“Stories are the most important thing in the world. Without stories, we wouldn’t be human beings at all”
The Story Museum in Oxford is an unusual museum located in the heart of Oxford which celebrates the power of stories to teach and delight. The museum has two main parts. “Small Worlds” is designed for 0-5 year olds and “the Galleries” for ages 5+. One ticket will not give you access to both; it is one or the other, or you can buy both tickets.
I have now updated my review after our recent visit to include both parts. We first visited when Ay was 3 year old and only did the Small world only. He absolutely loved it (as you can tell from the videos). We visited a few days ago when Ay has just turned six. Again he loved it. I am sure we will be going back again. If you have toddlers/preschoolers, go for the small worlds. If you have mixed age groups, go for the galleries.
We visited the Small World at The Story Museum when Ay was three years old. It is a 75 mins timed session, so make sure you arrive on time or you will miss part of the fun. There is a huge bed in the centre that everyone can sit on and read stories, but as we visited during Covid, so we were not allowed to do that. Instead, our session was conducted on the floor. I believe the sessions are now conducted on the big bed now.
Our host read out story and songs and actively encouraged participation from the kids (and parents). After about 15-20 minutes, you then get to spend time on your own. There are five zones which are all themed around well-loved picture book scenes e.g. we are going on a bear hunt, Traction Man’s under-sink world, the Night Safe, the Story Bus and Winnie and Wilbur’s miniature castle and more. You are given 10minutes to spend at each scene, after which the co-ordinators sing a song reminding everyone to sanitise their hands and move on. You have your own play cart (with various props and ideas to use to act out stories and fancy dress outfits) to carry around and enact the story. e.g. ‘Going on a Bear Hunt’ gives you a bear mask, binoculars and various sensory bottles as you move past the swish swash grass and reach the deep dark cave. There was a hand sanitiser in each cart, which was excellent, as everyone was touching everything is the various hands-on activities. At the end, everyone sat together again and enjoy stories and songs before saying good bye.
The rest of. The Story Museum is set in the Galleries, which is home to the Whispering Wood, Enchanted Library, Magic Common Room and temporary exhibition. Entry to the Galleries is an all day ticket and you can arrive at any time during the opening hours. All other tickets (Small Worlds, City of Stories, Events in the Woodshed) are for a specified start time, so please arrive in good time as we cannot guarantee admission for late arrivals.
You get to choose your passport at the reception in the portal (up the spiral staircase). You select a character and are given a lanyard with the characters details and some tasks to do. There is also a wheel to spin to find your story challenge. You then start your tour by entering The Whispering Woods. A giant tree with green eyes welcomes you to the Woods. There is a button on each tree, which activates the tree, to whisper a short story to you through the headphones. There are small activities related to the stories too e.g. solve short puzzles, or try to pull the sword from the stone to see if you are the chosen one (or not !). You exit the area after tying a ribbon on the wishing tree 🙂 We were in the whispering woods for about 20-25 minutes.
Just a word of caution.. if you have small children, they may not have the patience to listen to the entire story (even if the stories are cute and short like Cap Seller and the Monkeys). We visited on a weekday when it was not busy, and we could sit on a nearby stool as we listened to the tales, but there were not many of them, which may be a problem on crowded days. However, I may be wrong as its possible the numbers of people entering are controlled for the number of stools.
You then move on to the Enchanted library or you can go to the exhibition. The Enchanted Library at The Story Museum is like stepping inside a story. Wander through the rooms to enjoy interactive audiovisual displays of some of your favourite books. Among many other things, you get to climb the bridge in 100 acre wood and play virtual pooh stick or stroll past the wardrobe into The Chronicles of Narnia. You also get to watch the Snowman projected onto the walls around you or play noughts and crosses (which Ay defeated me in many times). In between the rooms, there are bookshelves with some of your favourite figurines and memorabilia of characters from TV and movies (like Bing, Peppa, Gruffalo etc)
Finally, have a go at ‘Choose your own adventure’, where you can literally build your own story and create your own ending. You can blast off into hyperspace, search for the Abominable Snowman, take a terrifying trip on the Titanic or look for the lost jewels of Nabooti– “You alone are in charge of what happens in your story.”
The temporary areas include the City of Stories film experience (which needs a separate ticket and was closed on the day we visited), and the exhibitions in the Treasure Chamber (included in the Galleries ticket).
Brilli-ANT is the brand new immersive and interactive exhibition just launched in the Treasure Chamber at The Story Museum. Get ready to don your ant antennae (which has sensors for your interactive play) and explore the tiny world. As you move through the cardboard sculpted gallery, you get to meet various characters, from dung beetle, to cricket, to butterfly, who all talk to you (when you touch your antenna on the pink flower) to describe what’s going on in their world due to climate change and pollution etc. The voices include some well knowns (like Nick Cope). The exhibition is a great way to engage children on this very sensitive topic and how they can make a difference in a thought-provoking way which does not come across as too preachy e.g. The Dung beetle explains recycling. the bumble bee tell the importance of helping others as he travels with phonetic mite (can you spot the mite sitting on the bumble bee). The glow worm likes living in the dark, so encourages children to switch off lights when not in use, to reduce pollution by not using lots of electricity. You get the gist!
We spent about 90-100 minutes in the Galleries itself.
The Story museum is dedicated to representing stories in all forms and making reading an accessible, enjoyable experience for children of all ages and abilities. It does this in a fun and captivating way. From storytelling to hands-on experiences and immersive installations, it truly has something for everyone (and not just the kids). This should be on your list of things to do in Oxford.. HIGHLY recommended!!
Also keep an eye on their website for what’s on during school holidays (and otherwise) as there are regular talks, workshops and events taking place.
🗺 Address: 42 Pembroke Street Rochester House, Oxford OX1 1BP
📅 Different activities continue throughout the season. Full details of the events programme can be found in the What’s on Section of the website which is searchable by date or you can browse the Season Guide
🎟 Entry fee applies- 6£pp for small worlds and 12£pp for galleries (please see WEBSITE for more uptodate prices)
They also offer “Pay What You Can Sundays” which allows visitors to enjoy the museum for as little as £1 per ticket on some Sundays. You can find more information here.
🚘 No dedicated parking but you can park in central oxford or Westfield, which is always a nightmare. We took the bus, which added to the adventure, and If you are able to, that is what I would recommend (to save the cost of expensive oxford parking and hassle of having to constantly look at the watch to avoid overstaying).You can use park and ride (Find the one closest to you HERE) but If you do want to drive in, the best and cheapest option (in my opinion) is to park in the West gate car park, which is an easy walk to the town centre, instead of at and around St. Giles street. Visit the Westgate Oxford website for uptodate prices.
There is bicycle parking available onsite
🚻 Toilets on site
🍕 Refreshments available
🧺 There is limited space outside in our courtyard for families to picnic.
🦽Buggy accessible. Read all accessibility information HERE
🐕 The Story Museum welcomes Guide dogs and registered assistance dogs
You can spend some time walking around the university parks or walk to the Oxford colleges. You can also attempt one or the other of the Oxford city treasure trails (for 6.99£ including delivery but you can use my affiliate link for 10% off HERE) or go one of the many nearby Museums:
Museum of Oxford is a small one but has interactive features for kids, so can be a good time filler and is very close. If your little one loves dinosaurs or fossils, then Oxford university museum of Natural History is a must, with its full length Dino skeletons, huge triceratops skull, other animal skeletons such as giraffe and elephants, giant ammonite, an actual meteorite etc etc. Children love it. Oxford History of Science museum is also close by, though I don’t think it is suitable for small children. of Oxford. Ashmolean Museum , which is considered to be the world’s first university museum, is quite near but HUGE.If you think something needs updating on this post, please contact us HERE