“ Address: Times Square / Newcastle upon Tyne / Tyne & Wear / NE1 4EP / England / Tel: 0191 243 8210 „
My husband and I took our 5 and 6 year old boys to the Life Centre towards the end of the summer holidays. Admission was fairly pricey - I think it was about £30 for a family ticket. However, this did include all shows and the ride.
Once inside we headed straight to the Planetarium, which is near the entrance, as there was a children's show about to start. It was 'Little Bear' which I think was only a temporary show, but was designed to introduce under 7s to astronomy. My two boys loved it and my husband, who is quite into astronomy, thought it was very well done. You have to show your tickets at all showings, and the staff are meant to mark them but they didn't do that to ours. I was talking to another visitor later in the day and she said her family had gone to the wrong show by mistake (there were 3 different shows running throughout the day) but the staff had said that because her tickets had been marked she was not allowed to go to another show. This seems a bit unfair, as there are different shows. For example, although my husband enjoyed the kids' show it wasn't the one he particularly wanted to see - which was only suitable for adults and older children. As our tickets hadn't been marked he was able to go and see the other show later but I think he would have been a bit annoyed if this hadn't bee allowed. I presume this is because it can get very busy in the Centre, but we went on a Sunday in August and the place was surprisingly quite empty.
Also downstairs is a Science Theatre. We went to a show suitable for children aged 5+ about 'The Beach.' The woman doing the show was very knowledgeable and it was very interesting. There was enough variety to keep the young members of the audience interested as well.
The Curiosity Zone is also located downstairs. This has lots of different areas where you can explore different scientific concepts. For example, there was somewhere to explore magnets, somewhere to build a tower and try to ensure it wouldn't be knocked over by a fan etc. My boys' favourite bit was the area with three spinning disks and a variety of circular objects that you could get to spin on those disks, using your finger or a long stick. My boys were so amused by this that my husband was able to go to a 25 minute planetarium show while I watched them experiment in this area.
Upstairs there is a full floor of activities for under 7s. There is a play kitchen, a play shop (with very realistic tills and barcode scanners), a play garden with recycling area and vegetable patch etc. There is also an area with soft play type shapes (that my boys had a whale of a time building with, climbing on, and jumping from) and then, round the corner, some quieter activities such as activity sheets and train/road sets. There was also a woman doing a craft activity with any children who wished to do it.
My boys loved this area and we visited it twice over the day. They especially liked the play kitchen and the soft play type shapes. While they were playing happily my husband and I took turns to go on the 4d ride. On the day we visited it was a rainforest ride. It was like being on a rollercoaster, and quite good fun. I did get quite wet from 'going through a waterfall.' This ride is changed as the seasons etc change. For example, I think they always have something Christmassy in December. As far as I recall you have to be over 1.2 metres to go on the ride, and they do have a measuring stick to ensure children are tall enough.
We ate lunch in the cafe. Food isn't that expensive but I didn't think it was particularly good quality. There are signs up all over about the importance of healthy food, but the kids meals contained frozen chips that were a bit hard and not particularly appetising. I had a tuna sandwich and felt quite ill for the next few days, although that may have been a coincidence. The kids meals should also have contained a piece of fruit, but the fruit bowl was by the till and contained a mouldy pear and a few black bananas. We mentioned this to the woman serving and she said there might be some other fruit somewhere else but didn't do anything to investigate further for us so we just left it and the kids went without fruit.
There is also usually a temporary exhibition on, and when we were there this was BodyWorlds. The information said this was for adults and children over 8 so we didn't go in, but we still had a very full day and had to drag the children out at closing time; despite arriving quite soon after the place opened.
A friend recently asked me to join her on a visit to the Life science centre in Newcastle as it was featuring a dinosaur exhibition, something her dinosaur mad young son would enjoy. In the past we had purchased an annual membership and used to visit on a regular basis. However the membership had long since expired so I was keen to see what was now of offer at the centre.
The Life science centre is situated in Times Square just off Westmorland Road. The main Newcastle train station is just a few minutes walk away and it is well signposted; just walk out of the station and turn left and you can't miss it!
If you would prefer to drive then you can either use one of the several park and ride options around the city or drive to the Times Square underground car park. At peak times it can be difficult to find a space and it's also quite expensive to park (the reason I take the train!)
Opening times and prices.
I was a bit shocked at the admission prices as at £10.85 for an adult and £7.50 for a child under 17, it can be an expensive day out! A family ticket is available for either 2 adults and 2 children or 1 adult and 3 children for £29.An annual pass will cost you £24.94 for an adult and £18.95 for a child. There are concessions available and I suggest you visit the web site to see exactly what is on offer.The admission price included all exhibits ,shows and the 4D ride.
The centre is open from Monday until Saturday from 10 am until 6 pm and on Sundays from 11 am until 6 pm.
From 9th November until 31st December there is an ice rink available at the front of the building.
What is there to see and do?
The main reason for our visit was to see the dinosaur exhibition. This is a temporary exhibition and is due to finish in November. It is on loan from The national history Museum in London. The exhibition includes several massive dinosaur models that move and roar. There are fossils and bones to see as well as video footage showing what life would have been like 65 million years ago. The habitats of the creatures are replicated in a life like way. Young children may find the experience scary! My son is now well past the dinosaur stage but still enjoyed the exhibition especially the size of the bones on display!
The planetarium gives several 20 minute performances throughout the day. You will be given a map with the various show times when you arrive and I suggest you spend a few minutes planning when to visit. The planetarium has really comfy reclining seats and has a changing programme of shows in addition the traditional look at the solar system. The show currently running looks at the possibility of life on other planets. It is quite entertaining and very suitable for children.
The 4D ride is not one for me as I have a back problem. However my son tells me its great fun although it made my friend feel sick! The ride theme varies but all make you feel you are moving at speed. Not only does your seat move (quite violently) but the 3D film has objects coming out at you. The current Halloween theme is Frankenstein the monsters escape. There are several shows throughout the day.
If you have young children you may want to head for the top floor to experience the young explorer zone. This zone is especially for the under 7's with staff members on hand to offer advice. We didn't have time to visit this zone so I can't comment on how good it is.
The curiosity zone is another interactive area and is suitable for all. There are several areas for children and adults to try out science for themselves. You can build a machine and add gears and pulleys to make it move. The children did enjoy this area.
The theatre has several live shows a day bringing science alive. The shows are aimed at primary aged children and my children have really enjoyed these shows in the past. Volunteers are usually asked for to help with the experiments too!
In addition to the shows and temporary exhibitions there are lots of other things to explore. The interactive world explores genetics and is suitable for older children and adults. It looks at what life may be like in the future, climate change, what makes us human and ancestry. There is also a screen where you can look at the origins of your surname and where it is likely to have originated from.
Another highlight is the interactive display showing you some typical meals eaten by people in other parts of the world. It is then revealed how many calories each would contain. The differences are really interesting.
The section on recycling shows what will happen to our planet if we continue to consume and throw into land fill at the present rate. It's not a pleasant thought!
Eating and drinking.
There is a café inside the centre and another starbucks outside. The café inside sells light snacks at reasonable prices. We usually take a picnic and there are lockers available to store a rucksack at the centre. However when we visited I didn't have time to prepare food and so we did eat at the café. The food was reasonable and I paid just under £3 for a sandwich each.
There are toilets and baby changing facilities in several locations and the ones we visited were all very clean and well maintained.
The centre is suitable for wheelchair users as there are lifts to all floors. There are also disabled toilet facilities available.
When we visited there are lots of helpful staff members around to help and answer questions.
I do think the admission charge is quite steep. although there was enough to keep us all occupied for most of the day. When we visited a few of the interactive displays were out of action and some areas are looking in need of a make over. The dinosaur exhibition was enjoyable although it is quite small and no where near as exciting as others we have seen.
I would recommend a visit especially if you have young children who are interested in science!
I have visited the Glasgow Science Centre many times and have been thoroughly impressed by the activities on offer. I read about the Newcastle Life Science Centre in a leaflet when we were in the area and decided to visit. I was expecting to really enjoy it as not only is the friend who accompanied us a biologist but my daughter also has a keen interest in science and loves biology at school.
First impressions of the centre were good, it looks huge from the outside but once you get closer you realise that the Life Science Centre is only a small part of the complex of buildings, the other buildings are in the complex are research labs. There is a fantastic statue of the double helix outside the entrance.
The science exhibition is about human life on earth and is split into three sections called our origins, our world and our future. The origins exhibition contains basic information about evolution and DNA and how we are related to other species. There was some boards to read and also some monkey hands to shake to compare the sizes and shapes.
The Our World exhibition was the biggest section and showed how humans adapt to survive in the extremes of the arctic and desert. There are various activities for younger kids here such as dressing up like an Eskimo or standing under a heat lamp. There are two PCs set up where you could type your surname and use census information to see how the distribution of people having your surname has changed geographically over the past couple of centuries.
The Our Future exhibition includes sections on energy use, aging populations and looks at how climate change will have an impact on human life and uses computer models.
There is a fairly small planetarium where you lie back and see the planets and stars projected onto a screen above your head and also a small motion ride which simulates life during the time of the dinosaurs. Both were reasonable enough but not spectacular.
Every day there is a science show in the lecture theatre and it is staged every hour and lasts around twenty minutes. The show we attended was called Top Ten and was a medley of favourite demonstrations seen over the ten years of the Life centre. The demonstrations were interesting enough, burning different metals to produce different coloured flames and making a coke bottle into a rocket but they never had anything to do with life sciences.
There is currently a Dr Who exhibition showing on the top floor of Life and this really caught the attention of my Dr Who crazy daughter. The Dr Who exhibition is amazing and it contains loads of artefacts from series 5 which has just aired on the BBC. The highlight was a show featuring the Daleks who talked to the audience before having a shoot off with one another. My daughter was really excited by all of the exhibits and wanted pictures with the weeping angel and other models including the cybermen. The lighting and sound effects were amazing in this section and it would be a real treat for any Dr Who fan to visit. This exhibition took around an hour to go round
I would say that the Life centre is definitely geared towards the younger primary school child from age 5 to 10, there is very little in the science section to keep adults or older kids amused for very long. I was really disappointed by the small size of the science centre, when comparing it with Glasgow Science Centre where you can spend the whole day browsing it was pathetic and it would take less than an hour to go round all the exhibits.
The café is really nice and also open to the general public. We had sandwiches, a baked potato and some very good mushroom soup which were all priced reasonably and were nice and tasty. We chose to sit outside in Time square to eat on the outside seating which was nice.
I was fairly disappointed with the Life Science centre, the science exhibition was very small and lacked detail and if it had not been for the Dr Who exhibition the day would have been totally wasted. It will keep younger kids entertained for a while but is not a place which is suitable for older kids or adults to visit.
The Centre for Life in Newcastle upon Tyne is situated close to the central station and is easily accessible via public transport; for visitors using their car, there are plenty of car parks close by. It is essentially a science village where scientists, clinicians, educationalists and business people come together to promote advancement of the life sciences and almost 500 people from 30 countries now work on site.
At the heart of the village is the Life Science Centre. which offers hands on activities for all ages.as well as one of the biggest hands-on science education programmes in Europe.
The Centre for Life is accesses under a large archway heralding its existence, so it's very tricky to miss. In the village are plenty of bars and restaurants and in the winter there is ice skating which is very reasonably priced. On entering the Centre for Life there is the desk where you make payment, and then you are immediately in amongst the exhibitions.
We have been on many occasions to the Centre for Life and try to go whenever there is a new exhibition. On our most recent visit we were able to be involved in a slime making activity and Little miss was especially impressed when she got to take the slime home. As well as the usual exhibits, there was also a section devoted to \medieval machinery and science. Visitors were able to make archways, plot journeys and go jousting as in Medieval times. This was really interesting and just this area took an hour of our time.
* Human Life is a hands-on exhibition where you'll find the answers to questions about who we are, where we live and what the future holds. It is divided into three sections and although little Miss has seen this exhibition many times she still enjoys the activities.
* Motion Ride is a state of the art motion simulator where you strap yourself into your seat, watch the screen and take part in the ride.The film changes annually and at the moment its a dino Ride which has lots of looming dinosaurs, rocky landscapes and volcanoes. (Minimum height requirement of 1.2 metres/4ft; suitable for all ages - if tall enough!)
* In the Life Theatre you can take part in a live science show which change regularly- slime right
* The Dome is the Planetarium theatre which is like a cinema, although here the screen is overhead - and it's dome-shaped - so you look up and really feel you are part of the action.
* Soft play area with lots of large building blocks for younger children
Upstairs there is a large area with art exhibitions and tables and chairs. Here there is usually some craft activity going on.
Other bits of information...
The cafe is situated on the ground floor with a range of meals and snacks to choose from
Toilets are also on the ground floor- plenty of them and clean which I find is always a bonus.
Parties and school visits can be booked at the Centre for Life.
Monday to Saturday 10am - 6pm
Sunday 11am - 6pm
The centre suggests you allow yourself 2-4 hours for your visit and I would agree that anything less than this is a waste unless you have an annual pass as we have and which represent excellent value for money.
Last admission to the Centre is 3.30pm.
Adult £3.95 Aged 18 and over
Child (> 4yrs) £3.95 Aged 17 and under
Child (< 4yrs) FREE Aged 4 and under
Concession £3.95 OAP, student or unwaged
Family Ticket £10.00 2 adults, 2 children OR 1 adult, 3 children
I think these are slightly cheaper than tickets are normally because there is the Science Fest although there is no indication as to when these reduced prices will end so it's worth taking advantage!
Telephone: (0191) 243 8210,
Address; Life Science Centre Times Square Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 4EP
A great place to visit- educational, hands on and fun. With the ever changing exhibitions, it's a place you can visit over and over again.
Thanks for reading.