Family Day Out Review: Stockwood Discovery Centre, Luton
Stockwood Discovery Centre, Luton
Value For Money10.0/10
Variety Of Activities9.0/10
Things We Like
- Free entry
- Very informative and educational for older kids
- Wide food choices in cafe with kid's menu
- Variety of different activities
Things We Dislike
- Suited for slightly older kids (3+)
- Cafe indoor seating area busy at peak times
What’s It All About?
Stockwood Discovery Centre is a gem of a place with a little bit of everything. There’s themed gardens showcasing a variety of plants and flowers, exhibitions crammed with local historic collections, a decent outdoor play area and even an observation beehive. A pleasantly surprising and entertaining day out, which is made even better by the fact that it’s totally free.
What Do We Think?
We visited Stockwood Discovery Centre not really knowing what to expect. We’d very briefly looked into what was there, but were blown away by what we found – particularly as entry is free. Situated in the middle of Stockwood Park (worth an outing in its own right), we stumbled upon an attraction with a huge variety of family-friendly things to do.
Formerly known as Stockwood Craft Museum and now operated by the Luton Culture charity, the place offers a combination of outside space (gardens, playground) and indoor entertainment (Discovery Hall, Discovery Gallery, Bee Gallery). As such, there’s something to do whatever the weather and no matter the age of your kids. I expected to be there for an hour or so, but we spent significantly longer and still didn’t feel like we’d seen everything.
We discovered an outside playground opposite the cafe where we spent a fair bit of time. There was a slide built into an artificial grass banking, a wooden shelter and three wooden ride on horses – one with a carriage. Slightly around the corner, there were a couple of wooden platforms on springs, a huge climbing frame with cargo nets and a slide, two small rock climbing walls and a wooden wobbly bridge. Due to the equipment, it felt more suited for slightly older kids (3+) with very little a baby or young toddler could go on.
The expansive gardens are a great place for kids to explore and learn. There are a number of separate gardens which flow into each other as you walk around. This includes (1) Period Gardens which show styles of English gardens throughout the centuries, (2) Sensory Garden to stimulate the five senses, (3) World Gardens and Green House to show different plants from across the globe, (4) Medicinal Garden which includes plants that can be used as remedies, and (5) Wildlife Garden which shows the habitats across Bedfordshire.
I’m no botanist or gardener, but it’s fair to say that there’s thousands of different types of plants, flowers and trees on show. It was great walking around and talking to our daughter about things like the different colours and insects we saw. There’s obviously a greater range of blooms etc in the warmer months, but even in winter, there’s still stuff to explore and see at Stockwood Discovery Centre – albeit I doubt we got the full ‘beauty’ of it all.
The Discovery Galleries are situated at the back of the site in the old courtyard. Here, we found a number of educational exhibits which explore the local area from prehistoric times through to the modern day. Although I’m no history buff, I was genuinely impressed with the information on offer – it’ll be great to come back when the kids are at school learning about things like the Iron Age, the Romans or agriculture.
Although more suited to older kids, our 3.5-year old daughter still enjoyed looking around and asking questions. The breadth of artefacts were impressive with things like old tools, coins, clothes, stuffed animals, fossils and the 15th Century Wenlok jug. There were also a few interactive parts, such as a dressing up box, puzzles and magnetic snap-on activities, however the majority is just about looking and reading.
The Discovery Hall near the entrance is home to more local history, particularly the Mossman Collection. This – I’m told – is the largest collection of horse-drawn carriages in the UK, featuring vehicles dating back to the 18th Century. There’s also plenty of other things to take in should you wish.
We had lunch at the onsite Garden Cafe. As well as the usual sandwiches, paninis and cakes, they had a hot food menu made from local ingredients. There was also a designated kid’s menu as well as a kid’s meal deal. Seating was available both inside and outside, the food was reasonable, and at just below £20 (soup, a toastie, kid’s meal deal and two soft drinks), it was what I’d expect to pay.
The Bee Gallery looked interesting with information on the flying insects and even an observation beehive. However, as we visited in December, the bees had been moved to their winter hive. There’s also multiple toilets, including a separate baby changing room.
We were genuinely surprised at Stockwood Discovery Centre and will be visiting again soon. In fact, I can see it becoming a place we’ll visit quite often as it’s free, entertaining and has plenty of kid-friendly activities – what more could you want? Even if local history, archaeology, geology, rural crafts, transport or agriculture doesn’t really sound your thing, I’d be surprised if this place didn’t win you over – just like it has with us.
What Does It Look Like?
What Do I Need To Know?
Address: Stockwood Discovery Centre, Stockwood Park, London Road, LU1 4LX.
Opening Times: Open 7 Days per week, 10.00-17.00 (13th Feb–31st Oct), 10.00-16.00 (1st Nov–13th Feb).
Price: Free (donations welcome).
Toilets: Yes. Male and female toilets. Also a unisex accessible toilet. Baby changing facilities also available.
Cafe / Restaurant: Yes. The Garden Cafe offering drinks, snacks and a hot food menu. Seating in and outside the cafe.
Parking: Yes. One large, free car park with overflow parking at busy times.
Public Transport: Luton Town Train Station and Luton Airport Parkway Station both approx. 1.5 miles away.
Duration: 2 to 4 hours.
Age Range: Babies and Toddlers (0-3), Young Children (4-8), Older Children (9-12), Teenagers (13+).
Have you visited before? What do you and the kids think? Let us know in the comments!
Check out our interactive Days Out Map for other reviews of our family visits to UK attractions.