Recent days out

A model of an armoured elephant at the Royal Armouries museum in Leeds

Although it’s currently the bleak midwinter – and I mean bleak, with sub-zero (Celsius) temperatures last week and Storm Isha this week – we have managed a few days out. Some of these were in the first week of the year, as our eight-year-old didn’t go back to the school until the following week.

Here’s where we’ve been:

Manchester Science & Industry Museum

A photo of Stephen Hawking's wheelchair, currently on display at the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester

The Science and Industry Museum in Manchester is somewhere that we typically end up at least once a year. This time was mainly for the Food, Poo and You exhibition, which features content from the presenters of Operation Ouch (including Dr Chris, writer of Ultra-Processed People). It didn’t take much convincing our eight-year-old to go to an exhibition about poo, and it’s well presented. Just be aware that, whilst the rest of the museum is free, this is a paid-for exhibition and you’re advised to pre-book. My wife happened to be working that day and so I expect we’ll be going back before it finishes in June, after which it’ll probably go to the Science Museum in London.

Also there at the moment is Prof Stephen Hawking’s wheelchair. I was naturally more excited about this than our eight-year-old was.

What isn’t at the museum at the moment is, well, about three quarters of the museum. It’s just what’s available in the ‘New Warehouse’; a huge restoration programme means that the other buildings are closed. The Power Hall should be open again next year if all goes well.


A photo of the Eureka National Childrens Museum in Halifax

Considering how often I pass Eureka, and the fact that we have a young child, it’s perhaps surprising that it’s been almost seven years since my last visit. And like that time, it was partly due to some Tesco Clubcard vouchers expiring. The museum hasn’t changed much in that time; the main difference was that the car garage is now a community area with a bus and a smaller electric car exhibit.

It’s still a good museum for half a day, and at eight years old our child isn’t too old for it. There’s a new Eureka, focussing more on science for slightly older kids, in Wirral which we need to visit at some point.

Royal Armouries, Leeds

A disarmed AK-47 rifle that has been covered in sprinkles and Love Hearts sweets

The last time we went to the Royal Armouries was for Thought Bubble, back in 2016. Museums about war and armour aren’t really my thing, but our eight-year-old had read a library book about them recently and so it was an opportunity to see some of those things in real life.

The Reloaded exhibition is interesting, as it looked at guns as gifts and objects of desire. There were also a couple of commissioned art pieces, such as an AK-47 covered with sprinkles and Love Hearts. It’s always fun to see the elephant armour too.

We have a few more busy weekends coming up, so I doubt we’ll be going anywhere else for a few weeks.

Going back to Eureka as an adult

A photo of the Eureka National Childrens Museum in Halifax

When I was a kid, I used to love going to Eureka, the national children’s museum in Halifax. I was eight years old when it opened in 1992, and so I was in the right age group to visit. I remember going with primary school at least once, and with my parents on other occasions.

Eureka turns 25 this year, and I took Lizzie along a few weeks ago. She’s been three times now – once with me, and twice with her mum. I took her because Christine was working that weekend, and we had a Tesco Clubcard Days Out voucher that was about to expire.

There are still quite a few bits of the museum there that I remember. I remember pedalling on a fixed bike, and seeing a skeleton appear doing the same motions. That’s still there, although the rest of the gallery around it is new. The SoundSpace gallery is new; Lizzie found this really stimulating with lots of sound and light. We also spent a little bit of time in Living and Working Together, and All About Me, but having arrived there after lunch on a Saturday there was only limited time.

When Eureka opened, it was almost unique in the level of interactivity offered. So many museums at the time locked their exhibits behind glass cases, and there would only be the occasional button to press. Eureka was different – you could play with just about everything. It was all about learning through play – a concept that it now applies to its nursery, which is consistently rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted. Nowadays, many more museums have exhibits which are accessible to kids, but Eureka was pioneering in this respect.

Eureka entry prices

Although it’s a national museum, Eureka doesn’t receive any central government funding, hence the need to charge an entrance fee. Our local MP, Holly Lynch, has been campaigning to change this. Making it free would be fantastic for Halifax, as it could bring in many more visitors to the town. Work is already ongoing to better link the town centre and the Piece Hall with Eureka and the railway station.

As it stands, for a family of two adults and two children aged 3 or over, a day out at Eureka is almost £52. Whilst the tickets are then valid for unlimited repeat visits within the subsequent 12 months, it’s still a big initial outlay. And that doesn’t include food at the café, parking or travel. It would be great if the museum could become more accessible to those on lower incomes.

Eureka is still a fantastic museum for kids. Quite a lot has changed in 25 years and I’m pleased to see how it’s developed. But it was also nice to go back and see things that I remembered when I was younger. And now that we live nearby, we’ll be getting the most out of our annual passes.