Sheffield Christmas Trail

Let’s be honest, we all love a free trail! Sheffield had one in 2016 with the Herd of Sheffield event, which you can read about here. However, the Sheffield Christmas Trail is a new event for the 2018 festive period.

What is the Sheffield Christmas Trail?

Not wanting to state the obvious, but it is a trail that starts on the Moor and finishes on Barkers Pool. However, the trail goes through Sheffield City Centre as you follow the clues to find “presents” for Santa. You need to download the “Sheffield Christmas Trail” app and follow the clues.

Sheffield Christmas Trail
The app

The clues aren’t difficult and you can get even more help via the app if you really need it. The presents are in various shops and so you might feel a little weird going into a shop and taking a scan of a QR code. However, you’ll get used to it after a while!

All of the clues are to be found by foot and for some of them, you need to follow a little trail, as found below.

Sheffield Christmas Trail
Look for these within some of the shops

How much does the Sheffield Christmas Trail cost?

Nothing – it’s free!!

What do I need for the Sheffield Christmas Trail?

You need to make sure you have your phone charged as you need to use the app and camera. Also, there is a fair bit of walking so good shoes would be useful. If you’re still using a pushchair for your child, it would be a good idea to bring it along!

Sheffield Christmas Trail
The first clue

How long does it take?

A lot depends on how quickly you and your group walk. However, I think that you could do it in a couple of hours, so long as you don’t fall out in the process!!

You can do the trail over a number of sessions, so long as you use the same app.

What do I win?

Eternal pride and glory. Oh, and a small prize from Santa’s Post Office for completing the trail.

Sheffield Christmas Trail
If you find me, you win!

Anything else I need to know?

As you need to go inside shops/cafes, then you need to be doing the trail whilst the shops are open. Also, you need to do the clues in order and so whilst you know where the finish is, you aren’t allowed to break the order!! Believe me, I tried to cheat!!

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Santa’s Post Office – Sheffield

We decided to kick off the run-in to Christmas by visiting the free (yes, free!) Santa’s Post Office, in Sheffield City Centre (Barkers Pool).

Santa’s Post Office Location

For non Sheffield locals, Barkers Pool is about a 5-10 minute walk from the train station right in the city centre, very close to the Crucible and Lyceum theatres. As you can see the outside of Santa’s Post Office is beautifully decorated and not easy to miss!!

What happens inside Santa’s Post Office?

Inside, the children can write a letter to Santa (or parents can do it!). The letter gets put in a post box and magically ends up in Lapland!


Spoiler alert: Then an adult goes to the magical elf and gets a letter from Santa to give to their child at an appropriate time. You might want the elves or another adult to keep your child occupied whilst you get the letter!!

We went last year (2017) and Santa’s Post Office was quite small. However, Santa’s Post Office has expanded and so there should be enough space to write a letter and not feel rushed or squashed! For 2018, there is also a buggy park inside!

All, it will take about half an hour to an hour to do the letter. You get a good quota of stickers to decorate the letter which leaves enough time to enjoy the other things in Sheffield City Centre.

As you can tell, Santa’s Post Office is wonderfully decorated and once you go in, you’ll really feel in the Christmas spirit!

What about the rest of Sheffield?

If you’re travelling from afar, you’ll want to spend more time in Sheffield than just this. However, there is a Christmas Market with possibly the largest Santa’s Grotto you have seen. There is also a Christmas Trail, which you can read about here and you can play “Find the Elephant” at the Winter Gardens (that is my made-up game!)

Santa's Post Office

For more information about all the other events in Sheffield, check out the “Alive after Five” website –

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Valley Centertainment

Ok, when it comes to going to Sheffield for family entertainment, what do you think of? Meadowhall, Sheffield Arena or maybe something like the Elephants which were in Sheffield in 2016 (link here)?  Having worked in Sheffield for 4 ½ years, I had only ever heard of Valley Centertainment and never actually went until I was invited down to see what was on offer.

There are loads of things to do at Valley Centertainment, truth be told!!  There are 12 places to eat (yes, 12!!) including good old favourites such as Nando’s, but also loads of entertainment such as Cineworld (apparently the busiest Cineworld outside of London) and Hollywood Bowl.

Obviously you can’t do all of this in one day (would be a good challenge) but we did try and do as much as possible! We started off with Paradise Island Adventure Golf, which has 2 full 18 hole courses. We did the downstairs course, and if truth be told, it was very difficult! If you have smaller children, it might be best to go for the upstairs course!


The course is clean and well kept and there are enough quirky bits and pieces to keep the children entertained if the attention span is beginning to be stretched! Next-door is “Monkey Business” which is an indoor play area. it looked quite large and so you could easily combine the two if you have younger children. Also, the toilets are of good quality and number. Therefore, you don’t need to worry about that side of things if your little one drinks too much too quickly!!


In the same building is Laser Quest, and i have to confess that I have never done this before! You get about 15 minutes to walk (don’t run!!!) and try to shoot the other players. You really need 6 or more to make a good game of it, but they try to group smaller groups together to get a better atmosphere and game. There is a minimum age of 7, probably due to the dark and the effort it takes shooting the laser, so it’s something to bear in mind.  Sadly, taking pictures in the dark doesn’t really work that well!!

Ok, I look a bit geeky!

In terms of food, we went to Nando’s (another first!) for wings. Whilst we went on a Wednesday evening, it was busy, but the line did move quickly. If you have a large group, it might be an idea to see if you can book in advance!

Very, very mild wings!

Also on the food front, we went to Frankie and Benny’s for our main meal. Theservice was very quick and the food was as good as ever. There is always a family friendly atmosphere at Frankie and Benny’s, although I would recommend having the milkshake after doing the laser quest and certainly not before!!

I called it quits for the evening then, before the others went to Cineworld. However,in Hollywood Bowl, I did notice a “Colouring Station” for children to colour and draw. This is something that I have never seen and is a really cool idea.

Parking is free at Valley Centertainment (post code: S9 2EP) and can be found all over the site. It is probably best to park near near the laser quest, or Cineworld and has its own Supertram stop. To find more information on the venue, check out their website ( and you can find a page full of offers for the various attractions on site.

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Sheffield in a Day

Whilst being a Leeds Dad born and bred, I have ventured out a bit and work in Sheffield at the Children’s Hospital. As a result, it is a city that I know better than most. However, driving up and down the M1 on a weekday means that I rarely want to visit on a weekend. However, something strange is happening over the next few weeks in 2016 in the city…there is a herd of elephants! On a day out, we try to do Sheffield in a Day!!

The Children’s Hospital Charity have arranged for a trail of elephants throughout the city. Whilst I am clearly slightly biased, they are absolutely wonderful and are a welcome addition to the city. Obviously the novelty will fall away and they are only in the city for a few weeks. However, things like this bring people into the city and get people involved in arts and general culture. As a result please donate to them if you enjoy the elephants!

We tried to capture (unfortunate turn of phrase!) as many as possible while taking in a few of the other attractions in the city centre. We parted near the Crucible Theatre and made our way through the city. One thing I would suggest is plan your route, either which ones you want to see, or which attractions you want to go in and subsequently take in the elephants en route. There is an app available so planning the visit should be a doddle!!

We opted for the latter so after seeing the snooker themed one (sensibly indoors) we went to the Winter Gardens. We have never been here but it is a mini Tropical World, without the animals! Given that it is free, it is well worth half an hour. However, there are loads of mini elephants hidden around the plants, which is a really cool touch!

After this, we wondered over to the Millennium Gallery for a couple more elephants, but also to take in a bit more culture. Again, it is free and there is the more wonderful interactive exhibit. It looked a bit like a tree, but made out of cutlery, which Heidi absolutely loved. Again, we wandered through the exhibits spending another half an hour or so exploring before going to the Peace Gardens…


However, they weren’t peaceful as there was Sheffield by the Seaside, which was the other main reason to go to Sheffield. While the beach was pretty small, there was a few stalls and attractions (crazy golf, helter-skelter, face painting etc). There was also a kids DJ playing games which was a bit cringeworthy but also good fun in equal measures!

Also, there are water fountains in the Peace Gardens which means that a change of clothes is a must, as we found out ourselves. However, it does appear as though the water fountains are magical as well….


So after spending a good couple of hours there, we started heading back to the car. We saw some more elephants, including the one signed by the Arctic Monkeys, which was pretty cool.

If you’re wanting to spend more time in Sheffield, it might be an idea to head in the car to slightly out of the city centre to the Botanical Gardens. Thet are a bit like the Winter Gardens, but bigger. Here too, are a couple of elephants, but also a hidden Bear!!! This is a lovely park in general and would be ideal for a picnic in summer.


Finally, there is the Western Park Museum. As it is opposite the Children’s Hospital, parking can be difficult. It is a lovely museum with one little greengrocers stall which kept Heidi entertained for ages!!! There is Western Park next door, but it is seemingly used as a pedestrian commuting route, rather than a traditional “park”

As I am a bit of an outsider, I am sure that there are plenty of other attractions within Sheffield that I don’t know about about. If you had to do Sheffield in a Day, what would you do….?! Continue reading Sheffield in a Day


For the second year in a row, we went down the M1 to Sheffield for the Little Sheffield Totfest event.

The beauty of taking boatloads of photos and reminiscing is that you play the game “I can’t believe that was a year ago!”. That was exactly what happened when I realised it was Totfest again!

In short, Totfest is an open air event just for toddlers, with lots of free activities, taster classes and mini attractions. Obviously, for us to drive an hour to go, it must be good!

There seemed to be more at this years’ Totfest (2016). However, it may have been to do with the torrential rain in the morning last year. However, this year the rain waited until the afternoon!! The weather gods certainly don’t like this event!!!

However, for toddlers, there are loads of things to see and do. We easily spent a couple of hours at the event before being beaten by the weather.


In terms of the activities, there were Alpacas, skunks and meerkats that the children were encouraged to stroke, as well as kiddie golf and a fire engine. There was also story telling for the older ones, but we never got round to it. Speaking of animals, there was a huge dancing and singing chicken.  I have no idea why,  but it was entertaining nonetheless!!

Giant singing chicken!!

There was also a couple of free play areas with garden toys so that the little ones could run about and be children.

However, the best part is the structured classes, in part because they are under cover!! Seriously though, it is really good to go to these classes to get a flavour of if they suit your child. We experienced Pyjama Drama last year and because of it, we joined soon after.

There always seems to be a mix of classes. Whilst we obviously gave Baby Sensory a miss, we did Minimovez. As usual, Heidi was at the front of the class, thinking that she knew all the answers and acting like the oldest in the class!!!! (A little embarrassing!) The class was really upbeat and fast moving and so it was ideal for those who had a bit of energy to burn off. It was so good, Heidi wanted to go to the next session, before flaking out halfway through, due to exhaustion!!

We also tried Baby Spanish, which is probably more suited for toddlers, as well as adults!! This might be something for us to tackle when Heidi can concentrate a bit more and is happy to sit still. However, this is the beauty of these taster sessions!

This event has become a highlight to go to each year now. Given good weather, I am sure that it will grow and grow, especially as there isn’t anything similar in the region!

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Sheffield Life Festival

The sign of a good day out is when you can’t stop talking about it afterwards and that was certainly the case with the Sheffield Life Festival we went to!

With Heidi being completely obsessed with all things medical and a particular focus on radiology (can 2 year olds specialise?!) it felt like going to a medical research event was a must do, even though it was in Sheffield and it certainly was!

Although the Sheffield Life Festival was in the slightly strange location on an indoor market, it helped create a good atmosphere. I dare say people who didn’t know about the event were drawn in. This hopefully increased the impact of the event. As a dad of a toddler, it helped as it was inside (read: dry and warm!)

Sheffield Life Festival

So the event was 9 or so stands dotted around the market all showing different aspects of medicine and medical research. While a few of the stands weren’t really appropriate for toddlers (and that is completely understandable) there were some which were absolutely brilliant.

The dentistry stand run by the dentist students was brilliant, Heidi is into brushing her teeth (thanks to a Minions toothbrush!). Hearing her talk about how she brushes them was an absolute joy. The students were absolutely fabulous with Heidi too. They showed her and taught her about fillings and being interactive with a drill.


We moved on to the stand run by the medical students. Given Heidi’s obsession with all things medical, I knew that this would be a success! We used a mock MRI machine and then we looked at real life x-rays. Then we played a game trying to put internal organs in the right place (not real!) While this final bit was a bit advanced for both of us. However, it gave me ideas how to teach/stretch Heidi’s learning going forward.


The other stands were not quite as toddler friendly. However, we did enjoy the chicken bone experiment (it would take me an age to describe it!). Just getting Heidi used to science, experiments and safety goggles is all good. Oh, and Heidi kindly got an ice lolly to help with her calcium, obviously!


Things for older children

There were some really cool things for slightly older children, which we tried to have a go at. This including using microscopes which was on the “to do” list after going to the Be Curious event in Leeds previously (link here) and so that was really good to do. We also saw some futuristic companion pets, although I think that was somewhat lost on Heidi!


All in all, we spent an hour and a half at the Sheffield Life Festival which was really good. We would have spent longer if we weren’t getting a bit hungry and had to head back home. Even after seeing everything, Heidi wanted to go back to see the x-rays and the dentists again!!!

Other Activities

After a quick bite to eat, we continued with the toilet training (update here!) with Debenhams toilets being the place to go! As the snooker championships are on at the moment, there were a few activities on the go. One was a mini-football court set up, which Heidi had a little go on…


I said at the start that the sign of a good day was went you can’t stop talking about it. Heidi was mentioning it all day yesterday and even wanted it as her bedtime story. Another sign that it was a good day was when Heidi fell asleep straight away for the journey up the M1. She was absolutely exhausted!

I’m sure we will be back to the Sheffield Life Festival in future years and take in more activities as this was just one part of it, albeit the most toddler friendly!

Continue reading Sheffield Life Festival