Star gazing on a wet Sunday

World Museum Liverpool, the atrium Forsaking the planned gardening due to the monsoon-like rainfall obscuring everything within a few feet of the house, on Sunday myself and family – wife and three daughters under 7 years of age – headed off to Liverpool's refurbished World Museum to see what all the fuss is about. Parking in St John's Precinct – a tad hefty nowadays at £5.40 for 4 hours – we made our way past St George's Hall. We'd planned to visit the aforementioned Big Art for Little Artists exhibition at the Walker, but a hasty poll saw the World Museum come out favourite. It's a few years since we last visited, just when the £35 million modernisation project had begun. Entering the new lobby area, it is immediately apparent that this is now a world-class facility. A light, airy, slate-floored atrium featuring the hanging skeleton of a Pteranadon and two stone statues from ancient Egypt welcomes visitors; there's plenty of information and help available and, of course, it's completely free. In fact, the only money we spent all day was on the carpark and a quick lunch in St John's Food Court – an entire afternoon of family fun, including lunch for 5, for about £17. Not bad. Some work on the lifts meant those with pushchairs were ushered into the tradesman's elevator by a security guard and, to be honest, the remaining lifts were probably not large or numerous enough for the number of people and buggies, but that's a minor negative. We got there about 12.30pm and began in the Space area on the 5th floor, featuring vials of moon dust, an early steel-clad rocket hanging from the ceiling and lots of astronomical equipment. The Planetarium has several shows each day, with different times at the weekend. Tickets are required but are again free from the reception desk on the ground floor of the atrium. It's probably worth finding out in advance when the shows are and picking up your tickets when you arrive. I was despatched back down to get tickets for the 2.15 Mars and Saturn show and passed through the Eye for Colour exhibition on the 2nd floor. This was great for the kids. It is running until 27th August and uses lots of interactive exhibits to teach children how colour is formed, how artists use colour, animal camouflage and vision, mood creation and how rainbows appear. A good 40 minutes in here was followed by a visit to the bug house, with live scorpions, leaf-cutter ants in their long chain gangs, a tarantula and a huge model spider shuddering in its web on the ceiling. Time for the planetarium. Comfortable seating for 62 means if you've been rushed off your feet, there may be a tendency to sink into the chairs and let sleep overcome you! But the show itself was bright and informative and just the right length at 25 minutes. Despite whooshing rockets and the birth of the universe, our 11 month old did succumb to slumber but the other two – 4 and 6, respectively – really enjoyed it and learnt a great deal without the commentary being over-scientific. The show over, we visited the Clore Natural History Centre and the new aquarium, both of which are again just the right size for our kids and not overwhelmingly huge. There's plenty of hands on stuff, particularly in the Natural History Centre, where the kids enjoyed picking up snake skins, whale teeth and touching the hippo skull. We also visited the Dinosaur area which hasn't so far changed much since the refurb and that was pretty much it. Still plenty to see on our next visit. Get yourself down there if you haven't been yet. More details at


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