“ 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.
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.