Last month we visited the National Space Centre in Leicester. This was actually the third time we've been and hopefully the following will explain why.
The Space Centre is really well signed off of the M1 and from Luton took us about 1 hour. Its easy to find and has its own car park. The car park is a pay and display and costs I think about £3 or £4 for the day.
We used Tesco Clubcard Days Out vouchers to pay for our entrance, but failing that booking online is slightly cheaper than the entrance price. For your entrance fee you get access to the whole of the Space Centre and a timed ticket for a planetarium show. Your ticket is then automatically upgraded to an annual pass, which allows you free entry as many times as you like for a year from the day you bought it.
I cannot recommend this place more highly. It is the most hands on, child friendly, educational place we have ever taken the boys. Everything is interactive and there is such a variety of different things to do and it is suitable for all different ages. I would guess the youngest age for getting the most out of it would be about 3 and no upper age as Les and I enjoyed it a lot too.
The Planetarium show is really good. We've seen a couple now as they vary them each day. Its a large comfortable theatre, and the screen is humongous which almost gives it a 3D feel. They explain a really difficult concept in such a child friendly way, that both boys at ages 6 and 8 were able to explain to us, all about which molecules various materials are made from and how evolution works etc. Pretty full on concepts for such young minds !
Every angle of space exploration is covered and when we went there was lots of information about Tim Peake, who is a big supporter of the centre. You can experience space sickness, control a replica of the Mars Rover and much more. For children over a certain height there is a free simulator ride. Sadly, on both occasions James has not been quite tall enough to go on it but Les and David have done it twice now and it comes highly recommended.
There are models of and lots of information about all of the planets and you can even morph your face into an Alien or present the weather if you wish ! The Rocket tower is very good and explains about the moon landings and has lots of hands on activities.
The Centre is quite big and to see everything I would guess you would need a minimum of 2 hours. Every time we've been its taken us most of the day !