Jurassic skyline

Jurassic Skyline

Address: Festival Pier, Weymouth, DT4 8DX

Price Band: ££

Website: Jurassic Skyline

On the beautiful seafront at Weymouth you cannot fail to miss the huge tower on the pier known as the Jurassic Skyline.  This huge tower has a glass gondola around it which takes passengers 53m (174ft) up in the air and turns 360º not once but twice to allow amazing views over Weymouth and the jurassic coastline.  To put its height into perspective, the Tower Of London is just 90ft high, making the Jurassic Skyline tower almost twice as high!!

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We visited the Jurassic Skyline after our trip to Weymouth Sea Life Centre as our ticket included both attractions.  The ride is suitable for all ages and has one set price for all (under 3s go free) if you are purchasing a tower only ticket.  You need to allow approximately 30 minutes to queue and ride the tower.  It moves very slowly but can be a little scary for those afraid of heights – whatever you do DON’T LOOK DOWN!!!

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The views from the top are beautiful. As you go round there is an audio tour playing over the speakers giving you landmarks to look for.  Do take your camera as on a clear day you can see as far as 26 km (16 miles)!  Its a fab way to view the Weymouth seafront and over to Portland.

We took all 3 kids on with us and they loved it.  There was so much to spot and its such a unique experience, they really enjoyed it.  As it isn’t too long they don’t have time to get bored either.  The timing was just right.

I think if you are in Weymouth (especially if you visit the Sea Life centre and get a joint ticket) it is well worth a visit.  There weren’t any toilets there as far as I could see and there isn’t any need to eat there due to the short period of time you would spend there.  Along the seafront you will find plenty of restaurants and cafes though.  Pay and display parking is on the pier next to the tower.  It can get busy but there are always people coming and going so it doesn’t take long to get a space.  There isn’t space for pushchairs on the gondola but you can leave them at the bottom and pick it up as you leave.  As you exit the ride there is an opportunity to have your photo taken against a green screen and all sorts of backgrounds applied (such as looking like you are sat on top of the actual gondola!) which makes a nice souvenir.

Disclaimer: No-one from Jurassic Skyline or its parent companies was involved in this review. All photos, words and opinions are that of my own 🙂

Also In The Area:  Weymouth Sea Life Adventure Park

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Funky Teapot

The Funky Teapot

Address: Grove Street, Oxfordshire, OX12 7Ab

Price Band: £-£££

Website:  www.thefunkyteapot.co.uk

Our 3 children were lucky enough to be given a voucher for The Funky Teapot pottery studio in Wantage, Oxfordshire for Easter, so last week we made use of it on a cold wet day when we wanted an indoor activity to do.  Like all kids, mine love making things but I hate having to deal with all the mess, so this was a perfect solution!

We arrived on Monday morning and were straight away in awe of the lovely display window in the street.  It is full of gorgeous creations and gift inspiration.  We were greeted by a friendly member of staff who showed us round and the children chose what they wanted to paint.  We opted for a Christmas decoration each which can be hung on the Christmas tree and treasured for years to come.  There is a huge assortment of things to paint ranging from £2 upwards.  Items include money boxes, ornaments, plates, vases, etc.  I was really impressed by the variety and there were so many ideas of how to paint them in the display cases.  Lots of great keepsake ideas for babies using their hand and foot prints as well as family plates and grandparent gifts.

After choosing our ornaments we were seated at a table and shown how to use the paints.  The member of staff gave helpful advice on which colours work well for each character but the children had free reign to choose whatever colours they liked and they set to work.

One thing I really like about the studio is the size of it and how bright it is.  There are tables set up ready for painting and as it’s all on street level you can easily take pushchairs, etc in there.  It is lovely and light in there so you can clearly see all the details on your item as you paint it.  Once the children had finished painting the member of staff dried their ornaments using a drying machine.

With the ornaments now dry the children were given a special pencil to use to write their names on the back and the year (lets face it, without that in 10 years time when they are still being hung on the tree we’ll all be bickering over when they made them and how old they were!).  We were told the ornaments would then be glazed and put in the kiln and fired for 24 hours at a temperature of 1000ºC!!!!

As the firing process takes some time the staff recommend collecting your item/s the following week.  If you have something you need done urgently though just ask them and they may be able to get it ready for you quicker.  We went back to collect ours a week later and they look fab!  We cant wait to add some ribbon to them and get them hung on the Christmas tree.  I am sure they will be treasured for years to come and at only £5 each I think they are a brilliant keepsake as well as a lovely morning activity to enjoy and remember.  I really recommend this place, especially with kids as it’s so easy to get pushchairs in there if you want baby items but also such an enjoyable experience for anyone of any age.  They even do ladies nights, birthdays and hen parties!  Parking is in the Sainsburys car park literally just around the corner which is free. Its a 2 minute walk – if that!  This was the perfect rainy day activity and the kids cant wait to go again 🙂

Disclaimer: The staff at The Funky Teapot have had no involvement in this review and all photos, words and opinions are that of my own.

Also In The Area: Farmer Gows

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Weymouth Sea Life Adventure Park

Address: Lodmoor Country Park, Preston Beach Road, Weymouth, DT4 7SX

Price Band: £££ (can use Tesco clubcard vouchers/Merlin pass)

Website: https://www2.visitsealife.com/weymouth/

In the Easter holidays we spent a few days down in Weymouth to celebrate my birthday and so of course we had to visit Weymouth’s top attraction, Weymouth Sea Life Adventure Park.  This place is home to thousands of sea creatures from turtles to jellyfish, penguins to crocodiles, it literally has everything you can imagine and more that you have never even heard of!

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The park is set out into different zones. These include shipwreck, penguins, ray lagoon, turtle sanctuary and ocean tunnel, to name a few.  Follow the pathway around the site to make sure you don’t miss anything as there is lots to see and it is well spread out throughout the grounds (although fairly compact so not too much walking).  The children all get a trail book each to complete on their way round and there are often activities to take part in as well.  The zones with aquariums in are undercover but the rest of it is outdoors so we found it is best to visit on a dry day to really make the most of it. There is a play park and splash pool as well as a sensory garden to enjoy if you need a break to let off steam.  There are lots of benches and picnic tables around as well.

The aquariums are all fantastic. They are built in a way that everyone can see and feel close to the sea creatures without intruding and the variety of things to see is incredible.  Having the zones set out so they have different species in each one keeps it interesting and not quite so overwhelming.  We particularly liked the sea horses and jellyfish.

The ray lagoon is fantastic.  They are such graceful creatures and fascinating to watch.  There were some we had never seen before and their aquarium was beautiful.  As with all the zones there are lots of information boards around telling you about the different creatures in each habitat.  The one pictured below is called a Cownose Ray!

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Of course no sea life centre is complete without an ocean tunnel.  The famous walk-through experience where you are in a glass tunnel with sea creatures swimming over your head.  The one at Weymouth is fab and has so much to see, although Cody wasn’t so sure and found it very scary having huge sharks swimming overhead!

After lots of time spent looking at the various aquariums we decided to head outside into the sunshine for a while and try out some of the rides in the Adventure Island zone.  These included a tug boat, seal ride, bouncer and the crocodile creek (mini log flume).  Rides were all included in the admission fee so the kids could ride as many times as they like.  The crocodile creek log flume was particularly good as it goes through a tunnel where real caiman crocodiles are in a glass enclosure for you to see.  Very cool!

Our final stop was to see the seals.  You can view them from above water level or below water level.  They come so close to the glass as they swim past, it was very exciting!  At certain times during the day you can see the seals being fed and listen to their keeper tell you all about them.  This happens in lots of other areas of the park too with various other species so its worth checking those out.

All in all we had a fab time at the Sea Life Park and you can easily spend an entire day there, especially if the weather is fine.  On the downside it is quite expensive for a family to visit as everyone aged 3 years and over pays the same price.  If you can plan your trip in advance it is best to book online to get a discounted rate or better still use your tesco clubcard vouchers to get in free (like we did!).  If you are Merlin pass members you can also get in free.  They have crazy golf on site at an additional charge if you want to have a round.  If you travel by car it is a pay and display car park which again isn’t cheap so make sure you factor that into your budget.  Your ticket does include a ride on the Jurassic Coastline tower further down the beach which we really enjoyed.  I will do a separate review on that one but it is well worth it if you have the time to go.

On the plus side you can take your own picnic with you and there are plenty of picnic tables around or there is a large cafe alongside the gift shop if you want to purchase food.  The Sea Life Park is next to a country park so you could visit that as well while you are there if you want to.  The park is fully wheelchair and buggy friendly so you can easily access all areas and it is suitable for all ages (children aged 0-2 years get in free).  There are changing facilities in the disabled toilets too and buggy park areas around the park.  Don’t forget when your children have completed their trail cards take them to the gift shop on your way out to get your free pop badge!

Disclaimer:  Weymouth Sea Life Park and Merlin have had no involvement in this review and all photos, words and opinions are that of my own 🙂

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The Oxfordshire Museum

The Oxfordshire Museum

Address: Park Street, Woodstock, Oxfordshire, OX20 1SN

Price: FREE!

Website: https://www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/cms/public-site/oxfordshire-museum

The Oxfordshire Museum is on the same site as the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock.  Admission is free so it’s a very popular place!  The museum is full of the history of Oxfordshire going as far back as Roman times.  It has lots of hands on things to do so the kids can really get involved in learning while having fun.

As well as history the museum has information about local wildlife and an innovation room with lots of science exhibits, some of which the children can have a go at.

There are several dressing up areas throughout the museum which are good fun. Lois and Cody particularly liked the rabbit costumes in the wildlife room!

The Roman room was particularly interesting. It had lots of artifacts found locally including a skeleton!  There was also a brass rubbing area where children can rub a Roman coin onto paper.  In the corner of the room is a touch screen with lots of additional information about the artifacts.

One thing I really like about this museum is that it has so many different themed rooms there is something to please everyone. It is bright and vibrant and the displays are interesting.  The hands on activities and dressing up are great fun for kids and really capture their imaginations.

On the downside, the museum is made up of lots of small rooms across 3 floors which can feel quite small and cramped, especially during busy periods. Navigating it with a buggy or wheelchair would be difficult although there is a stair lift to access each level for wheelchair users.  There is a small cafe onsite or picnic tables in the garden area outside if you wish to take your own.  You could probably spend around 1-2 hours looking round the museum and I would highly recommend visiting the Soldiers Of War Museum next door while you are there (see my blog post about that for more details: https://mumof2point5.wordpress.com/2016/10/26/soldiers-of-oxfordshire-museum/ ). There is parking out the front of the museum on the main street or a free public car park down the road.

Disclaimer: The Oxfordshire Museum have had no involvement in this review. All photos, words and opinions are that of my own.

Also In The Area:  Soldiers Of Oxfordshire Museum

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Soldiers of Oxfordshire museum

Soldiers Of Oxfordshire Museum

Address: Park Street, Woodstock, Oxfordshire, OX20 1SN

Price Band: £

Website: http://www.sofo.org.uk/

I stumbled across this place during a google search for museums on World War 1 (Lilian’s current topic at school).  We had never heard of it before but we decided to give it a try and see what it was like so yesterday, as it was half term, off we went.  I am so glad we did as this place is fantastic!!

As you walk in the door you are greeted by a large cannon in reception which fires every hour (not too loud), it’s a very impressive piece!  The receptionist was lovely and gave us a map of the museum and a clipboard with several different treasure hunts on for the kids to have a go at as they walked around the museum.

When we entered the main part of the museum the first thing we found was an assortment of dressing up clothes for the kids (and adults!) to try on.  There were various different army outfits and hats to try out which was great fun.

There are life sized models of soldiers in modern day army gear with information about the equipment they use, including a real modern day 12 hour ration pack and also a boat with a video of where and why it would be used.  Cody particularly enjoyed this and I liked the fact that it was something we hadn’t seen before.  There were bullet proof vests and other gear for the children to try on which were from modern day uniforms used in Afghanistan. We also found headset radios which you could try on and talk to each other through, just as soldiers would who were out in the field.  I was amazed how clearly we could hear each other!

Next we moved on to the dummy plane which we sat inside with more dressing up gear and headsets just like soldiers would wear in real life.  Over the headsets we were able to listen to a veteran soldier’s account of his time as a pilot flying in World War II.  There was a screen on the wall which showed video footage to go along with it.  It really gave us a feel for what it would  be like to be a soldier being flown out to war and due to wearing the headsets the children sat throughout the whole video and really listened to what the soldier said.   I thought this was a great way for children to learn as it captured their interest so much better than just reading the information or watching a video.

Next we moved on to the communication area of the museum.  Here we learned how to use morse code and flag signals to pass on messages.  There was also more dressing up to try on, this time normal clothing from the 1940s like the secret service would have worn.  We also had a go at operating a radio.  Wearing the clothes and being able to get hands on with things in the museum really captured the children’s interest and made it much more realistic for them (although the beeping from the morse code machine can start to drive you slightly insane!).

There are lots of other interesting artifacts around the museum including a flight ejector seat (with a very cool video of the tests that were carried out!), uniforms, medical equipment, a WWI plane propeller, storage trunks, replica bombs, etc,etc.There is also an area dedicated to the prisoner of war camps with photos and diary extracts describing what they like.  You could also listen to survivors on the phone handsets describing what they went through.  It was very interesting and well thought out.

One of the highlights of the museum for us was the replica trench.  This was actually built by a group of local army cadets and they have done a fab job.  As well as the trench there are speakers with sound effects playing so you can get a sense of what it would have really been like.  This was one of the children’s favourite parts of the museum.  What i particularly liked is that they could actually lay on the beds and try on the hats, etc so it was very hands on rather than something you were only allowed to look at.  Again I think this gives children a better understanding of history and they are much more likely to remember details about it as they have experienced it but in a safe replica environment.

There are long corridors all the way round the main room that are filled with more artifacts including a huge medal collection.  Next to them is a touch screen where you can look up more information about each medal and who it would have been awarded to.  There are also various uniforms and other items on display.  For little ones there is a little play den under the stairs with toys and bean bags.

There is a lovely little shop by reception with lots of gifts from cheap pocket money things to replica artifacts and books, etc for the war enthusiast. The whole museum is wheelchair/pushchair friendly and has lovely clean toilets with changing facilities. The building is only 2 years old and is immaculate.  It is located behind The Oxfordshire Museum (which is free to visit so worth doing both and making a day of it – see my other blog post for more details on that one https://mumof2point5.wordpress.com/2016/10/27/the-oxfordshire-museum/ ).  There is a lovely garden with picnic tables if you want to make a day of it or there is a small cafe located in the entrance to the other museum for hot drinks and snacks.

I would say the Soldiers of Oxfordshire museum takes about 3 hours to have a really good look round, longer if you read everything properly (not always easy with small folk around!).  You can extend this to a longer day with lunch in the garden and then a visit to the Oxfordshire Museum next door.  It is great for school aged children who can link things in with their history topics at school, but it is equally enjoyable for younger children and adults alike.  We were so impressed with how hands on and child friendly it is and for the price I think its a really worthwhile visit.  We highly recommend it 🙂

Disclaimer: Soldiers of Oxfordshire have had no input in this review and all photos, words and opinions are that of my own.

Also In The Area:  The Oxfordshire Museum

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Winchester science centre

Winchester Science Centre

Address: Telegraph Way, Winchester, SO21 1HZ

Price Band: ££

Website: http://www.winchestersciencecentre.org/

We all know there are lots of places out there to take younger kids to but what about the older ones?  It can be hard to find somewhere to go once they get past the farmyard/soft play stage.  Last Summer we had the pleasure of visiting Winchester Science Centre and it is absolutely perfect for keeping older kids (and adults) happy as well as having lots of things for little ones to get involved in as well.  With over 100 hands-on exhibits over 2 floors you can easily spend all day here.  It is fully accessible with a lift between the two floors (the lift is clear glass which Lois and Cody thought was very cool!).

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The exhibits cover everything from movement to how your body works, the weather, our planet, how things are made, etc.  You can make a tornado, test your reaction times, find out how your body digests food and see how fast you can run.  The little ones may not fully understand the educational side of what they are doing but they still enjoy it all the same.  For older ones it is ideal for linking in with topics they are studying at school as well as being fun.

As well as the permanent exhibits there are some scientist led talks and demonstrations downstairs as well as activities the kids can take part in.  While we were there one of the activities was to build a paper boat and see how much weight it could hold.  Lois managed to build one of the strongest ones they had that day and got a certificate for taking part!

For lunch there is an on-site cafe serving hot and cold food/drinks as well as lots of picnic tables both inside and outside so you can take your own if you wish.  We didn’t use the cafe so I cannot comment on the food there as we took our own picnic instead.  The indoor picnic area is very large so great if you go with a group of friends, plus there is some soft play and comfy sofas next to it.  Outside is a garden with more picnic benches and a wooden adventure obstacle course so the kids can have a run around and let off steam for a while.  We found this broke the day up well as we then went back in to do some more activities in the afternoon.

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On the lower floor there are lots of opportunities for children to test their own building skills and knowledge with a large variety of hands on activities and information boards on what to do.  The kids loved putting themselves to the test and I think they take a lot more on board when they are physically doing things or making things themselves.

If you get the chance while you are there I would highly recommend a visit to the planetarium cinema.  It is an unforgettable experience that I have never seen anywhere else.  You sit back in the comfy cinema seats and the screen completely surrounds you 360° and curves over the top of your head.  It is amazing!  We watched a movie about astronauts in space and how they live. It was fascinating and as the screen completely surrounds you it really feels like you are up there with them!  If you suffer from motion sickness you may struggle a little with this as it can give you the sensation of floating but a quick glance to the side to ground yourself again and you should be fine.  The planetarium does cost extra but its so worth it – trust me!

I would highly recommend this place for children aged 4 years-adult. Under 3s get in free and there are plenty of toilet facilities as well as somewhere to hang your coats so you can get involved in the activities.  You can easily spend the whole day here so I think it is good value for money.  The educational side of the activities is an added bonus!  This is definitely the place for a mixed age range or older kids and ideal for a rainy day too.

Disclaimer: Winchester Science Centre have had no involvement in this review and all photos, words and opinions are that of my own 🙂

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Snakes & Ladders

Address: Audlett Drive, Abingdon, OX14 3NJ

Price Band: ££

Website: http://www.snakes-and-ladders.co.uk/abingdon/playcentre-prices/

As a kid I think it was always the ultimate treat to go to a soft play centre.  They are the ultimate place for running riot without a care in the world.  And the greatest place for grown ups to chill out and unwind!

Snakes & Ladders is a massive soft play centre in Abingdon, Oxfordshire with a large dedicated under 5’s area and outdoor adventure assault course as well as the huge main play frame.  There is a large car park which is free of charge and makes access to the site really easy.

Cody and I headed to Snakes & Ladders for the morning on a weekday during term time with my sister-in-law and 10 month old niece.  Admission prices are average compared to other soft play centres.  They have peak and off-peak prices.  Peak refers to weekends and school holidays, off-peak week days during term time.  You do have to pay for adults as well which is quite common at these places.  Childrens prices depend on their age – check the website for current pricing.   If you are likely to visit more than once it is well worth joining up to their loyalty scheme.  On your 6th visit the child gets in free.

We headed first to the under 5s area and played in the giant soft play area and ball pit.  There are two dolphin shaped swings for tiny tots which are very popular plus a wow toys  area, diggers/trucks area, building blocks area, home corner with role play kitchen plus several adventure play frames all suitable for tots to climb around and explore.  The slides down into the ball pits were a particular favourite on our visit and the mini trampolines.

On Tuesdays (when we went) there is a musical mayhem session for tots to join in with in the under 5’s area which is included in your admission fee. It involves singing nursery rhymes and dancing along to music which was very much enjoyed by everyone who took part. There is a craft session held on Thursdays which is also included in your admission fee so well worth popping along for that.

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We soon moved on to the larger play frame which is aimed at children over 5 years and is huge!  We spent ages climbing, crawling, going over, going under, through tunnels and down slides. The large wavy slide was Cody’s personal favourite.  Up to 3 people can slide down it at a time alongside each other so its great fun for races!  There is also a ball games arena to be found deep at the back of the play frame and a ghosty ghoulies area which is darker than the rest of the play frame and decorated a bit like a haunted house.  All of the equipment was in good order and clean and felt completely safe.

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Aside from the play frames there is also an outdoor wooden adventure course and battery operated quad bikes (extra charge applies).  It was a bit chilly on the day of our visit so we opted to stay indoors on the play frames.

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With all that running around it isn’t long before the kids need a drink and something to eat.  We used a voucher from the Snakes & Ladders Facebook page to claim a free jug of squash (check their Facebook page or website when you visit as they have regular offers for freebies or discounts).  There is a large variety of drinks, snacks and cold or cooked lunches available from the cafe.  One thing we did find a little disappointing was the lack of healthy options available.  The snacks available consisted of crisps, chocolate bars or cakes and the only healthy option on the main menu was a jacket potato or salad.   I do think they could do with a few more healthy options and for fruit to be available as well.  Prices were fairly average in comparison to other similar places, if a little high on some things.  Having said that, you cannot take any food of your own so if you do intend to eat there do plan it into your budget.  There is a microwave available for heating up baby food if you need to.

There are lockers for you to store your valuables if you wish which I thought was very handy if you have little people that need adult supervision on the frame.  There is loads of seating, including some nice comfy sofas.  The toilets and baby changing area (in the ladies loo) were all kept clean and tidy.

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One thing i really like about Snakes & Ladders is the fact that there isn’t a time limit so you can literally stay all day and make the most of your money.  I would recommend doing this as it can work out quite costly if you have several children going in the holidays so might as well get you moneys worth!  As for the age range it is suitable for crawling babies up to around 12 years.  Definitely a great place to add to the list for wet weather days and believe me the kids will go home exhausted – I know I was!!

Disclaimer: Snakes & Ladders have had no involvement in this review and all photos, words and opinions are that of my own 🙂

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Farmer Gows

Address: Fernham Road, Longcot, Faringdon, SN7 7PR

Price Band: ££

Website: http://www.farmergows.co.uk/

Farmer Gows is a working farm near Faringdon, Oxfordshire which specialises in ‘hands on’ animal feeding and handling experiences. They are open daily from 10am til 5pm except over the Xmas period.  The farm rears livestock and some of their produce can be bought in the on site shop, including meat, freshly laid eggs and firewood.  The shop also has loads of farm themed gifts and toys which make a lovely souvenir of your trip.  Cody and I visited Farmer Gows on a week day during term time as part of a local childrens group bus trip.

The daily program of farmer led activities at the farm includes chick handling, lamb and goat kid bottle feeding, pig and sheep feeding, egg collecting, as well as various play areas to explore and a tractor trailer ride around the farm.

The main barn is where the animal handling and feeding takes place.  The feeding is organised using colour co-ordinated bottles for each lamb/goat kid.  When the animals are let loose it can be quite chaotic but it is very enjoyable and the children love getting to bottle feed the gorgeous little lambs. After the babies have had their turn the adult sheep, goats and pigs get their turn. They are hand fed solid feed.  Throughout the feeding times the staff explain everything very well although you do have to listen carefully if its busy as the barn can get quite noisy.

After feeding the animals we were able to go to the chicken pens and collect the eggs freshly laid that morning.  I think its really important children understand where their food comes from (not just the supermarket shelf) and Cody really enjoyed choosing his own egg from the laying box.

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The other outdoor areas at Farmer Gows include a giant hay bale barn with hidden tunnels which the kids absolutely love.  Next to it is the pedal tractor yard which is every tractor fan’s dream play area.  One thing i will advise – wear wellies and old clothes.  Even on the driest day your kids will get dirty here whether you like it or not. After all, it is  a farm!  They do have a shelf full of spare wellies to borrow but if you have your own then do wear them.

Next to the play areas are hand washing facilities and toilets. There are loads of picnic benches both outside and under cover in the main barn to sit and eat your lunch.  You can take your own picnic or there is a tea room with a small menu of refreshments.  The food our friends ordered took a while to arrive as it’s all made fresh to order but it was worth the wait.

In the afternoon we enjoyed a ride on the tractor trailer around the farm.  This took us up to the top field where the pigs are kept and the children were able to get off and feed them.  WARNING: it is VERY muddy up there!  Did i mention wearing wellies?!  The tractor ride lasts approximately 30 minutes in total but does cost extra on top of your entry fee.

There are often special events at Farmer Gows and they generally hold a treasure hunt on the hay bales every day.  Check the website for up to date details of whats on.

If you have a child who loves farm animals, tractors, etc then this is definitely the place for them.  Personally i would say it is ideal for children aged 2-10 years.  Make sure you go prepared with suitable clothing and footwear to make the most of your day. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: Farmer Gows have had no involvement in this review.  All photos, words and opinions are that of my own 🙂

Also In The Area: The Funky Teapot

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4 kingdoms

4 Kingdoms Adventure Park

Address: Headley House, Newbury Road, Headley, RG19 8JY

Price Band: ££

Website: https://www.4-kingdoms.co.uk/

4 Kingdoms Adventure Park & Family Farm is a fairly new family run park not far from Newbury on the Hampshire/Berkshire border.  It has been open for around 4-5 years now I believe and we have been lucky enough to visit on several occasions with various friends, one of which was on a Superhero special event day.  The photos in this blog are a mixture from various visits.  Every time we go there is something new so it is well worth going back again and again.

I’m going to keep this one simple. This. Place. Is. Awesome.  Ok so you’re going to want to know a little more about it before you believe me.  Here are our top 5 reasons we love 4 Kingdoms:

  1. No matter what the weather there is always something to do.  Inside you have the soft play frames, laser tag arena, arcade rides, craft activities and animal petting barn.  Outside you have huge climbing frames, bouncy castles, fairytale woods, tractor trailer rides, pedal boats, crazy golf, go karts and more.

2. Everything is included in the price you pay at the door.  Yes that’s right. Even the arcade rides that are usually £1 a ride or the electric quad bikes you always have to pay extra for. They are all free to ride as many times as you like 🙂

3. There are adult sized activities!  The play frames are large enough that an adult can climb around on them to assist younger children if they wish and you can ride on the electric quad bikes with your younger ones so even if they aren’t quite big enough to reach the pedals they don’t have to miss out.

4. They have animal feeding and handling times throughout the entire day. There is a full timetable for the animal barn every day which includes handling small creatures such as chicks and rabbits, feeding calves and lambs, or brushing miniature shetland ponies.  There are also sinks with soap and hand towels right by the animal barn for washing hands after you’ve handled the animals.

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5. School holidays are rammed with special events.  These include superhero days, Easter egg hunts, pirate themed days, pantomimes, Halloween spectacular and of course a magical Christmas experience which sees the park transformed into a festive wonderland.  Check the website for details of upcoming events.

Basically this place has something to suit every child of every age and I cannot see how you could ever get bored with so much to do.  You can easily spend a whole day here and better still you can take your own picnic too or alternatively there is food available from the barn cafe.  This place is ideal if you have a wide age range of kids as it will keep everyone happy.  There is even a large soft play area for babies and tots separate from the big kids one.  Car parking is easy and free and there are plenty of toilet facilities which are all well looked after and clean.

Disclaimer: 4 Kingdoms had no involvement with this review and any photos, words and opinions are that of my own 🙂

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Chessington Santa Sleepover

Address: Leatherhead Road, Chessington, KT9 2NE

Price Band: £££

Website: http://www.chessingtonholidays.co.uk/

Last Christmas we decided we wanted to make the most of the festive spirit and so having done some research we decided to book a Santa Sleepover weekend at Chessington World Of Adventure.  The price included 2 day access to the on-site sea life centre, zoo and a few selected rides (the main theme park area was shut for the winter).  It also included overnight accommodation in a themed bedroom, surprise gift in the room for each child, evening entertainment, access to the themed hotel swimming pool, breakfast in the Temple Restaurant with a visit from Santa’s elves and of course a visit to see the big man himself –  Santa Claus.

The planning started back in August when I first booked the date and then had to keep it secret from the kids all the way up until the day!  I had the suitcase packed and hidden in the boot of the car before they finished school the day before so they literally had no idea we were going anywhere. On the morning we woke up I told them we were going out for the day for a treat.  We arrived at Chessington very excited and spent a lovely day on the rides and enjoying the zoo and sea life centre.

The sea life centre has a fantastic selection of creatures to marvel at and is very well set out with a supervised area for handling as well.  The staff were very clued up on the animals they cared for and answered lots of questions from inquisitive kids in a way that they could understand.

The animal areas included a petting zoo with everything from pigs to rabbits, all of which were able to wander around freely among the visitors.  There is also a wildcat walk, minibeasts cave, gorillas, sealions, penguins, etc.  The rides and attractions that were open during our stay were Hocus Pocus Hall, the Carousel, Seastorm, plus a couple of others.  There were never really any queues as there was so much to do everyone was well spread out and so it never felt busy.

After a hectic day we told the kids it was time to go home and headed back through the hotel to leave. In the movie area there was a film playing which caught the kids attention so I was able to slip away unnoticed to pick up our key from reception and get our bags from the car.  When they turned round to see me standing there holding our bags and a key they screamed in excitement!  Definitely a moment well worth the wait and one I really wish I’d got on film.  It certainly brought a lot of smiles to fellow visitors who overheard the commotion!lol

The fully-themed Azteca Hotel at Chessington is completely out of this world.  It really is incredible the way they have decorated it. From temple ruins in the foyer with jungle sound effects, to monkeys on the walls in the lifts and forest maps on the floors of the corridors, they really have thought of everything.  The bedroom itself was beautiful.  There are 3 different styles available and for this stay we opted for the Temple Treasure room.  It is designed to feel like you are staying within a temple ruin in the middle of the rainforest yet is so comfortable and luxurious feeling.  The main room area has a king size bed with dressing table, TV and armchair overlooking the Wanyama reserve (believe me there is nothing better than looking out the window to see giraffe and zebra grazing outside!).         A mini corridor with built in shelving, clothes hanging rails and a kettle (with all manner of hot drinks and biscuits to help yourself to) leads to a lovely en-suit bathroom with bath and built in electric shower.  Complimentary towels, hand soap and shower wash are provided.  The children’s room has bunk beds with a trundle bed underneath meaning it can sleep up to 3 children.  They get their own TV with kids channels which is great for a little rest time before heading down to dinner. The rooms all have air conditioning so you can set the temperature to whatever you like and there are extra pillows if you want them.  The beds were incredibly comfortable and we loved the fact that there was a puzzle for the kids to solve which revealed the room safe code and a hidden prize!

For our evening meal I had booked us a table at the Temple Restaurant. For those of you who have been to the Rainforest Cafe this place is very similar.  It is such an amazing experience to eat in this place and there is so much going on.  As you walk in there is a huge floor to ceiling tank of real life piranha fish to greet you along with a member of staff who will show you to your table and take your drink order. The TV screens around the restaurant change every few minutes to show different rainforest wildlife in the trees and the place is filled with rainforest sound effects. There is a large temple ruin in the middle of the restaurant with water fountains and lights which is beautiful. Around the edge of the restaurant, set into the wall are long glass tanks which lead to bigger tanks dotted around the restaurant. Inside are thousands and thousands of ants carrying food back and forth which are absolutely fascinating to watch. At regular intervals there is a ‘storm’ in the restaurant and the lights go down and flash dramatically as thunder and lightening takes over then clears away to the calm rainforest sound effects again.  It is so exciting!  Food wise the restaurant caters for everyone.  It is a buffet style eat all you like place so you literally go up to the counters and help yourself to whatever you like.  From carvery to curry to spaghetti meatballs, chips, etc there is something for everyone.  This is followed by another huge selection of desserts to help yourself to.  In my opinion it is well worth the money not just for the food but for the atmosphere and entertainment of the place. We loved it!

After dinner there was evening entertainment provided in the conference suite of the adjoining Safari Hotel.  This included Xmas themed games, carol singing and kiddies disco with a bar open and free popcorn on the tables. Again the room was beautifully themed like a snow covered forest and in the entrance was a gorgeous ice throne surrounded by snow covered fir trees, ideal for photo opportunities.

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The following morning we went back to the Temple Restaurant for the buffet style breakfast.  It literally had everything you could want from cooked breakfast to cereals to yoghurts, fruit, muffins, pastries, etc.  I love places like this as it makes it so much easier to feed everyone, although thankfully I am lucky enough that our 3 aren’t too fussy with their food.  We were joined at breakfast by 3 of Santa’s elves who took the time to go round and speak to every child in the restaurant personally and have photos taken. They were very authentic, didn’t rush at all and got to know all the kids, asking lots of questions about their visit and what they would like for Christmas.  Later on when we went to visit Santa’s Grotto the same elves recognised our kids and even remembered their names which left us feeling very impressed!

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When our time came to head to see Santa it was everything we could have hoped for.  We were met at the entrance to the woods by his elves who took us through the trees to his log cabin. Santa knew each child’s name, asked them questions and posed for photos, before handing each child a gift. When we left his cabin we were led by another elf to the candy cane trees where the kids were able to chose a candy cane to keep, then we met the real life reindeer which were beautiful.  The children received a craft set or puzzle each, all of which were lovely gifts and they were over the moon.

All in all if you are considering a trip to Chessington for a Santa sleepover weekend I would highly recommend it for any age child.  There was so much to do we never had time to get bored and for the amount included we felt the price for 5 of us was very good.  Of course the nearer Xmas you leave it, the higher the price goes up. I would recommend checking the website from as early as Easter to book as that’s when the prices are lowest (lets face it – nobody is thinking about Xmas at Easter!). Don’t forget to take your swimming gear as well as the pool in the hotel is fab and well worth a visit (its free of charge too!).  You can hire pool towels so don’t need to take your own.  What are you waiting for? Get booking!

Disclaimer: Merlin/Chessington have no involvement in this review and any photos, words and opinions are that of my own. 🙂

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