Alpamare Waterpark

The Alpamare Waterpark opened its doors in the summer of 2016 and given that we are regular travellers to the North Yorkshire Coast, we finally went down on May Day weekend to see what it was actually like.

Outside Alpamare

Alpamare has 2 outdoor, heated swimming pools (one of which is an Iodine pool, which apparently is really good for you – who knew?!) one indoor swimming area, which doubles up as a wave pool, 4 big slides, as well as a toddler wet play area with slide. Also inside is a restaurant and throughout are sun loungers in case you have had enough of the swimming.

 

The “wet side” is entirely cashless so as you go in, you get a wristband which you can use to use a locker and pay for your food/drinks. All you have to do is settle the bill at the end of the session. This means you don’t have to worry about having a £1 coin, and it is really easy to use.

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Decent sized locker

As you would expect, the changing rooms are really clean and modern, as are the lockers. One really good thing is the fact it is really warm throughout. As such,  you don’t feel as though you’re going to freeze when you finish swimming and get changed! They enforce a strict “no outdoor shoes” policy, which was really good to see. Even the electrician fixing an outside bulb up a ladder had to have shoe covers on!!

As the slides are only for those 6 and over, those with little ones are obviously limited in what they can do. Under 6’s are free however. Despite that, we were in there for 4 ½ hours!! The wave machine comes on every half an hour and so I thought that would be our main attraction. However, it was the heated outdoor pools which were the big pull for Heidi!

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Happy swimmer!

The pools are toasty warm and the patterns of bubbles means that it is such a relaxing experience. Because of the way that the pools are designed, you can’t jump in. This might limit some play for the little ones, but it just gives some scope for imaginative play instead. We played mermaids for over an hour!!

However, the main reason for these pools is for a relaxing experience. Heidi was enamoured by the warmth of the pools that she seemingly spent an hour floating on her back saying how lovely and relaxing it was – and I had to agree!!

In terms of food, the menu is what you would expect at an attraction like this – Hot Dog and chips (pictured) was £4.50, and the drink was just under £2. They do children’s lunch boxes, but to be honest, the better value might be a pizza or similar.

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Dinner!

A couple of good things about eating there is the view (pictured below) but also the fact that you can pop to the lockers for your towel and because it is so comfortably warm, you don’t need to get dressed.

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View from the restaurant (not a prison!)

Now, the elephant in the room – the price. If you’ve done any type of research on Alpamare, you’ll know that there are complaints about the price. £19 an adult is expensive. Also, you have to pay even if you’re just going to watch. However, you’re not going to your local council swimming pool – this is different. You can’t swim lengths at Alpamare and you can’t swim outside in a heated pool at the council swimming pool.

If £19 each (small reductions for children aged 6+) for 4 hours entertainment is above your price point, that is fine and I completely understand. However, this isn’t about swimming; this is about relaxation for some and the slides and excitement for others. Compare the adult price to Blizzard Beach in Florida (£50-ish) and Sea Life Centre (£18) and it doesn’t look too bad then. Also, there is plenty of free parking on site. (UPDATE July 2017: There is no longer free parking on site!)

(Full disclosure: I received a free ticket for this blog post, but my views are my own)

However, I am sure that we will come back again, even before Heidi is old enough to go on the slides!!


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Sandcastle Water Park

Daddy/daughter day went further afield this time!  I had Heidi on a weekday during term-time and so we decided (well, me as Heidi is still 2!) to go to Blackpool for the day. This was with the hope of beating the crowds somewhat. Also, as Heidi loves her swimming I thought that it would be good to to Sandcastle Water Park.

Location and Facilities

In terms of location, Sandcastle Water Park is opposite the Pleasure Beach and we decided to park in the car park next to it. As the forecast wasn’t that brilliant, this turned out to be a good decision, and meant that I wasn’t carrying swimming items all day!

As we went in, the first think I realised was the coin-less locket. If you read this post (Swimming with a toddler!) you’ll know my loathing of money at swimming baths, so that was a good start. We found a changing room quite easily, although getting dressed afterwards was a bit more difficult. There were plenty of lockers to choose from. Also, when going into the changing rooms, it was nice and warm, which is a nice change!

Swimming

So for the swimming itself. Sandcastle Water Park is clearly a water park and so if you’re wanting to teach your child to swim, it won’t work for you. However, there are 2 main swimming areas, one with a wave machine at the top and bottom of the hour and one with a ravine and a couple of children’s slides going into it.

There are also a large number of slides for big kids and little kids to go on. For toddlers, there are probably 4 slides that they can go on – 2 with adults and 2 without. Obviously, the queues were non-existent for these. However, with Heidi quickly getting tired, she didn’t want to go on any of them!

There is also a “splash zone” where kids can climb up a staircase/tower and splash those below. This was good and the ravine was also good to go round a few times. In terms of the wave machine, non swimmers can’t go into the deep end. This is with good reason as it is powerful enough in the shallow end and so care needs to be taken.

2 hours absolutely flew by even though we only went on 1 slide. We were only stopped by the fact Heidi was getting tired. If we were to go again, I would probably put some money on the wristband so we could go to the waterside cafe. This would mean that we could have had a rest and something to eat.

Pricing

The pricing is a difficult one for me as it is probably one of the best in the country and cheaper than the new one to be opened in Scarborough. (You can read about Alpamare here). However, 3 year olds are charged a child’s price and they are clearly not going to last as long as older children. However, I fully understand the business reasoning. I suggest that you think about the price if you have a 3 or 4 year old.

However, compared to the Pleasure Beach over the road, Sandcastle Water Park is a bargain and with older children, you could legitimately stay in all day.

Continue reading Sandcastle Water Park

Swimming with a toddler!

I have been meaning to write a blog post about swimming with a toddler for a while. However, after going swimming a few days ago to Sandcastle Water Park I thought that I would write a generic and hopefully humorous post on coping as a single dad with the trauma of swimming!!

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I found swimming one of my biggest challenges as a single dad. This is mainly as I lacked confidence to do it. So if by reading this, it inspires someone to go and give it a go with their child, then it has worked! Also, if you laugh/smile, it has worked as well!

Getting Ready

My main issue was the changing room, making sure that I had packed everything, unpacked everything etc etc!  Dry space is your friend on this…who cares if things are not folded like a piece of origami – so long as it is dry!

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I used to get us both ready in out swimming costumes before setting off to the baths as it is one less thing to forget. I tended to put Heidi’s swimming nappy on just before going into the pool. Don’t make my mistake of putting it on too early as they are not as easy to change and clean when they have been used!!!

So, getting into the pool is the easy bit, apart from playing the ‘how can I put all our clothes in the locker while entertaining a child?’ game?! Lockers are not designed for adult shoes, coats, bags or even baby items. It seems as though they only accept towels and money so you won’t be the first or the last to shoulder barge your bags, shoes etc in while holding your child in the other arm. Not glamorous, but just get the job done!

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Swimming with a Toddler

The swimming bit is actually the fun part, except you have probably got a dead arm at this point. Remember though, a child in water weighs less so you can reminisce about how light your child was back when they were born as your arm recovers and you worry about if you put everything in the locker!!

You are also petrified about not being in contact with your child for the fear of drowning in an instant. You also start to mentally design about some kind of swimming harness to make sure it never happens…

There is a serious note on swim safety here and there are many better resources than me to advise on that. However, always listen to the lifeguards, they are there for a reason!

However, you quite like this swimming with a toddler lark.

The Lockers

So after going round the same bit of pool for a what feels like an eternity, you get feeling back in your arm and decide to get out of the pool. Then you wonder how you are going to get everything out of the locker that rammed full of all your worldly possessions whilst looking after a child…

Some places have pens to put children in, so ask where it is before you go into the water in the first place. It is optional to have to take them out! However, you are probably going to try and have to use your newly recovered arm to yank the mis-shaped items out of the locker.

I probably should have said beforehand to make sure all the zips of your bags are closed before you put it in the locker. As if not, the contents will fly their way into someone else’s changing cubicle!! You then suddenly turn into Michael Caine and think that the only solution is to blow the bloody door off…

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The Changing Rooms

However, changing rooms are magical places and then you evolve from Michael Caine to a hybrid of superheroes.

You have 8 arms because you are carrying a tired child and your worldly possessions. Most importantly is the £1 coin from the locker as you promised the child something from the vending machine if they stayed in the water for more than 5 minutes.

You also turn into a hawk trying to look for a suitable changing room. For this,  size means nothing. Just make sure it is dry!

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You also turn into Usain Bolt realising you have to leave some things in the changing room to get everything else out of the locker. As such, you rush to make sure no-one will steal your underwear and worn down trainers (hint, they won’t!)

You also curse the hawk for not spotting a free changing room right next to the locker…

Getting Dressed

So you are tired, wet, cold and your superhuman powers have disappeared. Your Everest is in front of you – your child needs changing into normal clothes again! You forget everything you have ever learnt about dressing a child as you fear that hypothermia is just around the corner. (Hint, it isn’t. Although you need to get them dry as soon as possible)

This is has a difficulty level 9 and so it is ok for shortcuts to be made.
Clothes inside out? Not a problem. Shoes on with no socks? Not a problem.
Vest back to front? Be proud that you have got the vest on in the first place.

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But they you realise that you can do it, and you have done it. You have got your child dressed and not managed to break them! You’re in a changing room so no one else can see your joy. However, no one else can see your celebration dance, so go for it!

However, there is a problem. You are still in your swimming outfit, freezing cold and wondering how to get out in one piece. If your child is a baby, you are on easy street. Just give them a toy and you have bought 5 minutes. Trust me, they won’t mind!

Bribery

With a toddler, this is much more difficult. They want to get out of the changing rooms. They also know how to open the door. You panic about showing the whole world everything as your toddler escapes and you having to run and catch them wearing only a smile. But then you remember one of the keys to parenting – bribery. You offer the lure of the vending machine to keep them sweet for 5 minutes as you get dressed. You also wonder why you wore skinny jeans as opposed to baggy shorts.

And then you’re ready to leave, having spent more time out of the pool than in the pool. But you know that you have completed an important mission with SAS style efficiency and you have a happy child.

Until you realise you have forgotten to pick up the coin from the locker and the vending machine will have to wait until next time!

Continue reading Swimming with a toddler!