Wonderlab – Science Museum

For Heidi and I, 2018 was the year we loved London and loved Science. As such, one of our favourite places to go was Wonderlab at the Science Museum. Located a 5-10 minute walk from South Kensington Underground, it is the ideal place for inquisitive minds.

Wonderlab

What is Wonderlab?

Wonderlab is located on the top floor of the Science Museum and is home to the more interactive exhibits. Wonderlab is a paid attraction (see later) but it is well worth the expense as the attraction is really interactive for children.

There are loads of hands-on experiments that the children can get involved in, from magnetism, to colour blending, to heat cameras. In the open plan floor, pretty much everything is available to touch, play with and learn with.

Wonderlab
Heat camera

There are a couple of areas where there are demonstrations. One is the electric exhibition, where you can see lightning being created – clearly a bit dangerous, hence the led demonstration!! The other is the mini lecture theatre, where there are shows every 40 minutes or so. These aren’t especially interactive, pretty much because they involve setting fire to things, making rockets and that kind of thing. Whilst not interactive, they are fun to watch and really educational.

Wonderlab
Taking part in the electricity demonstration

Top Tip – If your child is a little nervous, sit on the seats on the right as you go in. Here, you can make a quick getaway if it becomes too much!

What is the ideal age range?

Whilst there is a lot to see, do and play with, there is also a lot that can be learnt. As such, I feel as though pre-school children wouldn’t really get much out of it. However, they will get the visual impact of the experiments, which is an excellent starting point. However, under 3’s are free so that is a bonus!!

School aged children with an inquisitive mind are absolutely perfect for Wonderlab. They will ask questions that they have never thought about before and will think about things a different way. Just be prepared to do a lot of explaining!!

Wonderlab
Blending colours

How long does it take?

It all depends on how engaged your child is. Heidi has been in for 5 hours before and I have had to drag her away as we had a train to catch. However, if you’re short on time, you could spend an hour and a half and see/do most things. However, you wouldn’t have time to see any of the demonstrations.

Wonderlab
Understanding gravitational fields

When is the best time to go?

The Wonderlab does get busy at weekends and school holidays. However, it has never been absolutely packed, even in the middle of summer. Clearly, the best time would be during the week in the school term (such as a teacher training day) but I would not let it put you off whatsoever.

What are the facilities like?

As the Wonderlab is in its own little area at the top floor of the Science Museum, the facilities are limited. The only facilities are the toilets which are hidden away behind the maths puzzles at the back.

However, just outside the Wonderlab is a shop, as well as a Shake Bar. Here you can buy sandwiches, ice creams and milkshakes (obviously!). There is a large area of seating so you should be fine finding a seat. However, the Shake Bar closes early and so if you promise an ice cream, make sure you go sooner rather than later. I am speaking from experience on that one…!!

On the ground floor, there is a cafe and an amazing shop!

Wonderlab
Looking at freezing water

Is it worth the annual pass?

As at January 2019, the prices are:

Day Pass

  • Adults – £10
  • Concessions including children 4-16 year old – £8
  • Senior (aged 60+) – £9
  • Family (3-5 visitors with no more than 2 adults) – £2 off per day pass

Annual Pass

  • Adults – £15
  • Concessions including children 4-16 year old – £13
  • Senior (aged 60+) – £9
  • Family (3-5 visitors with no more than 2 adults) – £3 off per annual pass

As you can see, if you’re going to visit the Wonderlab twice or more in a year, you are best going for the annual pass. In 2018, we visited 4 times from Leeds and so if you love London, (or live nearby) it is well worth it.

Overall

I think it is safe to say that Wonderlab is one of Heidi’s favourite places in London and I joke that she would love to live there! It has increased her knowledge of science so much, and provided so many happy memories. I can’t wait for us to go back in 2019!

Continue reading Wonderlab – Science Museum

Operation Ouch Live

Heidi is a huge Operation Ouch fan and once the tickets to Operation Ouch Live were available, I made plans to go down to see the show. When I say “huge”, perhaps I mean obsessive. After all, we have 50 recordings saved on the TV! As a result, it was an opportunity not to miss, and it was more special than I could have imagined.

Operation Ouch Live

Operation Ouch Live – The Show

Operation Ouch Live is based on the TV show and you need to have seen a couple of TV shows to get the most of the stage show. However, the stage show stands on its own two feet.

The show lasts 70 minutes, and make sure you get into the theatre 10 minutes before as they play a clip from the TV show, which was a nice touch.

There are bits of goriness involved, but it is all educational. For example, they use a probe to see into Xand’s ear to see his ear drums, as well as inflate a set of animal lungs so you can see how they work in practice. However, it is tastefully done and won’t put anyone off.

Also, the Operation Ouch Live show tells you a little about the Doctors themselves, which was an amazing little touch, especially for a mega-fan like Heidi.

The Venue

Operation Ouch Live is at the Apollo Theatre. This is on Shaftesbury Avenue about 2 minutes from Piccadilly Circus underground station. For those who know London a little bit, it is near the Rainforest Cafe. Whilst the venue holds 775 people, it is quite compact and so you’re not too far away from the stage.  The leg room is decent, and the seats are comfortable enough for the 70 minute show!

Just make sure you look up, to see the fabulous ceiling…

The Apollo Theatre ceiling

They do sell merchandise before the show as well in the foyer, some of which Heidi is modelling after winning a Facebook prize!

Operation Ouch Live – Laughs

As you can imagine, the Operation Ouch Live show is full of laughs and silliness. After all, it is aimed for children aged 5-12! There are daft songs, silly jokes and good old panto humour.

However, the best part is where they showed how a virus spreads quickly between people. This is done by throwing massive wobble balls into the audience and getting them to throw them around. This proved hilarious for the children, but also very educational. They could see how a virus spreads, but also the importance of stopping viruses at source.

Happy faces!

Operation Ouch Live – Teaching

Whilst Operation Ouch Live is definitely a show to entertain, it is also there to teach. There are scientific terms thrown in at semi-regular intervals, but it is age appropriate and done in a manner for children to learn. The skit with the frontal lobe and amygdale is a prime example of this.  Heidi, aged 5, was absolutely fine with the learning part of things, but younger children may struggle.

However, from a parent’s point of view, there is a monologue by Xand which was powerful and poignant. Xand referenced his struggles as a child and gave some well directed life advice to those children who need something a little different in school and life. By this point in the show, the children were like sponges, taking everything in and I am sure that it will help so many. For me as a parent, it was the highlight of the show.

Operation Ouch Live – Chris and Xand

Chris and Xand are excellent on stage and whilst their background is medicine, their on stage performance was very polished. However, after meeting them after the show and an unexpected Twitter message or two, they are genuinely nice people.

Part of doing this blog was to write about the “good guys” in life and have a positive influence on Heidi’s life. Chris and Xand certainly fit into that category. The way they spoke and interacted to Heidi after the show melted my heart and made the trip down worth it. Heidi was over the moon meeting them, especially knowing that her heroes are just as nice in person as they are on TV.

Operation Ouch Live – The Verdict

Operation Ouch Live is simply amazing. I can’t put it any more simply as that!

As the show was ending, Heidi started crying saying that she wanted to come back to see the show again. For me, that is the sign of an amazing show and you cannot fake that reaction. (At this point, she didn’t know about my plan for her to meet them!)

Hopefully diaries will allow us to go down to see Operation Ouch Live again before it finishes on 6th January 2019.

Continue reading Operation Ouch Live

London Attractions Guide

As you may know, Heidi absolutely loves London! We have done a couple of day trips and a couple of mini breaks. As such, I thought that I would do a “London Attractions Guide” which should help if you don’t know where to start.

Best Preschool Attraction

The “Discover – Children’s Story Centre” is a perfect, child friendly place just 5 minutes walk from Stratford Underground station. I wrote about it here previously. Make sure you book in plenty of time because it is small and gets sold out regularly.

Discover

Best Primary School Attraction

The Science Museum is absolutely amazing and we can spend all day there! Located at South Kensington Underground station, it is free to enter. The top floor is a paid-for exhibit called “Wonderlab” and is well worth the money, especially if you get the annual pass. The live shows are educational and entertaining.

TOP TIP!! As you walk from the Tube station to the Science Museum, there is a off-licence selling fresh food. It is just as you enter the underground walkway (not the one in the main foyer.!) The doughnuts and samosas are HUGE and well worth a purchase!

Best Secondary School Attraction

Covent Garden is probably the best place for older children who want to be entertained, but are a bit too old for museums. At a weekend, there are street artists galore who are willing to do virtually anything to entertain the crowds. There is a decent sized market as well, selling all sorts at both London prices and “normal” prices! Either go to Covent Garden Underground station, or Leicester Square (800 yard walk)

Best Grown-Up Attraction

Going to the top Sky Garden in the City of London is a free attraction, but you must prebook. During the day, it is a tourist attraction and children can go in. At night it is a lively bar. Whilst free to enter, the drinks are pricey. However, the chance to sight see from 38 storeys high whilst drinking is an experience! The nearest Underground station is Monument.

 

I can imagine that I should do a follow up to this “London Attractions Guide” with “Bars of London”!!

Best Playground

The there only 2 that I know of in Central London. The Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Playground in Hyde Park is the best one for sure. It is free, and has security on it making sure it doesn’t get too crowded and making sure children don’t escape from the single entrance/exit. There are the usual swings and slides, but there is a decent pirate ship and suspended walkway.  It is a 2 minute walk from Hyde Park Corner Underground Station.

Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Playground

The other one is just next to Tower Hill Underground station. It only has a slide, a swing and a wobble table, but if you’re going to The Tower of London, it will cheer up the kids!!

Tower Hill

Best restaurant

We have been to the Rainforest Cafe twice now and Heidi remembers it from 12 months ago. The decor is wonderful and the food is decent. Again, you’re best to book ahead, but this can be seen as a one-off treat. Located in the middle of Piccadilly Circus, its location is amazing. You can read about it here.

Best Atmosphere

I always find that the South Bank has a wonderful atmosphere with the street artists and buskers. There is usually an outdoor attraction on just behind the London Eye as well. We like to start walking from Westminister Underground station to see Big Ben and the House of Parliament.

From there, we cross the bridge and walk past the London Eye where the street entertainment is. Then we cross back over the river to Embankment Underground Station. However, if you’re looking for food, head towards Waterloo and you have an amazing choice!

Giving money to a busker

I hope that this London Attractions Guide has been useful. If you only have one day in London, check out this guide here.  I’ll be doing a travel guide to London shortly, which I will link to on here!

Continue reading London Attractions Guide

Coach Trip …. with National Express

What seems like a relaxing way to spend a Saturday with a 4 year old and a 2 year old?? How about travelling across the country to spend the day at Chester Zoo by coach?! (blog post on Chester Zoo can be found here)

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It seemed like a good idea at the time, but with an early start leading to grumpy grown-ups and a new mode of transport leading to overexcited children, it could have been a loooooong day! However, once we all got settled, we had a really comfortable and enjoyable journey to Chester.

So, what did we like about the journey:

Booster Seats

This got a big thumbs up from the little ones, even causing an argument over them!! You cannot book them prior to travel, but the coach going to Chester had 2 available and the one coming back had 1 available and they were very comfortable – apparently!!

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They ended up sat next to each other to compare booster seats

Power sockets

Each pair of seats has a power socket to share and so using your phone/tablet is much easier to do. It has a 3 pin plug as opposed to a USB port, so make sure you bring your plug as well as wire!!

Seats

The seats were surprisingly comfortable and not what I was expecting at all. As you can see, they are leather and have a decent amount of legroom.  Each seat has a seatbelt (legally, you must wear the seatbelt) which makes the journey feel even safer.

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Friendly drivers

On the commentary, the driver going to Chester Zoo seemed genuinely excited to be taking a lot of passengers there and he even talked about some of the animals you could see when approaching the coach stop!! We had a folding pushchair with us, and the drivers insisted on putting the luggage into the coach hold – all you have to do is fold it down and they do the rest.

Last and most importantly,

You can sit and interact with your child

Especially being a single parent, when going by car on a long journey, it is difficult to talk to and interact with your child sat in the back seat. You can spend some quality time with your little one sitting together on a coach. This means you can have fun, chat, play games and, most importantly, make memories.

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You can’t do this whilst driving!!

All in all, it was a very long and tiring day in the sun. It certainly meant that the little ones had a good night’s sleep!! One thing that would have been really difficult was if we had to change coaches on the way home. However, due to the number of routes National Express operate, it is more likely than not, there is a direct service to the place you want to go.

Would we go again by National Express? Absolutely, especially when it gives you the chance to explore the country at a reasonable price.

Full Disclaimer: We were offered free travel for the purposes of this post, although no influence has been made to alter the content of the post.


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Cbeebiesland

We made the trip down to Alton Towers for a 2 night stay, particularly to take in Cbeebiesland. This was while Heidi was still interested in those programmes and while we could go before she started school.

Cbeebiesland is within the Alton Towers park, although set aside so it is very much child friendly. As such, you don’t get any of the crowds going on the rollercoasters. In this respect it is very much like Peppa Pig World at Paultons Park (See here for our visit there!)

As it is only for children, the staff are very friendly and the setting is very colourful in the Cbeebies colour scheme. Within the park, there are around 12 attractions and you should be able to do them all in 1 day. However, this depends on how little your little one is and whether they need a nap during the day!!

All the rides/attractions are Cbeebies themed, from Octonauts to Postman Pat, in the Night Garden to Charlie and Lola. The only one which is height restricted is the Octonauts rollercoaster. This isn’t fast in the great scheme of things, but I would watch it go round first before queuing up.

There are also “Meet and Greet” with various characters throughout Cbeebiesland. This seemed to be a bit ad-hoc so keep your eyes peeled, but there is a specific tent for an “In the Night Garden” which seemed to be a big hit with the babies (or the parents more likely!).  There are hourly interactive shows as well which are really good if your child can get involved. These include Tree Fu Tom and you can do the actions etc.

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Ubercorn!!

Our (or should I say my!) favourite attraction is Justin’s House. This is basically a mock up of Justin’s house but the main fun is going onto the balcony overseeing the ground floor and collecting the foam balls. You can then useg them in the play guns and fire them at people!! It is a bit more than an adult attraction, and while it is impossible to get hurt, care needs to be made not to hit small children!!

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Justin’s House!!!

In terms of facilities, there are quite a number of toilets and the ones near Justin’s House had plenty of space. There is one small food outlet which offers a standard theme park menu/prices. However, there are numerous outlets throughout the rest of the park. There is also a shop selling Cbeebies themed goodies and the “In the Night Garden” ride exit feeds into the shop. As such, if you have a “needy” little one, you might want to do this ride at the end of the day so you can avoid the shop until then!

All in all, we had 2 good days here, although you don’t need 2 just to do Cbeebiesland. Our first day was beset by winds and rain and because of this, everyone in the park got a free ticket. Therefore, we have a ready made excuse to go back!!


To read more of my blog, please feel free to:

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Play Factor-e Halloween Party

We received an invitation to go to the Play Factor-e Halloween Party and had a lovely time! If you have never heard, or read about Play Factor-e, it is a HUGE indoor play centre just opposite the Trafford Centre in Manchester. You can read our previous visit here: Play Factor-e Manchester – 28/6/2016

So, what happens at a Play Factor-e Halloween party?! Well, firstly, it is very busy! I’m glad that we ate before setting off as the queues for the cafe were huge for the first hour or so!!

There were about 5 or 6 members of staff dressed up in some brilliant outfits, walking round for photos etc  before the entertainment in the stage area in the middle of the play centre.  The venue was dark and “spooky” which made it rubbish for photos, but added to the atmosphere. Also, a good number of children were dressed up in fancy dress. This was good to see, but also a bit weird because we didn’t have time to be that organised!!

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Not the best photo of the dressed up characters!!

The first part of the entertainment was a “mad scientist” act, doing all sorts of funky things. I’m quite sure what exactly he was doing because the microphone wasn’t the best!!  After that, there was a guest appearance from a huge robot who was attracting a good number of children for photos and hi-fives. Then the disco took over on the stage area.

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In truth, I may have missed a couple of other attractions and events because you could dip in and out during the 2 hour session and a good number of children seemingly took no part in the entertainment. This is because the play area is absolutely amazing.  It is nice that even though we haven’t been for 4 months, Heidi remembered the amazing computer floor game. She raced there straight away when we got in!

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Spooky disco!

The venue is ideal for these kinds of events as it is big enough to cope with demand, and it didn’t feel crowded. There was a decent sized queue to get in with the doors, but it didn’t feel as though it was packed when we got in and settled.  It will be interesting to see what other events they do, because the venue is ideal for monthly one-off events like this.

Perhaps the best  things to say about the evening were:

  • Heidi fell asleep before hitting the motorway on the way home – result!
  • She woke up half way home and said: “Daddy, can we go back again soon?”

I think that says it all!!!

We can’t wait for the next Play Factor-e Halloween Party!!

Continue reading Play Factor-e Halloween Party

Play Factor-e Manchester

You can tell how much you enjoy a place when you rewrite about your experiences in double quick time, and that is the case with the Play Factor-e.

However, it was all a bit of an accident as we headed off for Heidi’s birthday wanting to take in the Albert Dock in Liverpool. It took us 90 minutes to get to Birch Services because of a crash on the M60, and so a new plan was quickly hatched. This took us to the Play Factor-e, 2 minutes away from the Trafford Centre.

It is safe to say that the only research was a quick Google search on the M60. However, but the pictures looked impressive, and they didn’t lie!

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Wow! The HUGE play area

Play Area

The play centre looks brand new. As a result, it is clean and all the equipment is new and in good condition. The eye catching part is the huge climbing frame which is hard work to get to the top of, but all good fun nonetheless! It is quite easy to lose a child in there as there as loads of different levels/paths. As a result, you may need to follow or have a stern word beforehand!! There are the usual climbing frame bits and pieces for the little ones to tire themselves out on, including slides, rollers and all the rest…

The eye catching part is the huge slide going from top to bottom. Now, under 5’s cannot go on the slide, with due reason. If you have an over 5, I would test it out yourself first (purely for research obviously!) as it is blooming fast!! Apparently, it is the tallest standing indoor slide in Europe and perhaps a little too tall for me!!

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It even has a football pitch!

Separate Toddler Area

For the little ones, there is a separate toddler play area which is lovely. Within it is the star of the show for us, which is an interactive video game. This entertained Heidi for about an hour and it seemed popular with all the toddlers as they kept on coming in and out during the visit! It is housed in a bland “house” in the toddler section. However, there is a projector showing interactive games on the floor (for example, playing a piano, popping balloons). The activities they cycle through every couple of minutes, they don’t get too bored. I have only seen it in the Science Museum in London (read about London here) and even then, it was just 1 game, so this is pretty special.

I love this part!

Food

In terms of food, we had a bagel and a small pizza, which were quite nice and reasonably priced. The portion wasn’t huge but you probably wouldn’t want to go on the play area on a heavy stomach! The variety of food and drinks was quite diverse as well, especially on the sweet side of things.

Toilets

Also, as it is a new venue, the toilets are decent and child/baby friendly with stools to help the little ones to reach the sink. The baby change room also has a toilet in there as well. The security on the toddler section is pretty good, meaning that toddlers can’t get in and out of their section. There is also an exit button on the exit of the centre, as well as someone on the desk as you leave, so that aspect is really good as well.  Parking is also free and plentiful as well.

While it is probably a bit far for us Yorkshire folk to make the trip just to here, we did spend 2 1/2 hours in there. There are time restrictions during peak times however. It is clear that we had a good time, which meant for a very easy bedtime in the evening!! However, if you’re off to Manchester, the Trafford Centre or elsewhere within the Trafford Quays Leisure Village (for example ski-ing!), it is certainly a place to add onto the itinerary!

Continue reading Play Factor-e Manchester

Longdown Activity Farm

Our trip to Longdown Activity Farm is the fourth and final episode of our mini break to the South Coast. The other reviews can be found here:

  • Flying with a toddler – Part 1 – (here)
  • Oceanarium and Bournemouth – Part 2 – (here)
  • Paultons Park – Part 3 – (here)

I found out about this attraction via Twitter (@NewForestBreak) and with it being 10 minutes drive from Paultons Park, we headed down there on a sunny, but cold Sunday February morning, whilst not knowing what to expect really.  Finding the farm is quite easy and there is decent (free) parking the other side of the road. This is fully signposted.

Heidi does like her animals and so it felt like a safe option to spend a couple of hours, and so we went in to see what it was all about. As you go in, there are some toy tractors for the kids to play on, as well as a couple of table tennis tables which were clearly meant for warmer (and less windy days!). However, with our trusty map in hand, we made our way to the animals.

Longdown Activity Farm is a traditional farm, in terms of the animals that it has – goats, ducks, cows, horses – pretty much everything Old MacDonald had. The difference is that you are allowed to feed them! There are set times to feed set animals so it does help to plan ahead a little and plot your way around the small farm so that you take advantage of these experiences. It would only take 10 minutes to walk from one end to another. So while the farm isn’t huge, it is big enough, especially for little legs!

Chick 1

As a result, we began by bottle feeding the baby goats. This was fascinating for Heidi as she has never seen an animal take a bottle. Being able to feed it herself was lovely! After that, we went to the animal petting attraction, where tiny baby chicks to hold, as well as able to stroke a rabbit as well as a goat. To finish off, we fed the adult goats, albeit food from a plate as they are clearly past the bottle phase!!

Chick 2

It was lovely to have the opportunity to let Heidi feed and get really close to the animals. It is all well and good seeing them at the other side of the fence, but it was something else letting her feed them. Interspersed with the activities, there are lots of other animal enclosures to look at including ducks, rabbits, horses and calves.

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On a weekend, the little ones are able to ride (for an additional charge) on a Shetland pony,. We took advantage of this, especially as Heidi loves to go on the donkeys at the seaside, or use me as a horse in an evening!

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Lovely Shetland pony

There are a number of enclosed (free) trampolines which is a good way to do something a little different. There is also a small, but perfectly adequate (free) play gym, which will keep the little ones busy for half an hour or so, while the adults relax. Even though it was freezing cold outside, it was relatively warm in there, even though the front was completely open! Here (on weekends), there was a facepainter and for an extra charge, children could have their face painted,. As a result, the farm got a tiger for an hour or so!

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There’s a Tiger!

In terms of taking a toddler, it is important to be aware that Longdown Activity Farm is a working farm. As such, expect it to be a bit muddy and cold (in winter!) so wear appropriate clothes! There are toilets, baby change and feeding rooms, which we didn’t go to, but they looked quite good. There is also a cafe and farm shop, but we had spent all our money on facepainting and horse rides!!

One thing to note is that you obviously have to wash your hands after finishing stroking an animal. As such. it might be a good idea to wear short sleeves, or take a spare top for the way home. The water is nice and warm, but after a while, the sleeves get all wet and unpleasant.

After all that, we spent 2 hours at Longdown Activity Farm. However, we did miss a couple of bits out because of a tired toddler. We would definitely go back, and would perhaps go at a slightly different time so we could do some of the other activities that we missed out.

Continue reading Longdown Activity Farm

Paultons Park

Our trip to Paultons Park is part of our series of posts detailing our mini-break to the South Coast. There have previously been posts on:

  • Flying with a Toddler – Part 1 – (here)
  • A Day in Bournemouth – Part 2 – (here)
  • Longdown Activity Farm – Part 4 – (here)

and this is the next instalment.

Without being rude to the rest of the Southampton/Bournemouth area, Paultons Park, or more specifically, Peppa Pig World, was the main reason for us to make the trip. It certainly didn’t disappoint!

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Entrance into Peppa Pig World

In the planning phase, I contacted Paultons Park as they do certain deals on hotel/tickets. Their customer service was brilliant in terms of tailoring their offers to us. The prices didn’t quite match up compared to buying the hotel and tickets separately. However, it is worth asking to see what they can do.

Rides and Attractions

To the surprise of some, Peppa Pig World is only one part of a larger theme park (Paultons Park) although it does seem to be the most popular. There are 7 toddler friendly rides in the area. These, will entertain the little ones for as long as they can stay awake, as well as a number of “static attractions” including a wonderful, large indoor play area.

(UPDATE: A couple of more rides have been added)

My own personal favourite was going into Peppa’s House and Madame Gazelle’s classroom. However, Heidi loved the Dinosaur ride and the cars! There are a couple of rides which are slow, Ferris wheel type rides and so if your child isn’t good with these, then I would give them a miss.

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Peppa’s House!

In terms of waiting times, we went on a cold, cloudy Saturday at the end of February and we had to wait 20 minutes or so for each ride. However, after lunch, it was only about 5 minutes. We returned on the Monday and the waits were about 10 minutes long before lunch and after lunch, there were no queues at all. If we were to do it again, I would possibly have the morning in the hotel before going after lunch. However, I dread to think what the queues would be like in the summer holidays!!

Meet and Greet

The star attractions are Peppa and George and they have meet and greets (the times are on the back of the classroom building). These were really good, informal and you didn’t feel rushed at all, even though they are very popular. The staff looking after the characters are really good with the little children. They made sure they were not overwhelmed by it all, as I imagine that it can be quite a scary proposition!

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Meeting Peppa and George

There is also a beautiful playground of the children to run around in. Whilst not specifically in the Peppa Pig theme, it is a really good way for kids to run around and play, as opposed to being in a queue!

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Part of the playground

The park is littered with models of the characters of the show throughout. The little ones loved seeing them and recalling who they saw. The models are absolutely wonderful and I’m sure one would look good in my back garden!!

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Zoe Zebra – at a Zebra Crossing!

Food and Facilities

In terms of food, there is a kiosk in the area serving good quality food and drinks, and quite a few picnic tables.  The prices were quite good, although you are allowed to bring food/drinks into the park and so that might be an option. The area has an amazingly good gift shop as well, stocking all things Peppa, and it can be difficult to take a child in! There is a bigger, more generic, shop at the entrance/exit, which has a massive selection of a wide range of toys and gifts.

In terms of baby change facilities, there is limited ones in the toilets in the area. However, there are plenty back towards the centre of the park. They also have toilet seats for those who are potty training, which I was really impressed with! (How sad am I?!). The toilet facilities, as well as the park as a whole was really clean and tidy.

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Never seen these before!

The rest of Paultons Park

You have to remember that there is an entire theme park to enjoy as well. I think that we were guilty of not spending enough time there due to a tiring toddler. Although you can get your hand stamped and return to the park. There are quite a number of rides that the little ones can go on. These include a gorgeous carousel and tea cups, as well as play areas, a 4D cinema, and crazy golf.

A word of warning is that the park is quite big, especially for little legs.  I would make sure comfortable shoes are worn. I would also recommend taking a pushchair, if your child is in one. You can hire pushchairs (or similar) at the park as well.

Perhaps a hidden attraction is the number of animals/wildlife that the park has as they are somewhat hidden away. We saw pelicans and flamingos and there is a lovely garden with smaller birds around the edge as well. We came across this as we were leaving and the big open spaces nearby would be perfect for picnics etc. Another hidden attraction was the free Wifi in the park – although it will never be as good as what you have at home, given the huge space the park covers, it worked really well.

For those with older children or able to split off for a couple of hours, there are a number of white knuckle rides,. These are certainly not my cup of tea, but will obviously appeal to some and mean that even if you didn’t set foot into Peppa Pig World, you could still have a full day out.

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The Peppa Pig World skyline

Conclusion

It says something that we would go back to Paultons Park again, even though we spent 2 days there already, but that is how good it is.  Upon our return, Heidi has been telling people about her time at Peppa Pig World with such enthusiasm. This clearly means that that she has definitely had a good time and I’m sure that we will be contacting Miss Rabbit again at some point to enquire about prices and availability!

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Oceanarium

Our trip to the Oceanarium in Bournemouth is part 2 of my write up of the mini break we had on the South Coast.

The other reviews can be found here:

  • Flying with a toddler – Part 1 -(here)
  • Paultons Park – Part 3 – (here)
  • Longdown Activity Farm – (here)

Getting to the Oceanarium

So after landing in Southampton mid morning, the plan was to drive to Bournemouth and basically explore a bit and have a bit of a seaside day. So after driving 45 minutes, we arrived in Bournemouth. The drive was a lovely, relaxing drive through the New Forest. However, due to roadworks, took a bit longer than anticipated. I hear that in summer, this journey is a bit of a nightmare due to traffic, but certainly not a problem in late February!

So after approaching Bournemouth, we followed the painted (and sometimes worn!) sandcastles on the road down to the beach and picked up signs for an “Oceanarium”. Having not done any research previously, I was putting two and two together as to what it was and we decided to go for it.

Located right on the beach, the view is perfect out to sea. However, I imagine that the location also means when it is busy, it is difficult to get to. However, we found a car park very close by and made our way in.

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The Oceanarium itself

It turns out the Oceanarium is a marine animal attraction, similar to The Deep in Hull. It has penguins, fish, sharks, turtles and a crocodile, as well as a walking tunnel so you feel as though the animals are all around. Our favourites were the lovely large turtles. Due to their swimming style, you can tell the little ones that they are waving!

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We stayed for about 90 minutes and caught most of the penguin feeding show. This was quite intimate as well, and not in a bad way. Unfortunately with a toddler, you never quite manage to see all of the show. However, they are something to plan the visit around.

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Facilities

In terms of child friendly facilities, there is a very small soft play area. This will give the adults 10 minutes rest as there is only 1 climbing frame so there isn’t much to explore. We didn’t check out the changing facilities, and with most of these kinds of places, navigating with a pushchair would be difficult. This is because it is on a number of levels and the lighting isn’t brilliant as it needs to be dark-ish for the animals. However, navigating carrying a 2 year old toddler isn’t that easy either!!

A couple of things that stand out for the Oceanarium are the beautiful views from within the venue. There is a balcony with seating and an ice cream kiosk at the back of the penguin viewing area. This is beautiful and would be fantastic in summer, although a bit nippy in winter!

The second is the fact that you can come and go as much as you want during the day. We didn’t take advantage of this due to having a tired toddler. However, given that it is about 10 yards from the beach and pier, you could easily spend all day in the same location, rotating between the Oceanarium, the beach, the pier and the other seafront attractions.

Bournemouth Seafront

We did briefly venture onto the gorgeous beach, which looked clean. However, more importantly, it didn’t look like good sandcastle-making sand! We also went on the pier, which had amusements and a cafe, which we didn’t go in. Instead, we favoured fish and chips eaten in the car (classy!)

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All in all, a very pleasant couple of hours spent in Bournemouth. This set us up nicely for the rest of our break, but also left us wanting to spend a few days (when warmer!) to explore Bournemouth more.

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