Housed in a startling, glass-fronted building, imaginatively converted from a 1906 railway shed, the At-Bristol science museum offers over three hundred hands-on, interactive exhibits – it’s not hard to see why the museum ranked in Visit Britain’s top 10 family attractions and The Guardian’s top 20 family-friendly museums in 2011.
With the emphasis very much on discovery and participation, the range of activities on offer is enormous: test your reaction times; launch a rocket; operate a giant hamster wheel; freeze your shadow; light a Wallace and Gromit film set; create your own animation; and experience what it’s like to be back in the womb. Under-8s will have great fun dressing up as dinosaurs and digging for skeletons in the Fossils and Funny Bones area, and even tiny ones are well catered for, with regular “Toddler Takeover” sessions. The new “Build It” attraction, opened in 2014, is set on a construction site, and allows children to role-play and get creative in a work environment. Finally, be sure to book a seat for one of the excellent planetarium shows, screened in the glittering, stainless steel sphere in front of the main building.
The very accessible Millennium Square underground car park has 26 disabled spaces. It’s about a hundred-yard walk from the car park to the entrance, but you can borrow a wheelchair, which should be booked in advance. Access within the museum itself has been well thought out – there are automatic doors, low payment desks, rest seats, hearing loops, large text information and a lift between the two floors. The exhibits are generally low-level and accessible. In the planetarium there are spaces for wheelchair users at the back. Sit near here if you don’t want to crane your neck to see the show, which mainly happens above you.
Food & drink: At-Bristol has a good self-service café (with great views over Millennium Square) serving freshly made, locally sourced hot and cold meals and snacks, including children’s lunch boxes. High chairs and bottle warming facilities are available, and there’s a small play area, plus a RADAR key-accessible toilet with a powered hoist. If you prefer to bring your own food, there’s an indoor picnic area you can use.