Top Spots for NI Tots: Armagh Planetarium

Wee Green Folk thought we’d try join in  with NI Science Festival this weekend and made a trip to Armagh Planetarium along with Chewbacca and some of his Star Wars buddies – I have no idea what the rest are called! WP_20160227_004

Armagh is about an hour’s drive from Belfast which coincided beautifully with a morning nap for B. J was suitably entertained with  a sticker book and repeated explanations that we were going to Armagh to see model planets and were not actually going to the moon…I like to call it managing expectations! I find the line defining reality is rather blurred and broken in the mind of a 2 year old.

Of course we arrived spot on 10am  – the few benefits of early starts. The carpark was empty except for a dog and his smiley owner.

Inside the planetarium we were pleased to find admission was free and there were still places available for the “Little Yellow Star” preschool show…bonus. We planted a flag on the moon and stuck our heads through various cardboard cut out astronauts. We even made our own rockets. As you can see arts and crafts are not our forte. The rocket was launched outside in a watery whoosh much to J’s delight! B looked distinctly unimpressed but then our rocket was pretty shoddy!WP_20160227_014

“Little Yellow Star” was a pre-school animated cartoon in the big domed theatre. It was a lovely experience and kept both kids entertained for 15 minutes – no mean feat. It ran through some of the star constellation animal shapes. I had no idea there was  a whale up there! The narrator was live and he did a great job!

Downstairs there are various exhibitions with enough ipads and light projection shows to entertain little ones for a wee while. The adults were a little confused by the 3D glasses – maybe these days our eyes are just too used to fancy graphics to be easily impressed! It would have been fascinating to read some of the displays – maybe we’ll come back for a adult visit one day.

Outside the planetarium is the Astropark which makes a lovely walk. There’s a scale model of the solar system and we enjoyed standing on each planet in turn. Beware to read the markers. It wasn’t until the end we realised earth was scaled up by 200 times! We only made it as far as Pluto. It’s tiny – no wonder it’s been downgraded to a  minor planet! Anyway, little legs were getting tired and a cheesy sandwich picnic was calling. This was our first outdoor picnic of 2016 and a lovely family moment… if not a bit chilly. All in all it was a lovely day out and a nice chance to introduce J to some science although I suspect he still thinks the moon’s made of cheese- you win some you lose some!WP_20160227_026


Top Spots for NI Tots – Ulster Museum

top spots

Ulster Museum

One word…FREE!!!!! This is a great rainy day activity. The biggest flaw for me is the lack of parking . Street parking is fine at the weekend but weekdays are a nightmare and it’s a shame really. If you’re good with buses, I take my hat of to you. I’d love to be that eco-friendly, public transport parent but so far I haven’t been that brave!

Once you make it inside the museum it’s a toddler dream. High ceilings,  long corridors, high (but safe!) balconies, lift buttons to press and that’s just the building itself.

There are three child specific rooms (that I know of!) – one for arts with colouring in, books and a snazzy light box with coloured blocks. The nature area has lots of drawers (requiring endless “watch your fingers!”) full of beasts and bugs that little ones love! The lower room has toys from around the world and days gone by. All very interesting for big kids too!

In the other exhibits my toddler loves “Segura” – a video installation in a dark room showing the changing nature of an underpass in Spain. I find it scary – certainly a far cry from Cbeebies! Anyway, it’s a great place for toddlers to run around and if they get a little education too, sure that’s great:-)

There’s a cafe downstairs (it’s not free!) and plenty of changing areas and toilets etc. so overall a great morning’s activity. Did I mention it’s FREE! PS – it’s closed on Mondays, don’t be caught out.

As a bonus you’re right beside Botanic gardens and the “Palm House” full of fancy plants. Also FREE and worth a nosey!