Ventura Wildlife Park, Ware, Hertfordshire

On Fathers Day we were kindly gifted tickets to visit Ventura Wildlife Park in Hertfordshire.

As Dominic absolutely loves zoos and wildlife parks, visiting one on Fathers Day has become something of a little tradition!

The park itself is situated by the Van Hague Garden Centre (which is absolutely amazing come Christmas time).

We arrived just a little before 11am and met the very lovely Emma at the Welcome Centre. She explained the different areas of the park such as Madagascar, Heart of Africa and the Australian Outback and provided us with a map. Emma was so friendly and even offered to mind Ita’s balloon. She really is the perfect person to have front of house as she made us feel so welcome.

To enter into the park you have to walk through the Welcome Centre and the small gift shop. Once we were inside I had overheard someone complaining that there were no cafes but actually there are snacks and hot drinks in the Tiki Traders Gift Shop. 

One of the main animals we were eager to see was the Fossa, Madagascar’s largest carnivore.

Ita really enjoyed Explorers Lodge. This is where the animal encounters took place. Glen was absolutely fantastic at providing information to us and importantly, explaining it in a child friendly way. Ita keeps telling me that the spikey hedgehog ( that’s the tenric) is related to an elephant! His approach was fun but informative. He took his time with each of the children to ensure that they were able to see the animals up close and touch the insects… if they were brave enough! At one point Ita went into a little babble to Glen that she had an African land snail and rather than speak over her, he patiently listened. I thought this was not only so kind but it really showed an understanding of how to keep a child engaged. Everyone has a voice. Children are there to get as much out of the experiences as the adults.

Also in the Explorers Lodge were related games and colouring pencils etc. This was so handy because it was a relatively rainy day and it was clear that they had considered ways to keep children entertained.

 

What we particularly enjoyed about Ventura was just how hands on you can be. It is far more interactive than any other Wildlife Park or Zoo that we have visited, and the staff are far more personal. There are free daily encounters, talks and interactive feeds that visitors are encouraged to be a part of. I believe this is specifically because it is a smaller park than others. Dominic felt that because the park was smaller, you felt more time looking at the animals and learning about them. In zoos you often feel pushed along.

So whilst it is a small place, you cant fault how much you get out of it.

Ventura currently care for 45 types of animals, including exotic invertebrates, reptiles, zebra, emu, wallaby, red kangaroo, and lorikeets. Not all of these animals are used for encounters and many are used for captive breeding programmes to ensure survival of their species.

Money from the park has helped with conservation projects. (The Ventura Wildlife Conservation Fund is an independent charitable fund but it is supported by Ventura Wildlife).

 

Toilets are situated within the Van Hage garden centre and this is worth knowing so you can plan in advance!

We had a brilliant visit and the animals look well cared for. The park itself is clean and nicely put together. Ashley, Emma and Glen were all so friendly, warm and knowledgeable. We would really recommend a visit!

My only grumble…we were gutted that we didn’t get to meet Sidley the skunk! What a meet and greet that would have been!! Definitely next time!

Disneyland Paris May 2019

This time last week we were still in Disneyland Paris, most likely waiting to go on It’s a Small World ride (again!).

We are completely on a downer having had the best few days away in such a magical place. However, it is only 186 days until our next visit over the festive season so I shouldn’t complain!

A few weeks ago, I posted some info that I have picked up over the last few years of going to Disneyland. (Apologies about the format!) I hope they were handy. I have found myself picking up useful tips over the years and I think its nice to share what you know so people can make their trip has magical as possible.

I have had so many questions about Disneyland Paris so I’m hoping to answer them all here. As such, I will be focusing on providing detailed info on the bulk of the queries I received rather than do a day by day of our trip.

Many of the questions recently have been about our hotel, character meets and dining so I will do my best to provide info on these topics.

I will start with our hotel! This trip we decided to stay at the Disneyland Hotel which is right by the main theme park. In fact, you have to walk under it to enter the park. We booked it via magic breaks and whilst it is obviously the most expensive hotel in Disneyland, we thought there would be too many pros to argue the price.

First impressions as we entered the hotel with our luggage was good. There are scanners to ensure that you are not bringing anything dangerous into the hotel (and subsequently, parks). We queued up at reception to check in and we were really surprised that we were able to get our room so early. Afterall, it was only 9.30am! We were given our park tickets, room keys and some general information and we headed to our room. Our room was on the second floor, right at the end of the corridor.

When we entered the room I was disappointed about how small it was. There was a double bed and in the corner was a sofa, presumably for Ita. The thing is, where it was positioned there was no chance of pulling the sofa out and making it into a bed. It didn’t bother Ita, frankly she was more than happy to be sleeping in the big bed with us! And rather than pick at faults we thought WERE IN DISNEYLAND!

As the days went on, we found staying at the Disneyland Hotel quite frustrating. Anyone has access to the hotel so the lobby is often busy and your rooms are not cut off from other people either. There is very little privacy. We went to the pool one afternoon and it will full of people from other hotels. The lifeguard didn’t seem fussed about grown men jumping in the pool nor did he seem fazed by people taking photos and recording on their phones. This was a big surprise for me since it’s a basic safeguarding issue. 

Another reason we chose to stay here was the fact that character meets are promised daily. Well we never saw one at all! When I asked concierge, they shrugged their shoulders and said ‘’sometimes yes, sometimes no’’. Over all it’s a bit ‘meh’ and so were looking forward to staying at Newport Bay next time.

After we checked in we headed to Gallerie Mickey (the hotels giftshop) on the same floor as our room, with the intention of booking Ita the Princess for a Day experience. We were fortunate to book a noon appointment for the next day. Before traveling to Disneyland I had been told (by the hotel in fact) that you could only book the experience directly with the gift shop and on the day you wanted the experience. However, it transpires that whilst you have to book directly at the gift shop, you can actually book up to 3 days in advance. This is really handy and well worth knowing for planning purposes! Ita wanted to do this little experience the last time we went but as she was only 2 years, she was too young. The minimum age is 3 years and that is specifically because of the face paint/makeup. (The same minimum age requirement exists in the park for face painting too). The experience ranges from about 55euros all the way up to a couple of thousands of pounds! The basic package includes hair and makeup as well as a certificate and a photoshoot to finish it off. The most expensive package is the same, but you meet a Disney princess and spend the day with her in the parks. It is no shock to people that we like to treat Ita, but we were only ever going to get the basic package. She is a real-life princess anyway!

Just some advice, on our last trip we made a point of checking out the outfits that were included in the packages and could not believe how cheap they looked. The princess dresses in Disneyland Paris cost a standard 60euros, but in all honestly you wouldn’t want to pay more than perhaps £15 for them. Therefore I really recommend bringing your own. Not only is it cheaper but you can find pretty dresses in the likes of Tesco and Asda. Ita loves the tulle ones from the Disney Store so we bring those along.

To make it a bit more special, we had a Cinderella dress made especially for Ita (the shop is tagged on my Instagram). This was part of her birthday celebrations and as she so badly wanted to do this experience the last time, I felt like it was deserved.

Ita really enjoyed this and we are likely to book this experience again when we next visit! My only qualm was how quick the experience lasted. From start to finish I think it was about 20 minutes. In all fairness, I am not sure what I expected and perhaps I was being unreasonable because Ita absolutely loved it. You also get a free print and these are not cheap in Disneyland! In hindsight, considering it’s a lovely experience with magical extras, it was well worth the money and actually relatively cheap in Disney terms.

On our first day we headed to the main theme park and headed straight for Fantasy Land. This seems to be our standard plan! It’s a Small World is always so quiet in the mornings. We find that Ita can go on all of the rides in Fantasy Land and it is the area you walk into having pass through the castle. We tend to spend most of our time here.

So let me explain Magic Hours. If you are staying at a Disney hotel, you can access the parks slightly earlier each day. There are early morning meet and greets as well as the Princess Pavillion (where you can meet Aurora, Snow White, Belle or Ariel). 

Listed below are the rides and attractions open during the magic hours. It is very clear that the extra time is used by people to visit the princesses since queues typically are over an hour long. However, you’re at Disneyland, why would you not meet characters especially the princesses? Therefore, I really recommend using the extra time to leg it down to the Princess Pavillion. You read that right… you will literally see people sprinting there!!

Fantasy Land;

Princess Pavillion

Les Voyages de Pinocchio

Le Carousel de Lancelot

Peter Pans Flight

Mad Hatters Tea Cups

Frontier Land;

Thunder Mesa Riverboat Landing

Big Thunder Mountain

 

Discovery Land;

Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast

Hyperspace Mountain

Orbitron 

Character Dining 

On our first day we also had a character lunch booked at Auberge D’Cendrillion (translated to Cinderella’s restaurant!). We have eaten here twice before, once at dinner and once at lunch. This is also known as the princess restaurant. Here you will meet Aurora, Snow White, Belle, Tiana, Ariel, Rapunzel and of course, Cinderella and her mice. To be clear, you will always meet Cinderella but the restaurant only guarantees 3 other princesses per sitting and you will not know in advance who they are. We have never met Ariel here but since Ita met her at her party and then again at the Princess Pavillion, she wasn’t bothered! Now, it is pricey but considering how difficult it is to meet the princesses in the park, it is worth paying for. The food is not great, and the menu hasn’t changed over the years that we have visited, but the princesses are attentive and the feedback from Ita is that this is her favourite thing to do at Disneyland. (She’s only just turned 3, god help me!). Before this visit, a few people had complained that they did not get to meet many princesses here. I wonder if they knew of the 3 princess rule. However, my advice here is based on a simple reminder that you are not in Britain! Complaining under your breath and then smiling and nodding your head will not help you!! Be European! Make is known you are displeased!! We did, and Snow White and Aurora came dancing out within 5 minutes. Another tip here is be aware of how cramped ADC is. If you need space make this known when you are booking. We have sat at different areas each time we have visited and should we eat here again, I will ask to be in the middle where there is a walk way. Now you’re probably wondering why someone who is only 5feet tall would need space… well its so there aren’t any stragglers in my photos! GET IN THE BIN! You are ruining my shots!

On the second day we booked a character breakfast at Plaza Gardens which is just at the end of Main Street USA in the main park. We very deliberately booked the earliest sitting at 8.15amand made sure we were one of the first there. Why? Seems so daft since you have booked, right? Wrong. Plaza Gardens is gorgeous but like many of the restaurants in Disneyland, it is cramped. I knew exactly where we wanted to sit specifically to make sure that getting to the food was convenient and that no other customers would be in our photos! Seems so vain doesn’t it? Really contrived! But you are paying for the characters when you book these places to eat and in paying for the characters you are obviously going to take photos. So why would I want random strangers scoffing their scrambled eggs in the background? Again, GET IN THE BIN!

Although this next bit is not specific to character dining, I really wanted to share some bug bears with you in the hope you wont waste time like we did. We decided one day to have lunch at Bella Notte which is the Italian restaurant close to It’s a Small World. Stupidly we went in at around 12 and the queue was out the door which should have put us off, but it didn’t and Dominic went to queue up. 50 minutes later he returned to our table with food. 50 MINUTES! It was horrendous. It was so overpriced, and we couldn’t enjoy the food because the volume of sound was immense. We both left hungry, with banging headaches and annoyed that we had wasted so much money there.

I would really recommend planning your lunch time in particular. It makes sense that the busiest time will be between 12-2.30ish. Normally, we head back to the Village for time out and have lunch there and we will definitely keep doing this. It is not worth eating in the parks unless you have a character lunch planned. In the Village there are many restaurants including Mc Donalds and 5 Guys for fast food options. I would go as far as suggesting planning where you will eat daily, including when. This really helps with keeping the day ticking along.

Meet and Greets

Ok so after posting photos of our trip, I got the most questions about meet and greets. I can’t stress enough how planned you need to be with these. You don’t want to spend hours queuing but equally it’s a big part of going to Disneyland. Otherwise you would just go to any old theme park. 

One guide that is useful is that most groups spend only about a minute with the characters. Two minutes at most. So if there are 50 people in front, try and gauge how many belong to the same group and its easier than you think to determine how long you will be waiting.

So here is what you need to know. Firstly decide on who you definitely want to meet. Ita had said she really wants to meet Jasmine. Truly, she didn’t stop going on about meeting Jasmine! The meet with Aladdin (and friends) is listed as being between 10-16.15 daily. When actually the meet for Aladdin and Jasmine is between 11.15 – 12 and then again at 1.15 – about 2.30. We tried to queue for this on our first day but the line was long and we had our princess lunch booked. Really, it’s the (and friends) who are around for longer periods. We got very lucky to accidently be in the right place at the right time to meet Genie so there were only about 10 people ahead and it was the same for Jafar. These characters you will find in the Agrabah area and you should be able to meet them quite easily without queuing for more than 20 mins. Therefore on our 3rd day we made a conscious effort to be at the front of the queue to meet Jasmine and Aladdin and it made Ita’s day.

You will note that some meet and greets start from 10am and others from 11am or 12am. My tip would be to pick one from 10am (obviously be there earlier to queue) and then hop over to an 11.15ammeet. For example, queue to meet Minnie, Donald or Daisy (they appear from 10am) and then plan to head straight to another queue for the likes of Winnie the Pooh or Baloo who appear from 11.15 am.  It seems excessive but this way you will spend half a day meeting characters. In terms of meeting Mickey, there is a special Meet Mickey Mouse place at the back of Fantasy Land. The queues are not that bad and you can fit this into doing rides in that area too.

Here is an example of how I would plan the meet and greets!

If you are staying at a Disney hotel, head to the Princess Pavillion since this is opened the earliest and arguably has the longest waiting time.

Head straight to a 10 am meet and greet on Main Street (Minnie, Donald or Daisy).

Head back to Frontier Land to meet Woody from 11am.

Walk through Agrabah which is very close by to meet with Genie and Jafar (fingers crossed!).

Then head to Fantasy Land to meet with Alice and the Madhatter from noon.

Then go to Meet Mickey as that is also based at Fantasy Land.

In one morning, potentially you would have met 6 or 7 characters and you can spend the rest of the day on rides! Characters usually stop meet and greets mid-afternoon in both parks.

There are also unscheduled meets and these have no queue at all. This has happened to us once last year, when Rapunzel appeared by the pink tower close to Bella Notte.

That leads me on to the Photopass. Well the Disneyland website is a tad misleading here. It suggests that there is a professional photographer at all your meet and greets which isn’t the case. We only met professional photographers at the Princess Pavillion and at Meet Mickey. Obviously there are some photographs taken on rides but honestly I couldn’t think of anything worse than buying them. They’re never flattering. The Photopass is about £70 or thereabout and it gives you access to all of the digital photos taken. Prints are expensive in Disneyland and if I recall correctly they start at about £15 for one? Although it is cheaper to by the Photopass before you go, I would suggest waiting to see how many photos you get whilst you’re there. On this occasion we bought the pass afterwards since the photographer took so many beautiful photos during the Princess for a Day experience. On previous occasions we haven’t bothered.

I hope this has been useful!

If you have any other questions I am happy to tr and help – just pop me a message on Instagram!

Science Museum & Elan Cafe

On the weekend we decided to take advantage of the free offerings in London, it was the weekend before payday after all!

We headed out early so that we could have breakfast at the beautiful Elan Cafe on Hans Crescent, just next door to Harrods. It did not disappoint! The decor is gorgeous. The pink carousel horse and the love hearts are every instagrammers dream!

Ita ordered a huge strawberry sponge cake, Dominic had the walnut cake and I went for the popcorn blondie. We both also had coffee because frankly it’s what we live off generally! It was only about £30 give or take and that included the service charge. I had a few messages on Instagram asking whether I thought it was better than Peggy Porschens so let me explain. Despite the fact that they both sell cakes and coffee, they are very different! I would say that Peggy Porschen set the tone years ago with their pink paint and floral displays in Belgravia but the setting was small and only served a few different cakes (including macaroons and biscuits). Elan on the other hand has always been a cafe with many options food wise. Although they now have a good few cafes (I think about 5?!), it’s the Hans Crescent setting that is the most elaborate in my opinion. The others are quite small and certainly the one by The Dorchester is in dire need of a makeover!

Afterwards we headed to the Science Museum which is only about a 15 mins walk. It’s of course free but we donated £10 as well as buying a science activity book for Ita at £4. All in all, £14 seems fair! There is quite a lot to take in at the Science Museum and you can easily spend a few hours here.

Ita loved the interaction section that has been specially designed for small children. Being that it was a Sunday though, it was very busy and as such we felt like crowds pushed you to the next section too quickly.

Afterwards we took a stroll and headed to Harrods to have some lunch. We love the Pizza restaurant because it’s fairly priced and there usually isn’t much of a queue. At the moment you will see so many gorgeous floral displays because of the Chelsea Garden show.

Harry’s has a gorgeous set up!

I think it’s worth adding that parking in London is free on Sundays and we have never had any problems finding a spot! This time we parked right beside Lauderee (at the back of Harrods).

Disneyland Paris Tips

With only a few days away until our next Disney trip I thought a little blog on tips might be useful for people. Here you will find some information that frankly I wish I had known about when visiting for the first time.

We aren’t new to Disneyland Paris and in fact this will be Ita’s third trip there! Each time we go we seem to pick up tips and new ideas.

The difference however with this trip is that ITA WILL BE 3!

This means that there will be a few more exciting things for her to experience!

Things to Do!

Princess for a Day Experience

This has been something that Ita has looked forward to for a few months now. The minimum age is 3 years.

Booking is between €55-€180 depending on what package option you go for. There is package that is thousands of Euros but you do get to meet an actual real life princess!

To book the Princess for a Day Experience it must be done in person at the ‘Galerie Micket’ Shop located on the second floor of the Disneyland Hotel. It is advisable to book as soon as you can on the day you wish to receive the package.

There are limited times and places each day. For that reason we will make this a priority!

(Tip: About €55 for hair and make-up and you bring your own dress. This is especially helpful as the dresses in Disneyland Paris are about €60)

If this is a bit expensive (I hold no secrets about Disney not being so) then just inside the castle by The Sword in the Stone, there is a mini makeover bit where you can have face painting, etc! its only about €8-€15. Again, you need to be 3 years old at least.

Extra Magic Hours

If you are staying at a Disney Hotel, your park tickets will include extra magic hours. Basically you can access the park earlier than others.

You can meet some of the princesses at the Princess Pavilion and if you have extra magic hours then this is the place I would say to head to first

(The Princesses are: Belle, Aurora, Ariel and Snow White)

Usually the wait time to meet one princess is about an hour plus, however if you access the park early you can usually meet a princess within 30 minutes.

The same applies to meeting Mickey Mouse. He has his own little area inside too and the queues to meet this famous mouse are usually about an hour long. However, we have used magic hours to meet Mickey immediately. No waiting whatsoever.

Free Things That Are a Must:

Disney Main Street, Next Stop: Memory Lane

Catch a nostalgic ride to and from the Town Square aboard a vintage vehicle. Board a classic Mercer, Paddy Wagon, Omnibus, Fire Engine or Limousine and sit back as you are ushered from one end of Main Street, USA to the other. Along the way, behold a bevy or 2 and 3 storey high Victorian themed shop and restaurant from a time and place long since passed.

 Pick -Up Points

One-way trips pick up at the transportation stops in Town Square and Central Plaza.

 Horse-Drawn Streetcars: A Grand Way to Travel

If you want to avoid the hustle and bustle of the sidewalks between Town Square and Central Plaza, then why not travel in style? Just climb aboard one of the Main Street’s ornate horse-drawn streetcars and let your majestic Percheron clip clop along the brick-paved streets while you relax in ultimate splendour and comfort.

Pick-Up Point

Outside City Hall

Disneyland Rail Road

 This is just as you walk under the hotel of the City Hall area (before Main Street)

Embark on a relaxing 20-minute Grand Circle Tour onboard an authentic steam-powered train.

Listen to the clamour of the engine, the chug of the wheels and the call of the whistle as you travel aboard the Disneyland Railroad. Offering convenient stops at Frontierland, Fantasyland and Discoveryland, it’s a perfect way to preview the magic of the Disneyland Park and take in the picturesque scenery, such as the Grand Diorama, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Meals with Disney Characters

There are actually a good few options and it is without a doubt the best way to meet as many characters as possible.

Auberge de Cendrillon

Here you can have breakfast, lunch and dinner and it is the most popular dining experience.

Whisk your young royalty to Cinderella’s Banquet Hall for some fine French cuisine amongst enchanting stone archways and medieval stained glass windows. Here, princesses glide past and stop for a chat and photo opportunity in what is a fairy tale dining experience.

It can be a bit ‘hit and miss’ with the princesses as despite having eaten there numerous times, we are yet to have met Ariel there.

You will have to book this restaurant well in advance as it is always busy.

Cafe Mickey

a 3 Course Meal with Mickey and his friends. This restaurant is right at the end of the Disney Village and is really underrated. Our experience here was really good. We deliberately booked a 6pm sitting and the restaurant was more of less empty.

As with all sit down meals at Disney, it is not cheap. My understanding is that as this used to be a buffet style restaurant, that has now switched to a sit down meal, people expect the same elegance as Auberge de Cendrillon.

I think you can only have dinner here, but I will check this out.

Inventions

Based inside the Disneyland Paris Hotel up on the second floor, this restaurant does the best brunches.

Marvel at the time of a great technological imagination in this open-kitchen buffet restaurant overlooking Main Street, USA.

This restaurant is best known for its Sunday brunches where you get to meet more unusual characters like Lilo and Stitch.

Plaza Gardens Restaurant

Lap up a lavish buffet amid the Victorian splendour of this opulent leisure pavilion.

This restaurant is just inside the park situated at the end of Main Street, USA. This is usually where you are able to have your character breakfasts. It is an added bonus that you can access the park early if you book the earliest slot!

Again, these restaurant can all be booked on your dining meal plan so if you booked one, I’d recommend booking these. I think there is a small extra charge.

Rides for Under 5’s

This is possibly the most useful bit of information because when we first took Ita it was for her 1st birthday.

Fantasyland

  • Peter Pans Flight
  • It’s a Small World
  • Mad Hatters Tea Cups
  • Carrousel de Lancelot
  • Blanche-Neige et les Sept Nains (Snow White)
  • Les Voyages de Pinocchio
  • Dumbo

 Discoveryland

  • Buzz Lightyear Lazer Blast
  • Orbitron
  • Star Tours
  • Autopia

Frontierland

  • Big Thunder Mountain

Disneyland Studios

  • Ratatouille: The Adventure
  • Slinky Dog Zig-Zag Spin
  • Genie Carpet Ride

 Secrets to Sleeping Beauty’s Castle

If you go upstairs within the castle you will be able to see Sleeping Beauty’s story and keep a look out for the beautiful sparking tapestries, the knights that snore and the changing rose in the magic window.

Another little known part of the castle is that there is a dragon that you can see under the castle. When facing the castle, take the side way to your left and you’ll enter its cave!

Fireworks 

Are every night!

Frontierland entry is a good spot to see them. This is where we have had the best photos and videos.

 

National Space Centre

Last week we we were invited by @licensetopr to the PJ Masks Small Space Day event at the National Space Centre in Leicester 🚀

This was a place we have been talking about visiting for some time now so we were very excited, especially having been asked to go as guests!

I have to admit, we weren’t sure what to expect as the website isn’t very detailed but I thought perhaps it would be quite small and not very busy. We thought it would be a short experience and with the long trip for us, we put it off a bit. Actually, it completely surpassed our expectations! The centre is huge!! Everything was interactive to help with understanding for little ones and much of the interactive items were deliberately quite low so that children could be included.

Ita enjoyed all the activities including PJ Masks themed stories and trails (which she was given some themed stickers for completing!). We were so lucky to see the special show featuring the planets and the screening of two-part Moonstruck episode special, where the PJ Masks must travel to the moon to keep Luna girl from improving her luna magnet powers!

We even met the PJ Masks themselves!

One thing I would mention though is just how busy the restaurant gets. We ate at 11am since we had travelled up early and at that time Is was reasonable busy. Knock on 12 though and the restaurant/eating space was heaving! The queue for the food was chaotic and since it’s right by the entrance and exit (of the space centre) it was exceptionally busy with people standing around.

Before we went, I had read that U5s were free because the centre does not cater for them – I disagree wholeheartedly. The building and all activities are dedicated to the Space Centre’s smallest visitors, there is so much space and the interactive features were low enough for Ita, with lots of extra activities to keep young hands and minds busy.

Watch out for the launch of series 3 of PJ Masks on Tiny Pop on 24 May 2019 🌒

CBeebies Land and Hotel

On the weekend we took a mini break to Alton Towers in Staffordshire so we could treat Ita to some toddler adventures at Cbeebies Land.

Having previously visited the resort, we decided that the journey there and back was too arduous for one day so this time we decided to stay at the Cbeebies Land Hotel.

Described as ‘’bursting with music, stories and adventures for little ones to enjoy’’ we decided the expense would be worth it! Our package included one nights stay and 2 days park passes for 3.

We booked directly with the Alton Towers website and whilst you can choose from a themed room (Postman Pat, In the Night Garden) we played it safe and chose the ‘’Bugbies Room’’. I mean, heaven forbid we should choose the wrong themed room and ruin the weekend, so this seemed to be the safest option! I must admit, I did laugh when the website read ‘’in these themed rooms you’ll join the CBeebies bugs having fun in the rainbow drenched sunshine meadow’’.

All rooms are designed with a separate area for children and parents and include a children’s entertainment wall with interactive play items.

Every room has toddler friendly features such as bathroom steps to the sink, children’s toilet seats, baby baths and a cot.

All rooms feature tea & coffee making facilities, hairdryer, bottle warmers, baby baths and child toilet seats. Bedrooms also have cots, & bunk beds.

We arrived at Alton Towers at about 1.30pm and although the confirmation did state that check in was from 3pm, we were secretly hoping that we would be able to drop our bags in our rooms. However the 3pm check in is quite strict so we left our bags in reception and were advised that they would be taken to our rooms whilst we enjoyed a few rides in the park.

The Cbeebies Hotel is the furthest away from the monorail (that takes you to the park), likely to be because everything else was built years before, so it did take a while to walk to the train and get into the park. For this reason, I would really recommend a stroller because little legs will get tired very easily.

At the park we flew through the rides including Peter Rabbits Hippity Hop, Octonauts roller coaster and Ita’s favourite, the Get Set Go! Tree Top Adventure. In all, there are 7 rides and also a few live shows and soft plays. So we headed back to the hotel to relax a little.

Much of the hotel entertainment begins at 3pm. You can meet Ubercorn, Iggle Piggle and Upsy Daisy and there is a sleepover with Bing! Ita absolutely loved having this access to the characters. It definitely felt more personal and was so interactive. The space where this takes place is also well thought out – it would be difficult for a child to just wonder off.

In the mix of the evening entertainment we had dinner at the Windmill Restaurant within the hotel. We booked in advance on bookatable (only because we were emailed directing to) but the only time that was left was 7pm. This is quite late for Ita to have dinner so I was a bit apprehensive. When we checked in we did ask whether we could change our booked time and were advised that it was not possible. However, at around 5pm we noticed the hotel seemed quiet so we asked again and were ushered to our table! 

The service was really slow. Reeeeally slow. We were quite annoyed actually because the restaurant was mostly empty (despite the booking service saying it was fully booked). The food took a while to come out and the order was mixed up but was quickly rectified without fuss. Being Southerners, we felt that £60 bill for a pizza, nachos, chicken salad, burger and chips as well as 1 soft drink and 2 cocktails was beyond reasonable.

After the hotel activities and dinner we headed up to our room and were asleep by 8pm!

Ita woke up at around 11pm though complaining that her bed was ‘too hard mama’. I thought she was having a goldilocks moment so I did check… she was right! The childrens beds were really uncomfortable so she crawled in with us.

We were up very early the next morning and had pre-booked breakfast for 8am, again, we were instructed in advance to do this. Breakfast consisted of a hot buffet and a cold one too. Whilst we overheard people moaning, we were pleasantly surprised!

We decided to check out after breakfast to avoid coming back to the hotel afterwards and we were given a pass to allow us to leave the car in the express carpark. This is complimentary but is only given if you ask! It is worth it as the express car park is just by the entrance/exit where as the other car parks are quite far away!

A perk of staying at the hotels was that you gained access to them before the general public. We took the monorail to the park expecting it to be quiet but we were faced with really long queues. With that said, the queues moved quickly and most people were heading to the main theme park so Cbeebies Land was empty! Again, we completed all the rides (some 3 or 4 times each) so we decided to grab some lunch and then explore the main area. We ate at the Little Explorers Lunch box. The food was lovely and again, really reasonable. For 2 jacket potatoes, drinks and pasta for Ita we paid less than £15! The live shows in the middle of the park were great but people start saving their spots about 40 minutes before they begin. You get a photo opportunity afterwards but it is very rushed and the wait is long.

Just outside of the Cbeebies Park there is a face painter and of course, Ita could not resist. At a cost of £7 we found it was cheaper than other theme parks but just a note, these stalls accept cash only.

Within the main park, just by the pirates area, there is Sharkbait Reef Sea Life and entry is free. It was much bigger than we were expecting and is as good as any of the other ones we had visited. The rides in Alton Towers are not really suitable for Ita’s age so its worth remembering that despite checking out before 11am, you can have access to the hotel for the entire day so if you are not planning on leaving too early, then you can head back and watch some live shows there too.

I have to credit Cbeebies Hotel. We had a brilliant time! Had we not have stayed then I don’t think we would have met all the characters and enjoyed our trip so much. I would really recommend staying here!

 

Cadbury World

On Easter Monday we took a road trip to Cadbury World in Birmingham!

It was a long journey so we decided to leave our home at 8am. Accompanied with a fruit shoot, snacks and a Disney soundtrack we jumped on the motorway and arrived in Birmingham at around 10.30am.

To start with we were given a tour through the life of Mr Cadbury himself and the journey of the Cadbury enterprise.

Afterwards, we headed off following the route marked out. There were a few small activities and one was to write our names in chocolate! To be honest, it was too busy to do much else so we queued up as Ita was begging for her face to be painted!

Ita loved the bundles of chocolate she received, having her little face painted (as a pink tiger 😏), and the car ride which she claimed was like It’s a Small World in Disneyland (it’s not, FYI)! She was gutted that it was so short though and that it was the only ride there.

Under 4s are free so for us all to go it was only about £30 (give or take) which seemed really reasonable. Even more so now that we have been because Ita’s age group would have got the same out of the experience as say a 6 year old who had to pay an entrance fee.

The issues we found were mainly around that fact that it was absolutely heaving! I’m guessing because of the Easter event? I can’t imagine it’s always so busy! There was a lot of shoving (not by me, I was on my best behaviour!) which tends to put me in a foul mood because Ita is so small and I worry her glasses will fall off!

There was also ALOT of waiting around. We spent so much of the exhibition standing around waiting which was frustrating.

Over all it was a nice day but not worth the travel. (Although the big bag of Cadbury’s is definitely a pro!)

We are visiting and staying at CBeeBies Land again in a few days so at least Ita can enjoy all the rides she wants!

Welcome!

Well, this isn’t so much as a welcome, because our concept isn’t new. If you have followed my Instagram for a while now, you’ll have gathered that we enjoy travelling (a lot), days out making memories and keeping our beautiful girl entertained!

However, my Instagram highlights are becoming completely full and I’d like to be able to provide more detailed accounts for my followers. So here I am!

Our next break is to CBeebies Land and that’s where our blogging adventure will properly begin. 💖