Review: Southend Planetarium (and Southend Central Museum)

There are less than 20 planetariums in the UK which have public viewings and Southend's is one of the smallest. With a 4 metre dome and only 20 seats it is worth a visit for Essex based budding astronomers who are bound to learn something new on each visit. The planetarium is inside Southend Central Museum, a small museum with a selection of permanent and temporary exhibitions. Museum exhibits include: objects from the earliest Anglo-Saxon Christian burial to be found in England,  items from a 17th century shipwreck, Victorian themed rooms and interactive displays such as how to tie different knots. Entry to the museum is free, but you have to pay (and prebook) for the planetarium.

The entrance to Southend Planetarium inside Southend Central Museum
Essex's only public planetarium is inside Southend Central Museum

Visiting Southend Planetarium with Children

Why Southend Planetarium Is A Good Place To Visit With Children

Southend Planetarium is a really unique experience. It’s an amazing and fun way to learn about the stars, moon and other exciting space facts. The Planetarium is a small, circular room where you sit around the edges and look up. The show consists of projections on the domed ceiling whilst a guide explains all about space. 

It’s a wonderfully interactive way for children (and adults) to learn about our solar system. The guides are incredibly knowledgeable and encourage you to ask questions. During the ‘Exploring the Moon’ show you even get to hold a piece of real moon rock. We were all given a little souvenir too which links to the materials used at the moon landing which the children loved as a little keepsake. 

View of inside Southend Planetarium looking up at the dome
It's a small planetarium, but this allows for a more personal and interactive experience

What Is There To Do At Southend Planetarium?

  • A visit to Southend Planetarium consists of a show where you watch, listen and learn about space. 
  • All the shows are live and given by a guide, rather than pre-recorded which allows lots of opportunities for questions.
  • Make sure you leave an hour or so to look around Southend Central Museum too where you can learn about local history.

Learning to tie knots at Southend Central Museum
Southend Central Museum has a number of interesting exhibitions and hands on activities for children

What age children will enjoy visiting Southend Planetarium?

The museum recommends the Planetarium for children age 7 and above only. I personally would recommend for ages 9+ unless they have a particular love of space and are good at sitting quietly for an hour. Children under 18 must be supervised by an adult.

Is it suitable for pushchairs?

Children under 7 are not admitted to the planetarium. In addition the planetarium is on the first floor of the museum and access is currently only by a set of stairs so it isn’t accessible for wheelchairs.

The entrance to Southend Central Museum In Essex
Entrance to Southend's Central Museum and Planetarium

What You Need To Know Before Visiting Southend Planetarium

  • You need to pre book before visiting the Planetarium. Call 01702 212345 to book your space and pay on arrival at Southend Central Museum (cash or card). 
  • There is only space for 20 people per show.
  • Public shows are at 2pm on Saturdays and Sundays, with sessions Wednesday to Sunday during school holidays (Central Museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays).
  • There are a number of different shows available so check which you are booking onto.
  • Shows currently available are Exploring the Night Sky, Stories in the Skies, Exploring the Moon Show and their Standard Show. They offer a special Halloween show based on myths of the moon. 
  • They advertise that shows last 45 to 60 minutes, but this will depend on how engaged the audience is. Our show was closer to 70 minutes.
  • The room is fairly small and dark so ensure that you and your children are comfortable in this kind of environment.
  • The Central Museum has a lovely gift shop with some well priced pocket money toys. 
  • There are male and female toilets on the first floor of the museum. There are no disabled or baby changing facilities available at this site. Access to these facilities are at the (free) Beecroft Art Gallery next door. 
  • There is no cafe or restaurant on site, but it is close to Southend High Street so you can easily grab refreshments before or after visiting.

Is it dog friendly ?

As an indoor museum it is not suitable for dogs.

What to take with you when visiting

You don’t need to bring anything with you and you can’t eat or drink inside the planetarium (but if you bring water you can drink in the museum area).

Southend Central Museum's Gift Shop
Museum Gift Shops are always worth checking out

How To Get To Southend Planetarium and Where To Park

Southend Central Museum
Victoria Avenue

The Planetarium is inside Southend Central Museum and the museum is easy to spot from the road.

There is no dedicated car park for the museum or planetarium, but there are several car parks near by. The closest are the Beecroft Art Gallery, Southend Victoria Train Station and Victoria Shopping Centre (these all charge for parking).

What Else Is There To Do Nearby Southend Planetarium?

Southend Planetarium is very close to Southend High Street (it’s on the other side of the station) where there are lots of shops and restaurants including McDonalds, KFC, Greggs, Costa, Subway and independent eateries.

The Southend Odeon cinema and Caddies Indoor Crazy Golf are at the near end of the High Street.

The seafront is about 10 minutes walk via the High Street. As well as the beach you can visit Adventure Island, the Zooquarium and more. I highly recommend visiting Tomassi’s at this end of the High Street for a delicious ice cream sundae. Parking near the sea front is often busy at weekends and holidays so it is worth keeping your car in the museums near the museum.

If you want a playground and park the closest options are either Priory Park, which is about a 20 minutes walk or a short drive (with some free parking) or there are play areas on the beach (these are obviously sandy though).

Click here for more ideas of what to do in Southend with children.

Photographs & recommendations by Charlotte who can be found on Instagram here

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