Summer days out: How things work

20 ideas to persuade you that while visits in this category sound a bit worthy, they can give far better play value than theme parks. Since you were a child, there has been a great surge in the number of quality science centres giving kids the chance to fool around and inadvertently absorb and learn. But don't tell them that. At some of these places you can see things being made (and have a go yourself).

1. Caithness Crystal, Kings Lynn, Norfolk

Learn about glassmaking, and watch the resident engraver personalise any purchases made at the shop. Open: Mon-Sat, 9am; Sun, 10.15am. Free. (01553 765111)

2. Cromer Windmill, Hertfordshire

Dates from the 1680s and was in use until 1923. Now restored. Open: Sun, bank holidays, second and fourth Saturday, 2.30pm. £1.50; child, 25p. (01279 843301)

3. Cromford Mill, Derbyshire

Richard Arkwright, who established the mill in 1771, set about perfecting water-powered cotton spinning. Open: daily, 9am. Free. (01629 823256).

4. Dartington Crystal, Devon

Glassmaking displays, engraving demonstrations and a chance to blow and paint glass.

Open: Mon-Fri, 9am; Sat and Sun, 10am. with factory tour, £5; without, £2; children, free. (01805 626242).

5. Dolaucothi Gold Mines, Lampeter

Started by Romans, with remains of their pits and channels on view. Mining resumed in the 19th century and peaked in 1938. Underground tours. Open: daily, 10am. £3.20; child, £1.60. (01558 650177).

6. Eureka! Museum for Children, Halifax

Four hundred hands-on exhibits aimed at under-12s. Learn about the body, do the week's shopping, deliver letters from the Post Office, and discover the science of sound. Open: daily, 10am. £6.50; under-three, £1.95. (01422 330069).

7. Herstmonceux Observatory, East Sussex

Astronomers' delight, with a telescope tour and displays on gravity and time. Also a display of medieval machines.

Open: daily, 10am. £6.20; child £4.50; concessions £4.80; family (two plus two), £18.60; (two plus three), £21.30. (01323 832731).

8. Intech Science Centre, Winchester, Hampshire

More than 100 exhibits. Create a tornado or form a vortex as tall as a person and find out about nuclear waste.

Open: daily, 10am. £5.95; child £3.90; concessions £4.50; family (two plus two), £17. (01962 863791).

9. Magna Science Adventure Centre, Rotherham, South Yorks

Huge outdoor water play area with displays on water treatment and facilities for children to learn about industry and science.

Open: daily, 10am. £9; child, £7; family (two plus two), £28, (two plus three), £30. (01709 720002).

10. Mapledurham House and Watermill, Oxfordshire

Last working watermill on the Thames. Mapledurham has unusual 17th- and 18th-century wood carvings.

Open: Sat, Sun and bank holidays, 2pm. £6.50; child, £3. (0118-972 3350).

11. Museum of Flight, Edinburgh

First and Second World War airfield with four hangars housing displays, including one on Concorde.

Open: daily, 10am. £5; child, free; Concorde boarding pass £3, child, £2. (01620 880308).

12. Museum of Lead Mining, Wanlockhead, Lanarkshire

Guided tours down a former working mine. Try your hand at panning for gold or view specimens discovered on site. Open: daily, 10am. £5; concessions, £3.75; child, £3.50; family (two plus two), £16.85. (01659 74387).

13. Oare Gunpowder Works, Faversham, Kent

Restored works with new visitor centre, woodland and waterside trails. Open: Mon-Fri, 9am; weekends, 10am. Free. (01797 361445)

14. Otterton Mill, Devon

Houses a 16th-century working water mill, a bakery, shop full of local produce, a restaurant and a gallery selling works by local artists.

Open: daily, 10am. Free. (01395 568521)

15. Royal Stafford Ceramics Factory, Stoke-on-Trent

Create your own ceramic design at the factory shop, or fill in a pre-drawn design with your own colours.

Open: daily, 9:30am. Free. Pay for objects you are painting. (01782 525419).

16. Satrosphere, Aberdeen

Gives children a chance to explore the world of science and technology with many exciting interactive exhibitions. Open: daily, 10am. £5.50; senior, £4; child, £4. (01224 640340)

17. Techniquest, Cardiff

A planetarium, plus the chance to launch a hot-air balloon or rocket. Open: Mon-Fri, 9:30am; weekends, 10:30am. £6.90; child, £4.80; family (two plus three), £20. (02920 475475).

18. Thames Barrier Park, London

Discover how the barriers work and learn about regeneration of wildlife in the Thames. Plus 22 acres of parkland. Open: daily, dawn. Free. (020-7511 4111)

19. Walkley Clogs, West Yorkshire

The last clog factory in Britain. Talk to those who make them and watch them at work.

Open: Mon-Fri, 9am; weekends, 10.30am. Free. (01422 885757).

20. Welsh Chocolate Farm, Llanboidy, Carmarthenshire

A chocolate village with demonstrations and films on the history of chocolate.

Open: Mon-Sat, 10am. £2.95; child, £2.75. (01994 448800).

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