We’re all well aware that summer in Britain is no guarantee of sunshine. If the weather’s preventing you from getting out to the park or the beach, why not wait for the clouds to break in one of the North West’s many museums?
Housing a vast array of historical artefacts, The Harris invites you to learn more about Preston’s history or view stunning artwork from its industrial background. Heading to The Harris in September is a multimedia exhibition about the internationally recognised Preston Bus Station, which combines photography, sculpture and film to capture the building’s colourful heritage.
Highlights: Visit the museum during the summer holidays for its Fearsome Craftsmen event: this touring exhibition comes from the York-based JORVIK Group, and includes plenty of hands-on crafts.
World Museum Liverpool
From live bugs and tropical fish to a natural history centre where you can touch a hippopotamus skull, the World Museum is not to be missed. Wind through the dinosaur gallery and Ancient Egypt exhibit to find out more about the history of our planet.
Highlights: Catch one of the many planetarium shows to hunt for aliens, join the race to the moon and experience the birth of the sun. Tickets cost £3 per adult or £2 per child.
This Macclesfield-based observatory was just made a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is the perfect place to take any space enthusiasts. Home to the Lovell Telescope, which has been probing the depths of the universe since 1957, it’s well worth the slightly longer journey to immerse yourself in the science of space next to the huge piece of infrastructure. Try some hands-on science experiments or watch one of the many science shows held on the site.
Highlights: During the summer holidays, families can get their hands on moon rocks and meteorites, and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing with crafts and activities.
Adults £8.50, children £6.50, concessions £7.50
Catalyst Discovery Centre
Perfect for little ones wanting to discover more about science, the Catalyst Science Discovery Centre in Widnes takes you through over forty hands-on exhibits. Investigate polymers, make giant bubbles and generate electricity in the Scientrific Gallery, or head up to the rooftop observatory for panoramic views of the River Mersey and Spike Island. There’s also a fun outdoor play area and picnic spot.
Highlights: You won’t want to leave without catching a live chemistry demonstration – they can be rather explosive!
Adults £5.95, children & concessions £4.95
Spaceport & U-Boat
Taking a ferry ‘cross the Mersey this summer? Why not stop at a Mersey Ferry attraction along the way? At Spaceport, located in Wallasey, allows you to interact with the stars at its very own observatory, or relax at a planetarium showing. The Cosmic Coaster takes you on a thrilling journey through the cosmos – just be sure to check it’s on before you visit.
Highlights: See your favourite Star Wars characters at Spaceport – from BB-8 to Han Solo, you’ll be able to browse an impressive collection of icons and scenes from the films.
Adults £10, children £6.50, concessions £8.50
The U-Boat Story can be found at the Birkenhead ferry terminal, and allows you to experience life aboard a real German U-Boat – U-534. Explore the close quarters of the submarine and try out various interactive exhibits along the way. Entry to the U-Boat Story is free with a Mersey Ferries River Explorer Cruise ticket.
Adults £8, children £5.50, concessions £7
Liverpool’s nautical past is well documented; home to the White Star offices, the city was prolific for its association with the ill-fated liner Titanic. The museum, based at the Albert Dock, offers a wealth of interactive experiences for the little ones. Spot signs of smuggling in the museum’s very own ship, take on the Morse Code Challenge or get crafty at the museum this summer.
Highlights: Throughout August, make some Titanic-inspired crafts or make a Cutter Ship card; listen to the adventures of Polar the Titanic Bear (written by a survivor of the disaster for her son) and catch a performance of Titanic: A Race to the Rescue.
National Football Museum
Home to the first prominent sculpture of a female footballer – St. Helens-born Lily Parr – the National Football Museum in the heart of Manchester is packed with sporting fun. Head down the Football Walk of Fame, snap a picture with a virtual trophy and put your best foot forward at the penalty shootout.
Highlights: The museum is hosting a range of Football Is Art exhibitions until autumn this year; create your own football artwork in virtual reality and browse collections of sporting sculptures and paintings.
Adults £10, children £5, concessions £8, under-5s and Manchester residents free
World of Glass
Get to grips with the glass industry at the World of Glass in St. Helens. See what life was like in a Victorian town, discover the history of the coal mining industry in the North West or catch a glass-blowing demonstration with expert commentary. Kids will be enchanted by the huge glass chandelier and mirror maze.
Highlights: Don’t miss the underground tunnels, which wind around the world’s first continuous regenerative glass-making furnace. You’ll need a hard hat for this one!
Adults £8, children & concessions £6
Science & Industry Museum
Still searching for the sun? Not to worry; Manchester’s Science and Industry Museum is hosting a brand new exhibition this summer where you can explore the incredible beauty and dangerous dark side of our nearest star. Try on sunglasses from different eras and cultures, visit an indoor beach and immersive solar storm – and see a prototype fusion reactor! The exhibition starts on July 20. Visitors can also see industrial delights like Stephenson’s Rocket up close, while the little ones take part in interactive experiments.
Highlights: The museum’s Power Up event runs until September 1, and brings retro gaming back to the forefront. Get your game face on to play some of the most famous games from the last 40 years: from Pong all the way to Minecraft. Entrance costs £7 for a 90-minute session.
Quarry Bank Mill
Quarry Bank Mill in Cheshire is an expertly preserved cotton mill founded by Samuel Greg. Become a factory inspector and explore the mill itself, and head through the Right of the Child exhibition to share the experiences of the hundreds of child labourers who worked at the mill. You’ll also have the chance to see a working water wheel! Head out into the beautiful gardens or take a guided tour of the Apprentice House where child workers lived – there’s something for everyone at Quarry Bank.
Highlights: Create music along the River Bollin throughout August, and learn to connect with trees in the woods! Night-time bat walks are also a must-do if you’re in the area.
Adults £20.25, children £10, National Trust members free
Museum of Liverpool
Learn all about the history of Liverpool and its people at the Museum of Liverpool at the docks. Climb aboard a carriage from the old Overhead Railway, delve into local archaeology and follow the history of the King’s Regiment in the City Soldiers gallery. There are plenty of interactive displays throughout to keep everyone entertained!
Highlights: This summer, little ones can immerse themselves in a hands-on fantasy world, creating their own Liverpool: a city where they are mayor. The activity is recommended for children up to 6.