The best space-themed days out in the UK

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From science museums and planetariums to the best places for stargazing, we round up the best UK days out for space explorers

The UK offers a range of fun ways to explore the universe for space fans, budding astronauts or astronomers. From 360º domes, where you feel like you’re flying through the stars, to hands-on exhibits and real-life moon rocks there’s something for all the family on these space-themed days out.

1. Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium 

Winchester Science Centre

Featuring fantastic presenter-led shows like Secrets of the Stars (a guided tour of the solar system aimed at inspiring children about space) Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium is a must-visit for those looking to explore the secrets of outer space. Fly around the universe and visit all the planets in an exciting planetarium show. Autism-friendly and quiet showings are also available. You can also explore 20 modular exhibits in the centre’s immersive zone, Explorer:Space, including everything from space discoveries to the first mission to land on the moon.

2. National Space Centre, Leicester

national space centre

Boasting the UK’s largest planetarium, a 3D space-flight simulator, six hands-on galleries, and a 42m high rocket tower, the award-winning National Space Centre is a space fan’s dream. Wannabe space pilots can try out being trainee astronauts, hop into the Space-flight Induction Module and see a real chunk of moon rock. When you need a rest, kids and grown-ups will all like the appropriately space-themed café, where you can learn more about man’s journeys into outer space while you enjoy your lunch.

3. We The Curious, Bristol

we the curious

We The Curious boasts a shiny silver orb of a planetarium, in central Bristol’s Millennium Square, which offers a host of ways to explore space. The over-6s can step inside the UK’s only 3D planetarium for the immersive Solar System Odyssey, an interactive voyage led by a presenter, with 28 epic missions to choose from. The under-6s can become space explorers and enjoy the Rocketship Adventure – a 2D voyage into space led by Stella the bear, who is on a mission to find Ursa, the bear who was too big to live in the forest and found a home in the stars and appears as a constellation. Throughout the year, Planetarium Nights offer weekly guided tours of the night sky for grown-ups (16+). 

Please note, We The Curious is currently undergoing refurbishment but is expected to reopen in 2024.

4. Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre, Macclesfield

Jodrell Bank

Jodrell Bank is a working science centre that features the Lovell Telescope, the third-largest steerable telescope in the world. You can see it move as the scientists use it to observe different parts of the universe. There’s also an ‘orrery’, a clockwork replica of the universe that allows you to manually turn the planets and see how they move at their relative speeds and positions. For inquisitive young minds, there are scientists on hand to explain how the universe works, and there are special events for children, but there’s also lots to attract grown-up space fans too, such as the research into quasars and radio astronomy. On nice days, you can stroll through the ‘galaxy garden’, which uses the power of plants to show how the universe is formed.

Looking for free entry to top UK attractions? Boundless is a membership club for working and retired public-sector and civil-service employees, delivering amazing experiences and unforgettable days out for all the family. Membership offers great value for money, including free entry to some of the UK’s best attractions, discounts on restaurants and savings on high-street brands. Find out more about Boundless membership. 

5. The Science Museum, London

the science museum london

Documenting human development with a world-class collection of scientific, technological and medical advancements from across the globe, the Science Museum is a great day out, offering some out-of-this-world experiences for lovers of all things space. Entry to the museum is free but there are charges for some exhibitions.

Hubble 3D – Every day – The Science Museum, London

Walk with astronauts in IMAX 3D as they embark on a spacewalk to perform one of the most difficult and important tasks in NASA’s history. The Hubble Space Telescope was launched in 1990 and is still travelling through space, sending back incredible images of its surroundings that are helping to shape scientist’s views of our universe. Narrated by actor Leonardo DiCaprio, Hubble 3D explores Hubble’s mysterious and celestial surroundings.

Astronights – Various dates – The Science Museum, London

Every science fan’s dream: to spend a night in a museum after hours. This sleepover for children includes workshops, science shows and inspiring activities, followed by breakfast and a memorable IMAX 3D film. See the website for dates and themes.

6. Thinktank Planetarium, Birmingham Science Museum 

birmingham science museum

The Planetarium at Birmingham Science Museum offers a range of shows perfect for big and little people interested in astronomy and space. Tour around the night sky, go on an adventure around the solar system, and journey to the edge of the universe. Check out the website for forthcoming events.

7. Explore the universe from Dark Sky Discovery Sites

dark sky discovery

Whether there’s a meteor shower coming up, a lunar eclipse happening, or you just want to look for constellations and see what you can see, the UK’s Dark Sky Discovery Sites are always there. On a clear night, find your nearest site – there are some in town and city parks, so you don’t necessarily have to venture out into the wilderness. Take some hot chocolate, pack some blankets and download a free app such as Night Sky, to help you navigate the stars if you’re not sure what you’re looking at. Some sites even organise special events when there’s a big date in the celestial calendar.

8. Glasgow Science Centre

glasgow science centre

The planetarium and Space Zone at Glasgow Science Centre is a must for lovers of all things space. The state-of-the-art dome projects live shows, led by astronomers and other experts, where you can voyage far into the Milky Way and beyond, as well as films including one about the moon narrated by Tim Allen (Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story). As you approach the planetarium, the Space Zone creates an immersive journey through the solar system so you can find out about the planets in our cosmos. Find out what it’s like to work in space and get a picture of the family in outer space.

Looking for free entry to top UK attractions? Boundless is a membership club for working and retired public-sector and civil-service employees, delivering amazing experiences and unforgettable days out for all the family. Membership offers great value for money, including free entry to some of the UK’s best attractions, discounts on restaurants and savings on high-street brands. Find out more about Boundless membership. 

9. Techniquest, Cardiff

Techniquest Cardiff

Techniquest is the UK’s longest-established science centre, inspiring young minds to take an interest in all things scientific. From its planetarium in Cardiff Bay you can venture out into space to see if there is life on other planets, learn about the Greek mythologies behind the stories of our constellations, and more.

10. The Observatory Science Centre, Hailsham

The Observatory Science Centre

For budding young astronomers who want to fully immerse themselves in the science of space, The Observatory Science Centre runs half or full-day workshops during school holidays. With activities that cater for different age groups, parents can leave the kids to search for answers to questions like: what’s in space, can we see it, and how big is it? Other workshops have included studying the full moon and making your own moon model to take home, as well as other science-y subjects. Check the website for upcoming workshops.

Older children, or parents who have dropped the kids off at a workshop, can also explore the observatory’s Domes of Discovery exhibition, which tells the story of Britain's Royal Observatory, one of the world’s most famous scientific institutions for 300 years. It is also home to the impressive 38-inch Congo Schmidt telescope, six other interactive exhibits about astronomy, a giant model of the solar system, and more.

11. Southend Planetarium, Southend on Sea

The Spaceguard Centre

Explore the universe and ask questions along the way on these live guided tours of our solar system at Southend Planetarium. Led by knowledgeable experts, the talks change throughout the year as different parts of the night sky become visible, covering things like in-depth explorations of the moon and the stories behind the constellations.

12. Life Science Centre, Newcastle Upon Tyne

life science centre

Drift away from Earth and up into the stars for a magical experience in the biggest planetarium in the North at the Life Science Centre. See eye-popping space films and visuals in high definition detail, and real-time live views of the universe; whizz through the universe and touch down on planets to investigate their surfaces.

During the centre’s Live Skies planetarium shows (which take place on weekends, Bank Holidays and during school holidays) presenters take you on a guided tour of the universe and tell rapt audiences about current space missions to collect asteroid samples, which can tell us a lot about the history of the universe and how the solar system was formed.

13. The Spaceguard Centre, Knighton, Powys

we the curious

The Spaceguard Centre – or to give it its full title, The National Near Earth Objects Information Centre – has an important job. As the name suggests, it looks for objects that might come close to our home planet, like meteors and comets, which it calls “the most significant natural danger to life on Earth”. From its remote location surrounded by the hills of mid-Wales, a perfect place for studying the great unknown, the working observatory is the main source of this kind of information in the UK.

Unaccompanied visits are not allowed but you can take an informative guided tour of the centre (ages 9+) to see the work that’s done there. Given the scientific nature of the tours, it’s best for older children with good attention spans.

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