Days Out Reviews and Recommendations
Our Mums' Network have been busy reviewing days out across the UK for all the family. The following are genuine reviews from real parents and their children and we hope that you are inspired to get out and about! A huge thank you to all our Mums' Network members for sending in their reviews.
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Here at What's On 4 HQ we have enjoyed some great family days out recently... Read on!
It was a somewhat cold and foggy February morning when we excitedly set off across Oxfordshire to visit the Fairytale Farm. The forecast said the weather would be mild that day but there was little evidence of it as we drove into the car park. But no matter, our 2yr old daughter, Bailey, was rearing to go and explore the now infamous Fairytale Farm. So, wellies and coats on and armed with warming coffee for my husband and I, we were ready to begin our adventure…
We started at Fairytale Street, where you can take a peek into the houses of classic stories such as Little Red Riding Hood and Goldie Locks and the Three Bears. Bailey was a little concerned at the sight of a big wolf with glowing red eyes but soon got distracted by the model bears eating their breakfast porridge. Then in true toddler fashion, she sped off in the direction of the Enchanted Garden, which is an interactive, sensory journey with lights, water, music, buttons and multiple colourful characters. In particular I noticed that a Niagara Falls water play feature proved popular with the young kids, who were happily braving the cold water temperatures.
Next we headed off towards the animal farm, Alfie and Friends. We were supplied with rabbit and alpaca food which we’d brought at the cafe shop but I noticed they’d thoughtfully placed a food dispenser on the animal farm site too...just in case you run out! We started with the wonderfully fluffy rabbits - always a big hit with little ones - then introduced ourselves to each of the very friendly alpacas. We spent quite a bit of time going round and interacting with all the different animals which included ponies, curly coated pigs, goats, donkeys and sheep. I think the poultry and birds were kept inside due to recent guidance.
After this we headed to the play area called Huff and Puff, where Bailey got to work on the large combine harvester, followed by heavy testing on the slides. It was a busy morning.
In order to warm up a bit we headed to the indoor cafe section which has a good sized play area for the kids. Once rested and warmed, we headed across to the new Mouse Town section to see if we could spot any...yep, mice! Sadly they were a little shy that day (to be honest in that weather, I really can’t blame them for wanting to stay indoors), so we marvelled at their fairytale model village and headed off for another round on the Huff and Puff activities.
Once suitably tired out (parents, not the toddler), it was time to head homewards. Had we had fun? Definitely. In particular I thought this was a great spot for toddlers who can run, explore and play easily, plus there’s the added advantage of it being buggy/wheelchair friendly too. And with entry prices at £6 for adults / £5.75 for children 3-6 and free for under 3s, it seems very good value too. I think next time we’ll try it when it’s that bit warmer and we can test the picnic area and sandpit - Bailey is a huge sand fan and in her world that will be even more magical!
While the tickets were complimentary the views are entirely my own.
Sophia's Review: Kidzania is like a city for kids - we had the BEST time here in the recent Easter holidays. You can check in for four hours which seemed to be a LONG time but it went by so quickly as there was so much to do. My little brother started as a Newspaper Journalist - he went out and about around the 'city' to find a story and then went back to the newspaper office to write it up. This was so cool!
We then worked in the Innocent Smoothie factory together (wearing the official white lab coats too) before we went off to do different things again. You get to earn money (Kidzo's) for some jobs and when you have enough you can open a bank account at the Bank of KidZania so I did this and then realised that you could also work in the back so I spent a lot of time doing this! My little brother crammed lots of activities in inclusing abseiling up the hotel, being a policeman and also changing tyres in the pit lane. The best thing is you get to do it all by yourself (no adults allowed in most of the offices, factories and shops!). It's a really cool day out and we have saved our bank cards and money for next time...!
Mum says...."From mum's point of view, it's all very secure - the whole family wear wristbands that check you in and out (and also in and out of the activities so parents can see where you are at any time)."
KidZania is a real life role play experience for 4-14 year olds, blending learning and reality with entertainment. There are over 60 unique and exciting professions to choose from including the Aviation Academy, Radio Station, Police Department, Hospital. Crucially, adults are not allowed to decide which activities their children take part in - meaning children are given autonomy to make sense of the world and make decisions for themselves. There is even a no adult zone shop when children can buy gifts from the money that they have made while working that day.
Sam's Review: As you know there are many exciting theme parks in the world, but one that definitely comes at the top of my list is Blackpool Pleasure Beach - home for the thrill seekers and also the kid-friendly Nickelodeon Land!
There are LOTS of brilliant family rides and 19 rides that have no height restrictions at all, so anyone can enjoy them, but our favourites were: The Impossible house where nothing is as expected! The Alice in Wonderland ride; hop on your grinning Cheshire Cat and take a tour through the famous imaginary land of literature! The Derby Racer; no-ordinary carousel as you're racing against 36 other horses at top speed! If you want to do proper driving, head to The Grand Prix where you control your own sports car around a scenic track. One of the Pleasure Beach's oldest ride is the Flying Machines, rockets that spin around high off the ground giving you a scenic tour!
My little brother loves dinosaurs so he really enjoyed the River Caves where you get to travel around the world by letting your boat carry you down a time-travelling river through prehistoric jungles and even under the sea! Also bringing lot of laughs was the Wallace and Gromit's Thrill-O-Matic ride; go for a ride in Wallace's comfy slippers - but watch out for the Were-Rabbit...!!
For young children Nickelodeon Land is perfect with rides based on the popular kid's shows such as the Backyardigans Pirate Treasure, The Spongebob Splash Bash (where you hit everyone with your water guns) and you can also hop on a boat as you take a language-learning tour around the world with Dora The Explorer! Then face the thrill with the exciting wooden track rollercoasters; The Blue Flyer for little ones and The Nickelodeon Streak for daredevils!
And now, time for the true thrill rides where the bravest must rise up to the challenge! First is Valhalla where you hop on board a viking longship and sail through a dark world of giants and fire! For people who want to see the world at a different angle brave the twisting Infusion and Revolution and control your own flight with the Red Arrows Skyforce! A few old favourites (my mum remembers riding on these!) are the Grand National a bumpy twin-track coaster where you see which one finishes first and The Big Dipper where you bounce up and down without you having time to gather your thoughts! Not bumpy enough? Then take a ride on the backs of two white-knuckle animal coasters; rush to get to the finish line first on a curvy horse-back track in Steeplechase and try to remain in your seat as The Wild Mouse carries you on a twisty track! And finally - if you have the nerve - take on 'The Big One'... wait in suspense in the queue...nervously climb into your car...then face incredible height of over 300 feet before hurtling straight down with super-sonic speed around the whole park! Prepare your courage and practise your screaming - we can't wait to return!
Tom's Review: Wow! What a jam-packed day we had at Blackpool Tower - there is so much to do, we had to stay up really late to cram it all in! We had never been to Blackpool before so myself and my little brother and sister were really excited - we weren't disappointed! As we travelled along the sea front there were so many brilliant things to do and when we saw the Tower and found out that we were going to go up it...well, we couldn't believe it!!
The staff at the Tower were really helpful, they explained all about our tickets and what we could do and they booked our seats for the circus later that evening. As we arrived they said the queue for the Tower wasn't too long so we headed off there first - it was really interesting to find out the history (it's been there a LONG time!) of the Tower as we queued and we had a brilliant photo taken which we could buy at the end of our visit and it made it look as if we were swinging from the top of the Tower!
There is a 4D Cinema before you actually take the lift to the top of the Tower and this was so cool! We felt as if we were flying, dodging the seagulls and getting wet on a powerboat. Such fun! The lift up to the top of the Tower is really quick and in no time we were standing on the glass floor looking all the way back down to the street - my little brother thought it was hilarious but my little sister just stood at the edge, she didn't want to look down. We booked a slot to visit Jungle Jim's soft play centre (huge!) and had a little break for lunch before coming back for a mad hour of running around in the 'Lost City' themed play area!
We still had the Blackpool Dungeon to visit so we did this next. My little brother is only 7 so it was a bit scary for him (it does say it's suited for 8 years+) but I thought it was brilliant. The actors were fantastic and I love a good spooky story so it was all great (scary) fun in my opinion! Lots of shocks and people jumping out on you...be ready!! Finally, it was time for a quick bite to eat and then we took our seats for the 7pm circus. The show was 2 hours long but it went so quickly as it was one nail-biting act after another. My sister screamed so much as she thought all the acts were going to fall off high wires and spinning hoops! The clown that came on and introduced each act (with his sidekick friend) was so funny - my little brother actually fell off his chair he was laughing THAT hard! My mum had told us that the circus used to fill up with water at the end when she used to visit as a little girl and it still does! She couldn't believe it...and neither could we. What a great day - we didn't get time to visit the Tower Ballroom, but our ticket is valid for a few months yet so we are going to go again!
For more details visit www.theblackpooltower.com.
Why not combine at stay at Jurys Inn Southampton with a visit to Paulton's Park, home to Peppa Pig World, this summer? Located in the heart of the city overlooking East Park, Jurys Inn Southampton is just a 15 minute walk from the Central Train Station. The hotel is conveniently situated for all the city’s key attractions, from the City Art Gallery and the Mayflower Theatre, to WestQuay Shopping Centre and 02 Guildhall Southampton
Just 2 years ago, New Forest Water Park launched their state of the art Rixen Cable wakeboard system which proved to be a huge hit but on 2nd May 2015 they created an even bigger splash when they launched the UK’s first outdoor aqua park, in partnership with Heart FM. Similar to the assault course used on ‘Total Wipeout’, the Wibit consists of interlocking sections providing endless on-water activities from the likes of slides, monkey bars, trampolines and even a climbing ice tower
Sam's Review (13): "We recently enjoyed a jam-packed day at Chatsworth which combined history (for me and the adults) and exciting places to explore for eager children (my little sister & brother!). Chatsworth is set in beautiful countryside, just the place for summer picnics, the drive towards the house was stunning - we were all wishing we could've lived in a fantastic house such as this!
We explored the gardens which are fantastic. There are plenty of places to run in and around, fabulous water features including an enormous lake with a towering fountain and plenty more fascinating sights around every corner such as walkways, rock gardens and lots of interesting statues. There is a lovely little cafe where we enjoyed an ice-cream in the sun...aaaaah!
Next, we walked up the hill to the farmyard. My little sister and brother were delighted with the baby animals - goats, lambs, calves - and even a baby donkey that was only 2 weeks old. But, for me, even better was the adventure playground with high walkways, trampolines and fab slides. There was also a really clever sand and water playground where you could extract water from the passing steam!
Of course, there is also the actual house, and believe me, it is truly breathtaking. From the rich entrance hall to the huge fancy bedrooms with bathtubs and stunning artwork, I found it all fascinating! There are also great collections throughout the house including ancient statues, crystals and a display of shotguns, rifles and even swords. I am a Junior Librarian at school so I was particularly fascinated with the library - it was HUGE! I could've stayed there all day...
For opening times and ticket options, visit www.chatsworth.org.
When Disney on Ice opened with a captivating routine from Aladdin, featuring 20 genies in a synchronised dance, it couldn’t have been more appropriate.
My three wishes inside the National Indoor Arena were that my little boy would enjoy himself, that he’d see his famous Disney characters like never before and that the afternoon would be treasured by the family for years to come. And boy did Disney on Ice make my wishes come true!
Celebrating 100 years of magic, Disney never looked so resplendent as 65 characters from 18 different stories left youngsters completely spellbound through a series of bite-sized tales on ice, which really had to be seen to be appreciated.
Yes, most of us have seen the films and know the endings off by heart, but when they are gracefully brought to life on such a slippery surface, you grow to love them even more. Whoever directed and choreographed this spectacle deserves a medal for capturing the essence of so many iconic stories in such a short space of time.
For each and every performer on skates during our afternoon in Birmingham, an Olympic gold medal apiece was worthy of a faultless collective performance. Forgetting the magic of Disney for just one moment, this was a sporting spectacle of the highest order and worth the admission fee alone.
Had the sound system been muted and the costumes swapped for conventional ice skating garb, my eyes wouldn’t have been any less fixated than my little boy’s were on Finding Nemo, Toy Story & co. These were professionals whose levels of raw talent and ability could not be hidden under Mickey Mouse, Goofy or any other lovable character out there on the ice. There were toe loops, flips, sequence jumps, axels and unless my eyes deceived me, a sprinkling of triple salchows.
That there was not one single slip throughout the two hour show was testament to some flawless ice skating performances. Bravo.
If you’re thinking of going to watch Disney on Ice then you must. And having a child alongside is not even a pre-requisite. To steal a moral from Beauty and the Beast (my wife’s favourite!), stunning first impressions are one thing…
…The real stars of the show were a little less obvious.
Based on the hugely successful children’s book by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort, ALIENS LOVE UNDERPANTS premieres in the West End at Leicester Square Theatre from Saturday 19 July until Sunday 31 August, following a highly acclaimed UK tour. The story of the mischievous aliens who come to earth on an important mission to steal human’s underpants has stunning effects, madcap action, original music and lots of aliens of course! This zany and hilarious tale, adapted and directed by Adam Bampton-Smith, is being brought to life on stage for the very first time. The magical puppetry skills of the cast bring the colourful cast of aliens to life. See
Sarah's Review: I LOVE the theatre - so it was great to actually take my little brother (Jude, 5) to his first West End theatre experience where we got to see the fantastic 'Aliens Love Underpants'! The show is based on one of Jude's favourite books (along with 'Pirates Love Underpants') so he was VERY excited... We found the theatre - right in the middle of London's Leicester Square - and took our seats. Mum bought Jude a fantastic 'Alien'' to wave during the show and the show began...! Jude was soon laughing SO loud and shouting out the colour of his favourite underpants when asked by the actors...SO funny! The story was brilliant and you felt as if the aliens really did come to life as the puppets were so animated. It was also great fun spotting the mischievous little aliens as they kept popping up to steal the underpants. We all loved the show - it's a great treat for the summer holidays (showing until August 31st) - and Jude wanted to go back and watch it all over again the next day!
If you fancy spending a family holiday a little closer to home this year, then why not consider a weekend break in South Yorkshire? The Holiday Inn Doncaster has a new leisure package which means you can take the family away for a break that is both exciting and educational. This great value for money package includes overnight accommodation, plus four tickets to Yorkshire Wildlife Park, all from £109 per night.
Yorkshire Wildlife Park features a whole world of animals including lions and meerkats and some of the most cutting edge habitats in Europe. It’s great fun no matter how big the kids may be! The park is located just a short drive away from the Holiday Inn Doncaster, which is just a stone’s throw away from the A1(M), in the heart of the quiet village of Warmsworth. With well appointed bedrooms and its own restaurant, serving a range of tasty meals that will suit all tastes, Holiday Inn Doncaster is a relaxing home from home. The hotel also features its own health club with an indoor heated pool, ideal for having a fun splash about at the end of the day! For more information, or to book, visit www.qmh-hotels.com or call 01302 799988.
Brian's Review: The Holiday Inn is ideally located next to the A1 (M) but you could be a world away... We checked in at the peaceful hotel and soon found our spacious family room (with 'pick & mix' pillows!). Shortly after check-in we headed to the health club for a family swim - it's only a small pool but - for the most part - we had the place to ourselves and it was a lovely relaxing way to start our weekend. I must say that the hotel staff were extremely obliging during our stay, we needed something additional in the room and it was promptly sorted out. Breakfast the next morning was also extensive and a suitable table for the five of us was prepared very quickly. We really didn't know what to choose first! We were also the last residents to leave the restaurant but we never felt hurried at all.
The drive to the Yorkshire Wildlife Park took less than 30 minutes and, as we arrived during a rainstorm, we were soon checking out the HUGE indoor slides! There is plenty to fill a whole day at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park and you can time your stroll around the park to coincide with feeding times and animal talks. Our children particularly loved the baboons and the meerkats - all very entertaining. Definately worth a return visit as now they have a new Polar Bear enclosure that need to be checked out!
The Deep, one of the most spectacular aquariums in the world is located in Hull, East Yorkshire. This award-winning visitor attraction is home to over 3,500 fish including spectacular sharks and rays – making it the perfect family day out. The dramatic building offers a unique blend of stunning marine life, interactives and audio-visual presentations which together tell the dramatic story of the world’s oceans. Journey from the birth of the oceans into the future. Travel from tropical lagoons to the icy waters of Antarctica. As you descend deeper into the oceans come face to face with sharks, rays, shimmering golden trevally and hundreds of other exotic species. Daily highlights include dive presentations and animal feedings when our fully trained divers go into the tanks, discovery corner sessions where you can get up close with some of our animals, taking a ride in our glass lift through the 10m tank and walking through Europe’s deepest viewing tunnel.
Sam's (11yrs) review: We went to a very special place...the worlds only submarium....THE DEEP! It was absolutely amazing! It was bursting to the brim with fish and facts. Budding marine archeologists and sea scientists this is for you! There is so much to see. I didn't know for example that clownfish used yucky sticky slime to live in their homes.Believe me you should book your tickets as soon as you can because it is the perfect family trip. And especially with the moon jelly fish the rays and the new bug champions exhibit. So don't delay visit THE DEEP today!
Dad's review: We had been to The Deep before but were looking forward to our return trip. With 4 kids in tow (two boys and two girl, ages: 11, 7, 6 & 4), The Deep didn’t disappoint and we had a great day with plenty to keep all 4 kids (plus one ‘big’ kid) entertained. Our highlights included: ‘finding Nemo’ (ie. Checking out the Clownfish), Green Sawfish, Sharks, the tunnel, glass lift, discovery corner and soft play area – there was plenty to do. We took our own picnic on this occasion but there is an onsite café. The Team at The Deep were very welcoming, knowledgeable and happy to help with any questions. It's good value for money, especially compared to other aquariums / zoos we have visited. Top Tip: complete a Day Plus Pass and your ticket(s) remain valid for a year so you can come back again without having to pay again.
Author of the Peter’s Railway children’s books and steam engine fanatic, Chris Vine, is encouraged families to explore the heritage of Britain’s steam railways through The Great Railway Treasure Hunt. Offering £1000 in prizes, throughout the Summer families across the UK have been challenged to visit the country’s steam railways, answering questions as they go.
Sarah's review: The 'Peters Railway' books are a set of stories by Christopher Vine and are a wonderful mix of story and information for young minds - readers can learn all about how a steam engine works for example, or how tracks are designed and built. Over the Summer, the books teamed up with a host of Steam Railways across the country to run a Treasure Hunt along their lines with a competition prize for the child who completed the most! We have visited our local railway before and really enjoyed it, so jumped at the chance to go on a Treasure Hunt too!
Before our visit to the Severn Valley Railway we downloaded the Treasure Hunt quiz sheet from www.petersrailway.com - there were certainly plenty of questions to keep us busy on the day! We arrived at Bridgnorth Station and boarded our train, the line travels 16 miles through beautiful countryside to Kidderminster. The children really enjoyed travelling on the train and having the questions to answer made it even more exciting as they were detectives for the day and were determined to find all the clues! The questions were well designed and included a mix of observation and facts which required them to ask Railway staff for the answers! We particularly enjoyed getting off at Highley and exploring the Engine House (and a Cream Tea for the grown ups went down very well!). A great way to spend a lovely, fun day together and to see the Railway with new eyes - we learned all sorts of things we had never known before!
What makes a winner?! Suzanne and Family from What’s On 4 found out during their visit to ‘Fishers Farm Park’ – winners of the What’s On 4 Junior award ‘Best Family Day Out’ in 2013!
The Farm Park is well signposted and easily found, surrounded by acres of Sussex countryside and very accessible from surrounding counties Surrey and Hampshire. We received a very warm welcome at the ticket desk and lots of information on all there was to do plus the special timetabled extra activities. It was then I realised we should have arrived earlier!
Fisher’s Farm Park is just full to bursting with attractions, activities, features and fun. We visited with Ruby (aged 4) and George (aged 8) and they were non-stop all day – horse riding, climbing walls, small animal petting, zip wires (with a handy toddler version!), water-play, paddle boats, trampolines, tractor rides, squirrel scrambles, galleons, mini fairground rides, play areas, massive jumping pillows, mini golf – the list goes on and on. The excitement of the sheep racing will stay with me for some time! Inside was a fab, spacious soft play area with comfy chairs alongside and a great little café for grown-ups needing a sit down! Read the full review on the What's On 4 Junior Blog! You can see more at their website here: www.fishersfarmpark.co.uk
Having spent the last 7 years enjoying Sid on CBeebies we were so looking forward to seeing him in the flesh at his very own show and he didn’t disappoint! We went to see the show at The Old Market Brighton during the October Half Term. The show is described as a ‘heroic quest’ to find out where Sid’s favourite socks and shoes have gone and involves a trip to the ocean depths as well as meeting aliens in outer space. It is in effect a one-man show but thanks to Sid’s larger than life onstage presence, skilled acting and engaging personality you soon become immersed in the story, enjoying a mixture of songs, magic, poems and puppetry.
There’s audience participation from the off, some great props and a funky stage set not to mention Sid’s faithful doggy companion who entranced my daughter nearly as much as Sid did! And there’s of course a good dollop of Cbeebies mentions too! The show offers excellent value as is longer than other ‘kid’s’ shows I have attended but Sid kept even the littlest theatre goer focussed and grown-ups amused with some great improv and one-liners. The interval was not just the obligatory toilet break but became an exciting forage for the kids, hunting for wool from Sid’s socks with one lucky, high amused mummy tasked to hand over to Sid in the 2nd half.
An especially enjoyable element to the show was that the children quickly made their way to the front of the auditorium and Sid engaged with them all so beautifully. Even some of the more shy children couldn’t resist. That probably won’t be possible in every theatre but it certainly added to the experience and doubtless relieved some parents, delighted that they didn’t have to keep their little ones sitting still and silent for the duration.
A very relaxed, fun and enormously enjoyable experience. It’s a great family outing and certainly if you have never taken your little one to a show before, this would be a great introduction with the informal atmosphere and fun format. Well recommended by all of us and everyone seemed to be leaving with a smile on their face! Perfect for families with children aged 3+. For more see www.sidsloane.org
The iconic Brighton Pier cannot be missed as you drive along the sea front with its attractions, lights, sounds and smells. I had been going since I was a child and looking forward to taking my children back. Parking on the sea front is now incredibly expensive so if you can park in town and walk down or use public transport. Buses run along the King’s road all the time.
The Pier offers a lovely experience at no cost if you are a stronger parent than I (!) You can walk right to the end, use the deck chairs for free and enjoy a picnic overlooking the beautiful sea, the city, Brighton Marina and new attraction, The Brighton Wheel! With the cry of the seagulls and the smell of chips, donuts and candy floss along with the ‘holiday’ atmosphere it was really enjoyable. Some of the rides were closed due to the time of year unfortunately but we still enjoyed the Helter Skelter and Carousel which both offer good value for money and were great fun although I think I was more scared than the kids on the Helter Skelter!
The arcades offer a noisy, bright and very stimulating experience where we lost of 2ps and 10ps in the machines but it was all good fun. A really lovely way to while away a gloomy October weekend. For more on the Pier see here - www.brightonpier.co.uk. As reviewed by Mummy, Ruby (4) and George (7)
Situated in the gorgeous West Sussex town of Arundel the Castle imposes over quaint shops, pubs and the river and will spotted by excited children from afar! We went with a knight obsessed 4 year and a tot. It’s not cheap to enter but there’s enough to amuse all day as long as you don’t go in the rain. The grounds are lovely to explore, the castle interiors stunning and there’s a lovely gift shop and pleasant café with yummy food and sensible pricing. We picnicked outside, enjoying the views and castle back drop. Although there are no specific child focussed activities as such, there’s a suit of armour at every turn and a lot of fun to be had.
The only slight issue was the Castle isn’t very buggy friendly but we expected that – guess they didn’t have Mamas & Papas a thousand years ago! See their website for more info www.arundelcastle.org.
We cannot recommend this place enough. Totally child friendly with nature trails, boat rides and safaris, pond dipping, Pond Skaters play area, Meadow Maze walks and the amazing Tree Creepers - a unique structure, allowing children to play on two giant scale bird feeders and swing from a big "lard" ball – fantastic fun.
We went with 3 generations and it’s gentle enough for all but still captivating for kids. There’s a nice spacious café (not cheap), nice loos and a great shop. We stayed all day and the kids really learned something alongside having lots of fun! For more see here www.wwt.org.uk
Willows Farm Village & Farm Park
Willows Farm Park is a lovely day out for your little ones. We were blessed with amazing sunny weather for April and visited during the annual 'Easter Eggstravaganza', so we were treated to Easter Bunny sing-a-longs and Easter Egg Hunts, which all added to the fun!
Highlights for our gang (ages 5 to 12) were the bouncy slide and the obstacle course. My 5 year-old LOVED the JCB Young Drivers area (many return visits had to be made to this area...!) Feeding the animals and cuddling guinea pigs in the interactive sessions were also really exciting parts of a varied day out. From a mum's point of view, the park is quite compact (not too much walking for little legs), yet there are plenty of grassy areas to run around and enjoy your picnic in peace. We stayed until the absolute LAST minute - that's always a good sign that the kids have had fun...! Visit www.willowsfarmvillage.com for more information.
Charmouth Beach from the Little Chef Family Days Out Guide
Fossil hunting at Charmouth Beach in Dorset is a brilliant excursion and fun in all weathers. Very popular with kids of all ages - just take a bag and a little hammer and you'll probably come away with a handful of real fossils. The fossil shop is worth a visit - it's more like a museum - and there's always fish & chips on hand to round the day off.
Quote from Melissa Djukic of London: "Fossil hunting is fantastic and I defy anyone not to enjoy it whatever the weather. The beach at Charmouth is actually made up of millions of fossils, esp. ammonites and you'd have to be blind not to find them. Totally free apart from the fish and chips. Just make sure the tide's out a bit!". More info on Charmouth Beach here.
We've all been to Dover Castle before, in fact I could say that Beth is an expert on the War Time Tunnels, she spends most of the tour answering questions that the guide should ask her and I think that her arm nearly broke off when the guide asked us all what DUMPY stood for! But this was Dover Castle with a difference, we were taken even further back in time with a Medieval extravaganza that you could only imagine. The smells of the hog roast, the stories of the Alchemist and the kids most favourite which was the explanation of law, order and punishment (complete with severed head) all created a fab day out.
Our picnic lunch on the White Cliffs really was lovely, I'd recommend it to anyone, just don't feed the seagulls. To find out more about Dover Castle and other English Heritage properties please visit www.english-heritage.org.uk and kids should check out their Time Travellers Go... Club!
Drayton Manor Theme Park & Hotel
You will not believe how exciting last weekend was! My family and I went to the Drayton Manor Theme Park and got to stay in their hotel too! When we arrived we went straight into the park and it was all there… the rides, the games, the cafes! And Thomas Land where the Island of Sodor comes alive!
We had a fantastic day and as the rides were closing for the day, we just had a short walk to our room in the hotel – it was so luxurious! Me and my brother and sister watched a bit of TV and then went out for tea! After that we sank into our beds ready for tomorrow…
Next morning we got up and had a delicious breakfast in the hotel; sausage, bacon, egg, baked beans and apple juice… Mmmmm!! Then - another day in the theme park! - we went on Drunken Barrels, Wild West Shootout, Flying Boats, the 4D Cinema (we got wet – it was brilliant!!), the Pirate Ship, Pirate Adventure, Sea Storm and the Carousel. My three favourites were the Ben 10 Ultimate Mission roller coaster (that went backwards!!), Splash Canyon – a water ride that spun round and round and we all got wet! Last but not least, Stormforce 10, a water ride that went very fast and we got REALLY, REALLY wet!
We spent a lot of time in Thomas Land where we met Sir Topham Hatt, Farmer McColl and Lady Hatt! The best rides were Crazy Bertie Bus, Diesel Mayhem, Rockin’ Bulstrode, Cranky Drop Tower and the Troublesome Trucks rollercoaster. We can't wait to go back! Visit Drayton Manor online for full details.
The Forbidden Corner from the Little Chef Family Days Out Guide
It's amazing what you can find in the Yorkshire Dales and Forbidden Corner is the ultimate 'best kept secret'. Originally created as a private folly, Forbidden Corner is a wonderful adventure for every member of the family. You can explore the unique labyrinth of tunnels, chambers, follies and surprises above and below the ground. Follow the clues to get the most out of your day and don't forget to explore the beautiful Tupgill Park. A weird and wonderful family day out! * Please note tickets must be purchased in advance. Visit www.theforbiddencorner.co.uk for more information.
We shrewdly cashed in some Tesco Clubcard vouchers for a family day trip to Longleat. It was the perfect weather, warm and sunny but not too hot, which did help but Longleat has something for all the family. We last went when Alice was 3 so then focused on the mini-Zoo, Postman Pat Village, boat ride and safari. Now Alice is 6 we shifted our visit to take in the simulator rides, maze, mirror maze but still managed the mini-Zoo, boat ride and safari. The catering is very good when compared with other similar days out destinations with more grown up and healthy options – and proper coffee! Don’t miss the boat ride to see the hippos, seals and gorilla (you can just about make him out in the background of the photo of my little monkey!) – and the deer feeding on the safari! Visit www.longleat.co.uk
Miniature Pony Centre, Devon
A fantastic day out for younger children! Hugely impressed by the immaculate facilities and friendly staff. There is so much to do here and many well thought out touches that make the day even more special. The miniature ponies and donkeys are the stars of the show and are very tame so getting up close and personal is no problem as you can see from the photo. There is animal feeding, pony grooming, pony rides, excellent indoor and out door play for different ages, toys tractors, small animal handling, bird of prey display and in the holidays extra activities like face painting and clown/magician entertainment. There is a quiz sheet for different ages and everyone gets a prize. The setting is stunning and there is also a wildlife area. The cafe is very good with simple but good quality food and caters superbly for young children. There are also free dog kennels that we made the most of. If you're holidaying in Devon do not miss this place! Visit www.miniatureponycentre.com.
The best thing about Paighton Zoo were the elephants! At least according to Alice. The zoo has all the animals you'd expect (we also loved the parrot show and the crocodile swamp!) and is very well laid out although a bit of a hike back to the car. The restaurant is exceptional with a wide menu including very healthy options and a real coffee bar! The zoo was very clean and well kept, well worth a visit if you're in the area. See more here.
Marwell Zoo, Winchester
If you are looking for a great day out with your children this summer, I can thoroughly recommend Marwell Wildlife Park near Winchester in Hampshire. We have two daughters aged 2 and 4, and recently took them to Marwell for the day. They absolutely loved it and keep asking when we can go back for another visit!
Toilets and baby changing facilities are situated around the zoo, and there are several cafes and picnic areas, so it's ideal for children. There are also some excellent play areas, as well as a lovely gift shop. Marwell is a wonderful day out for children and we will definitely be visiting again. For more details visit www.marwell.org.uk.
I felt that the Sea Life centre was very expensive when compared to some other places. It wasn't really a full day out. That said the attractions were very good and we saw lots of amazing fish, seals and otters, the seals were definitely a highlight for Mum and Dad. They had a small fair ground which was all included in the price and probably saved the outing for us all as Alice spent ages on the rides, absolutely perfect for her age (pictured). They also have a water play area but the weather was against us for using this - but on a hot day this would have been fantastic! See more here.
Wild Wood, Herne Bay, Kent
Wildwood animal park is an amazing place to visit, it is a charity organisation in Herne Bay, Kent. When my family and I went the sun was scorching sending red hot rays down to the earth so the animals were tired and not really up to performing for us. Some of them hardly came into view. Despite this we saw badgers devouring a meal of lovely fresh chicken, to watch them was amazing and the red squirrels were so cute, with tunnels they could run right over your head. The wolves looked sleepy but were still scary. As you finish off your stroll through the woodland you get to the play park, it was simply massive and there was loads of room to let off steam with a handy cafe, we all needed an ice cream! Overall we had a fantastic time. For more visit www.wildwoodtrust.org
Camelot Theme Park, Wigan
We spent a family day at Camelot, a small theme park just off of the M6 near Wigan. We took a 2 year old, a 5 year old and an 11 year old, and our friends came along with a 5 month old baby.
I have to say that I have mixed feelings on Camelot, there were quite a few good things but also I think there are some downsides to the theme park as well. The good points were that it did have rides to suit all ages, we managed to find something that everybody enjoyed and could go on. The medieval show was very entertaining (with knights joisting, fire eaters and jesters to keep the kids amused) and all 3 children enjoyed it; even my 2 year old managed to sit through it although he did start to get a bit fidgety towards the end. There was also a magic show but we didn’t go to this. The facilities were good, there were a couple of indoor play areas in case of bad weather, and also an outdoor childrens playground next to the picnic area which meant that the kids could go and play while we finished our lunch and we could keep any eye on them. There was also a feeding room available which my friend used to breastfeed her baby (although she did say that there was no lock on the door so she didn’t feel very comfortable in it). The toilets and food areas were all clean and there were plenty of them all around the park. Camelot has a small area with animals, and you can buy food (£1) that can be fed to the goats, some of whom just wander round freely. Be warned though that if you buy the food the goats do jump up at you to be fed, and although my kids loved this some of the children there didn’t seem as keen.
The bad points were that the park is quite expensive for what is actually there – the price is £22 for adults and children over 1 metre, with no concession price for children. I don’t think there was a massive amount of rides to go on and the park itself was quite small. There were a couple of things in the park that you also had to pay extra for – the Go-Karts and the Childrens Driving School rides both charged extra, which I think is unacceptable when you have already paid an entrance fee; if you have a few children with you this can add a lot onto the cost of your day. The park itself needs updating, I think all the rides were quite old and to say that it was the beginning of the season I think that the whole place could do with a lick of paint; it was quite drab and dull compared with other theme parks that I have visited.
All in all we had a good day but I don’t think I would rush to visit again. I think if you have a few kids of different ages it does cater for everyone, but there isn’t really enough there to amuse just one age group for a whole day. I searched the internet and there does seem to be quite a few offers and discount vouchers you can get for Camelot, and if you could get in for a discounted rate it might be worth a day out if you are near by, but I think if you were looking for a really good family day out there are other theme parks that charge a similar amount of money that are a lot better value and have a lot more to offer. For more on Camelot visit www.camelotthemepark.co.uk.