Great exhibition of the North with Tyne and Wear Metro

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Tyne and Wear Metro recently got in touch to work with us on a Great Exhibition of the North family day out. To celebrate the amazing exhibits, inspired technology and innovation, Tyne and Wear Metro have launched a limited edition design of their Pop Pay As You Go card and a Great Exhibition of the North adventure book.

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The Pop Pay As You Go card is the cheapest way to travel by Metro if you don’t have a weekly, monthly or annual pass. As someone who is always running late, and generally arrives sweaty to a Metro station as it’s pulling in, I LOVE that the Pop card speeds up the ticketing process. As long as you have credit on your Pop card you just need to tap it when entering the station, and tap it on the way out. No more queuing! It’s cost effective too as single trips with a Pop card cost 30p less than the price of a ticket, and it’s 40p less than a daysaver ticket to travel on the Metro all day.

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We started planning for our Great Exhibition of the North family day out a week before. As well as being late, I’m also pretty forgetful (really selling myself here aren’t I?), so I’d managed to lose my last Pop card. To get a limited edition Great Exhibition of the North Pop card you need to buy them online here, and it should be delivered in under 5 days. The card and delivery is free, but you need to buy it with £10 credit on the card, so it costs you £10 but when you get it you are good to go.

We had a look through the Metro Great Exhibition of the North adventure book and the website to decide where we’d like to visit. The adventure book is great, as well as being filled with information about the best exhibits for families it has Metro and Great Exhibition of the North themed activities like wordsearches to keep the kids busy. You can pick up the adventure book for FREE from Nexus travel centres. 

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I knew the kids would love the LEGO exhibit at The Miners Institute and I really fancied the AEONS music walk on the quayside so we planned our day around those two activities. AEONS is FREE and whilst there are some drop in slots available, I booked our slots in advance which you can do here.

Monkseaton Metro station is only a 10 minute walk from our house, so we loaded up the double buggy with ALL of the things that you inevitably need when you’ve got two pre-schoolers and off we went. My two treated the Pop card in the same way they do lift buttons and argued about who got to tap it when we entered the station. The kids love getting the Metro, and were chuffed that we were able to get the front seats so they could ‘drive’ the train.

As we were heading to the quayside we got off at manors, and the walk took us about 10 minutes. We had a little bit of time before our AEONS slot, so headed to the quayside beach to eat our picnic.

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AEONS: A Sound Journey for Newcastle

Cost: Free

Nearest Metro Station: Manors

Details:  A music walk along the River Tyne.

After the picnic we collected our headphones from the Newcastle side of the Millenium bridge. We were greeted by volunteers who explained how it all worked, and then we were off. The headphones are programmed to recognise where you are on the trail and play music accordingly.

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They have headphones suitable for grownups and little ones. The trail starts at the Millenium bridge and finishes underneath the Redheugh where you return your headphones, so you don’t need to go back to the start. I wasn’t sure what to expect, I didn’t think I’d really get into it, but I absolutely loved it. The headphones cancelled out loads of the noise of the busy quayside, and as well as information and music there were atmospheric noises (a bike riding past you etc) through the headphones so it created a whole sensory world. You don’t get loads of history or anything, it is more about the music, but us adults were really taken with it. As you can see in the photos the kids were more variable.

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My little boy mostly enjoyed it and kept his headphones on for about ¾ of the walk. My little girl on the otherhand was in a right strop as she was tired and she moaned for most of it, so she killed our buzz a bit. The walk is meant to be a mile long, but it felt a longer than that, although that is probably because the weather was an absolute scorcher and I had inexplicably decided to wear my tightest pair of jeans. I would definitely recommend AEONS. If you’ve got toddlers like mine then it’ll probably be more for you than for them, but for older kids I can really imagine them getting into it. Whilst you are on the Quayside you could also check out the Winged Tales of the North art trail in Ouseburn, pop into the Sage where they have free kids music activities every Saturday in August, or visit Ouseburn farm, all for free.

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LEGO Timeline of northern innovation at the Mining Institute

Cost: Free

Nearest Metro: Central Station

Details: LEGO models of iconic northern innovation and the a LEGO room to build your own.

After handing the headphones back in for AEONS we walked the 10 minutes or so up the huge hill to The Mining Institute which is really close to Central Station. We briefly rejoiced when our stroppy tired little girl fell asleep on the journey, but it was a slight dampner when we realised there were stairs to get into the Mining Institute. Not many, and the volunteers offered to give us a and hand carrying our tank like double buggy up them, but something to bear in mind if visiting with a buggy or pram.

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Smallest kid slept whilst we headed to the activity room to play with boxes and boxes of LEGO. Displayed around the room were loads of designs that other people had made. Inspired by them my husband and little boy made 'Boato' a space nautical-esque design. Whilst I tried to make a design of my own and realised that I could add particularly uncreative to my list of attributes along with habitually late and forgetful.

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Our little girl woke up just in time for us to check out the The LEGO timeline of Northern Innovation which uses 40 designs and over 50,000 LEGO bricks to showcase the most ground-breaking innovations which originated in the North. These were brilliant, lots of them moved, or had flashing lights. There was a couple of activities related to them for children, we saw older kids completing a quiz which asked them questions about the information in the timeline. Our kids liked looking for 8 LEGO characters within the models. My little boy was absolutely obsessed with a LEGO toilet where he spent about 10 minutes putting LEGO poo down it. There were also examples of models that other families had made in the LEGO activity room. I was both awed and slightly ashamed at our own attempts when looking at the amazing models of Metro stations and Greggs cafe that other families had made. LEGO at the Miners institute is another exhibition that I’d definitely recommend. With models of things like the Great North Run over the Tyne Bridge, and the Beatles Abbey Road there is something for everyone.

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Which Way North at The Great North Museum (Hancock)

Cost: Free

Nearest Metro: Haymarket

We were all getting a bit tired by this point in the day, so decided to hop on the Metro at Central Station and get off at Haymarket so we could check out the Hancock’s Great Exhibition of the North offering. It was great using the Pop Pay As You Go card knowing that the daily cap is set at 40p less than the price of a daysaver so it wasn’t going to cost anymore to use the Metro shortcut to save our legs.

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I knew there were some models on display from In the Night Garden and Postman Pat that I thought the kids would enjoy. When we got there, my little boy - a creature of habit - headed straight for the dinosaur at the back, and wasn’t particularly interested on the new things on show. We had a look at the models but I think the Which Way North exhibition is probably more suited to older children who might be interested in some of the iconic items in there like John Lennon’s piano and the sonic screwdriver from Doctor Who.

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Brick Metro at Fenwick Toy Department

Cost: Free

Nearest Metro: Monument

For our last stop we headed to Fenwick toy department. They have turned what used to be the Northside Diner into a Fenwick Metro station with a huge Metro train made out of LEGO. The 1:10 scale #BrickMetro LEGO® model will be at Fenwick’s toy department until Sunday 9th September 2018. Last summer Metro called on young Master Builders to help build their 91st Metrocar – the first new Metro to be built for nearly four decades – as part of a school holiday challenge with the renowned LEGO® architect BrickThis – aka Steve Mayes. Over the course of a week in August 2017 more than 100 children and their families from across the region worked with Steve at The Word, National Centre for the Written Word, in South Shields to build the 22,000-brick model of a Metrocar to celebrate Metro’s proud history in Tyne and Wear.

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We had tried to get a place in the LEGO workshops last year when they were creating the Metro but the tickets went in no time so we missed out. It was fab to see it now in all it's glory. As well as the Brick Metro Fenwick also have a big LEGO table set up where the kids merrily played. If you can resist the pull of all the expensive toys then Fenwick is a fab place to pass 30 minutes or so, as in addition to the LEGO they also have model train tables and a giant dinosaur to look at.

Outside on Northumberland Street there was a family hub set up with places to sit, and this lovely grass rhino (it was only after the photo I spotted a teany tiny sign saying he wasn’t to be sat on- soz rhino!!!) Newcastle City Council have had family spots like this one set up every weekend during the summer and they are a real welcome addition. We're hoping after the success of these spaces, with places to sit and games to play, that they will bring them back next year. 

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We headed home, tired (us grown ups had pushed that double buggy for 18000 steps!) but really happy. Excluding my clothing induced almost heat stroke (okay add dramatic to my list of attributes) and a partially moody 2 year old girl we’d had a lovely day. All of the activities we did were totally free, and by visiting a couple we’d managed to have a packed family day out. Travelling by Metro was great as it meant we didn’t need to worry about getting back to our car in between exhibitions or moving it from one space to another, not to mention saving us the pricey city-centre parking charges. I’m really pleased that we’ve finally explored some of the Great Exhibition of the North and plan on visiting more before it’s all over on 9 September.

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What have been your favourite family Great Exhibition of the North exhibitions? Let us know below.