Some of the biggest and best museums for kids in the UK are almost exclusively located in London, on the Museum Mile. Originally known as “Albertopolis”, and situated on the tellingly-named Exhibition Road, the British version of the Museum Mile includes the world-famous Natural History Museum; the Science Museum; and the V and A (Victoria and Albert Museum).
All three are free to get into – though each may feature exhibitions or special activity days that must be paid for. The Natural History Museum contains one of the biggest collections of fossils and dinosaur bones in the world, and routinely hosts major exhibitions explaining the history and mysteries of life; the Science Museum is famed for its hands-on exhibits and activity days; and the V and A explores the art and history of British and ancient cultures.
Of the three – indeed, of all the museums in the UK – the Natural History is probably the most famous and comprehensive. It is impossible to explore everything on offer there in a single day. With its ever-changing exhibits and endless halls, it’s probably impossible to see everything there ever. Because of this, visits are best planned ahead. Use the Natural History Museum site to start building your visit: and remember, the Dinosaur Hall, with its complete T Rex and Diplodocus skeletons, is an absolute must.
The Science Museum is almost a sister installation to the Natural History Museum – specifically exploring the development of manmade science and technology rather than the evolution of the natural sciences. Currently, the amazing Bionic Man exhibit explores just how much of a human being can be remade using technology. Kids will marvel at the science and have great fun working out what kind of advances might be made by the time they grow up.
Not every great UK museum is in the capital, of course: though you’ll be hard pressed to find as much fascinating fun in such a small area as you will on the Museum Mile. Outside the capital, the big hits tend to be museums that reveal something specific about the history of a local area. Jorvik, the York-based Viking Centre, is a prime example.
Jorvik uses a combination of actors; reconstruction; and access to the legendary Coppergate dig to bring the Viking period vividly to life. The “Viking hosts” are the stars of the show – impeccably dressed in fearsome Viking furs, they’re able to answer all the questions your enraptured grandchildren can throw at them. Spend extra time in the dig area, which has been completely covered with lighted glass so kids can actually walk above the wattle huts and Viking objects lying on the ground.
Mountfitchet Castle (also known as Stansted Mountfitchet) is another award-winning example of historical recreation. At Mountfitchet, the grandkids get to explore an entire Norman village plus the Motte and Bailey castle that stands on the hill. Tame deer and rescued animals wander throughout the site, lending authenticity to the reconstruction; and genuine components to the village (like the real church bell) transport the visitor back in time nearly 1,000 years.