Life Science Centre

The brightly coloured exterior of the Life Science Centre, Newcastle upon Tyne

“I want to go to the Planetarium again. It was so exciting in the dark!” Ruby, 7

Sharing a modern, purpose-built site with a number of distinguished partner organisations – including the Institute of Human Genetics and the Northeast England Stem Cell Institute – the family-oriented Life Science Centre in Newcastle upon Tyne is the biggest and best science discovery centre in the north of England.

There’s a strong emphasis on interactivity in the Human Life gallery, where children can dig for archeological evidence, dabble with cave art and examine computer images of skeletons in Our Origins, or design their own polar wear and consider other aspects of survival in Our World. Older children, in particular, will be fascinated by Our Future, which uses multimedia exhibits to explore the ethics and implications of current science issues, such as stem cell therapy and reproductive medicine. Younger visitors, meanwhile, will have fun in the new hands-on play area for under 7s. Beyond this, you can watch (and join in) a live science show at the Life Theatre; take a bumpy ride through space on a state-of-the-art motion simulator; and enjoy a science-related film in the planetarium. Keep an eye on the website for special events, like winter ice skating; all activities and shows are included in the general admission price.

Blue Badge holders can call ahead to book a disabled parking space a few yards from the main entrance, or use the adjacent Times Square multistorey car park (£1.30 per hour) about a hundred yards away, where there are plenty of disabled bays and level access to the Life Science Centre. Accessibility has been carefully thought through in the centre itself, whose two floors are connected by lifts as well as a long, curved ramp that provides a great overview of the whole exhibition space. The hands-on exhibits are within easy reach of children and wheelchair users, and there’s plenty of space between the displays, while the absence of walls means you can always see where you are in relation to everything else. There are fully accessible toilets and an induction loop in the Life Theatre and planetarium. The motion simulator has ramped access, but wheelchair users must be able to transfer into a seat to use it.

Food & drink: The Life Science Centre has two cafés: Times Square Café, overlooking the square, serves soups, sandwiches, cakes and Starbucks coffee seven days a week, while the Life Café opens at weekends and during school holidays with a range of child-friendly lunch options. There’s also an indoor picnic area. Alternatively, the centre is well placed for many excellent nearby restaurants, particularly down on the quayside, a few minutes’ walk away.