The National Space Centre has been on my ‘to visit’ list for a few years, and we only got round to it this half term. I wanted to see the Van Gogh Immersive Experience, and thought it would tie in nicely with a visit to the National Space Centre in Leicester at the same time. We met up with friends for the day too, so I hoped N would stick it longer than he would normally if it was just him with me.
Our booking experience wasn’t the best. They ask everyone to book – although it seems there have been issues with the booking website for months. After several attempts I contacted them on twitter, and found an email address you could contact to book. Once I got through to them, it was easy to sort out. I could also book a planetarium slot which was included in the price. It was a shame there weren’t family tickets available for the occasion we did actually have more than the 2 of us.
The traffic in Leicester is painful if you have to go through the centre like we did. If you can head in more directly from the north ot around the ring road, you might be able to miss the worst of it.
There’s a large car park which is pay and display, and at lunchtime when we arrived there were still quite a few spaces left. It’s only a short walk to the centre.
National Space Centre exhibits
Bizarrely those with tickets queued in a different place to non ticket holders. Given the website asks you to book in advance, I don’t know why they bother as the queue was 3-4 zig zags long compared to 1 family in the non advance booking queue. Just put everyone in the 1 queue as there’s no advantage to booking in advance.
When we first got in we headed straight for the cafe which was near the entrance. I’d bought food for myself luckily, as even the chicken salad had grains in that I couldn’t eat. The food was all hot dogs, sausage rolls, sandwiches, nachos and jacket potatoes style, but wasn’t as expensive as I’d expected which was good. N was happy with his giant hotdog. The tables were being rapidly turned over, and we walked into the space to find 3 tables had just been cleaned down. Perfect.
Before our planetarium show we had about 20 minutes so we headed into the display areas. There are several areas, including a live space where they have displays and talks going on. There’s also the rocket tower.
Each area has lots of interactive elements, perfect for children, alongside the more traditional displays about the history of different astronauts, countries’ space discovery and different voyages.
We don’t know that much about space exploration, but there were spacesuits belonging to famous spacemen and women like Tim Peak and Helen Sharman amongst others. Tim Peake’s suit looked tiny compared to some others.
We liked hearing the record that was sent to potential aliens telling them about earth and the types of music we listen to.
The space telescopes were interesting and the boys enjoying trying to find the mirror heat level. I found the Climate Change and meteorological satellites section really interesting.
We all had a go at the reaction wall – I won by quite a way which I was pleased about.
There’s also a space oddities section with spacesuit badges and the signatures on the declaration form of the first men who walked on the moon, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.
We also found the simulator which turned out to be experiencing what it felt like when Tim Peake went into space. I think it was a bit of a surprise for N, he wasn’t expecting it to be so loud.
The Sir Patrick Moore Planetarium
Our planetarium showing was just after lunch. The Sir Patrick Moore Planetarium is the largest one of its kind in the UK. The show was about astronauts going into space with how it feels for them, and how they train. It was told in a comic way with a cartoon astronaut, and N found it interesting. It was pitched just right for children, and it meant it didn’t feel like a long show to sit through.
Some bits of the movement do make you feel a bit like being on a rollercoaster. Be warned if you’re a little sensitive.
I’d have liked to see something a bit more involved, as it did just skim the surface. But it was perfect for a family day out. It looks like they do run other shows, so it must depend what is showing that day.
The Rocket Tower
We ended with going up the 140-ish steps up the rocket tower. Here we saw the Thor missile, and found out about the different space missions in history up to 1975.
There was a huge queue for the Gagarin experience. Instead we just read a few displays and looked at some of the interesting items like the real piece of moon rock. It was really hot and crowded in the rocket tower so we didn’t stay long up there.
Overall, we were at the National Space Centre for just over 3 hours which is pretty good for us. N was quite happy and there was lots more to see. It’s definitely good for a full day out. My tip is wear light layers because it gets very hot and stuffy in there.
Fosse Park Foxes and shopping
Afterwards, we decided to hang around in Leicester afterwards to pop in to Fosse Park for some shopping. We were pleased to see the Fosse Park foxes art trail, ticking off quite a few on our visit.
Have you ever been to the National Space Centre? What would you be interested in seeing most?