M&M’s World – London

Ok, it might be a bit strange me doing a blog post about a shop. However, M&M’s World is such a cool shop, I feel as though it needs a writing about!

M&M's World splash image

What is at M&M’s World?

M&M’s World is a shop over 4 floors full of everything related to M&M’s. From socks to tablewear, T-shirts to personalised M&M’s, it has everything that you could imagine.  The store is bright and colourful, with upbeat music being played throughout, it is a really positive experience going there.

Photo opportunity at M&M's World
M&M guest appearance!

Why is M&M’s World more than just a shop?

There are loads of photo opportunities here for young and old alike. From M&M’s cars, to M&M’s mimicking the legendary Beatles image of them crossing the road, as well as random M&M characters showing up for photos, there is more to do than just shop.

M&M's as the Beatles
M&M’s as the Beatles

Heidi’s favourite activity in the store was doing the mood personality test. Whilst it did show that she did indeed have a personality, it did differ each time she did it, therefore, it could be a sign of temperamental teenage years to come!!

M&M's World personality test
M&M’s World personality test!

Our magical M&M’s World experience

The main reason for writing this was when we visited M&M’s World in February 2019, we were approached by Philip-Alexander, who worked in their marketing department. I think that this was because Heidi was wearing a cool M&M’s T-shirt bought on a previous visit!!

We were asked a few questions about various products, price points and generally, whether we liked the in-store experience.  It only took 5-10 minutes, but he was really friendly throughout. Then, the magic!! Heidi was allowed to get some free sweets from the shop! She was over the moon with excitement and it really topped off our Friday evening. 

Car at M&M's World
There’s even cars at M&S’s World!

Then, Heidi got talking to some more members of staff, who again were oh so friendly. Heidi was telling them about the questionnaire that we had done and our plans in London for the weekend. Heidi then sweet-talked them (excuse the pun!) into giving her some more chocolate! It just shows how nice the staff are!

Santa in M&M's form!
Santa in M&M’s form!

Where is M&M’s World?

M&M’s World is in the heart of Leicester Square and so it is central to a lot of things in London. You can easily spend an hour here, even without buying anything!! However, if you time it right, there is a musical display directly outside the store (look up!) which is lovely to watch and hear.

Musical display outside M&M's World
Musical display outside M&M’s World
Continue reading M&M’s World – London

Belowzero Ice Bar

It might seem strange to do a blog post on a family blog about a bar, but Belowzero Ice Bar is a bit different. We went in February 2019, and as we loved it so much, I had to write about it.

Belowzero Ice bar splash image

What is Belowzero Ice Bar?

In its simpliest form, Belowzero Ice Bar is just a bar. It serves drinks and music is played. However, as the name suggests, the temperature is around -5oC and so it is a really “cool” experience (ok, I’ll stop with the puns!). You are given Eskimo coats to wear to keep you warm, and special gloves to wear. It doesn’t  feel too cold to be honest, and quite refreshing if it is a warm day in London.

Fancy ice sculpture!

The Ice Bar is decorated with ice sculptures with a different theme every few months, so in some respects, every visit will be slightly different. There are ice-free places to sit down (you wouldn’t want a wet bum!) but generally you’ll want to look around all the ice sculptures.

The bar isn’t especially large, which makes it feel intimate, but not busy, especially as too many people will make the ice melt! You are advised to book in advance, which helps manage numbers I imagine.

What does Belowzero Ice Bar serve?

Belowzero Ice Bar serve a range of cocktails and mocktails. I am not much of a drinker, but the mocktails were enjoyed by Heidi and myself! The best thing is that the drinks are served in ice!! As a result, you need your special gloves to be able to hold onto the “glass”!!

I can confirm that it is possible to break an ice glass, as they can be quite slippery!

Belowzero Ice Bar bar
Yes, these are made of ice!

Is Belowzero Ice Bar child friendly?

It is as child friendly as a bar without a beer garden can be! As you are only in for 40 minutes, and people are there for the experience, rather than get drunk, then there is little chance of people misbehaving. Also, there is the usual security, to make sure no-one goes in drunk.

However, there are rules on under 18’s. They only allow under 18’s in up to 18.30 Monday to Saturday and all day Sunday. Children 8 and under are free to enter.

Having a Belowzero Ice bar mocktail
Having a mocktail!

I never felt that it was not safe or not appropriate for Heidi to be there.

How much does Belowzero Ice Bar cost?

There are various ticket packages, but the tickets come with a drink included. There is a family ticket, which covers 2 adults and 2 children or 1 adult and 3 children. We found this to be cheaper than buying the drink for Heidi separately.  However, your circumstances may mean it is cheaper to buy any under 8’s a drink separately.

Topical too…!!

Whereabouts is Belowzero Ice Bar?

Belowzero Ice Bar is located between Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus, quite close to Hamleys. It is hidden away in the Heddon Street Food Quarter, just off Regent Street. As such, give yourself a bit of time to find it, especially as you don’t want to be late!!

Yes, it is in London!

Overall

Heidi absolutely loved Belowzero Ice Bar, and it was something completely different. Yes, it is expensive and as such, it is a bit of a one-off. However, if your child is mature enough, it is a wonderful experience to have.

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The Sun: Living with our Star – Science Museum

“The Sun: Living with our Star” is the Science Museum’s latest “paid for” exhibit, running from 6th October 2018 to 6th May 2019. We were invited along to check out the exhibit, for the purposes of the blog post.

The Sun: Living with our Star lead image

What is “The Sun: Living with our Star” Exhibit?

“The Sun: Living with our Star” takes visitors on a journey through time with human’s relationship with the Sun.  Starting from 3,000 year old artefacts all the way through to modern day science and its effect on civilisation, you realise how important the Sun is to us, as well as how much we still don’t know about it.

The exhibit, in true Science Museum style, also focused on how the sun can create power. There was an excellent little game to get children to think about reflecting light to create power.

Also, it looks at future problems caused by the sun, namely solar storms, and there was an excellent quiz for everyone to learn about what we would need in the case of a solar storm.

Solar Storm quiz
Doing the Solar Storm quiz

For me, the best part was seeing a hi-resolution video of the sun, and marvelling about how much activity occurs. Seeing it relatively close up meant that you see things that you never see before. 

image of sun
High-Res image of the Sun

Is “The Sun: Living with our Star” child appropriate?

Yes! There is nothing scary about the exhibit and so nervous children will be fine!  There are enough exhibits that the little ones can touch and play with for them to be engaged throughout.

Perhaps the part that the children liked the most was the mock beach, as it also doubled up as a little playground as well!

Beach
Beach time!!

In terms of learning, the children found learning about sundials to be particularly interesting. I think that it was because it was quite visual, as well as the fact that they don’t see sundials very often.

sun dials
Learning about sundials

How much does “The Sun: Living with our Star” cost?

The best part about this exhibit is that children under 16 are free! The pricing structure is:

Adults                                 £13.50

Concessions                       £11.70

Seniors                                 £12.60

Children (under 16)         Free

What else is there to do at the Science Museum?

There is the fabulous Wonderlab on the top floor. You can read about Wonderlab in this blogpost.  Also, the Science Museum has a whole host of free galleries to view as well and you can quite easily spend all day at the Science Museum.

Top Tip!

If you’re looking for a good photo opportunity, there is a section towards the middle depicting the Sun’s ray. The provides excellent lighting for photos, especially with the cut out holes at the back!

Photo spot
I love this photo!!

Disclosure

Whilst we received free entry into “The Sun: Living with our Star”, this did not influence any opinion of the blog post.

Continue reading The Sun: Living with our Star – Science Museum

Wallace & Gromit’s Musical Marvels – Preview

Across the UK, Wallace & Gromit’s Musical Marvels is appearing in theatres and concert halls for special orchestral performances which are sure to entertain the whole family.

Wallace & Gromit’s Musical Marvels – Preview

What will happen at Wallace & Gromit’s Musical Marvels?

The interactive experience features specially created animations as well as a live orchestral accompaniment, from the Picture House Orchestra. This is then followed by a screening of “The Wrong Trousers”, with the soundtrack performed by the orchestra.

Wallace & Gromit's Musical Marvels playing music
(c) and TM Aardman/W&G Ltd. All rights reserved.

How Long does Wallace & Gromit’s Musical Marvels last?

The first half is an energetic, interactive dialogue between Wallace, Gromit and the live orchestra. This last for about 35 minutes. The second part is a screening of The Wrong Trousers, with live orchestra, which lasts for 30 minutes. There is a 20 minute interval, so overall, it lasts 85 minutes-ish.

Is Wallace & Gromit’s Musical Marvels wriggle-proof?

Wallace & Gromit’s Musical Marvels is aimed for children aged 3+, so you know that it’s going to be a bright, breezy and lively performance!

Is there a preview for Wallace & Gromit’s Musical Marvels?

Check out this video below:

Where can we watch Wallace & Gromit’s Musical Marvels?

There are numerous dates up and down the country, and they are listed below:

Beaconsfield – NFTS – Premiere event

15/05/2019 7:30pm

Buxton – Opera House

16/05/2019 1:30pm (schools only)

16/05/2019 6:30pm

Blackpool Pleasure Beach

17/05/2019 1:30pm

17/05/2019 6:30pm

18/05/2019 2:00pm

18/05/2019 6:00pm

Sheffield City Hall

19/05/2019 1:00pm

19/05/2019 4:00pm

Stoke Victoria Hall

20/05/2019 1:30pm (schools only)

20/05/2019 7:00pm

Leicester De Montfort Hall

23/05/2019 1:30pm

23/05/2019 6:30pm

Liverpool Arena Auditorium

25/05/2019 4:00pm

25/05/2019 7:00pm

Manchester Lowry

26/05/2019 1:00pm

26/05/2019 4:00pm

London Barbican Hall

27/05/2019 1:00pm

27/05/2019 4:00pm

Birmingham Symphony Hall

29/05/2019 2:00pm

29/05/2019 6:30pm

Bath The Forum

31/05/2019 2:00pm

31/05/2019 6:30pm

Cardiff St. David’s Hall

01/06/2019 1:30pm

01/06/2019 6:00pm

Reading The Hexagon

02/06/2019 1:00pm

02/06/2019 4:00pm

Gateshead Sage

06/06/2019 1:30pm

06/06/2019 6:30pm

Carlisle Sands Centre

07/06/2019 1:30pm

07/06/2019 6:30pm

Edinburgh Usher Hall

08/06/2019 2:00pm

08/06/2019 6:00pm

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

09/06/2019 2:00pm

09/06/2019 6:00pm

How can we get tickets to Wallace & Gromit’s Musical Marvels?

You can follow the links by clicking on the venue above, but also, keep your eyes peeled for a competition giveaway in the next few weeks!

How do we know if Wallace & Gromit’s Musical Marvels is worth seeing?

We have been given tickets to the Sheffield showing for the purposes of a review.  So check out the page and social media accounts around that time and see what we thought!

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Continue reading Wallace & Gromit’s Musical Marvels – Preview

Shrek’s Adventure

We have been to Shrek’s Adventure a couple of times now and given that the new “How to Train Your Dragon” exhibit is now open, I thought that I would write about it.

Shrek's Adventure - lead image

What is Shrek’s Adventure?!

I am not sure that there is anything similar to Shrek’s Adventure in Central London! Shrek’s Adventure is a walking tour through the story of Shrek, where you spend 5 minutes or so in each scene before carrying on the story. Each scene is led by a character in the story and generally something magical happens in each one, be it a witch appearing from nowhere or a toilet exploding!

Shrek's Adventure - mirror maze
Mirror Maze © Mikael Buck / Shrek’s Adventure London

After the introduction from Fiona (from Shrek) you go into a stationary bus and have an immersive 4D ride where you take in the sights of the world before crashing on top of a witch or two! It is very immersive and as such, it can be overwhelming for younger children. However, it is really good to watch and so if your little one can be brave, then they will love it.

The After-Show

After you have completed the show, there is a nice little break-out area, where the children can wind down. There are a few photo opportunities with still characters from the show and allow them to be kids again!

Shrek's Adventure How to Train Your Dragon exhibit
The new “How to Train Your Dragon” exhibit

When we went in February 2019, they had just opened a new exhibit from “How to Train Your Dragon” which will be popular with the younger children especially.

Favourite Parts

For me, my favourite memory is when Cinderella tried to get me to go out with her!! No, I’m not kidding! However, Heidi got really upset that someone was going to take me away from her, she got really upset! It was very cute indeed!!

Shrek's Adventure - image of Cinderella
Cinderella at Shrek’s Adventure London. © Mikael Buck / Shrek’s Adventure

My other favourite part is the Sleeping Beauty section, which provided hours of entertainment in the days/weeks to follow. However, I won’t give the secret away.

No Photos!!

You may have seen that that photos on here are professional and don’t contain Heidi or myself. That is because you’re gently told at the beginning that you aren’t allowed to take photos. Whilst that’s bad for blogging, it does mean that the experience is authentic and flows better.

There are a couple of photo opportunities at the start which you can buy, as well as one at the end with Shrek himself, which is free. However, the memories from Shrek’s Adventure will just have to be that – memories.

Shrek's Adventure image with Shrek
Meeting Shrek himself afterward

Age Appropriate?

This is a difficult one to answer as it depends on your child. There are scary parts, which means that more nervous children will find it a challenge. But then there are some really funny parts, which all children will like.

Heidi was aged 4 when we went and she loved most of it except the Pinocchio and jail scenes. As such, you might want to give extra big cuddles during those parts.

Shrek's Adventure - real muffin man
The real muffin man © Mikael Buck / Shrek’s Adventure London

As it is a walking show, there is naturally walking. However, it is all flat, inside and generally walking 20 yards or so before stopping for the next section. There aren’t many opportunities to sit down, therefore a 3 year old might struggle towards the end.

Shrek's Adventure - image of teddy muffin man
You can get a teddy version at the shop afterwards!

Grab a bargain!

As with most Merlin Attractions, there is often a deal to be had. If you want to do the Sealife Centre and, say, the London Eye (which are pretty much next-door) then there is a decent saving in buying your tickets together.  Also, there for often 2-for-1 offers run by travel companies and various household consumer brands.

The Verdict

Shrek’s Adventure is one of the things in London that you have to do at least once. As it is located on the South Bank opposite Westminster, its location is ideal and as it is indoor, can be a suitable “wet weather” activity. We have done it twice now and loved it each time and I’m sure that we will do it again in the future.

Continue reading Shrek’s Adventure

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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Go onto my website: http://www.leedsdad.com