My family and I travel while I run my company Purveyor of Geekery
And…we’re back! What an amazing trip! You guys, we took our Tardis to Cardiff. I don’t think I will be able to travel any other way every again.
I’m joking of course. Doctor Who is kind of a big deal in our house, so one of the things we set out to do this trip was a detour to Cardiff, Wales to see the Doctor Who Experience (DWE). Secretly, ever so secretly since most people make a face of disgust when the topic of “Torchwood” comes up, I was also sort of excited to see Cardiff Bay where a lot of the shots for the series were filmed. The giant phallic mirrored thing was surprisingly not as giant as it looked on TV. Now on to the facts, no spoilers of course. 🙂
Getting There: We took Arriva Rail into Cardiff Central, which was about “a 20 minute walk” to Cardiff Bay according to my husband. This would be accurate if 20 minutes = 1 hour. The walk was through an area called Butetown which I would definitely not want to do at night. The Cardiff bus line picks up in front of the rail station and lets off in front of the Doctor Who Experience, which is what we took back. You’ll need exact change for the trip so look up current rates on their website. Information on parking and other means of arriving can be found at the DWE website.
Near There: The Experience is in an area known as Cardiff Bay, which according to my MIL (mom in law) has recently been the focus of a resurgence. There are loads of construction projects happening with future upscale housing and shopping in the works, according to signs. The DWE is surrounded by the BBC Cardiff studios and Cardiff Bay is home to the Canoflan Mileniwn Cymru (Wales Millenium Centre) and loads of other fun adventures. You can see more on VisitCardiff.com.
Language: The official language of Wales is Welsh and British English, so signs and information are bilingual. Non-Welsh speakers won’t have a language barrier to overcome. The official language of the Doctor Who Experience is Geek with a tinge of American English! In our two weeks in the UK I had not been near so many Americans as I was waiting for the tour to start. And their crazy Doctor Who passion and excitement were intoxicating. SQUE!
The Doctor Who Experience, Family Style: We traveled with a 1 year old and a 13 year old, plus a few Whovian adults and a few who were just along for the adventure. Mainly built around the 11th Doctor (so go familiarize yourself with the Matt Smith incarnation at the very least if you are planning on visiting), the experience really is family friendly. My one year old was mesmerized with the special effects and only started to fuss near the 3-D film portion near the end, mainly because the images didn’t make sense to him and mom and dad kept trying to stick nerdy glasses on him. The tour portion empties out into a museum area filled with geek-overload memorabilia that he found exciting like the his size angels and mirrors in the choreography area:
We made the most of it by passing baby around while the rest of us took turns looking at the costumes, set designs, and make up displays (probably my favorite part). And of course the obligatory “Exit through the Gift Shop.”
Concessions: They have a cafe on the premises that, like most of the places in the UK, are more sensitive to special needs diets than in America. Vegetarian options were available along with salads. They make most items when you order (as opposed to premade or boxed) so you can ask for certain gluten or other allergen ingredients to be skipped. No food or drinks are allowed in the Experience and museum itself, but it really isn’t big enough to warrant it.
Separation: If you get separated, the place is separated into “zones” (ex. the Doctor Who prop area is separated from the Doctor Who costume area by stairs) which are small enough to see your group from virtually every angle. Instill a Do Not Leave This area Without the Rest of Us” rule and you should be okay. Be sure to teach the normal safety routines prior to any trip and point out what the employees look like.
Unique Experience Concerns: The Experience offers free Carer Tickets for those assisting others with their visit. There are a few sets of stairs and some uneven surfaces during the Experience, but they have elevators/lifts and ways to circumvent the routes for those with mobility concerns plus they offer the opportunity during down times to go through the Experience again.
Autism Spectrum Concerns: They use lighting, video and audio which may be of a concern to those with some health and Autism Spectrum concerns, but the overall length wasn’t very long (10-15 minutes) so it depends on your family’s triggers and stamina.
O has a lot to learn about NOT TOUCHING the weeping angels, but since his concepts of time and mortality are a bit on the rough side as of yet we’ll let this slide.