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

Wallace and Gromit Trail

When can you go to a shopping centre, have a great time and not go in any shops or spend any money?! Well, the White Rose Shopping Centre has you covered this summer with a Wallace and Gromit sculpture trail throughout the centre.

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For only £2, you can buy a map from Customer Services and the map shows you exactly where the Wallace and Gromit characters are. Also, Customer Services have a limited range of merchandise. The merchandise is hidden away a bit on the counter so the little ones don’t realise that they are there!!

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All the proceeds from the sales of the maps and merchandise go to the Wallace and Gromit Grand Appeal charity.

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There is nothing majorly complex about the trail, but you will need a map for 2 of the sculptures. This is because they aren’t in the main of the shopping centre, but I’m not going to give any clues!!

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The Wallace and Gromit trail is a nice bit of light hearted entertainment as you walk around the shopping centre. I’m sure that it will make the kids walk quicker, knowing that there is something to find just ahead.

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If you were to do the trail without looking in any of the shops it will probably take you about half an hour. However, I guess that it depends on how quickly you walk. Also, it depends on how easily you find the 2 which are hidden away a little.

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I know how much effort goes into these events, given that I helped put together the Herd of Sheffield sculpture trail. As such, please remember that it is for charity and support it as much as you can! You can read about the Herd of Sheffield event here.

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If you feel a little hungry after all the Wallace and Gromit hunting, there are loads of places to eat. One of the restaurants is Wagamamas and you can read about how child friendly it is here.

 


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Thomas & Friends – “Big World! Big Adventures! The Movie”

We were invited to see the new Thomas & Friends movie “Big World! Big Adventures!TM  The Movie” at the Showcase de Luxe at Leeds.  Due to it falling on a “non Heidi” weekend, Heidi didn’t come along. So it was me, my new-ish girlfriend and her 2 year old boy watching the sneak preview.

The Plot

The plot is relatively simple and given that this post is aimed at adults. As such, I’m going to assume that you don’t mind reading about the plot!!

Thomas comes across a new character, called Ace, and his eyes are opened to the possibility of travelling the world. Along the way, he comes across friends and challenges to make the journey easier and harder in equal measures. Thomas has to work out for himself what is the right path to take throughout the movie.

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Thomas in a spot of trouble

The movie takes in all 5 continents along the way, so there is some geographic education within the film. However, the basis of the film is educating morals and the right way to behave.

The Length

The Thomas & Friends movie is 80 minutes long and that is more than long enough for the target market. After about 45 minutes, you could hear that some of the children were getting a bit restless but that is bound to happen. However, it appeared that virtually everyone made their way to the end of the movie, which is quite an achievement.

As with all trips to the cinema, it is always worth getting food and drinks to keep the little ones occupied. A teddy bear often works well, especially when it goes really dark!

The Characters

The old favourites from the island of Sodor are in the movie at the beginning, including Annie, Clarabelle, James and Gordon. However, when Thomas makes his around the world adventure, a couple of new characters enter the world of Thomas. These are:

  • Nia, who is a Kenyan female train, voiced by Yvonne Grundy. She is remarkably positive and thoughtful throughout.
  • Ace, who is an Australian rally car, voiced by Peter Andre. He is quite a selfish character, who leads Thomas astray but he isn’t as brave as he thinks he is.
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Thomas and Ace

The Scary Bits

As the movie is aimed at the little ones (probably 8 year olds and under), there aren’t any very scary parts. There is a scene towards the end which might be considered frightening. This is when the trains are on a snowy mountain and might crash, but that is the only part really.

The movie doesn’t contain any really loud parts of the movie either and so little ones who get scared of loud noises or music should be fine. Given this, I can imagine that the movie would suit children with autism, but I can’t speak from experience on that one.

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Thomas does look a bit scared!!

The Verdict

Thomas & Friends’ “Big World! Big Adventures!TM  The Movie” is certainly a child friendly movie that will entertain Thomas enthusiasts throughout. If a movie can keep a 2 year old entertained and still, then there must be something good about it. At the time of writing, IMDb has the movie 6.7 out of 10, which feels a little mean to be honest. I feel that if you’re in the target market, you’ll enjoy it.

The release date is 20th July 2018, and you can book your tickets now for your local Showcase Cinemas here.

Full Disclaimer: We were offered free entry to Thomas & Friends for the purposes of this post. However, no influence has been made to alter the content of the post.


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Tractor Fest 2018 – Newby Hall

Going to a “Tractor Fest” doesn’t immediately jump out as a good way to spend the day with a child. However, Tractor Fest at Newby Hall is more than just about tractors!

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Yes, there are tractors – hundreds and hundreds of tractors in fact.  They come from far and wide from all over the country to the event. However, there are all over types of agricultural machinery from motors to plough, diggers to trailers so don’t think that tractors are all that is on offer!!

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In fact, it has more of a feel of a Country Show than a pure “Tractor Fest”. This is because there were shops, food stalls, and children’s activities. The children’s activities included the Police Tractor, land train and ride on mini tractors/cars (£3 for 15 minutes). There is also a helter-skelter, dodgems and a mini train roundabout.

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There is also the lovely Newby Hall gardens a short walk away from the main festival which is free for Tractor Fest. Here there is a mini train to ride (£2.20 each for a 10 minute ride – brilliant value!) a really good playground and a water/splash area. Because of this, a spare change of clothes is advisable!!

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Just a few things to bear in mind:
– It is an outdoor attraction so you need dry weather!
– It is held in a farmers field and so a sturdy pair of shoes (and pushchair!) are advisable/
– The main Tractor Fest doesn’t seem to have baby change facilities. The best place is in Newby Hall Gardens. Likewise, the best toilets are down there.

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The parking is free and plentiful and due to the volume of cars, make sure you make a note of where you parked your car. The car park entry and exit was very efficient and organised. Even though the car park was busy, the event did not feel busy.

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You will see a good number of “farmer” types who come to Tractor Fest for the tractors. It was pleasantly surprising to see how many young children were there, especially in the Gardens. It shows that there is much more to Tractor Fest than tractors, and the free admission for under 4’s really helps with this!

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We were at Tractor Fest for 4 hours and we had a really good time throughout. The 2 year old (it wasn’t my weekend to have Heidi) fell asleep towards the end through the combination of fresh air, exercise and mental stimulation.  That’s not a bad thing at all!!

Hopefully next year, Heidi will have chance to experience the fun (in the sun hopefully!).

Continue reading Tractor Fest 2018 – Newby Hall

Chester Zoo

As you might have read on a previous blog post, we travelled by National Express to Chester Zoo, and you can read about it here.

Given that Chester Zoo is so far for most, I thought that it would be good idea to come up with some pointers which might help you have a fab visit. This will hopefully lead to a peaceful journey home with children fast asleep!!

Plan what you want to see.  

The park is so big, you are unlikely to be able to see everything, especially if you have children. As such, plan what you want to see and build the day around that. Either that, or spread the visit over 2 days. There are so many animals to see, from Bats (not suitable for those who don’t like the dark!) to Zebras and Elephants.

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  • Go to the Islands first. This one came from the kind people at Chester Zoo as the boat ride and general attractions in that part of the park gets busier in the afternoon. The last thing you want to do it wait for nearly an hour to go on a boat ride!
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Zebras can be found at the entrance to the Islands

Let the kids play!

There are decent play areas dotted around and whilst it is easy to want to keep them seeing all the animals. However, they need a break as well. There is a small water area and so you might want to pack a spare change of clothes (and visit it towards the end of the day!)

Consider the refillable drink option.

If it is warm, this option will be well worth it, especially as you won’t load your bag up with heavy drinks before setting off. However, I couldn’t find a refill station in The Islands so refill before you head over there.

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Enjoying the refills!

Dress as if you’re off on Safari.

The park is big and so wear decent shoes and comfortable clothes, especially if it is going to be warm. You probably don’t need to wear the khaki’s, but when in Rome….!! As the park is so big, you might want to see if the old pushchair still works. You can hire stollers, which looked like a good idea at about 3pm!!

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Hijacking a pushchair! (not really!!)

If you’re going to buy a present, don’t wait until the park closes.

The queues at the shop at the entrance/exit were huge as the park was closing. It might be better to visit halfway during the day and drop it off in the car, or visit one further into the park when it comes to leaving the park.

Probably the highlight was seeing the giraffes run for their freshly prepared food, which was pretty special. Heidi also played hide and seek with some animals who thought that it would be a good idea to run in and out of their indoor area!

There are loads of toilets dotted about and they are really well signposted (having had to make a dash following a “I need a wee” call from Heidi!!). There are also enough food outlets around so you won’t go hungry. The BBQ place smelt amazing and that might be the best place to eat (it’s near a kids play area!)

Overall, we had a really good time at Chester Zoo, and we were blessed with almost perfect weather conditions. The journey back was very quiet to say the least as we were all a bit tired!!  I do think that if we went back, we would try and go for 2 days and make a weekend of it!!

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PS Does anyone know what these animals are?! They are good at hide and seek!

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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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Bradford Ice Arena

One of my main weaknesses is my lack of co-ordination and balance (I’m 6ft 1in tall and not exactly slim!!) As a result, going ice skating isn’t something that I would normally do. This is especially given our last visit,  which you can read about here.

However, the lure of Frozen and a kiddie-friend get-together meant that ice skating was going to happen. However, with a new girlfriend (you can read about me dating here) who was eager to get on the ice (or eager to get away from me for an hour!) we joined the rest of the Kiddie Crew for a trip on the ice.

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Not sure the shades were needed!!

The Building

Truth be told, I didn’t actually do any ice skating, which meant that I was in peak blogging mode and seeing what would be good for a blog post!! From the outside, Bradford Ice Arena doesn’t look that appealing as it is a few floors up a 1970’s city centre office block. The lift was broken, so taking a pushchair up takes some effort. As the building is quite old, some of the interior is a bit aged, but this is made up by helpful and friendly staff.

Get there early!

We went to the Family Session, which is akin to a beginners session. As the weather outside wasn’t great, the place was very busy and there was a big queue to get in. As a result, arrive in plenty of time!!

You need to get your skates on after entering the arena and there is often a queue for that. As such, I would recommend arriving 30 minutes before the session. At worse, you are sat around watching the session before you.  There are loads of seats (they host ice hockey games there) so no problems on that front!

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The ice is over THERE!!!!

You can hire a penguin or snowman skating aid for a small charge. These are issued on a first come first served basis and you only have them for an hour (and they enforce that!). To be honest, after an hour, either you’ll have enough confidence to get rid of the aid, or you’ll have given up!!  For more advanced skaters, there are Disco sessions and General skating sessions. However. for little ones, the Family sessions are ideal.

There are a good number of friendly marshals on the ice. They are very good in looking after little ones who fall on the ice!

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For an adult and a 4 year old with a penguin aid, it cost £14. This seems like good value for almost 2 hours of fun, especially as it was so much better than last time!!


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Rumpelstiltskin – Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield

The national performance by the balletLORENT theatre company made its way to the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield to showcase their latest production – an adaptation of the fairytale of Rumpelstiltskin.

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It’s difficult to write a review of a performance without giving away any particular surprises, especially when the story is well known. As such, here are a few reasons why you should go to see the performance:

It is a professional production.

The narrator is from the Game of Thrones, the Artistic Director has an MBE and the composer has worked on Doctor Who – they know what they are doing and it shows in a very polished performance.

You don’t have to take the kids!

Whilst it is a fairytale storyline, if you’re child free, you will enjoy it just as much as those who take children along!

It is just long enough for the kids.

The first half is 30 minutes long and the second half is 40 minutes long, with a 20 minute interval. Heidi (aged 4) struggled with the last 5 minutes, but the length was just right.

The sheep!!

Not wanting to give any surprises, but the acting by the sheep was amazing. I am sure that a few of the audience thought that they were real!!

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Jt feels right that the performance is aimed for children aged 7+. This is because there are a few dark moments in the first half. With Heidi being 4, she struggled in the last 5 minutes of the show as the sugar rush had worn off! However, she really understood the storyline, so it depends on the maturity of your child.

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Whilst this is a national production of Rumpelstiltskin, if you’re going to see it at the Lawrence Batley Theatre and have never been, there is a multi-story car park quite close and as the theatre isn’t huge, it means that the seats generally have good views (and decent legroom!)

Full disclosure: I was provided free tickets for the purposes of this review. However, the views are my own and have not been influenced or edited.


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Junior Kitchen – Morley, Leeds

A last minute Heidi Sunday with snow in the air took us to Junior Kitchen in Morley for an impromptu cupcake session. I had been tipped off about Junior Kitchen from a school mum and with the weather looking dodgy, I booked on early in the morning for an afternoon session.

Junior Kitchen

The one thing that struck me as we were in was how fresh, modern and clean the facilities looked. It was bright and funky and just a nice atmosphere to spend time with your child.

Junior Kitchen

Whilst Junior Kitchen do lots of different classes for all sorts of age ranges, we did the cupcake decorating session. The session was £15 (per child!) and lasted around 75 minutes.

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To start with, we were given set designs to follow, but as we all started to get used to the icing and get a bit more confident, we were given free play to design cupcakes and towards the end, we got butter cream icing to design a few more cupcakes!

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All in all, we got to decorate 14 cupcakes and so you can see, it was tremendous value for money! (Just make sure you have space for the food you bring home!)

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Talking to one of the teachers afterwards, they do tailor the session for the age range of the children. However, with parental support, you could take a 3 year old to this with no problem. I would say that there is no upper age range as the adults were having just as much fun as the children! The staff are super friendly so if you’re unsure, just ask before you book on.

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The box was completely filled at the end!!

As you can see, we had a brilliant time and as the session also included complimentary tea/coffee/juice, they have really thought of everything.

There is bound to be something for everyone at some point, given the number of different sessions on offer.  I’m sure we will be back to experience more!


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Hollywood Bowl – Bradford

We were invited for the PR Launch of the refurbished Hollywood Bowl in Bradford and whilst the evening was geared towards the adult end of the market, there is plenty for families to enjoy. As such, here are 5 reasons to go:

Easy Access

If you park on Level 4 of the adjacent car park, you’re on the same level as Hollywood Bowl. This, coupled with a 100 yard walk, means it is ideal for families. There is step free access throughout so the venue is open for all. Follow the signs for Bradford Leisure Exchange (BD1 5LD)

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Step free access throughout

Bowling Shoes are not needed

If you’re in flat shoes, obviously, you don’t need to get changed! Obviously if you actually like the shoes, you can wear some, but you don’t need to!

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Bowling shoes never go out of fashion!

It looks cool

As some of the photos hopefully show, the lanes do look really cool and a little bit different to the old bowling lanes from the 1990’s

It is family friendly

There are bowling ramps between every 2 lanes and because it has just been refurbished, the toilets are of a decent size in case you’re still going into the toilets with a little one. Importantly, they offer a host service to the lanes and as such, they can bring drinks/food to the lane for you so you don’t have to stop the game.

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Nacho, Nacho man!!

There is more than just bowling

There is a Diner for snack meals and drinks as well as arcade machines to play on.  The arcade machines are split into 2 sections – one where you play for fun and one where you play for tickets which you can collect to get prizes

You can find more about the Bradford venue here https://www.hollywoodbowl.co.uk/our-centres/bradford  If you like the venue, they also do children’s birthday parties. Having seen the party area, it is importantly a little bit more secluded than the rest of the attraction, so it might be worth a visit if you’re planning a party!


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