Science Centre which is aimed at children aged between 5-12.
There are live science shows included in the price of your ticket along with a range of performances in the planetarium at an additional cost. It’s worth pointing out that the Science Centre holds the largest standalone planetarium in the UK and if you do have the time you may want to factor in one of the various shows on offer.
During our visit we skipped the live science shows opting for the more hands on experiments. I loved the fact that the centre had so many exhibits that were set up ready to enjoy and both the girls and we adults learnt more from these interactive exhibits quicker than reading a textbook. There was so much to see and do here, this was learning through play at its very best and both Chloe and Holly loved it.
Holly was eager to get to one of her favourite subjects ‘Space’ at the brand new immersive zone Explorer:Space which has transformed the lower exhibition floor after a £250,000 investment.
Space has been at the centre of our family discussions after our recent visit to the home of space travel Johnson Space Centre – Houston and the 50th anniversary of the moon landings so it was great to be able to learn more about space here.
My husband and Holly are the real space buffs and could have spent hours which gives you a little taste of what life would be like for any future astronaut.
This use of technology coupled with interactive touch screens and demonstrations from the knowledgeable staff members really helped us all imagine what life and travel in space would be like.
The cool optical illusions at the Little Big Room created some really fun family photos and was a worthwhile stop when leaving the space zone, before we checked out the rest of the centre.
We all thought that the Colon Café was hilarious, as a family we had to choose your favourite food item before walking through a huge replica of a colon where we all learnt about the impact different food types have on the body along with the good and bad bacteria in the stomach via interactive stations. If you are feeling brave you can also put your hands through a toilet seat to feel what was within.
At the Science of Sport zone we tested our reaction times on the active wall, flexibility and your ability to balance. We learnt that I had better flexibility than Ian, Chloe had the best balance and Ian was really good at the active wall.
Next up was the jump test which would predict how quickly you could run. This brought out the kids competitive sides especially on the sprint track as they raced other competitors, especially Holly who made herself at home on the winner’s podium to celebrate her victory.
I loved how the girls were asking lots of questions such as what happens if I press this or why do you think this has happened – which shows they were really enjoying their time learning through play here.
After spending over 3 hours here, (we could have spent most of the day here) we stopped for a quick lunch stop at the onsite Hub café (which was very reasonably priced offering a good selection of sandwiches, fruit, biscuits and cakes) before making the long drive back home after an action packed weekend in Hampshire.
It’s worth planning ahead as you can get a 25% discount on the gate admission price by purchasing your tickets online, 3 days before your visit or 10% discount the day before
The centre is open daily between 10 am till 5pm during school holidays and weekends and until 4pm during Hampshire term time. For more information on the latest costs, special events and opening times please check the Winchester Science Centre website.