If you are looking for a great family day out in Cardiff you can't go past Cardiff Bay. The Bay has something for any day of the year and while the parks are better in the sunshine, Techniquest is the best place to take a full-of-beans five year old when it is bucketing down and you can't face another session at soft play. That's what we did yesterday when a week of enforced indoor play due to rubbish rain and various family visiting commitments meant any outdoor time had been limited to a half and hour here or there in between rain showers.
What is Techniquest?
Techniquest is a science museum for kids. It is packed with dozens of activities to let them play and explore everything science-y without feeling remotely like a lesson. In short, Techniquest is FUN but don't just take my word for it, check out the smiling faces on their video
I haven't been to Techniquest for a few years. At ten, my oldest is now too old to enjoy it like he used to, and the last time I went my youngest, who must have been about three, got bored after an hour or so which, when you're spending £7 and adult and £5 for children over 4, is not great value. Yesterday was a different story. As soon as we'd put our wristband on he was off bouncing from one activity to another like a pinball before settling down a little and getting into the levers, bubbles, plungers and puzzles that make up the ground floor.
One of the nicest parts of Techniquest is the staff. They are all so friendly and helpful and really seem enthusiastic about working there. Many are pretty young and are comfortable talking to kids and answering questions.
After spending an hour playing with everything from magnets to locks, lights and lungs it was time to head to the Science Theatre for the Bubbles and Blasts show. Now, I remember this show from previous visits and my youngest loved it just as much as my oldest had. What's not to love about massive bubbles and watching stuff explode? After the show, which runs for half an hour and is quite interactive, it was back to the water part before spending time upstairs. All in all we were there for a good two hours before impending closing time and rumbling tummies drove us to the massive choice of restaurants around Mermaid Quay where we settled on Wagamamas for the "chomp sticks" (him) and speed of service (me).
Getting to Techniquest is easy whether you drive or take the bus or train to Cardiff Bay. There are also bike racks which I imagine are popular in summer because there are always families cycling around Cardiff Bay's parks and paths. The Mermaid Quay carpark is directly across the road (pay and display) or you could also park by the Millennium Centre (pay when you exit) and walk the 10 minutes or so.
It is open every day from 10am (9.30am on some mornings during term time) with entry for adults costing £7 and children (4-16) costing £5. Family tickets are cheaper. We had such a good time yesterday I invested in a season pass. Because the cost of entry was refunded it worked out to be great value. You can find out more about the Friends Membership Scheme, which includes lots more than just free entry, here. I am not sure how many times we will go over the next year but I am certain it will be at least twice more so I'll make a saving. If you want to see one of the Science Theatre or Planetarium shows make sure you book when you're paying to go in. They are popular and fill up fast. One word of warning: do not go to Techniquest if you have a headache because it is loud in there. The massive open space coupled with loads of chattering children and dozens of noise-making activities (especially the musical ones upstairs) is not the environment to be if you are feeling a little delicate.
Cardiff Bay Attractions
While Techniquest is not a full day out, Cardiff Bay itself has plenty of other attractions, including several great parks, plenty of restaurants, the Doctor Who Experience, and boat trips. The Norwegian Church has a lovely cafe and often some sort of exhibition upstairs, and the Millennium Centre regularly runs free entertainment in school holidays and on weekends. It's common to see families cycling and scooting on the flat wide path that circles the bay. Find out what's on in Cardiff Bay here.