5 sciencey places to visit in London during the holidays

When you’re stuck with things to do in London
Fran Science Art

It’s half term, if you have children, its generally doing stuff with them while they aren’t at school. I like to kill two birds with one stone and go and visit things that we are all going to enjoy.

The principle is, if it’s thoughtful, includes observation, then its sciencey.

1. Natural History Museum

A lot of people see the word museum and run the other way. However, don’t knock it until you try it especially as 3 of today’s picks are museums. The Natural History Museum (NHM) is  a no brainer for starters,  and  I have already blogged about this place.  Evolution, architecture, viagra, arguments(again) and beautiful things..

As something that costs nothing to visit, you take from  it whatever you want. Dinosuars, amazing architecture, evolution, taxidermy at the next level, geology, jewels, earthquakes and volcanos.  If you choose to do it all at once ( I don’t recommend it), take all day. Get there early. It opens at 10am, so try and avoid the queues. Use the side entrances as the queues are shorter here. There is also a section for artwork- which is where the illustration in the figures above come from.

From South Kensington tube, it’s a short walk. There are  loads of workshops available as well, do check online.

I would recommend a packed lunch. There are more than enough benches or cafes to sit in and munch away on your picnic. Generally, I do a morning and then escape before the crowds overwhelm.

2. Science Museum

If natural history is not your thing, next door is the Science Museum. Not as popular as the NHM, however it has a really cool Wellcome inteactive bit. See yourself age using computer generated imagery (its quite depressing when you end up looking at its creation and you find out you look like your mum :/), the inteactive area explains  genetics and other concepts involved with industry and ecology. It’s 5 floors so there’s lots to do. Again, go early to avoid crowds. For smaller children, the museum itself has engines- explaining the industrial revolution really, space rockets and also aeroplanes. You can step inside a jet and walk along an elevated walkway to see this amazing collection, celebrating flight.  You can see the space suits worn by the Apollo mission flights. I really love this bit.

3. ZSL London Zoo

I get why zoo’s were created. Live animals are more interesting than stuffed ones, (see the NHM). Ethical considerations about our ability as a species to trap, cage and put any  species on show for our entertainment and education is questionable (see The Greatest Showman). London Zoo has taken this on board, and is not the same zoo I used to visit as a little girl. No longer will you find  elephants, these can be found at the sister park Whipsnade,   ZSL London zoo now works really hard to promote conservation.

We’re ZSL (Zoological Society of London), an international conservation charity, and our vision is a world where wildlife thrives. We’re working every day to achieve this, through our science, our field conservation around the world and engaging millions of people through our two Zoos, ZSL London and ZSL Whipsnade Zoos. 

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ZSL website page

Now, London zoo is almost prohibitively expensive. Sort of worth it if you think that you are paying for the upkeep , room and board of thousands of species of animals. Save Money though: You can save 10% if you book online.

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However, save even more if you travel there by train. You can go 2 for the price of one  if you travel by National Rail. You sign up, get a voucher online and present it with your train ticket . Click the  link here:National Rail 2 for 1

4.Kew Gardens

Far away from the centre of London is that bit  associated with Richmond and Hampton Court Palace, and is understandably a Royal botanic garden. It can be found by getting to Kew Bridge station from Waterloo or Clapham junction  and then walking 800m. Now this is a day out and a half. You don’t need good weather but it helps. There are 4 enormous conservatories/glasshouses to visit if it is wet.

Kew is concerned with valuing, understanding and conserving plants, fungi and all flora.  It is also briliant for overcoming your vertigo. There is a treetop walk, where you can watch as your little ones run ahead in the treetop walkway, while you clutch the sides for dear life. The glass houses and  palm houses also have wonderful victorian spiral staircases taking you to the heavens and vetigo city.

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The newly restored temperate glasshouse

The glasshouses aim to mimic every environment on the planet where plants and fungi grow. The Princess of Wales conservatory, which is currently housing an amazing orchid exhibition from Columbia, is one among others that  creates environments for plants from the alpine to the temperate to the desert. Especially in the tropical glasshouse you end up getting undressed and dressed from your winter coats quire regularly so you don’t get overwhelmed with the heat.  If you are going for the orchid exhibiton, go early, the queues are enormous.

There are Cycads, prehistoric trees and ferns, carnivorous plants and  a small aquarium underneath the conservatory.  This is just a taster, there is also a woodland to explore not to mention  a Japanese garden, a pagoda, a faux roman temple and wonderful big trees to hide under.

5. The Horniman Museum

Last, but by all means least is the home of the best overstuffed Walrus in the world. The Horniman’s, situated in Forest Hill, is accessible from London Bridge or Caterham or the Overground(orange tube line).

This small museum has a large garden attached that actually has, a disused skateboarding rink thing in it, as well as a little animal enclosure and some external percussion instruments. It really  is a gem.

It hosts the most comprehensive collection  of musical instruments  in the UK as well as the insides and outsides of dead animals. Interestingly it also has events where you can access items that have been on display: an eclectic mix ranging from puppets to skulls.

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There’s an aquarium at cost, not much though , and it hosts exhibitions. All museums in London tend to be free- well the ones I go to are, unless they are exhibiting things. Currently, the Horniman is hosting LEGO Brick Wonders. The 7 wonders of the world plus some.

I am sure off the top of your head you can already think of a handful of great places to visit (Greenwich observatory for example), please include them at the bottom of this post if you can. Share your ideas, I think all parents and travellers would be grateful.

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