For Dave’s birthday in November we decided to go somewhere a bit different with the children for a morning out of the house. We decided to visit Milestones Living History Museum in Basingstoke, part of the Hampshire Cultural Trust, just a twenty minute drive for us. Milestones is an old fashioned indoor village complete with cobbled streets, authentic buildings, shops and vintage vehicles.
On our way there, on the Basingstoke ring road, we found familiar brown signs with directions to follow. Although you can see the cavernous hanger from the road, actually finding the vehicle entrance involved a trip all the way round a roundabout because we missed the entrance! Once we found the site there was plenty of free parking.
As our visit was on Remembrance Sunday, the museum didn’t open until after 11 am to allow staff to observe the national 2 minutes silence. We arrived and were greeted by friendly staff at the entrance, which is also where the well stocked gift shop is. We bought a family ticket that is great value for money as it allows unlimited entrance for the following 12 months.
We also bought a ration book for each of the children so that they could find the sweet shop in the town and get a stamp along with a measure of retro sweets.
What can you see at Milestones Living History Museum?
As soon as we passed the till we were blown away by the scale of the sprawling town below. We could see an old bus, saw mill, trams on a tram line, vintage cars and even working models of steam engines. We walked down the stairs and found an unmanned help desk with a stack of free audio guides. The children were keen to give them a go, so we picked two up. They were simple enough to use with a colour screen showing extra content about each exhibit.
As we walked around the museum, the children immersed themselves in the exhibits and audio guides. Using the map, they guided us around the museum and passed on interesting facts that they had heard on the guide. We mostly followed them in number order, with a sign by each new place.
The children loved the Victorian school room and as adults, we appreciated the old wooden desks that we vaguely remembered from primary school!
One of the best parts of the museum was the penny arcade. Each machine takes old style pennies and you can buy some at the entrance for £3 or there is even a machine in the arcade that you can use your debit or credit card to get three £1 coins at a time. These can be changed into ten big pennies for each pound coin.
All the machines in the arcade take one penny with the odd machine taking two. There is a mixture of fun, musical interactive shows featuring childhood favourites and skill games. Prizes on offer are vast amounts of sweets or the warm fuzzy feeling from beating the game. The one armed bandit fruit machines were quite good at paying out extra pennies to use elsewhere in the museum.
After spending quite a long time at the arcade we continued with our tour. We found a vintage photography shop complete with the evolution of cameras through the ages, a toy shop with some scary looking puppets and dolls, an old air raid shelter from WW2 and even a kitchen of the future complete with a serving robot!
There’s an area halfway round for a relax which even has a small play area for children. After a little break we found the old fashioned 1940s sweet shop with so many retro brands and items in the window that we just had to go inside.
Two ladies were behind the counter in full Victorian costume who were more than happy to show us what the children could get for their rations. They stamped each of their ration books and after selecting what they wanted a very generous portion was measured out on an old fashioned weighing scale. This delighted the children and they couldn’t wait to try something different.
As we meandered through the streets, we came across the town pub. And yes, it was real and serves real ale and real food! It looked like something out of a period drama with staff in authentic costumes and a real homely feel to the place.
We made our way back upstairs through the gift shop to the excellent Milestones museum cafe. We found the prices reasonable and the portions were huge. The children were more than happy with half a jacket potato each whilst Dave and I had pie and chips and fish and chips. All the meals were really tasty and had a home cooked feel about them. The service was at a good pace and we had a browse around the shop afterwards, looking at the old fashioned items on offer from tea towels, books, crockery and toys before picking up the obligatory fridge magnet from our day out.
We had a great time at the Milestones Museum and it made such a different experience to going to one of the normal attractions near to us, and with free returns for a year, it is well worth the money. Plus. the whole museum is in a giant hanger making it a fantastic day out for a rainy day too.
You can find out more about Milestones over on their website. They also have so many special events through the year – with Space Explorers running until April. The museum is located in Basingstoke Leisure Park Churchill Way West, Basingstoke RG22 6PG.