It had been an emotional week, granted, but two things moved me to tears in The Beatles Story. The first was a Japanese visitor singing ‘Imagine’ to himself, out loud, unself-consciously, beside John Lennon’s famous white grand piano. The second was two toddlers, in the venue’s 4D cinema, belting out tunes from the soundtrack – they knew all the words to every Beatles song played. Both seemed to encapsulate the hold that the Fab Four’s songs continue to exert around the world and across the decades, and the power of music as a whole to bring people together.
There’s so much stuff to do in the fascinating UNESCO-listed maritime city of Liverpool – and a lot of it for free – that it hadn’t occurred to me to take the kids to this two-venue attraction split between the Albert Dock and nearby Pier Head. But with one son and a husband both learning guitar, and The Beatles playing daily in our house, it seemed like time to check it out.
A children’s trail brings the rooms to life for kids, although mine also insisted on listening to the adult audioguide – it’s a boy-gadget thing. We whizzed through the main exhibition itself fairly rapidly, although there was stuff to divert – a walk-in model of the yellow submarine with levers to pull, distorting fairground mirrors, and some exciting stunt-based clips from a James Bond movie featuring music by Paul McCartney. But their real reward came in the form of a great Discovery Zone where you can try on mop-top wigs, jump around on a giant floor piano, and create a newspaper.
Steering the kids to the Pier Head Site a 10-minute walk away, my husband and I were less impressed by the Fab4D Experience there – its subject matter seemed only very loosely Beatles related. But as usual with such things, the boys loved the special effects, which included moving cinema seats and a shower of bubbles on their heads as the yellow submarine plunged beneath the Mersey.
Our other first on this visit to Liverpool was Sapporo Teppanyaki, a Japanese restaurant offering great-fun, great-value Family Fun Days when its chefs strut their spectacular stuff, whirling knives, creating flaming walls of fire and being all-round heroes as they cook your lunch in front of your eyes. Our boys nibbled on their chicken noodles and my tempura, but the main attractions were undoubtedly the pyrotechnics, the balloon-modelling and the face painting, all free. As a Sunday lunch option with a difference, it went down brilliantly, with my middle son asking if he could bring friends there for his next birthday.
Liverpool is full of great places to stay with kids. If your taste runs towards the boutique, we can recommend the Hope Street Hotel for its quiet location up by the city’s two cathedrals. More of a restaurant-with-rooms, in fact, it’s best known for its buzzy but child-friendly London Carriage Works restaurant. We felt a little squished in our studio room, with its double bed, sofabed and cot for our youngest, although two of the ground-floor rooms do interconnect. And there are toys, colouring books and DVDs by request for when you’ve worn yourselves out exploring this most exciting of British cities.