Happy Museum Monday! Today we have something a little different for you. A couple weeks ago, we were invited by DRIBBLE to visit and review Dynamic Earth here in Edinburgh. Dynamic Earth is a science centre focussing on Earth science i.e. the processes that have shaped the Earth, such as the Big Bang, plate tectonics and glaciation. It’s located in Holyrood, next door to the Scottish Parliament. The futuristic looking building is pretty hard to miss, and looks even more impressive with the rugged Salisbury Crags looming behind it as a backdrop.
Disclosure: We received four free tickets to the Dynamic Earth exhibition in return for an honest review of our visit. All views and opinions are our own. Any extras such as food were paid for by ourselves.
It was myself, my husband, and our two boys (who are about to turn 5 and 9) who were visiting. When we arrived, we collected our tickets and put all our coats and bags in the cloakroom (so that I wouldn’t end up carrying everything once my kids started to shed their layers!) They have lockers that require £1 coins, but you get your coin back afterwards. Tip: Some of the rooms in the exhibits are quite cool, so if you are prone to feeling cold quickly you may want to hang on to sweaters or cardigans.
Before we entered the main exhibition, we first signed up to Mission Earth, an augmented reality experience that is new for 2019 and is included in your admission. You sign up on one of the tablets and get given a unique ID. There are then further tablets throughout the exhibition where you learn facts about the Earth and are quizzed, collecting points for each correct answer. There is an easy and a hard option, and at the end of your visit you can see how you compare to others on the scoreboard and get sent a link to download a certificate. My eldest really loved doing this challenge, and scored full marks. My younger boy also wanted to have a go, and answered a few of the questions with his dad’s help, but soon got bored. I’d say 8+ was the perfect age for this.
But I’m jumping ahead a little. Once we had our Mission Earth IDs, we were ready for the main exhibition. Tip: The main exhibition is an experience that takes you through a series of rooms in a particular order, and once you are inside there are no toilets, so make sure to go before you start! There are 14 stops on your journey through Earth’s history starting with an introduction to “Scotland’s Time Lords” – Scottish scientists who were influential in the field of geology.
When you are ready to move on, you “travel” via a time machine back in time to the Big Bang and learn how our Universe and the Earth were first created, followed by a look at the impact that volcanoes, earthquakes and glaciers have had and still have on the formation of the Earth.
There are four stops here in total, all of which include impressive multimedia presentations – complete with moving floors, smoke and glowing volcano effects! Note: A member of staff moves you on to the next section after each of these four stops, so make sure to take it all in while you can!
The next six stops follow on from each other in a more open plan way, so you can go through them at your own pace. First there’s a look at early life forms and how they developed – including a nod to the dinosaurs, of course – which leads on to a section on humans and the Earth’s ever growing population.
There were lots of hands on activities for kids here, from models to touch and flaps to lift, to buttons to press, sound effects to listen to, and various games to play on computer screens. Some of them were a bit dated – my boys who are used to touchscreen were a bit confused by the trackball at first – but we enjoyed them nonetheless. My boys particularly liked the game that simulated how dinosaurs may have evolved and looked like today, had they survived.
There was also a dedicated look at life in the oceans, and the last stop in the free flow section is all about polar extremes – complete with a real giant ice block for you to touch! Can you make a hand imprint with the heat of your body? My boys gave up pretty quickly (“Too cold!”) but it looked like others before us had given it a good try.
Next, there was another multimedia presentation, which takes you on a journey from the Arctic to the Equator. It was in 3D, and I struggled to make the 3D glasses fit over my own glasses, so have to confess I can’t recall much of it. My youngest was also spooked at one point by a very realistic 3D rhino coming towards us and started crying. So just as a little heads up if you’re visiting you younger kids, it’s towards the end of the presentation. My husband and my older boy really enjoyed the presentation though. The final part of the exhibition takes a look at the Tropical Rainforest, with more hands on activities and a simulated rain shower every ten minutes or so (don’t worry, you don’t get wet!) You can go through this section at your own pace too.
The Rainforest isn’t quite the final stop of your visit though – that would be the ShowDome, which presents a selection of films on a 360 degree screen. The films last about 25-30 minutes each. We watched “We Are Stars”, which was a more detailed look at the Big Bang and the creation of the Universe, with some very cute animation thrown in. The two grown-ups and my elder boy enjoyed it and found it really interesting, my youngest however got a bit bored after ten minutes and grumbled “They already told us that at the beginning!” We managed to keep him quiet with cuddles so we could watch the end of it. There were two other films showing that day, “Supervolcanoes” and “The Apollo Story”, with screenings in rotation every half hour from 11am to 4:30pm. Our little one had had enough though at that point, so we gave the other two a miss.
After the ShowDome, everyone was getting a but hungry, so we checked in for lunch at Dynamic Earth’s Food Chain Cafe. The boys both had a kids lunch set consisting of sandwich, crisps, juice and two other ‘treats’ which included both sweet treats but also yoghurt, fruit and cheese options. There were a couple of gluten free options and I chose the baked potato, and my husband had a hot dog and chips. Our lunches came in at around £5 per head (plus coffee for the grown-ups), which isn’t too bad for Edinburgh.
After lunch we checked out the Ocean Commotion Soft Play, which is located in the basement next to the shop. It has an underwater theme, complete with a submarine to play in and the obligatory ball pit. It’s open to children under the age of 10. If you have a ticket for the Dynamic Earth exhibition, you just show that at the shop desk before entering the soft play, but you can also pay just to visit the soft play itself. It’s £2 per child, or for Mondays to Fridays you can download a £5 Toddler Time voucher, which gets you admission to the soft play plus a coffee and cafe from the Food Chain Cafe.
All in all, we spent a whopping 4.5 hours at Dynamic Earth! This included 1.5 hrs in the exhibition + half an hour in the ShowDome, about an hour in the cafe, and half an hour in the soft play. Plus time in between for things like tickets, cloakroom, toilets, getting our Mission Earth ID, and just getting from one place to the next.
Up to date opening times and admission prices for Dynamic Earth can be found on their website. Under 4s go free, and there are a couple ways to get a discounts on admission! If you buy your tickets online instead of at the ticket desk, they cost less (and they don’t have an expiry date so if your plans change you can use them at a later point). There’s also an annual Explorer Pass, which for the price of two admissions gets you free in to Dynamic Earth for one year. Or if you have a child aged 6-14, sign them up to Dino’s Dynamos Kids Club, which gets them free entry to Dynamic Earth on Saturdays, along with other benefits. Explorer Pass holders and Dino’s Dynamos members also get discounts in Dynamic Earth’s Food Chain Cafe and the Natural Selection Gift Shop.