The urge to have a go is irresistible

Jill Colchester and her sons spend a day at the Bristol Exploratory

Puzzle over optical illusions, play with electricity, experiment with chemistry or walk into infinity with the help of a mirror. The Bristol Exploratory was Britain's first hands-on science centre - and the urge to have a go is still almost irresistible. The huge variety of exhibits (known here as "plores" because you explore them) could keep you here for days. Everything is made on site, clearly explained and easy to operate.

The Exploratory is constantly changing as exhibits are improved and new ones added. It occupies two floors of the magnificent Temple Meads Old Station, one of Isambard Kingdom Brunel's most impressive structures. Each exhibit demands a physical relationship to make it work - not just pushing buttons on computer displays - so children and adults learn through experience rather than having to remember what they have seen on yet another screen.

If you had ever wondered what causes a tornado, why the Clifton suspension bridge stays up, or how geologists find out about the composition of rock, this is the place to be - an educational adventure playground.

The Visitors

Jill Colchester, dance teacher, took her sons Kito, 11, and Merry, 8.

Jill: The Exploratory had a very good ambience and was visually very exciting - from the smart black-and-red entrance to the exhibits themselves. As we walked in, there was the lovely sound of children enjoying themselves. It felt spacious, so there was no desperate rush to get on something immediately. The layout was excellent; I liked the way the space was split into areas dealing with different topics like light, electricity and chemistry. The effect of going from the somewhat darkened room on the ground floor to the naturally lit upper floor was startling.

I think it is valuable that the children felt so much a part of everything. Most of the exhibits relied on you doing something to them but there were a few unexpected things like the colour maze which just required you to think about it. I also thought the Stradivarium sound room was a nice surprise.

The children spent a short time on each thing, being lured by the one next door before long. But they could have got more involved if they had wanted. Kito reckoned we needed at least three hours there to get round everything.

He enjoyed it immensely. Merry was at a disadvantage because he has difficulty reading. He had to work out what to do by doing it. I think as the place is geared towards children of primary-school age more pictorial instructions would have been useful.

Merry: The Exploratory was really good. There were loads of things to do and although there were lots of people we didn't have to queue for anything. The best thing was the really long tube which you talked down and it echoed back. I also made everything work on pedal power - the train, the beacon light, the television, everything. The air canon was good. I hit one end and it sent a puff of air quite a long way to a target and if you stood in front of it you got hit.

Downstairs was quite dark and you had to read more to understand what to do. The things upstairs were much easier to understand just by looking at them. I enjoyed the music room where we played with something that made sound louder or softer.

Kito: I have always been interested in science so I love these sorts of places but I think this is a great place for everyone. There were never- ending things to do, lots to read and lots to learn but nearly everything was hands on.

I really liked the electricity section. There was a plasma tube which you put your hands on either side and it made a green band go from one hand to the other showing the current go across it. I was very interested in the display about artificial lighting. Pedal Power was good. It was interesting to see how much power is needed to run a television or a radio compared to a light bulb.

I failed to make an arch upstairs because it kept falling down - but I did make a nice picture with the Harmonograph and got good echoes out of the echo tube. I also liked the 3D noughts-and-crosses. There was a good exhibition on water where they explained how they cleaned water which I found very interesting.

The Deal

Bristol Exploratory, Bristol Old Station, Temple Meads, Bristol, BS1 6QU (0117 907 8000).

Opening Times: daily from 10am-5pm, Closed for one week over Christmas.

Admission: adults, pounds 5: children (5-17), pounds 3.50; family ticket, pounds l5.

Access: the Exploratory is two minutes' walk from Bristol Temple Meads station which connects with local services and the Intercity network. By car it is well signposted from the city centre. It lies on many bus routes; nos 8 & 9 connect from the city centre.

Food: a small museum cafe serves snacks and light lunches geared for children: jacket potatoes from pounds 2.50; pizza, pounds l.60, beans on toast pounds 1. Open school holidays and weekends only. Alternatively bring your own packed lunch to eat in the designated area.

Cloakroom & toilets: no supervised cloakroom. Coats can be left at your own risk on the ground floor by the toilets. There is a disabled toilet and baby changing facilities.

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
The American stand-up Tig Notaro, who performed topless this week

Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars

Arts and Entertainment

TVNetflix gets cryptic

Arts and Entertainment
Claudia Winkleman is having another week off Strictly to care for her daughter
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Children in Need is the BBC's UK charity. Since 1980 it has raised over £600 million to change the lives of disabled children and young people in the UK

TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his winning novel

Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination

Arts and Entertainment
Bryan Cranston will play federal agent Robert Mazur in The Infiltrator

Books
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

    Immigration: Obama's final frontier

    The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

    Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

    You know that headache you’ve got?

    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

    Scoot commute

    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
    Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

    The Paul Robeson story

    How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
    10 best satellite navigation systems

    Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

    Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
    Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

    Paul Scholes column

    England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

    Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
    Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

    Frank Warren column

    Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
    Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

    Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

    Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
    Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

    'How do you carry on? You have to...'

    The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

    'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

    Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
    Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

    Sir John Major hits out at theatres

    Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
    Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

    Kicking Barbie's butt

    How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines