Science And Natural History Museums

All ages
Destination: London, England

Here's London's knockout one-two punch: two world-class science museums, on adjacent sites in South Kensington, and both of them free. It's quite tempting to do them both in one day, but be forewarned: Their collections are so huge, and so engrossing, that it may be hard to move your kids on from one to the other.

The Science Museum is a place of hands-on galleries, working models, and video displays galore, all tracing the development of science and industry and -- especially important for kids -- showing their influence on everyday life. Interactive consoles placed strategically throughout the museum help you plot your visit according to your interests.

You'll see Stephenson's original rocket and the tiny prototype railroad engine; you can also see Whittle's original jet engine and the Apollo 10 space module.

The King George III Collection of scientific instruments is the highlight of a gallery on science in the 18th century, an era when a gifted assortment of British scientists led a Golden Age of scientific discoveries. In a newer wing, exhibits explore such cutting edge topics as genetics, digital technology, and artificial intelligence -- learn how engineers observe sea life with robotic submarines, or how DNA was used to identify living relatives of the Bleadon Man, a 2,000-year-old Iron Age Man.

Science of a more organic nature reigns at the Natural History Museum. It's is a don't-miss for dinosaur lovers, and there are magnificent specimens of all sorts of living and fossil plants, animals, and minerals. The geological history of our planet is dramatically illustrated in the exhibit "Earth Today and Tomorrow" -- it truly puts the Bang in the Big Bang.

Information: Science Museum, Exhibition Rd. (tel. 44/870/870-4868; Natural History Museum, Cromwell Rd. (tel. 44/20/7942-5000;

Nearest Airport: Heathrow.

Accommodations: London Bridge Hotel, 8-18 London Bridge St. 9 (tel. 44/20/7855-2200;, Vicarage Private Hotel, 10 Vicarage Gate, South Kensington (tel. 44/20/7229-4030;