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!!


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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!

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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!!

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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!

Continue reading Paultons Park

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.

Continue reading Oceanarium

London in a Day!

Trying to do London in a Day is difficult. Trying to do London in a Day with a toddler is approaching madness!! London is a wonderful place to spend the day, but was it good with a toddler… maybe not!
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The first question we had was how to get there – plane, train or automobile?! Well, plane costs upwards of £100 per person from Leeds Bradford to Heathrow. Once you clear security and get into the city from Heathrow, you don’t gain anything in time. Train costs about £100 per adult and under 5’s go free if you’re willing to share a seat with them.

Therefore, we decided to go by car and took the economical decision of hiring one for the day. It cost around £40, not including petrol of around £40. So after picking the car up at 8am, we did the lengthy journey down the M1 to London. After a service station stop, all in all, it took 3 hours 30 minutes to get to Stanmore tube station. Heidi was entertained by a portable DVD player, but it did get a bit hairy at times. Fortunately she had a sleep on the way down!!

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(hire car from Enterprise)

Stanmore is one of the few tube stations where there is a decent sized car parks. It is very close to the M1 and as it is at the end of the tube time, it is easy to get on the trains. Is it easy to navigate the Underground with a toddler and pram? Not really, but I was expecting worse! Getting into the city was easy enough but moving around the stations was difficult – but not impossible. To be fair, the “natives” were understanding of the pram and ensured that there was enough space to get on/off. The tube was very, very busy at times and so if you have a nervous child, it might not go very well. However, Heidi was amazingly alert, calm and entertaining!

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One of the keys was planning which stations had lifts and which didn’t. By using the lifts, you tend to see the back corridors of the stations which you never see! However, the lifts aren’t everywhere and so chances are you have to go up an escalator or two. You are best to carry your child and fold the pushchair and hold it. Obviously, this is very much difficult if there is just one of you.

So, having got into central London at 2pm – what do you do with a 2 year old?? Well, surprisingly, there is very little to do! There are no children specific museums and very little for toddlers at all! There seems to be more towards Greenwich/Docklands and that might be a better place to go next time.

We knew we only had 4 hours or so before having to head back so we decided to cut down the travelling as much as possible, and decided to do the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum. Except there was a problem. There were massive queues (this was a Tuesday in August). As a result, we went into the Victoria and Albert Museum, for not other reason than it was quieter and we wanted to do anything!

The V&A is not child friendly at all and I wouldn’t go back at all. But because of the open spaces and “interesting” artwork, it did allow Heidi to wander around and be visually stimulated (I think!) We lasted 30 minutes and by that time, the queues in the Natural History Museum had died down and we ventured in. It was very busy but we spent about an hour in there looking at the various exhibits. There was a very child-friendly exhibition in the basement around animals which resulted in Heidi pretending to be a tortoise after touching a tortoises shell! The queue for the dinosaur exhibit was unbelievable and we didn’t try to go in.

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After an hour in the Natural History Museum, we walked down the road to the Science Museum. Perhaps the most toddler friendly place, we only made it on the ground floor and managed to watch a live show about bubbles which was really good fun (and educational-ish) Had we done it again, perhaps we would have spent all afternoon here. One good thing about London is that there are plenty of free toilets in the museums etc. There were excellent nappy changing facilities throughout.

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As evening drew on, we made it to Westminster in time to hear Big Ben chime 6 O’clock, which was more by luck than judgement. However, we should have planned this as it was pretty cool for a 2 year old! If possible, try to go to Westminster on the tube as when you leave the station, you instantly see Big Ben and it is a sight to behold.

We ended up walking along the South Bank to Waterloo. This is a particular favourite due to the street entertainers there and the good atmosphere that can be generated down there. Again, an excellent place for toddlers! We found a “suitable” restaurant for tea (not many are overly family friendly – and certainly no Wacky Warehouses!) before walking back on the more sedate North Bank to Westminster and the Tube back to the car.

All in all, we got back to the car at Stanmore at 8pm and didn’t get back home until 12.30am – a very long day!! Heidi was asleep all the way home which was a relief, although the drive back for me was a challenge due to the long day!! Doing London in a Day is tough!

Was it enjoyable? Yes!

Would we do it again? Yes!

Would we do it differently? Absolutely!

It was worthwhile, as 4 months later, Heidi still remembers certain aspects of it, which shows that the day carried some really good memories for her.

How would we have done it differently? We should have set off in the early morning to make the most of the time and concentrated our time on the Science Museum and maybe Buckingham Palace/Hyde Park. However, you live and learn and so if this helps someone out in the future, the blog has helped!

UPDATE! We have been to London quite a few times since and you can read the following blog posts:

Discover Children’s Story Centre

London Attractions Guide

Continue reading London in a Day!

Winter Wonderland Manchester

In an attempt to do something a little different after Christmas, while avoiding the various named storms, we headed off to the Winter Wonderland Manchester, at the Event City complex, just next to the Trafford Centre.

 

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This is something that Leeds doesn’t have and so we gave it a go. We didn’t know what to expect, but it turned out to be a really good find.

As Winter Wonderland Manchester is next to the Trafford Centre, parking is free. However, traffic can be problematic due to the Christmas shoppers (even after Christmas!).  As we ordered our tickets online, we picked up our tickets at the entrance quickly and easily and we made our way in, still none-the-wiser of what we were going to see.

As we went through the entrance, we saw it….an exhibition hall full of fairground rides, attractions, shows, food – EVERYTHING!!

Included in the price of the ticket are all the rides and shows for a 4 hour session. The only things that you have to pay for is food, coin operated games (very few of those!) and games where you win a prize (such as hook a duck)

As you get 4 hours, it is advisable to do a couple of things:

  • Get there on time.
  • Eat well beforehand so you don’t “waste” time eating.
  • Wear sensible footwear and don’t layer up as it gets very warm.

The rides

As I went to Winter Wonderland Manchester on my own with Heidi, we concentrated on the children’s rides and there were plenty.  There were at least:

  • 3 roundabouts
  • 2 teacups,
  • a children’s rollercoaster
  • a ghost train,
  • 3 bouncy castles,
  • a beautiful Dumbo ride,
  • dodgems,
  • a fun house
  • and a few more – literally every ride that you have seen at the fairground is there.

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About half of the children’s rides were just for children, which was good if they want to have some independence. However, not so good if they get scared easily or are a bit clingy. If your child doesn’t like fairground rides, it is safe to say that this won’t be for you.

With Heidi being 2 1/2 years old, I wondered how she would get on, on her own. But she was fine. Not many of the children’s rides had a height limit on, which was good as there is nothing worse than a disappointed child!!  I wouldn’t have wanted to take a child under 2 as they probably wouldn’t like the rides and be stable enough to go on them on their own. However, 2+ years of age is fine. We must have gone on at least 15 rides, so it was definitely value for money for us.

The shows

Aside from the rides, there are also shows, which we didn’t see. They included Sooty, a Frozen show (both including Meet and Greet) a magic show as well as a circus show. The shows were well attended and so if you wanted to see them, get a seat early. One of the good things was that there was enough space at the front for the children to sit on their own.

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If you were adventurous enough, there were a good few rides just for adults. Obviously there are height restrictions on those rides, but there is enough to do if you wanted a child-free visit (if you’re into the fast rides!)

Verdict of the rides

In terms of the plus points, the rides are clean and look safe and generally the atmosphere is really good. We never had to wait more than 5 minutes for a ride, and there are enough rides to keep everyone moving. They also restrict the number of tickets so that it won’t get too crowded. This was such a plus point for us as the last thing you want is to be waiting to go on a ride with an excited child!

Also, as Heidi is under 3, she didn’t need a ticket. Children 3 and over need a full price ticket. This might put people with young children off as they won’t get as much value out of it as those with children who are 8+ years of age. I did find that Heidi tired halfway through but after a quick food break, we were good to go for the rest of the session. You should consider how many rides you will be able to go on in a 4 hour period and work out if it is worth it…

Facilities

The food stands were standard “fairground” food stands, charging the usual prices. They were not overly expensive, but what you would expect from going to an attraction/event.

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The staff manning the rides were professional, but some could have done to smile a little more!! This was especially true on the children’s rides – however, they were safe and that is the important thing.

Also, it can be a bit of a bun-fight to get onto the smaller rides as there didn’t seem to be a queuing system. However, the parents seemed to manage the situation and the crowds weren’t busy enough for it to cause an issue.

They almost got the baby changing facilities spot on! There was a number of changing mats on the floor in a blocked off area, which was fine. However, there wasn’t a changing mat in a cubicle, which would really help single parents. I couldn’t get into the disabled toilets to see if there was any in there. However, it is an exhibition hall and so it isn’t really geared up for babies and toddlers! The quiet room was such a good idea and I have never seen that elsewhere!

If you go before Christmas as well, you can also meet Santa and reindeers as well. However, as we went after Christmas, they were obviously resting after their travels!

Overall

All in all, it was a very enjoyable 4 hours at Winter Wonderland Manchester. There were clear signs that we had a good time when:

  • I couldn’t get Heidi off the bouncy castles
  • She didn’t want to go back to the car
  • She was asleep most of the way home!

If you’re looking for an indoor day out over Christmas and New Year, then Winter Wonderland Manchester might be for you. However, it might not be for all families, depending on the age and maturity of the children!

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