We visited the Mechanical Art and Design Museum.
Weather: Genuinely bonkers - bright sunshine, to full gales to painful hailstorms. It was very dramatic. Ideally we shouldn’t have seen any of it as the museum is entirely indoors, but someone got into a bit of a button pushing frenzy (a natural hazard of the place) and hit a fire alarm, so we were treated to a ten minute stand-around outside in all of the weathers.
Logistics: The museum itself is in a pedestrianised areas but as it is a tourist hot spot parking is relatively easy to find, though you will find better parking the earlier you get there - Stratford fills up quickly. I assume it’s pretty well served by public transport to as it is such a popular place (and rightly so).
Activities: This place is all about the activities. It’s a small museum but utterly utterly charming. We spent over 2 hours there and only minimal whinging was endured (including the fire alarm related snaffoo).There are a wide range of marble runs, clockwork machines and other gadgets and gizmos, almost all of which are interactive. There are big machines and small machines, do-it-yourself machines and videos of very fancy machines from all over the world.
There are a few that I remember from the now defunct Cabaret Mechanical Museum in Covent Garden, which piqued my interest in Egyptian Mythology as a child and, pleasingly, they seem to have done the same for Big Kid. I knew nothing of Anubis and Horus before I went there in the Eighties and seeing them again in the Mad Museum was like reuniting with old friends. I am sure the kids had things they really enjoyed too but I was far too wrapped up in my own fun to notice. I became very involved in the build-your-own marble run section and managed to lose both children, a husband and 12 family friends due to my level of absorption. Good times.
There is a very wide range of activities with different levels of accessibility, from turning handles, pushing buttons and even tweeting specific hashtags to create an effect. All the kids we were with found something to tickle their fancy. I must admit I did feel for the parents of toddlers who, as far as I can tell, spent the entire time hissing and shrieking like broken kettles as they tried to stop their very determined three year olds from putting their delicate digits into the inner workings of the machines. (Yes, this is entirely possible to do, everything is very accessible). I think that this place is far less stressful when your kids have a few years of school under their belt and know how to follow instructions and also the importance of working fingers.
Coffee: It is a testament to how far we have come as a family that this place doesn’t even have a cafe and it didn’t even occur to me to mind. That said, there are about four coffee shops within spitting distance of the place so you’re sure to find somewhere to you liking. We recommend the Cornish Bakery next door.
Food: None but plenty of places to eat nearby and I remember some boozy lunches by the Avon very fondly from my student days so I am sure there is very good eating to be had nearby.
Grounds: None, but there are plenty of other things to see and do around the area should your small humans need a run around.
Accessibility: If they do specialist days then I am sure a place like this would be absolute heaven for some people with ASD but it is very small and crowded so could well be too over-stimulating on a typical weekend. Also, I think wheelchair accessibility may be an issue as it is so small but I must admit I didn’t check directly. Must try harder.
Overall: We absolutely loved this place - it’s small but full of treasures.