Cbeebiesland

We made the trip down to Alton Towers for a 2 night stay, particularly to take in Cbeebiesland. This was while Heidi was still interested in those programmes and while we could go before she started school.

Cbeebiesland is within the Alton Towers park, although set aside so it is very much child friendly. As such, you don’t get any of the crowds going on the rollercoasters. In this respect it is very much like Peppa Pig World at Paultons Park (See here for our visit there!)

As it is only for children, the staff are very friendly and the setting is very colourful in the Cbeebies colour scheme. Within the park, there are around 12 attractions and you should be able to do them all in 1 day. However, this depends on how little your little one is and whether they need a nap during the day!!

All the rides/attractions are Cbeebies themed, from Octonauts to Postman Pat, in the Night Garden to Charlie and Lola. The only one which is height restricted is the Octonauts rollercoaster. This isn’t fast in the great scheme of things, but I would watch it go round first before queuing up.

There are also “Meet and Greet” with various characters throughout Cbeebiesland. This seemed to be a bit ad-hoc so keep your eyes peeled, but there is a specific tent for an “In the Night Garden” which seemed to be a big hit with the babies (or the parents more likely!).  There are hourly interactive shows as well which are really good if your child can get involved. These include Tree Fu Tom and you can do the actions etc.

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Ubercorn!!

Our (or should I say my!) favourite attraction is Justin’s House. This is basically a mock up of Justin’s house but the main fun is going onto the balcony overseeing the ground floor and collecting the foam balls. You can then useg them in the play guns and fire them at people!! It is a bit more than an adult attraction, and while it is impossible to get hurt, care needs to be made not to hit small children!!

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Justin’s House!!!

In terms of facilities, there are quite a number of toilets and the ones near Justin’s House had plenty of space. There is one small food outlet which offers a standard theme park menu/prices. However, there are numerous outlets throughout the rest of the park. There is also a shop selling Cbeebies themed goodies and the “In the Night Garden” ride exit feeds into the shop. As such, if you have a “needy” little one, you might want to do this ride at the end of the day so you can avoid the shop until then!

All in all, we had 2 good days here, although you don’t need 2 just to do Cbeebiesland. Our first day was beset by winds and rain and because of this, everyone in the park got a free ticket. Therefore, we have a ready made excuse to go back!!


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12 Hints and Tips for Walt Disney World

Given that there are 4 main parks (plus 2 water parks) within the Walt Disney World complex, I thought that it would be a good idea to give some useful hints & tips which can be used in all of the parks. Think of it as a One-Stop-Shop guide.

Over time, I’ll write more detailed guides for each of the parks to help anyone going in the future.

Book your park tickets in advance

For some reason, they are cheaper in the UK and bought in advance. While you need to be careful who you buy them from, there tends to be some deals on so be a little patient.

Parking

Parking costs $20 a day (in February 2017) unless you stay at a Disney hotel, and then it is free. You can use the receipt all day so if you want to park-hop or go back to the hotel for a bit, that is fine. Also, remember where you park – the car parks are huge and the last thing you want is to forget where you have parked when you’re hot and tired!

Get there early

The queues for the first couple of hours of the day are pretty small and you can do a good part of the park before the crowds get in. Generally it is the cooler part of the day also, so when it gets too hot and the crowds are too big, you don’t feel bad for going back to the hotel for a couple of hours.

Plan

Have a plan for what you want to get out of the day. Do you want to see the characters, or do the fast rides etc? The parks are too big and it is too hot to be wandering aimlessly around the park and it will only lead to arguments.

Security

Walt Disney World is an amazingly safe place, but generally because of the airport style security. It does lead to queues when entering the park, but it is for a reason. Plan accordingly, and make sure you leave your selfie-stick at the hotel.

Fastpasses are your best friend

Once you book your park tickets, link up the tickets to an account and the app and book your queue-jumping fastpasses. You can generally save half an hour on each fastpass, so use them on the busy rides. Also, use them early in the day and when you run out (you get 3 a day) you can get another one.

Food & Drink

$3 for a bottle of water?! Pack your own drinks and snacks and you’ll save a fortune! If you have a decent breakfast, you’ll be good for most of the day, but remember it does get hot so freeze a couple of the bottles you take so you have ice cold water in the afternoon.

Character meals

If you were to splash out on one thing at Disney and you have a child, do a character meal. It is wonderful to see the child interact with a character and just makes the holiday a bit more special. The best value meals are the buffets, especially the breakfast ones as they tend to be a bit cheaper.

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Character meal breakfast at Hollywood Studios

Photopass

There are a host of Disney photographers willing and able to take photos for you free of charge at certain scenic points/character attractions. These link through to your Disney app and so you generally don’t have to take that many photos during the day. Even if you aren’t linked up the the Disney app, they are happy to take a photo using your phone.

Wifi

The Walt Disney World parks have really good Wifi throughout and so you can remain connected throughout the day. This means that you can access the Disney app and update Fastpasses and look at the photos throughout the day. Just be careful of your battery!

Footwear and Clothing

Make sure you plan accordingly. It will be hot and you will be on your feet most of the day, so light clothing and decent shoes are a must.

Suncream

I think that this is obvious…don’t ruin the holiday by having sunburn! Top up as the day goes on.

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Not a cloud in the sky!

There are loads more and it would be good to hear some other hints/tips in the comments section! Hopefully this will help you enjoy Walt Disney World a bit more!


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Gullivers World – 30/6/2016

As part of daddy/daughter week together, I wanted to go somewhere different, somewhere child friendly but also big and so I chose Gullivers World over the other side of the hills, in Warrington.

I chose this as it is a theme park just for children, particularly focused on the younger children, and as such, it would be something completely different to what we have in Yorkshire as Lightwater Valley and Flamingo Land are more adult oriented and Sundown is somewhere we have been to already (and really enjoyed!)

After negotiating the M62/M60 for the second time in a week (see Play Factor-e post here) we arrived. One good thing is that the price is height dependent for the child. If they are under 90 cm, they won’t be able to go on many rides, but they will be free. Heidi is around 1m and while she cost the same as me (£17) she could go on virtually all the rides, even though I had to go on some with her (what a hardship!)

The park itself is really flat and pushchair friendly and so if you’re in half a mind to take it, do so as there is a lot of walking for little legs! The reason why I mentioned the height/cost is that if you have a 91cm child who hasn’t the best stamina, you might want to consider the value for money.

The park has loads of rides (too many to count!) included within the cost of admission. As we went during the week in term time, it was nice and quiet and so there were no queues, although school trips tend to come on Thursdays and Fridays (nice!)

Given the number of rides, you don’t feel as though you have to pressure the little ones to go on anything in particular as there is enough choice. Our favourites were the Indiana Jones-type ride (because we got squirted!) the haunted house (this was good as it was busy and you can scare others with a flying toddler!) as well as the numerous car rides.

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Heidi and Gilly!

If I am being honest, by personal favourite was the dodgems, if only because Heidi is now at an age where she is allowed on and can drive them. They don’t go too fast so you don’t need to worry about the potentials of whiplash!!

A couple of other popular attractions included the face painting (£4 a go) but pretty good face painting, even though the park looked as though it had been invaded by tigers! Also, the goodbye show was absolutely excellent, innocent fun and it is well worth the stay until the end as it is upbeat and gets the kids dancing.

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Tiger driving a car!

One thing we should have done was check out the show timetable because we bumped into the clowns leaving their show and so it would have been good to see them in action.

In terms of facilities, the baby change facility in the dinosaur section looked pretty good expecially with the dinosaur decor (although no toilet within) and there were numerous toilets around the park. There are plenty of food stalls and picnic tables in case you want to bring your own food/drink, which we did. There are a few shops dotted around, but by the time we got to the main shop at the entrance/exit we were too tired to shop!

Just a word of warning, the venue is 99% outdoors and so if you have rubbish weather, your day will be rubbish unfortunately!

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If the weather is rubbish, you’ll have to do time in the play jail!

However, our day was like Goldilocks’ porridge and we stayed from 11am to 4.15pm with barely a stop in between. Thanks to my Fitbit, I clocked over 10,000 steps walking 5 miles so please bear this in mind when planning footwear! However, this was because we were having such a good time and wanted to go on so many things and if we can get back again in September before the bad weather kicks in, we will do!

Paultons Park – 27/2/2016

This is part of our series of posts detailing our mini-break to the South Coast. There have previously been posts on:

  • Flying with a Toddler – Part 1 – (here)
  • A Day in Bournemouth – Part 2 – (here)
  • Longdown Activity Farm – Part 4 – (here)

and this is the next instalment.

Without being rude to the rest of the Southampton/Bournemouth area, Paultons Park (www.paultonspark.co.uk), or more specifically, Peppa Pig World, was the main reason for us to make the trip, and it certainly didn’t disappoint!

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Entrance into Peppa Pig World

In the planning phase, I contacted Paultons Park as they do certain deals on hotel/tickets and their customer service was brilliant in terms of tailoring their offers to us. The prices didn’t quite match up compared to buying the hotel and tickets separately, but it is worth asking to see what they can do.

To the surprise of some, Peppa Pig World is only one part of a larger theme park (Paultons Park) although it does seem to be the most popular. There are 7 toddler friendly rides in the area, which will entertain the little ones for as long as they can stay awake, as well as a number of “static attractions” including a wonderful, large indoor play area.

My own personal favourite was going into Peppa House and Madame Gazelle’s classroom, although Heidi loved the Dinosaur ride and the cars! There are a couple of rides which are slow, Ferris wheel type rides and so if your child isn’t good with these, then I would give them a miss.

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Peppa’s House!

In terms of waiting times, we went on a cold, cloudy Saturday at the end of February and we had to wait 20 minutes or so for each ride. However, after lunch, it was only about 5 minutes. We returned on the Monday and the waits were about 10 minutes long before lunch and after lunch, there were no queues at all. If we were to do it again, I would possibly have the morning in the hotel before going after lunch. However, I dread to think what the queues would be like in the summer holidays!!

The star attraction is Peppa and George and they have meet and greets (the times are on the back of the classroom building…) and these were really good, informal and you didn’t feel rushed at all, even though they are very popular. The staff looking after the characters are really good with the little children, making sure that they are not overwhelmed by it all, as I imagine that it can be quite a scary proposition!

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Meeting Peppa and George

There is also a beautiful playground of the children to run around in and while not specifically in the Peppa Pig theme, it is a really good way for kids to run around and play, as opposed to being in a queue!

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Part of the playground

The park is littered with models of the characters of the show throughout and the little ones loved seeing them and recalling who they saw. The models are absolutely wonderful and I’m sure one would look good in my back garden!!

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Zoe Zebra – at a Zebra Crossing!

In terms of food, there is a kiosk in the area serving good quality food and drinks, and quite a few picnic tables.  The prices were quite good, although you are allowed to bring food/drinks into the park and so that might be an option. The area has an amazingly good gift shop as well, stocking all things Peppa, and it can be difficult to take a child in! There is a bigger, more generic, shop at the entrance/exit, which has a massive selection of a wide range of toys and gifts.

In terms of baby change facilities, there is limited ones in the toilets in the area, but there are plenty back towards the centre of the park. They also have toilet seats for those who are potty training, which I was really impressed with! (How sad am I?!). The toilet facilities, as well as the park as a whole was really clean and tidy.

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Never seen these before!

You have to remember that there is an entire theme park to enjoy as well, and I think that we were guilty of not spending enough time there due to a tiring toddler (you can get your hand stamped and return to the park). There are quite a number of rides that the little ones can go on, including a gorgeous carrousel and tea cups, as well as play areas, a 4D cinema, and crazy golf.

A word of warning is that the park is quite big, especially for little legs and so I would make sure comfortable shoes are worn, and I would recommend taking a pushchair, if your child is in one. You can hire pushchairs (or similar) at the park as well.

Perhaps a hidden attraction is the number of animals/wildlife that the park has as they are somewhat hidden away. We saw pelicans and flamingos and there is a lovely garden with smaller birds around the edge as well. We came across this as we were leaving and the big open spaces nearby would be perfect for picnics etc. Another hidden attraction was the free Wifi in the park – although it will never be as good as what you have at home, given the huge space the park covers, it worked really well.

For those with older children or able to split off for a couple of hours, there are a number of white knuckle rides, with a new area opening in May 2016. These are certainly not my cup of tea, but will obviously appeal to some and mean that even if you didn’t set foot into Peppa Pig World, you could still have a full day out.

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The Peppa Pig World skyline

It says something that we would go back to Paultons Park again, even though we spent 2 days there already, but that is how good it is.  Upon our return, Heidi has been telling people about her time at Peppa Pig World with such enthusiasm, which means that she has definitely had a good time and I’m sure that we will be contacting Miss Rabbit again at some point to enquire about prices and availability!


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Winter Wonderland Manchester – 28/12/2015

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

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

As it is next to the Trafford Centre, parking is free, but traffic can be problematic due to the Christmas shoppers (even after Christmas!) or if a certain team is playing at Old Trafford.  As we ordered our tickets online, we picked up our tickets at the entrance quickly and easily and we made our way in, still none-the-wiser of what we were going to see.

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

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

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

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

As I went on my own with Heidi, we concentrated on the children’s rides and there were plenty – at least 3 roundabouts, 2 teacups, a children’s rollercoaster, a ghost train, 3 bouncy castles, a beautiful Dumbo ride, dodgems, a fun house and a few more – literally every ride that you have seen at the fairground is there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All in all, it was a very enjoyable 4 hours there and there were clear signs that we had a good time when:

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

If you’re looking for an indoor day out over Christmas and New Year, I don’t think that there are many better in the North, but it might not be for all families, depending on the age and maturity of the children!

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