Must visit Museums and art galleries

(69 Posts)
Gunznroses Sun 25-Nov-12 20:26:07

I would like to take dc (11 and 9)to visit some educational places, so far we've been to the natural science and History museums, we've been to the Tate modern ds1 thoroughly enjoyed the works of Damien Hirst.Im trying to make a list of more places to visit but there seems to be so many museums (some miles away and dont seem worth the journey).

I dont mind a couple of hrs drive but want to seem something worthwhile at the end and not just some old broken crockery from medieval times iyswim. There are some very small museums but that contain very interesting things like the Lowewood museum in hoddesdon. Ive also just spotted "Roald dahl museum in aylesbury, anyone been there ?

Can anyone recommend a list of interesting museums or art galleries that they have been to that would really add value educationally and isint just a few dustry old cups sprinkled around followed by a visit to the tea and cake shop grin

YDdraigGoch Sun 25-Nov-12 20:30:00

Have you been to the Pitt-Rivers museum in Oxford?
Our Brownies loved it.

YDdraigGoch Sun 25-Nov-12 20:31:01

Also Technoquest in Cardiff and @Bristol are both very good.

AppleOgies Sun 25-Nov-12 20:31:48

Imperial war museum in London.

Gunznroses Sun 25-Nov-12 20:37:00

No, ive never heard of the pitt-rivers nor technoquest. I google them, please keep them coming.

WinklyVersusTheZombies Sun 25-Nov-12 20:44:04

The PittRivers is at the back of the Natural History Museum in Oxford, which is my number 1 favourite museum.

The Ashmolean in Oxford is full of Egyptian artifacts and other cool stuff too.

I like the Portrait Gallery in London. Bit of history thrown in with your art.

EduCated Sun 25-Nov-12 20:55:29

I'm a massive museum-obsessive but I HATED the Pitt Rivers. I completely freaked out in there. The Natural History Museum but in front was amazing though.

British Museum is a must, V&A I'm not fussed by. Ashmolean is good, Imperial War Museum about right for your DCs ages (though sme bits may still be a bit too much). Black Country Museum, if you're ever up that way, makes a nice change smile

alcofrolic Sun 25-Nov-12 21:09:19

I went to the Roald Dahl Museum in Aylesbury about 15 years ago, but am returning on Friday! Will let you know!

What about the Roald Dahl Museum in Great Missenden?

River and Rowing Museum in Henley? (Nice spot by the river)

Chiltern Open Air Museum in Chalfont St Giles? (Lots of space for running around!)


Noobo Sun 25-Nov-12 21:10:56

Places me and my kids have been in London that were good and we repeated visits to

British Museum (mummies and everything really)
Wellcome collection (medical stuff and interesting exhibitions)
V & A (my kids loved at that age)
Museum of London/Museum of Docklands (excellent stuff for kids)
Tate Britain (art trolley)
HMS Belfast (history)
Tower of London (history and pricey)
Saatchi galleries (free)
Imperial War Museum (excellent and free)
Army museum (good but not my thing)
Museum of Childhood (Bethnal Green)
Design Museum (now moving to Holland Park!)
Greenwich/maritime museum/planetarium - go by river?
Kensington Palace/Diana playground
Royal Opera House (have cheap tickets for families from time to time and events)
Opera Holland Park (free tickets for kids - only summer - and have to apply quickly)
Regents park zoo/canal trip (pricey but great day out)

alcofrolic Sun 25-Nov-12 21:17:55

Hampton Court is good
Warwick Castle (excellent 'real' shows - maybe only in the summer?)
Blenheim Palace near Oxford (has some great mazes in one of the gardens! Great grounds for wandering round as well.)

EcoLady Sun 25-Nov-12 22:08:15

Duxford - part of the Imperial War Museum and a must for aircraft and WW2 history. On the M11 near Cambridge.

Saracen Sun 25-Nov-12 22:09:34

I'd go for an outdoor living history museum such as West Stow Anglo-Saxon village in Bury St Edmunds.

I only know some of the museums listed here: but there are some real gems among them. Many are rather too far for you but there might be some suitable ones.

grovel Sun 25-Nov-12 23:04:46

Bovington Tank Museum and Monkey World are close together (in Dorset). Fun.

YDdraigGoch Sun 25-Nov-12 23:27:44

Warwick Castle is brilliant!

creamteas Mon 26-Nov-12 10:02:58

What are you DC interested in? I don't think they get a lot out of places unless they have at least a passing interest.

We have been to a good range, but I always found that had the ones into history got very little from the science places, the one who liked Roald Dahl books loved the museum, and the rest hated it!

BarryShitpeas Mon 26-Nov-12 10:08:42

We have just visited the Foundling museum, on account of dds being obsessed with the Hetty Feather series of books. It is a bit dry, but heartbreaking if you are an adult. There is a collection of Handel stuff upstairs, including his last will and testament.

TheWave Mon 26-Nov-12 11:10:48

RAF Hendon air museum good to wander around.

I would second the rowing museum in Henley (on a nice day so you get to walk around outside by the river as well if you are making the trip!)

dotty2 Mon 26-Nov-12 11:18:08

Where do you live? Then we can give you recs tailored to your area.

Gunznroses Mon 26-Nov-12 13:22:01

thanks for all these wonderful recommendations. We're in Hertfordshire dotty, ds is also quite arty, so keen on art galleries too.

unexpectediteminbaggingarea Mon 26-Nov-12 13:38:37

we're in herts too:

science museum is great, gets very busy though

tring NH museum is small and quirky, full of stuffed animals (it is 'the dead animals museum' in our house) but is free and usually quiet. they sometimes have extra little bits on. We go there often as it's an easy drive for us. I wouldn't drive more than about 30 mins for it though...

RAF museum Hendon is good.

There's a toy museum somewhere I always mean to go to but haven't made it yet.

Blu Mon 26-Nov-12 13:45:27

For a nice summer day: the science centre and observatory at Herstmonceux (sp?) near Eastbourne. Much of it is outdoor, they do evening astronomy sessions looking through the bid telescopes, and excellent science shows on the summer hols. Good for those actually into science and astronomy.

Greenwich - Cutty Sark, Maritime Museum and Astronomy Museum at the Observatory - so all in a day, or do the bits you are interested in. Maritime Museum alone perhaps not worth the trip form miles away.

Museum of London for specific topics - Fire of London.

Fakenham Museum of Gas - best collection of old Ascot water heaters in the country.

Guess which of these I am not recommending grin

Gunznroses Mon 26-Nov-12 14:02:07

Fakenham ? hmmgrin

dinkystinky Mon 26-Nov-12 14:05:39

I second the cutty sark - took DS1 and DS2 there yesterday and they loved it. Also big fans of the museum of london, british museum, Tate modern, science museum, natural history museum and the RAF museum (in Hendon). The V&A is on my list of places to go with them when they're abit older. We've been to a few art gallery exhibitions at the Hayward gallery too - I try to pick ones which are age appropriate/appealing for kids.

reddaisy Mon 26-Nov-12 14:07:19

@Bristol is amazing. Anyone at any age can enjoy that museum.

EldritchCleavage Mon 26-Nov-12 14:15:51

V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnall Green comes recommended by friends of ours.

The Whitechapel Art Gallery is nice.

The Tower of London is expensive but excellent, even if you don't do the Crown Jewels.

What about The Clink, that prison museum? Small, but looks good. And don't forget cathedrals-they've often got as much stuffed into them as a small museum. Lincoln Cathedral is probably the best building in the UK.

dinkybinky Mon 26-Nov-12 14:46:59

What about stately homes? Hatfield House and Knebworth are both worth a visit.

dotty2 Mon 26-Nov-12 14:56:44

Your DD is a bit old for the Katie books, but we had a wonderful 30 minutes in the National Gallery recently, going to see just 3 or 4 paintings my dds (5 and 7) had seen in the books. And I think in general, if you're going somewhere free so don't have to worry about value for money, that is a great way to see an art gallery - just plan to see a few things and stop at anything else that catches your eye.

For others with younger children, this is £10 well spent, though the narrative's a bit clunky.

Hertfordshire is not the richest bit of the country for museums - too near London. Many northern cities have stronger museums (because of civic pride in the nineteenth century, mostly, and wanting to make sure people didn't miss out because they were a long way from London). Hull, Newcastle, Leeds, York, Manchester and especially Liverpool all have some fabulous museums, if you ever fancy a cheap night in a Premier Inn.

mimbleandlittlemy Mon 26-Nov-12 15:07:52

HMS Great Britain in Bristol is terrific, and you can also do Bristol Zoo which is great on conservation and also has a good high ropes course in the summer over the tops of some of the animal cages which my ds really enjoys.

I'd also really recommend getting a family rail card and taking the trip up to York. If you get the 8am train from King's Cross you are in York at 9.49. Walk straight to the excellent train museum, then round the walls of the city, go to Yorvik Viking Centre, the undercroft of the Minster for the Roman city, the Minster itself, up and down the streets for a good feeling of a medieval/tudor city, the to Clifford's Tower with its great views, on to the main Museum for the Victorians and a bit of exciting stuff about highway men, Betty's for tea and back on the train to London just after 6pm, knackered and happy! We've done it a couple of times and it's always been a huge highlight.

LAlady Mon 26-Nov-12 17:19:19

A lot of the ones I would recommend have already been listed, not sure if the Milestones museum in Basingstoke has though. Excellent living history museum - really worth a visit.

alcofrolic Mon 26-Nov-12 18:14:20

Mary Rose.

Wilding Mon 26-Nov-12 18:24:01

Not ideal for this time of year perhaps, but Blists Hill Victorian Town, Acton Scott Historic Working Farm and the Weald & Downland Open Air Museum are all awesome. The Tate Britain has some of my all-time favourite paintings, and Sir John Soames' museum and The Wallace Collection are a couple of more quirky museums in London with an interesting assortment of art.

kensingtonkat Mon 26-Nov-12 18:33:28

I would seriously question the wisdom of anyone taking a small child to the Pitt Rivers. It's terrifying as an adult. It's not cutesy NHM-style animatronics, they have ACTUAL SHRUNKEN HUMAN HEADS and abnormal mammalian foetuses preserved in jars of formaldehyde shock. Great for older kids who like a bit of blood and gore, I suppose.

The Ashmolean museum has had a massive refit and now exhibits in themes, not by chronology or geography. It's brilliant, and the cafe on the roof is heaven on a sunny day.

Geffrye Museum - domestic rooms preserved from previous centuries. Like going to Ikea but backwards into the past grin.

lostintoys Mon 26-Nov-12 18:36:40

The armour collection at the Wallace Collection is fantastic for boys and there's a room where children can try on replica armour. DS had a wonderful time. And it's free.

Startail Mon 26-Nov-12 18:42:38

Can I second The SS Great Britain, It is really well done. Something to appeal to all ages, even DD2 at her most cynical enjoyed it.

lateSeptember1964 Mon 26-Nov-12 18:50:51

Took mine to Churchills War Rooms. They thought it was great. Also the Dahl Museum at Great Missenden.

Xenia Mon 26-Nov-12 18:51:57

After Natural History and Science one in London (free) I second the Chiltern open air one (on a warm day).

Kew Gardens is lovely too but that's not a museum.

LadyIsabellaWrotham Mon 26-Nov-12 19:07:09

Ironbridge (including Blists Hill) is really fun and educational about the Industrial Revolution. Of the London museums the Museum of London and MofL in Docklands are frequently overlooked but really strong educationally for that age group.

LadyIsabellaWrotham Mon 26-Nov-12 19:07:45

Oh, and has anyone suggested Chatham Naval Dockyards?

3b1g Mon 26-Nov-12 19:16:37

Chiltern Open Air museum is best when they have an activity day or something going on.

The National Space Centre in Leicestershire is an amazing day out and well worth the journey. Entry price includes Planetarium show.

Totally agree that Techniquest is great. The Lookout Discovery Centre in Bracknell has many of the same exhibits and would be closer for you.

RAF Hendon and Duxford are both good days out if you're into lots of aeronautic stuff.

Noobo Mon 26-Nov-12 20:02:41

Actually Xenia I think Kew does qualify as a "museum" as it holds collections of plants and has the royal palace and the pagoda amongst other things. They also have quite a nice playground (though more for younger children) and a carousel at Xmas etc. My DD's have been to some really amazing events there over the years such as pumpkin and wood carving.

Forgot to mention the London Wetland centre in Barnes. Probably not for OP as too far, but a fabulous half day out and a lot of pond related activities for kids.

OP are you anywhere near St Albans? My DD's really enjoyed the Roman Museum when they were the same age as your kids, again we went on a weekend when they had special events for kids.

Pyrrah Mon 26-Nov-12 22:29:29

I have a very macbre DD (3.6) who likes things like the 'Trench Experience' and 'Britain in the Blitz' bits of the Imperial War Museum.

She is also a big fan of The Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons. It is full of creatures in bottles - human and otherwise - and nasty diseased bits. A doctor friend of mine took her 2.5 year-old who also enjoyed it (she's very grown-up for 2.5 - seems more like a 4 year-old).

In the same area is the John Soane Museum which is fun - but only before or after the 'Don't Touch' stage.

Others that we do regularly are:

Museum of London
Museum of London - Docklands
National Maritime Museum - Greenwich
Science Museum
Natural History Museum
National Army Museum
Museum of Transport
Horniman Museum

Pitt Rivers in Oxford is fantastic.

3b1g Mon 26-Nov-12 22:33:31

Pyrrah: your DD would love the Natural History Museum at Tring!

HazeltheMcWitch Mon 26-Nov-12 22:39:29

I love Tring also, as do my DCs. HAve been guilty of some very LOUD PARENTING there blush

It's great as you can get up close - although still separated by glass cases - and see, eg the gorilla's hand, and how like ours it is.

And if a child likes an element of gore, you can look at the crappy sewing on the lion, and discuss how it might have been stuffed.

Roald Dahl museam is great for little ones, but I think (OP), an 11yo might be bored. There are some lovely little exhibits to play on, that are great if a) you've read the books, or b) you're of a sciencey bent: as RD was a bit of an inventor, this is honoured in exhibits that play around with mirrors, old fashioned animationy things. Might be worth a trip from Herts, but not really father afield.

BikeRunSki Mon 26-Nov-12 22:45:14

OK, miles away for you, but if you are ever passing through Yorkshire, you must visit the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. It's 5 mins off the M1, so even if you are just passing whilst headed elsewhere it's worth a stop.

ISeeSmallPeople Mon 26-Nov-12 22:47:58

If you can spend a couple of days away

Bristol - SS Great Britain is amazing, as is @Bristol

Black Country museum in Dudley or Beamish in County Durham are very similar. The mine at Beamish is staffed by ex miners, & love to talk about what it was actually like working in a mine from experience, rather than having learnt about it for the tours.

York - ignore Yorkvik, or go really early or pay extra to prebook. It's nice, but we queued for almost 2 hours, & came out 15 minutes later, wondering if that was it! The National Railway Museum however is fabulous, and free. The Yorkshire Sculpture Park is well worth the detour.

ISeeSmallPeople Mon 26-Nov-12 22:48:49

BikeRunSki it's lovely isn't it? We drive up & down that way regularly & only recently took the detour.

AuntySib Mon 26-Nov-12 22:53:07

Stansted Mountfitchet ( medieval village plus dinosuars and a toy museum) M11
Science Museum
Steam M<useum - Kew
Bodiam castle ( Tenterden station, then steam train to castle)
Geffrye museum
Museum of London ( not too big)
RAF Museum, hendon
Sutton House (Hackney?)
St Albans Roman Museum

Pyrrah Mon 26-Nov-12 23:00:03

Adds Tring to Museums to Visit list...

I should probably worry about my daughter's interest in the ghoulish - I have managed to convince her that she wouldn't really enjoy the London Dungeons, although she did like the Clink.

One that I think is a bit of a disappointment is the V&A Museum of Childhood - especially since it's not the easiest to get to.

The Weald & Downland Open Air Museum is fabulous - I haven't been in donkeys, but loved it as a teenager.

Oooh, Bodiam Castle - amazing place and the biggest goldfish in the world in the moat. We told my brother that they ate children who fell in and he was scared of it for years.

BikeRunSki Mon 26-Nov-12 23:00:05

ISeeSmallPeople I live three miles away, I am a Friend and am there at least once a week. DS has a very precocious understanding of modern sculpture for a 4 yo offspring of two scientists!

hardboiled Mon 26-Nov-12 23:00:59

All the above in London, but if they like art, we have also spent hours at the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery and Tate Gallery with a sketch book and a pencil. National Gallery runs good art workshops too every weekend - lasting about 2 hours max.

ISeeSmallPeople Mon 26-Nov-12 23:18:21

BikeRunSki Lucky you! It's a lovely part of the country,and an amazing park.
I love taking mine to see sculpture, particularly large non breakable ones! Kew often gets in some lovely large works on loan, the current display looks like wood but is metal.

Spockster Mon 26-Nov-12 23:25:28

Science museum at millennium point in Brum is FAB, better than science museum London for a littlies as less big and scary. Hove museum great for toys and activities. Museum of Childhood near Chesterfield I'd very good too.

EduCated Mon 26-Nov-12 23:34:08

Best Museum in the World has to be the Melbourne Museum. It has an actual forest in it. Way way cool.

But that's a bit far away wink

happygardening Tue 27-Nov-12 07:39:49

The Satchi gallery is one of our favourite especially if you're already a fan of Tate modern. The Lowrey museum in Manchester is really worth visiting as the paintings are simply stunning in real life and very accessible for children.

MaggieW Tue 27-Nov-12 09:06:48

Soanes museum in Lincolns Inn Field, London. Small house museum which is stuffed full of interesting things that you can get right up close to. They do candlelit evenings too, which I'm planning to go to. Very eccentric but fun.

Saracen Tue 27-Nov-12 13:36:36

Thumbs up to Soanes Museum! Free Monday mornings IIRC.

TheWave Tue 27-Nov-12 13:44:24

If you are doing Wallace Collection as mentioned above, combine with something like brunch in the lovely cafe as a treat (fairly pricey so check website beforehand) and then go shopping in Oxford Street while you are up in town.

sicutlilium Tue 27-Nov-12 21:24:08

Assume if you're in Hertfordshire you've done Verulamium to death.
Chilterns Open Air Museum:
Old Operating Theatre & Herb Garret:
Sutton House - National Trust Tudor house in Hackney:
Geffrye Museum:

fapl Tue 27-Nov-12 23:32:08

Another gory one, Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret near London Bridge (so pleased not to have given birth in Victorian times, instruments are grim)

Tower Bridge Exhibition. I love the bridge and really enjoyed seeing it from a different perspective with a bit of history included

joanbyers Wed 28-Nov-12 00:02:48
BrittaPerry Wed 28-Nov-12 00:14:10

If you ever make it up to the north east...
Life Science Centre
Seven Stories childrens books museum
Discovery Museum, Newcastle
Great North Museum
Segedunum Roman Fort
Durham Cathedral

There are more, but they should last you a few days grin

BrittaPerry Wed 28-Nov-12 00:16:38

Oh! Totally forgot The Baltic - if he liked the Tate Modern, the Baltic would be brill.

overthehill Wed 28-Nov-12 00:34:51

If you do decide to check out the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, why not also visit the nearby National Coal Mining Museum? It's a very interesting free museum that includes a trip down into a real mine and the staff are very friendly and helpful. And between Rotherham and Sheffield there's also Magna Science Centre based in a steel works that has a great water park for the warmer months.

MotherSouperior Wed 28-Nov-12 00:37:20

Oh, Spockster. I went to Thinktank (the Science Museum) and thought it was one of the circles of hell. Everything chucked in together & so farking dark. DS loved the exhibits, I must say but it's such a mess of a place - it reminded me of my dad's shed...

Agree with others here about Foundling Museum, which is v interesting but had me trying not to sob as I went round it.

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery itself though, is fantastic - one of the best collections of Pre-Raphaelite art in the country (for free, cf the Tate's current - very good - exhibition), fantastic hands-on activity rooms for the kids and really friendly gallery staff, who talked to DS about all the paintings and what he could see. He was 3 at the time, so they had their work cut out but he absolutely loved it. Can't recommend that gallery enough.

EldritchCleavage Wed 28-Nov-12 12:37:53

This is a really good thread. It belongs in Classics.

YDdraigGoch Wed 28-Nov-12 14:45:32

Also great for kids is the National History Museum in St Fagan's, near Cardiff. It's a big park where they've reconstructed traditional style cottages and houses from all over Wales, from very old to quite modern. You can go in them all and see how people used to live, and there are always craft and cooking demonstrations going on. Take a picnic and eat it in the grounds. Its free too.

dotty2 Wed 28-Nov-12 15:01:52

BrittaPerry - I love the Newcastle museums. Sadly, the City Council - which up to now has been a fantastic supporter of their museums - has just announced a 50% cut in their funding. Museums, as discretionary services (that is - councils don't have to provide them) are going to suffer in the ongoing public sector cuts. So go quickly before the effects start to show, and try and make a fuss on their behalf if you can.

BrittaPerry Wed 28-Nov-12 15:58:08

I know, I've been joining in with some of the campaign for the libraries :-( Up to 100% cut to the arts budget too. It's a bloody disgrace. Don't want to derail the thread, but yeah, it's awful.

dotty2 Wed 28-Nov-12 16:27:41

Yes, sorry to put in such a negative note. I work in the sector and it's great to see so many people passionate about their favourite museums.

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