1100x620 Dragons at W5

Off the back of a busy few months, Northern Ireland’s award-winning science and discovery centre, W5, is celebrating the success of its DRAGONS experience, which saw visitor numbers soar and enticed over 126,000 explorers through its doors between July and October.

First opening over two decades ago, W5 is known for awakening the senses and deepening learning through immersive, hands-on play. Offering over 250 interactive exhibits, W5 is a charity that helps to answer a world of questions, inspiring curious minds and firing the spirit of discovery. From wee ones to big kids and the young at heart, W5’s four floors explore everything from nature and climate change to optical illusions, film, and television production to how the human body works, offering thought-provoking fun for the whole family. Alongside its range of permanent exhibits, W5 also offers an extensive programme of seasonal exhibitions and events, none more captivating and colossal than DRAGONS.

Dragons at W5

From July to October 2023, a record-breaking 126,912 visitors stepped into a new world of DRAGONS, embarking on a journey to a land like no other, brought to life through a breathtaking fusion of larger-than-life animatronics, powerful puppetry, captivating projections, and immersive soundscape technology. The four-month residency of the mammoth DRAGONS stamped W5’s most successful summer period on record and included over 50,000 visitors during the month of August alone.

From a huge Shadow Dragon to a young Land Dragon, guests came face-to-face with eight moving, roaring, smoke-breathing fabled beasts, the largest of which stood at 4m tall, in a unique experience like no other. Often, W5’s expert dragon handlers took Dracignis – a Fire Dragon – on walks around W5’s fully immersive AMAZE space, allowing visitors to get closer than ever before to these mythical creatures, igniting imaginations and making memories that soared as high as the mighty dragons themselves.

Dragons at W5

But how did these creatures get here? Located outside AMAZE, a captivating series of storyboards recalled the tale of a small team of adventurers who, over 80 years ago, found themselves at the centre of a terrifying electrical storm at sea. As the storm subsided, a series of islands appeared before them, housing an enchanted world, a world of DRAGONS. Based on the expedition's findings, the experience created in AMAZE was as close a representation to the one that the team of explorers discovered – an exhibition showing the true wonder of DRAGONS.

Victoria Denoon, head of W5 experience, said: “The success of DRAGONS is down to the whole team’s hard work and dedication to making the experience special and memorable. In everything we do, we strive to provide guests with the best experience every time, and from the minute DRAGONS was announced to the moment they flew away to their new home, they captured the hearts and imaginations of everyone who encountered them.”

DRAGONS was also a focus of the shows and programs delivered by W5’s learning and engagement team. From crafting paper DRAGON airplanes that soared through the air to constructing a DRAGON boat and testing it in the waters at W5’s Science Bar, visitors were encouraged to put their STEM skills to the test whilst learning about these fabled beasts through educational drop-in sessions and daily interactive shows.

Summer of Dragons at W5

The ever-popular W5 Late returned in July and September with themes centred around these mythical beasts. Both adult-only nights celebrated sold-out success and showcased that at W5, age is merely a number as over 2,000 enthusiastic individuals and youthful spirits eagerly embraced the opportunity to be whisked away to fantastical realms. Not only did these adults come face-to-face with beasts, but they also immersed themselves in the ‘Summer of DRAGONS’ programming at W5, taking part in the hands-on drop-in sessions at the Science Stage and delving into the folklore behind these creatures during a showing of The Last Dragon in Ireland at W5’s Theatre Space.

Adrian Lutton, group head of creative at The Odyssey Trust, commented: “Without a doubt, DRAGONS was one of our most rewarding projects, especially given that the immersive experience was brought to life by our in-house team of creatives. Welcoming a record number of guests throughout the summer and beyond was fantastic, and I take immense pride in the collective efforts of the entire W5 team. Now, it’s onto the next adventure and we are excited to unveil our Christmas experience at the end of the month, and planning for 2024 and beyond.”

Dragons at W5

Although the dragons have gone in search of pastures new, the fun doesn’t stop at W5. A whole host of Christmas-themed programming is around the corner, with the recently announced ‘Ghosts of Winterly Manor’ and ‘Santa and the Great Christmas Upgrade’ taking centre stage. Available from selected dates from Saturday 25 November until the end of the year, Christmas at W5 promises festive fun for the whole family.

Find out more about what's coming up at W5 here.

Take a look at DRAGONS in action at W5