If you’ve not been before, Techniquest is a science and technology museum for kids in Cardiff Bay. But there is not one single exhibit to look at. Instead, there are about a hundred exhibits, that the kids can play with, get wet with, and climb all over – and maybe even learn something, who knows! There’s a wet play area, where they can build dams and sail ships, and where they can, by firing water jets into the appropriate holes, measure the difference in the amount of water needed for a bath vs a shower, or leaving the tap running while doing your teeth instead of just turning it on when you need it. There is the best marble maze in the world bar none, a man size Spirograph type exhibit and a hot air balloon. There is a colony of leaf eating ants and magnifying cameras so you can track them on screen, a mirage where it looks like your legs disappear, and a piano in the floor that you play by jumping on. Oh – and a planetarium!
The kids could easily spend the whole day in Techniquest – but (bad mother alert) there’s no way on Earth I’d want to. When you walk in, it’s like you hit a wall of sound. There are kids running in all directions and adults running after them. There’s usually an argument as the husband and I have widely differing opinions on how much our kids need to be watched. I like to know where they are at all times; he assumes they are fine unless the tannoy calls him. Actually – that last bit is not true – he assumes they are ok until the eldest one comes to find him to tell him that the tannoy has been calling his name for 5 minutes because the middle one is in some sort of scrape. And who knows what the youngest was doing in the meantime. But let’s not go over old ground, we’ll save that for when I’m really tamping for a fight, hey?
And breathe. Where was I? Oh yes – I couldn’t spend a day in Techniquest. Two hours is pretty much my maximum, perhaps three if I’ve had a full night’s sleep the night before. After that I start to lose the plot a bit.
So it might sound weird that we spend £56 a year on a family pass. But dropping in for a couple of hours, whenever the kids want to, is actually a brilliant way to experience Techniquest. We don’t need to feel that we have to spend a whole day there to justify the entrance fee (a day pass for a family of 5 would be £23). We (mostly) avoid sulking when it’s time to leave, because the kids know they can come back any time. There’s always different exhibits on rotation, as well as different shows and events, so we get to do or see something different each visit. And I have to say it’s been brilliant these last couple of cold, rainy, skint months, knowing there is always somewhere we can go for a couple of hours so the kids don’t get cabin fever. The family pass also gives 10% off in the shop, free Planetarium shows, and a couple of other bits and bobs, so all in all, it’s excellent value for money. And it helps me not lose the plot – what’s not to like!
If you don’t know Techniquest – here’s my top tips:
1 If you live in Cardiff, the annual pass is definitely worth considering – but if you’re not sure, you can pay for a day’s entry, and then if you want to buy a pass, you’ll have your entry money refunded.
2 You can use Tesco Reward points to get in (but not to pay for an annual pass)
3 It’s sometimes closed on Mondays – but not every Monday – so call ahead on 029 2047 5475
4 Take dry clothes – though the waterplay isn’t the immersion type, there’s every chance their top halves will end up soaked.
5 Toddler Days take place once a month – adults pay £4.60 and under 5s go free – check the website for the next one.
6 TQ After Hours – I haven’t checked this out yet but it’s evening opening, with none of the little critters running around, AND A BAR! I think this could persuade me to revise my 2 hour limit – I’ll let you know when I’ve been to one! Follow @TQafterhours for details of the next event.