Family Outings: Museum of Science, Manchester

See what the industrial revolution did for us
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The Independent Travel

The venue

This huge museum, which celebrates its 21st birthday this year, is based in the former Liverpool Road Station, the oldest passenger railway building in the world. Five large buildings - Main Building, 1830 Warehouse, Station Building, Power Hall and Air and Space Hall - tell the story of Manchester, the world's first industrial city, and its immense contribution to the modern world, from canals and railways to early computers.

Something for children

Plenty. Children usually appreciate yukky stuff and there's lots of it in Underground Manchester where you can walk through a reconstructed Victorian sewer complete with sound and smells. In Xperiment, the hands-on science gallery, young visitors can poke, prod, push, pull and generally immerse themselves in mind-bending problems. The Discovery Den is for under-fives, with brightly coloured building blocks and puzzles. It's only a short journey (10 to 15 minutes), but children love taking a trip on Planet, a reproduction of one of Stephenson's earliest locomotives, which ran on the Liverpool to Manchester Railway in 1830 (weekends and bank holidays, 12pm-4pm, adults £1, children 50p). Family events range from science shows about glowing gherkins and exploding custard to creative workshops and talks and tours by characters in historic costumes.

Something for adults

You don't have to be a train-spotter to marvel at what's on offer here, from locomotives and steam engines to planes and classic cars. And you can pick up some fascinating facts that will serve you well should there be a lull in dinner party conversation. Did you know, for example, that initially people were scared of travelling by train because they believed that the wind would make their hair fall out? For an out-of-this-world experience there are Planetarium shows (adults £1.50, children £1 at 2pm and 3.30pm at weekends) or you could take a four-minute trip into space in the Morphis Simulator in the Air and Space Hall (adults £2, children £1.50, minimum height 44in, 11am-4.30pm).

Refreshments

A self-service licensed restaurant offers hot meals and snacks, including children's meals and lunch boxes (open 10.30am - 4.30pm) for under £5. In the school holidays, a café opens in the Air and Space Hall. There is a picnic area in the Station Building.

Souvenirs

You can't miss the shop because you have to walk through it to get in and out. The shelves overflow with pocket-money-priced items such as bendy pencils and glowing stars. If your children like making things, there are stacks of Airfix models. It is a good place to buy presents that exercise the grey matter.

Admission and access

Entry to the permanent collections is free, though there is a charge for special exhibitions and attractions such as those mentioned above. Some, such as the Planetarium shows and workshops, can get booked up so bag your place as soon as you arrive. Open daily 10am-5pm (excluding 24, 25 and 26 December). There is wheelchair access to 98 per cent of the building. Wheelchairs can be borrowed. Handling sessions can be organised for partially sighted and blind visitors.

How to get there

The Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, Castlefield, Manchester M3 4FP (0161-832 2244 www.msim.org.uk).

By car: the museum is minutes from the city centre. Parking costs £4.

By public transport: the nearest Metrolink station is G-Mex. The 33 bus from Piccadilly Gardens stops outside the museum on Liverpool Road. The nearest railway station is Deansgate.

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