- Vivian Teo
(UPDATED) Taking your kid to Singapore Discovery Centre? Here are 10 things to know!
The Singapore Discovery Centre's immersive and visually stunning exhibitions, and kid-friendly activities make for a fun day of discovery.
UPDATED: 3 June 2022
Updated on XD Theatre shows below.
Original post: 19 March 2022
I've been seeing interesting pictures of the Singapore Discovery Centre (SDC) on social media for a while now, but to be honest, I never knew exactly what it is about as I never got to finding out more about the exhibitions. Well, I finally got the chance to do so this March school holiday which also coincided with the SDC commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Fall of Singapore with Total Defence 2022.
Other than the educational and visually stunning permanent exhibitions, there are also other activities - many free and kid-friendly - happening this March. Though we are already near the end of March, the exhibitions and attractions will still be there. Even with fewer fringe activities thereafter, I still think it's worth visiting, especially since the permanent exhibits galleries are free for Singaporeans and PRs!
This trip, we visited the permanent exhibit gallery, XD Theatre, Pedal Boats and Totes et all Defence Showcase. Here's our review of the SDC attractions we visited and 10 things to know if you plan to take your kids there:
1) What is at the Singapore Discovery Centre?
The SDC has a number of attractions, the main ones being its permanent exhibits gallery - Through the Lens of Time and Sandbox - that takes you on an immersive journey from the early days to present days to an imagined future of Singapore. There is free admission for all till 27 March 2022. Thereafter it remains free for Singaporeans and PRs while rates of $10/adult and $8/child apply for non-Singaporeans and non-PRs for each exhibition.
The XD Theatre Ride is a 4D simulation ride (charges apply). When we were there, Sky Hunt and Pinocchio were playing, and during the weekends till 27 March, there are also Total Defence features which are free.
The iWERKS Theatre is a movie theatre with a five-storey high screen playing a few selection of latest movies (charges apply).
The Black Lake Facility is a multi-sensorial escape room adventure across 13 rooms and 4 story chapters (charges apply).
The Pedal Boats let you rent a pedal boat for leisurely scenic ride around Discovery Lake (charges apply).
The Crossfire Paintfall is a multi-tiered paintball arena for those 14 years old and above (charges apply).
The Totes, et al. Defence Showcase is a tote-bag installation showcasing the connections between Total Defence and the tote making process. Till 27 March 2022, you can design tote bags for free at the showcase if you leave an online review of the SDC on the spot.
The Black Lake Laser Battlefield is a laser tag game but this activity was unavailable at the time of writing.
2) What do you see at the SDC's Through the Lens of Time at the permanent exhibits gallery?
Through the Lens of Time takes you on immersive journey from the early days to the present days of Singapore. The exhibition starts off with The Beginnings, an impressive installation which tells the history of early Singapore during the pre-colonial era before 1819 and Singapore's transformation into a thriving British colonial port.
From here we move on to The Turning Point, a very atmospheric and visually stunning installation that takes you through the Japanese Occupation of Singapore during World War II.
Here, you are transported to Singapore during the Japanese Occupation in 1942-1945 with a realistic setting that comes with old signages and alleys and streets in ruins.
Along the alleys are historic facts and information on the Japanese Occupation which recounts what life was like and the hardships of war during this tumultuous period in Singapore.
You can also watch a short film in a bunker-like setting about how a young girl who lived through the Japanese Occupation is separated from then finally reunited with her father.
The exhibition also tells of the tenacity and resilience of our resistance forces during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore.
When WWII ended, Singapore still had to tackle conflicting ideologies and acts of sabotage and this is explored in Against All Odds, which also looked at significant events in the history of Singapore like The MacDonalds House bombing.
In Building Our Foundations, you'll encounter the milestones in Singapore's developmental years including one of the worst civil disasters in our history - the 1983 Cable Car Tragedy.
There is also a really cool feature at Our Milestones where with a green screen, camera and mic, you can pretend to be a reporter reporting on key moments in Singapore's development over the years.
3) What's at the Singapore Discovery Centre's Sandbox exhibition?
The Sandbox exhibition looks into multi-faceted, present-day Singapore and invites you to imagine our future together. At Strength of Our Nation, you'll see how Singapore has built its defence and security systems to guard against complex and fast-evolving threats.
At Our People, Our Home, the gallery delves into shared values and common spaces that bind, define and inspire us as Singaporeans and as a nation.
There are a few interactive games here but we didn't play them much as the stations were either in use when we were there (didn't want to wait!) or we weren't really good at working it!
But the girls did spend quite a bit of time on these slide puzzles!
Personally, I enjoyed the Through the Lens of Time exhibition more for the immersive experience and impressive settings. The girls preferred Sandbox as it was less "scary" (more on that later!). But since both exhibitions are free for Singaporeans and PRs, might as well go for both while you're there!
4) Are the permanent exhibits gallery suitable for young children?
I feel that Through the Lens of Time exhibition is not entirely suitable for young children. At The Turning Point, there are images of and descriptions of torture and cruelties inflicted on people by Japanese soldiers during the Japanese Occupation. In fact, there is a particular lane on this and it comes with warning on the steps leading into the alley.
In the rest of the exhibition, there are also mentions of massacres and rape which young children might find scary. My 9-year-old was, in fact, rather spooked and she came to me teary-eyed when she read that children and babies were bayoneted during the Japanese Occupation.
My 11-year-old was less spooked but she did feel the info she read about was a bit scary. I think in primary school, the World War II and Japanese Occupation are touched on in Social Studies, but probably not in this much detail. Teenagers might be able to digest these better as they probably learn about the WWII and Japanese Occupation in more detail in secondary school during history lessons.
My 9-year-old also said she found the short film a little scary as there were scenes of men (actors of course!) shot by Japanese soldiers and them bleeding. As parents, we know our children's fear thresholds and some parents do expose their children to more mature TV shows and movies, so I think as parents we would know if our children would be comfortable with watching shows with such scenes.
Through the Lens of Times is an educational exhibition that acquaints us with our history but I feel that younger children's mentality may not be mature enough to handle some of the details and images related to the Japanese Occupation. So if you bring your kids here, you might want to be prepared to answer their questions like what is rape and comfort women, and also address any fears they might have about the Japanese Occupation and wars, which is what I did with my kids thereafter.
For the younger kids who might not be so proficient with reading yet, you could simply usher them along rather than reading the facts on the walls as the immersive setting of The Turning Point is still worth visiting and outside The Turning Point, there are many more interesting installations and exhibits.
5) Is it worth going to the XD Theatre?
We were actually having second thoughts about going to the XD Theatre as we found tickets rather costly at $10 per adult and $8 for children for a 5-minute experience. But we did in the end as it was after all the school holidays and we didn't go any place fancy during this time, plus we scored a 15% discount with our Passion Card (there is discount for Safra members too)!
Overall, it was an interesting experience somewhat similar to the 4D Transformer Ride at Universal Studios Singapore but we wished it could be longer! We had watched Sky Hunt, which is about a jewel thief's heist with first-person scenes of jumping off skyscrapers and police firing at the thief. My children said they enjoyed the ride (though they found the gun shots loud and annoying!) and it wasn't scary.
We caught Pinocchio and Dino Safari 2 when we went to the Singapore Discovery Centre's 2D1N Camp in June. We found Pinocchio more suitable for younger children as it's fun, colourful and has less scary scenes. Dino Safari 2 is ride through a dinosaur safari. I found this very exciting as there are scenes of dinosaur chases and dinos trying to chomp on our vehicle. My two kids found this exciting too but I think younger children might find the dinos a little scary!
Do note that there is a height restriction of 1.2m for the XD Theatre.
Currently, there are free XD Theatre rides during the weekends till 27 March 2022 but only for Total Defence Special shows, not the ones we mentioned above. I'd assume queues would be long for these as I wouldn't mind going for the free shows just to experience the XD Theatre as tickets are pretty expensive.
6) Are the Pedal Boats fun?
We went for the pedal boats too and we rented a four-person boat for $10 per boat. There are also two-person boats at $5 per boat. Rental is for 15 minutes. It was quite fun to pedal around the lake and we even saw some otters in the distance!
The Pedal Boats are only available during the weekends: Saturdays at 11am-6pm and
Sundays at 1-6pm. It was open at 430pm when we were there on a Friday during the March school holiday. Do note that there is a height restriction of 1.2m for Pedal Boats.
7) Was it crowded?
We were there on Friday during the March school holiday and it wasn't crowded when we arrived early afternoon. There wasn't any queue at the XD Theatre either. But gradually, more came in the late afternoon and we saw a long queue for the XD Theatre.
8) How much time to budget for?
We took about 2 hours to finish touring the two exhibitions at the permanent exhibit gallery - this including time spent on playing the games and watching the short film. But my elder girl said she would have liked more time to read everything in Through the Lens of Time exhibition! If so, we'd probably need another hour or so!
9) Is parking available?
Yes, there is open air parking right outside the SDC.
10) Where is it located and what are the opening hours?
The permanent exhibits gallery is open 12-7pm on weekdays, and 11am-8pm on weekends and public and school holidays. It is located at 510 Upper Jurong Rd, Singapore 638365. See SDC's website for directions to the SDC.
What other fun places did you go to this March school holidays?😁
Disclaimer: We paid for our tickets, and my opinions and reviews here are strictly my and my family’s own.
©Vivian Teo. All content and photos are copyrighted to Vivian Teo unless otherwise specified.