I should start by mentioning that we have been to Kennedy Space Center: Cape Canaveral. The National Space Centre, while interesting doesn't compare but I tried to keep this in mind when we visited. Just because we'd already been somewhere to do with space exploration didn't mean we couldn't enjoy our time somewhere else so we decided to give the National Space Centre a go.
The drive there wasn't too bad, it's just over 31 miles from us and we often spend longer than 45 minutes in the car. The boys are used to occupying themselves on car journeys and it ended up being a pleasant drive.
On arrival we had to pay to park, £3 covers you for the whole day which isn't too bad I suppose. However when I tried to pay the machine wasn't working properly. I tried three times to put my money in and twice it didn't accept it. On the third try it swallowed £2 and didn't register them which meant I had to go to the ticket desk and talk to them about it. The lady behind the counter dealt with the issue and it ended up being a lot less annoying than I thought it would. I simply paid the extra £1, wrote my name and car registration on a list and that was that.
We paid and were given a designated time for a show, we were intrigued to find out what that was all about. We wandered around the downstairs area looking at the information on the walls, inspecting the many things around the place, and the boys asked lots of questions. It was a fun morning teaching them about space exploration and the kinds of things astronauts had to do. Tim Peak having just come back from the International Space Station was a huge help because the boys knew about it, they'd been discussing it in school.
LP in particular liked looking at the mobile where you could turn a handle and watch the earth go around the sun. We talked about an eclipse and showed him what happens to the earth, moon, and sun, when an eclipse happens. He enjoyed that.
The educational benefits of The National Space Centre were clear.
At our designated time we entered the cinema and watched a great movie about The Big Bang and the creation of planets and the solar system. The Hubby and I really enjoyed it, it was both educational and fun to watch.
Unfortunately our day took a turn for the worse after the cinema.
The boys noticed there was a ride and wanted to go on it. We read the notice at the entrance of the ride, it had the usual ride warnings "pregnant women shouldn't ride", and if you had motion sickness you shouldn't ride. I'm not great at rides, I don't particularly enjoy them, but I will go on things. Smaller roller coasters are fine (as long as they don't go upside down), I like simulators too. The ride at The National Space Centre was described as a simulator so I thought I'd give it a go.
The queuing area was NOT FUN. As soon as you enter the queue you are blasted with noise. An introduction clip played on screens throughout the waiting area, they were loud - cover your ears loud, and it played on a 2 minute loop. But that wasn't the only noise. Right next to the ride were other things for children to play with, all just as loud as the clip. Clicks, sirens, horns, everything sounded like it was at maximum volume so all the noises blended together, resulting in a mess of noise.
There was no indication of waiting time for the ride. We didn't know if it would be 2 minutes or 2 hours and after 15 minutes of waiting I began wondering whether we'd made a mistake. My head hurt from listening to the noise and I'd heard the intro clip at least 10 times (or it felt that way). The boys were excited to go on a ride though, so we waited.
It was at least 20 minutes before we got into the 12-minute pre-show. Once we were inside the room for the pre-show my tension eased a little, mainly because there was no noise. That was short-lived though when the pre-show began. If I'm honest it was badly done, there was no explanation of what the ride actually was, just a video about some fictional plan for the future colonisation of Jupiter moons. I didn't understand what it had to do with the ride at all. It didn't mention anything about the ride itself, what you were expected to do, or what you should look out for. Nothing.
When the pre-show was finished we were ushered into the ride, there was no organisation at all. Everyone headed to a seat they wanted and my boys went for the back row as there were no other seats left. Unfortunately we hadn't been told that the back row only sat 3 people so I had to sit with another family.
We were handed paper 3D glasses, so I presumed the ride was a 3D simulator. The paper glasses were flimsy and barely covered my prescription glasses. I'm used to that though and figured it would be fine.
The ride began.
Nothing could've prepared me for this ride. It was the worst ride I have ever been on. Not only was it uncomfortable and jerky but the 3D was terrible. The story behind the ride didn't work and the movements of the simulator didn't match the 3D video.
As my body was thrown about and I clung to the lap bar the 3D glasses were thrown from my face so I had to use one hand to hold the lap bar and one hand to keep the glasses on my face. The jerks and jolts were intense, more intense than I've ever felt on a simulator. The movements weren't smooth like I expected them to be, it was like being in a car and being hit again and again by another car.
When the ride finished I gave a huge sigh of relief, rejoined my boys, and listened to them complain about the ride.
My head was pounding by this point and all I wanted to do was get back in the car and drive home but there was still more to see.
I was eager to get away from all the noise so we headed upstairs to look at rockets, a timeline, and other related space stuff.
Although the boys didn't enjoy the ride they soon forgot about it and enjoyed walking around upstairs and learning more about space exploration. I liked looking around the 60's styled living room they have, LP made me laugh when he looked at the phone they have there, it looked something like this...
And he asked what it was! I had to explain to him that that was a phone and we talked about not being able to leave the house with it and having to dial one number at a time and then waiting. He was surprised to learn that everyone used to have them in their homes.
After looking at the 60's styled living room we listened to, and watched, a short movie about the space race. LP enjoyed this too because he'd just learned about the space race in school. He listened intently to the story behind the race and when it was finished he asked lots of questions again.
And then we were done. We headed outside and as we left the noise behind us my headache eased.
What we thought
We enjoyed the day out but the ride was disappointing. If you are heading to the National Space Centre and intend going on the simulator be aware that it is a violent ride. A few years ago I was involved in a car accident and had to have physio for a neck problem as a result. My neck problems went away, or so I thought. The day after visiting the National Space Centre my neck felt just as it did after the car accident. My neck was sore, I couldn't look to the right without a lot of pain. We visited the National Space Centre at the beginning of the holidays and even now, six weeks later, I'm still suffering with neck issues.
I am not saying this is the fault of the National Space Centre, it is my fault for not being aware. However, the warnings do not make it clear how violent the ride is. If you have any back or neck problems at all, even if they're only slight, you should NOT ride. Little ones should probably not ride either as they will find it difficult to cling to the lap bar.
The boys enjoyed learning about space and I know that LP in particular learned a lot. It's an educational trip, somewhere you can learn about space, but I wouldn't recommend that ride.