If you’re on a city break and want a fun way to learn more about Newcastle’s fascinating heritage, pay a visit to the Discovery Museum. With exciting permanent displays, temporary exhibitions and not a ‘do not touch’ sign in sight, it covers the city’s history from medieval knights to mining communities. A great place to take the kids, the youngest members of the family will love the Museum’s Play Tyne section - a water-based exhibition that lets little hands explore the workings of the River Tyne for themselves, (complete with bridges, boats and those all-important long-sleeved aprons). Older children can immerse themselves in the Science Maze and the Play and Invent space, and the whole family will be impressed with Turbinia - the 34-meter steam powered ship that greets you the minute you step through the museum’s doors.
With so much to see and do, the Discovery Museum will keep you occupied for hours. But why not really make a weekend of it, by checking into one of our Newcastle hotels? There’s a Premier Inn near the Discovery Museum that can really get your museum visit off to a great start.
One of the Museum’s best exhibits really can’t be missed, because it greets you the minute you walk in through the doors! At 32 metres long, Turbinia dominates the central hall. Built on Tyneside, this magnificent steam powered boat changed the face of maritime history, and in 1897 was the fastest ship in the world. Also on the ground floor is the fully-interactive Newcastle Story, which walks you through a timeline of the city, from the Romans. For older children, there’s the Science Maze, which has loads of interesting things to play with - you could find yourself making shadow puppets or having a game at the air hockey table. It’s also worth checking the museum’s website to find out which temporary exhibitions coincide with your visit - recent ones have included a display of retro toys and the chance to see the Enigma machine, used to code secret messages during WW2.
Attracting 450,000 visitors a year, the Museum is now a clean and contemporary space, thanks to its £13 million redevelopment completed in 2004.
You’ll find the museum at Discovery Blandford Square, Newcastle NE1 4JA and the phone number is 0191 232 6789. Opening hours are 10am to 4pm Monday to Friday and 11am to 4pm at weekends. It’s closed on the 24, 25, 26 and 31 December and also on 1 January. Entrance is free, but donations are always welcome. You will pay for special events, such as holiday activities for the kids and science-based workshops. If your children are under seven, it’s worth taking them clothes to change into after the Play Tyne exhibition - they’re likely to get very wet.
There’s a museum gift shop on the ground floor which sells a great range of pocket-money type toys. You’ll find the water play area for under seven year-olds, Play Tyne, on the first floor. Up on the second floor is the Turbinia Cafe where you can enjoy a snack overlooking the spectacular Turbinia. If you’re here for an event, like a conference, wedding or workshop, chances are it will be held in the stunning Great Hall. It’s right up in the rafters of the museum on the fourth floor and is a vast space with an incredible art-deco ceiling and wood panelled walls.
While there’s plenty on offer to keep kids amused whenever you visit, check the museum’s website because they often hold activities aimed at everyone from tots to teens at both weekends and in school holidays. Called Play and Invent sessions, they’re usually held in the Great Hall. Each one has a different theme, and past sessions have included robot and circuit board-making and crafting. There’s also story-time sessions, behind the scenes tours of the museum and pre-match fun days (involving lots of Newcastle United themed activities).
There are three lifts that let you access all floors - these aren’t dedicated to disabled visitors, so are open to the public. All lifts have voice announcements and Braille indicators.There are two wheelchairs that can be borrowed from the Welcome Desk and you’ll find level access and ramps throughout. Part of the Newcastle Story exhibit has a raised track floor, and there are disabled toilets throughout the building. Even the cafe is fully accessible, with large print menus, lowered counters, large handled cutlery and open handled mugs available on request.
The museum has seating areas where you’re welcome to sit and eat your own sarnies. But where should you head for something more substantial? Here’s our pick of the best options to keep you fed and watered, both inside the museum and out.
Want to enjoy a coffee with a bird’s-eye view of the museum? Head to the Turbinia Cafe, up on the second floor. Serving everything from a slice of cake and sandwiches right up to large meals like curries and hot pots, there’s also a dedicated children’s menu to keep younger family members happy. Kids can choose from hot meals, or pick and mix from a range of crisps and sandwiches that will be put in a colourful box, with an ice cream (or some sweets) for afterwards. But the best thing on offer here is that you get to relax and refuel looking out onto the museum’s main exhibit - the Turbinia steam powered ship.
For a dining experience that’s as atmospheric as it gets, head to Blackfriars Restaurant, a stone’s throw from the Discovery Museum. With a medieval monastery feel, parts of the building date from before the 12th century, and the interior design is totally in keeping with the history of the building. But although it’s grand, it’s also family friendly - kids will love their half-portions of Sunday lunch,and the light-as-a-feather sticky toffee pudding . always goes down well with younger diners. Although vegetarians are catered-for, meat-loving adults can’t go wrong with the steak. If the weather’s nice, take a seat in the pretty courtyard to soak up the rays, too.
For a family meal with a taste of the Caribbean, have some soul food at Turtle Bay. Less than half a mile from the museum on Newgate Street, you’ll find a buzzing atmosphere, helped on by the two for one cocktail deals - perfect for feeling thoroughly refreshed after all that sightseeing. Foodwise, there’s delicate whitebait or serving platters to share for starters, then it’s onto jerk chicken, goat curry, pulled pork burgers or the best lamb and coconut curry you’ll find in Newcastle. Great service, a fantastic soundtrack of RnB and reasonable prices - what’s not to love?
To complete your big day out, visit the Life Science Centre in the Centre For Life science village Just a few minutes’ walk from the Discovery Museum, it’s the biggest planetarium in the North of England. Family tickets cost around £35, but everything is included in your admission - from the exciting 4-D motion ride to the daily live experiments.
Also nearby is the Tyneside Cinema, a 1930s art deco theatre that’s great for viewing everything from Hollywood blockbusters to the latest arthouse gems. You don’t even need to see a film - head there for 11.15am to watch old newsreels free of charge or take a tour of this magnificent building.
Still in walking distance is St James’s Park - a must for any football loving families. On match days you can take part in the themed football events at the museum, then go to the ground to get your footie fix for real. Not lucky enough to get tickets to watch the mighty Magpies play? Stadium tours can give you a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the pitch and dressing rooms.
Discovery Museum is located on the very edge of Newcastle city centre, just off of St. James' Boulevard, making it very easy to get to by both public transport and car.
Follow the signs from the city centre. There’s pay and display parking at the museum and the Grainger Town multi-storey nearby.
Get on any bus that takes you to Newcastle Central Station - the Discovery Museum is a five-minute walk away from here.
The closest train and metro station is Newcastle Central. Head west along Neville Street and Westmorland Road.
We have a huge range of fantastic hotels in the North East for the business and leisure traveller. If you're on business, check into our airport hotels. We also have a range of hotels ideally located for a weekend break away. Plus, there are hotels near Newcastle University and a collection of budget hotels for the price conscious Whichever part of Newcastle you’re planning to visit, you’ll find a selection of comfortable Premier Inn hotels nearby.
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