What is it?
Formerly the Kew Bridge Steam Museum, it’s a museum about steam engines and waterworks – but don’t let that put you off. It’s more hands-on, interactive and child-friendly than you might think. Find it in Brentford, near Kew Bridge railway station.
5 – 9 / 9 – 12 / 12+
££. It costs a fiver for children and £11.50 for adults to enter this museum on the day, but you’ll save 10 per cent online. Family tickets are reasonably priced and an annual pass only costs £1 more than a day pass.
What’s on offer
The Kew Bridge Steam Museum has undergone a revamp, but it’s core interest is still the same – there are a lot of interesting and historical engines, an awesome old-fashioned waterwheel, the history of London’s waterworks in the Waterworks Gallery and a Waterworks Railway. The new museum is highly interactive, too, with videos and games for kids to play, as well as more inclusive displays.
The new Splash Zone in the Waterwheel Courtyard is a real delight for little ones who can get stuck in with all the unusual ways to move the water around. Finally, there’s a pretty museum garden which is ideal if you want to sit down for a quick break.
But – if you’re ready to keep moving – you can follow the free family trail, look out for Splash the cat (a museum ‘guide’ for very young children) or get involved with an event. There are lots of special events for visitors of all ages, the details of which vary and are available on the official website. You can even take your little one to meet Thomas the Tank Engine for an extra cost, if you book in advance and online. the London Museum of Water & Steam also has a gift shop, a cafe on site with children’s meals and high chairs available (which is run independently from the museum).
Baby-changing facilities are available and you’re welcome to warm up bottles in the cafe. They’ve got free parking – but there’s only fifty spaces available, so move fast!
If you have an interest in niche areas of London’s history or are a train enthusiast, then this is the museum for you, especially if you catch the engines steaming up, which is usually on weekends. Kids will be worn out after playing on all the interactive games, exploring the Splash Zone and running around.
Staff members are mostly volunteers and as a result, they’re often knowledgeable and friendly.
Toilets throughout the ages – despite it being about toilets – and a journey along the river Thames are two noteworthy and exciting exhibits rated by TripAdvisor users. It’s also interesting seeing the difference between modern day and Victorian engineering.
What to watch out for
– Check the website for full details, dates and times of possible events, to find out when the steam engines are working and for all kids-based activities. Don’t just show up with un-researched expectations. For example, steam engines only run on weekends.
– The café isn’t run by the museum anymore the prices and menu have changed and may feel overpriced given the price of the ticket. Check the website for opening hours.
– The content of the actual museum (ignoring the renovations, interactive elements and new splash zone area) will be a bit boring or ‘too old’ for some children. Use your discretion.
– There’s lots of water involved in the splash zone, so you might want to bring your child a spare change of clothes!
– Don’t plan for more than 2 hours here. Perhaps avoid this café and visit one of our picks instead.
What the owners say
“The London Museum of Water & Steam opened it’s doors after a major refurbishment on March 22nd 2014. Come and discover the story of London’s water supply and witness stationary steam pumping engines in action. The museum is also home to a narrow gauge steam railway which is in operation every weekend. Visitors can also enjoy the new Waterworks interactive gallery, with hands on exhibits that bring the story of London’s water supply to life and prepare to get wet in the outdoors “Splashzone” where children of all ages can turn wheels, gears and pumps to move water by hand to create amazing outcomes”
Visit the official London Museum of Water & Steam website