Disney on Ice – Worlds of Enchantment at Echo Arena Liverpool

Disney on Ice Worlds of Enchantment

I can’t tell you how glad I was to get everyone into bed this evening – the levels of bickering and generally over-tired, over-emotional behaviour were reaching fever pitch and breakdown was imminent (I’m not sure which would have come first – mine or Amy’s).  However, it was all worth it.  You see my girls didn’t get to bed till after 10pm last night having travelled over to Liverpool to watch the latest Disney on Ice show – Worlds of Enchantment.

This was Chloe’s 4th Disney on Ice show and Amy’s 2nd – previously Amy had just been too little to manage the late night and whilst she’s still pretty small to be driving home from Liverpool at 9pm, she’s now more than capable of sitting and enjoying the show.  And enjoy the show she did.

This time, Ben decided to forgo his ticket in favour of a “lad’s night” with his best friend meaning that we were able to taking my goddaughter, Erin (who regular readers will be familiar with as she features fairly frequently on my blog!).  Previously when I’ve taken the kids to watch Disney on Ice, they haven’t known about it before hand but this time they’d been counting down for days with the excitement building.  In the past it hasn’t really occurred to me to dress them up, and I’ve tended to concentrate more on making sure they’re comfortable for the journey and the show itself but this time round we decided to let the girls wear their princess dresses which if I’m honest just seemed to add to the magic for them!

Meet Woody & Jessie at Disney on Ice

Meet Mickey Mouse at Disney on Ice

The Worlds of Enchantment show starts with a quick “Fit to Dance” performance which encourages the audience to get up and get moving – I was impressed to see Chloe leap up and bust out some moves, she normally takes a little while to warm up to these things!

The main show was split into four sections featuring Toy Story 3, Little Mermaid, Cars and Frozen with a short interval in the middle.

Having seen several Disney on Ice shows now I was super excited to see something different on the ice – Toy Story 3 and Cars haven’t featured before in the Disney on Ice shows that we’ve seen and if I’m honest I have more than a bit of a soft spot for the Toy Story trilogy so was thrilled to see some of my favourite characters performing.  As ever I found myself marvelling at how it’s even possible to skate as the back end of a donkey or dressed as a pig.  The Toy Story performance gave a whistle-stop tour of Toy Story 3 outlining the story from Andy packing up his toys to them arriving at Sunnyside, Lotso and eventually their escape – it’s amazing how much of the story can be condensed into a few songs and some skating!

Toy Story 3 Disney on Ice Worlds of Enchantment

Lotso, Toy Story Disney on Ice

The Little Mermaid always plays out well on the ice featuring your favourite songs and, possibly one of my favourite costumes of the entire show – Ursuala.  The enormous inflatable Ursula which we’ve seen previously didn’t make an appearance last night but I think the Little Mermaid section was shorter than the Toy Story one – it certainly felt that way at any rate.

Little Mermaid - Disney on Ice

Disney on Ice Worlds of Enchantment

Mother and daughter watching Disney on Ice, Worlds of Enchantment

After the interval (where poor Amy panicked that the show was over and she hadn’t seen Elsa) we were treated to Cars – which was a bit of an odd one as it didn’t involve any skaters just cars whizzing around expertly on the ice!  I’m fairly sure this was some fancy remote control trickery as I couldn’t see anyone inside the vehicles!!  Amy was super excited as one of her friends at Nursery loves Cars and she couldn’t stop telling me how much Noah would love this bit of the show and whilst it wasn’t my personal favourite I could see how exciting it would be for a Cars fan!

Cars at Disney on Ice

And then of course it was time for the grand finale, I’ve said it before but Frozen was made for the ice.  Every Disney on Ice show we’ve seen has featured Frozen and each time it is a spectacular of beautiful costumes, fake snow and amazing ice dancing.  Amy was beside herself – I think she actually enjoyed it more this time than she had the first time we took her!

Elsa from Frozen - Disney on Ice Worlds of Enchantment

Olaf at Disney on Ice

Proving you really are never too old for Disney, my friend Sarah from Extraordinary Chaos watched the show with her teenage son and friend!

You can catch Disney on Ice, Worlds of Enchantment at Echo Area Liverpool until this Sunday before moving on to Nottingham, Cardiff and Aberdeen.

*We received complimentary tickets to Disney on Ice presents Worlds of Enchantment for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions remain our own*

Reddish Vale Farm – Perfect for Under 5s!

It’s been years since we last visited Reddish Vale Farm, so long in fact that I was pregnant with Amy.  On the basis that it isn’t too far away from home, not too expensive and had cows (a key factor in any farm visit!) we decided to pay a visit this Easter rather than travelling to a much larger but more expensive farm.

With it being the first actually nice day of the Easter holidays, Reddish Vale Farm was understandably busy and we struggled to park onsite, having to drive back up the hill and park on of the nearby residential streets.  Luckily we found a spot not too far away and were able to make our way back down to the farm without a problem.

The farm had only been open about half an hour when we arrived and as such there was a bit of queue to get in but this moved reasonably quickly.  Of course this fed through into the first part of the farm being pretty crowded too and in hindsight perhaps we should have started in the play area and worked backwards.  The farm area was much quieter later in the day meaning there was plenty of room to mooch about and spend time at each animal pen.

Reddish Vale Farm - calves

Having been before, I knew that Reddish Vale Farm wasn’t very big but I think I’d forgotten just how small it actually is and I quickly worried that we were going to have wasted our money – it cost us somewhere in the region of £32 to get in (including a couple of buckets of carrots to feed the animals) which for a full day out would be great value but in reality turned out to be pretty expensive.

Because it was so busy we found ourselves moving on quite quickly from each animal pen to allow other people a chance to see and feed the animals and as such within an hour we had finished in the farm area itself.  I was quite disappointed as seeing the animals at our other favourite farms is the main focus of our day.  (Amy has been known to spend 45 minutes just watching the cows being milked at Smithills Farm!)

We made our way out to the new adventure play area – I say “new”, I don’t know how long it has been there but it’s certainly not something I’ve seen before and all the equipment looks pretty new so I wouldn’t think it has been more than a summer or two.  The playground equipment was spot on for Amy and Chloe, and whilst I would say it probably lacked the challenge Ben would like, it still kept him occupied for a good while – particularly the zip wire.

Reddish Vale Farm adventure playground

Zip wire at Reddish Vale Farm

We took ourselves off to the Tea Room for a drink and to share a cake before the kids tried out the soft play and bouncy castle – which if I’m honest I thought was an odd choice on their part considering the weather was so lovely but hey, who am I to argue.  There was a lengthy queue for the toilets at lunch time which was frustrating – especially as the majority of customers are small children who might not be able to hold it in!

All in we actually managed to spend about 4 hours at Reddish Vale by virtue of the weather – had it been cold or miserable I think we’d have been done within a couple of hours.  It was lovely to get out in the fresh air and see some calves but in all honesty I think our children are now too big for Reddish Vale Farm.

Here’s eleven reasons why we think Reddish Vale is great for Under 5s

It’s not huge – there isn’t too much walking for little legs

There’s a nice variety of typical farm animals in easy to see pens

There’s only one or two pens of each type of animal so it doesn’t get boring

The animals are used to being fed and petted

The soft play and bouncy castles are undercover for days when the weather is below par

The majority of the outdoor play area is easily accessible for little children – at 4.5yo Amy could go on everything independently

You can hand feed the animals with buckets of carrots purchased on entry (£1 a bucket)

There’s a small indoor petting area with chicks and rabbits to hold under staff supervision

There’s plenty of places to sit down to enjoy a drink and snack if you’ve brought them with you

The adjoining Tea Room offers a great variety of options for a snack or meal and isn’t too expensive.

Under 2s are free.

(I did film our day out which I will hopefully add in here later but for now by video editing software isn’t playing ball!!)

Three of our favourite farms to visit this Spring

Nothing screams spring like a visit to a farm to see all the new life!  With that in mind, here’s three of our favourite farms to visit this spring:

Smithills Open Farm

Smithills Open Farm near Bolton is a family run business with over 25 different types of animals – from cows, pigs and sheep to owls, llamas and pythons!  One of the main attractions of Smithills Open Farm for us is “Pet’s Corner” where you can feed and handle a variety of animals including the lambs and baby chicks! But, for Amy, the highlight of a visit to Smithills Open Farm is being able to watch her beloved cows be milked.  Amy has been known to stand for a full 45 minutes watching a milking session!  Smithills Open Farm have a cafe on site but you are welcome to take a picnic if you wish – there’s a number of picnic tables out near the play area and we’ve never struggled to find somewhere to sit.  There’s an indoor area filled with bouncy castles and inflatables but we’ve always been too busy to use it!  It’s also worth mentioning that there are donkey rides, you need to buy tickets for these at the kiosk but from memory they’re only a pound or so.

Adults: £8.00
Children: £7.00 (2 – 16 years, children under 2 are free)

Baby lambs at Smithills Open Farm

 

Reddish Vale Farm

It’s a long time since we’ve been to Reddish Vale Farm, near Stockport.  So long in fact, that I was pregnant with Amy!  It’s definitely time for us to plan a return.  One of the things we loved most about Reddish Vale Farm is that it isn’t huge making it perfect for little legs to explore.  You can buy a bucket of animal feed on your way in and feed many of the animals as well as petting them.  Once you’ve seen all the animals, there’s an outdoor play area as well as a covered soft play area with a bouncy castle to burn off some of that extra energy!

The Reddish Vale Tea Rooms are perfectly placed next door for a hot drink and a snack or even for a full lunch.

Adults- £5.50
Children- £6.50
Under 2s- FREE (Proof of age may be required)
OAPS- £5.00
Feeding cows at Reddish Vale Farm
Reddish Vale Farm is perfect for little ones

Canon Hall Farm

Canon Hall Farm is by far one of my favourite places to visit in the spring.  It’s the biggest but also the most expensive of the farms in this post.  My friend Hannah isn’t a fan of Canon Hall Farm as she says it’s “too sanitised” and not a “real farm” which I totally get, however I think most of us are quite happy to keep our feet clean!  We’ve visited Canon Hall Farm a couple of times now, both visits have been in the spring and as such we’ve been lucky enough to witness several births (one of which I even caught on camera last year!)

There’s so much to do at Canon Hall Farm with a number of outdoor play areas aimed at different ages of children (this is the first thing Ben mentions whenever we talk about Canon Hall Farm).  The fairly recent addition of a soft play area was a big hit for us last year when it was really cold the day we visited – a chance to warm up with a hot drink while the kids ran around for a bit was a joy!  You can watch milking demonstrations – though this is usually just a couple of cows rather than a herd like at Smithills, take a tractor ride, pet some of the smaller animals and see all manner of baby animals at various stages from raised viewing platforms.  For me, the raised viewing platforms are a game changer as it means that even the smallest visitor to Canon Hall Farm has a good chance of being able to see what’s going on!

Easter Adventure Tickets £9.95 per person valid until 08.04.18

Raised viewing platforms at Canon Hall Farm

Piglets at Canon Hall Farm

Will you be visiting a farm this spring?  I’d love to know your favourites too!

The Gruffalo at The Lowry – Review

It’s hard to believe that the magic of the Grufflao has now been part of our lives almost twenty years (it was published in spring 1999 to be precise!).  I remember a friend buying me a copy as a gift when I first started teaching and it has been a staple in both my classroom and at home ever since.

I first saw The Gruffalo live on stage when Ben was just 6 months old, Dave had bought me the tickets for Christmas and I was so excited!  Some eight years later and it was now Amy’s turn to experience the Tall Stories musical adaptation of the much loved picture book.

The Gruffalo at The Lowry

Whilst I’m sure that Ben and Chloe would have thoroughly enjoyed the show too, Amy & I had tickets for a showing during school hours which meant it was a special #MummyandBo adventure which she was very much looking forward to.

The 55 minute performance (with no interval) is recommended for children age 3+ and sticks closely to the original story which, let’s face it, we could probably all just about recite by heart anyway!  I love the way the story is narrated on stage to ensure that the words from the story are interweaved into the performance.

Having seen the show before some years ago I thought I knew what to expect, and to a point I was right, however the show has seen some updates to the script and costumes etc which really kept it fresh despite being so very familiar.

The Gruffalo at The Lowry

The songs are exciting and lively, the characters comical and the acting spot on – Amy was enthralled throughout the performance and I was equally entertained.  So often I find myself enjoying theatre shows through the eyes of my children but this one I enjoyed for myself, watching Amy enjoy it was just an added bonus!

The Gruffalo makes for a great introduction to theatre – being both familiar and exciting and with just the right level of interaction to stop little ones from getting bored or fidgety.

This musical adaptation of this classic picture book is a sure fire hit – you should definitely go and see it.  The Gruffalo is showing at The Lowry until 07.01.18 and tickets are available here.

*We were invited to see The Gruffalo at The Lowry free of charge for the purpose of review however all thoughts and opinions remain our own* 

The Bear at Waterside – Review

 

The Bear runs at Waterside until the 6th of January and tickets are available now.  You can even pre-order a Slumber Pack for £2 containing a carton of milk & a cookie – this was a lovely bonus for the kids and I was quite envious of their little snack!

A Surprise Birthday Weekend in Venice

If you follow me on social media, you might have seen that we spent a long weekend in Venice at the start of this month.  I can’t tell you how hard it was to keep my mouth shut about our adventure as it had been planned for months but was a secret!  The last few weeks before our trip I found myself double checking everything I posted and constantly worrying that I was going to let the cat out of the bag!

Mum celebrated a special birthday this month and having decided she didn’t want to have a party, Dad went all out on planning a long weekend of surprises culminating in a bucket list trip on the Orient Express to Venice.  The biggest surprise of them all though was that when Mum and Dad got off the train in Venice – Dave, Nic and I were on the platform waiting for them!

You might have seen that we had fake celebrated Amy’s birthday a week early?  The main reason for this was that her birthday is actually the day after Mum’s so our little jaunt to Venice meant we would actually be away for most of her birthday.  Obviously under normal circumstances I would never choose to be away on my child’s birthday but as I said, it was a special birthday and I wasn’t in charge of the plans.  Celebrating Amy’s birthday early not only alleviated the #mumguilt but also meant that we were able to celebrate Mum’s birthday with her too.  (Mum knew that she would be away on her birthday and it would have been strange if we hadn’t made any other plans to celebrate with her and with Amy knowing full well that her birthday is the day after Mum’s she wouldn’t have understood why Granny hadn’t had her birthday yet?!)

So, back to Venice . . .

After a stupidly early start and a breakfast flight from Gatwick, we landed in Venice just before lunch time and took a “bus” over to the main part of the city.  It was the middle of the afternoon by the time we’d made it to our super central apartment, picked up a few groceries (basically wine, milk and cereal – priorities . . .) and got ourselves settled.

Mum & Dad weren’t due to arrive in Venice until early evening so Nic, Dave and I set out to explore – which basically meant we walked in the direction of the train station via some very pretty streets and some pizza!  As the time to meet Mum and Dad got closer, Nic and I started to get more nervous, what if we missed them when they got off the train? what if Mum wasn’t actually pleased to see us?  . . .

Luckily our fears were unfounded, we managed to stand in pretty much just the right place on the platform, Dad saw us as soon as he got off the train but Mum didn’t, so we were able to sneak right up on her – I had to say her name otherwise she’d have walked right on past.  Of course there was lots of laughter, hugs and tears as she got over the shock of us being there and some lovely smiles from other passengers who Dad had clearly filled in on the surprise during the trip!

The weekend was filled with wine, pizza, pasta shopping and a whole lot of fun.  I only took a handful of photos (by which I mean about 100 instead of 700) – which took some restraint I can tell you.  I’d have snapped away all weekend given half the chance.  Venice is such a beautiful city, and so different to anywhere else I’ve ever been.

We walked the equivalent of a marathon over the three days we were there and even paddled in St Mark’s Square . . .

 

We had expected the weekend to be really expensive but I don’t think any of us thought that the prices of food, drink or general shopping was bad at all, we rarely seemed to pay more than we would have expected to at home.  (Unless you wanted a gin & tonic and then the price was astronomical – for some reason it was classed as a “cocktail” and charged at around 10 – 15 euros . . . unsurprisingly I drank other things instead!)

Mum and Dad have been to Venice several times now and Mum would tell you it’s one of their favourite cities in the world.  I can totally see why.  So often when you’re visiting a big city it just feels the same as everywhere else – but with it’s narrow little streets, immense canal network and more bridges than I cared to count – Venice is in a league of it’s own.

11 things we love about The Christmas Adventure at Stockeld Park

I’m not sure how it has happened but it’s December next week . . . and we all know what that means!  I flipping love Christmas – but in December, so as soon as the 1st of the month hits I’m ready to go full throttle festive and for us this usually means a trip to Stockeld Park to see Father Christmas.  We’ve been visiting Father Christmas at Stockeld Park since Chloe was born and only missed one year since!  Amy was tiny and I couldn’t drive after my section so we went to Tatton Park instead – it was “fine” but we were keen to get back to the Christmas Adventure at Stockeld Park the following year!

Siblings at The Christmas Adventure at Stockeld Park

Before the school day became an issue for us we used to go on a Friday afternoon right at the start of December meaning that it was a little quieter (and also meant it was still counted as off-peak so slightly cheaper too!).  Now that we have Ben and Chloe in full time school we are more restricted so tend to pick the first weekend in December – of course this counts as “peak” and as such is more expensive but I still think it’s a great value day out.  Going at the start of December makes it a really lovely way to kick off the festive period and also means we’ve got time to sort out any surprise requests when they see Father Christmas!!

10 things we love about the Christmas Adventure at Stockeld Park

1. There’s so much to do that you don’t have to pay for (and a range of options for those that you do!)

This is a really important factor as it would be easy to spend an absolute fortune on visiting the Christmas Adventure at Stockeld Park – Once you’ve paid for your tickets for Santa’s Grotto, things like ice skating or the Enchanted Forest are an additional cost (although you can buy Adventure Day passes which cover all the Adventure Zones at a discount).  Over the years we’ve tried out different combinations of activities and tickets but it’s perfectly possible to spend several hours at Stockeld Park without spending much over the cost of your Grotto ticket price (£11 per child) – in fact I think that’s probably what we will aim to do this year.

There’s two play areas which are free to use – one indoor (which I must admit we’ve tended to avoid, preferring to stay outside if we can) and one outdoor play.  One of my favourite things about the outdoor play area (also known as Farmer Foster’s Barnyard) is the well thought out artificial grass in places meaning it’s possible to enjoy a spot of hill rolling even on a cold, damp day – trust me, my children have tried this.

Playing in Farmer Foster's Barnyard at Stockeld Park

Free outdoor play area at Stockeld Park

artificial grass hill at Stockeld Park

2. Allotted times to see Father Christmas to minimise queuing

Anyone who has tried to queue for any length of time with a small child will know how much of a big deal this is! We have been to the Christmas Adventure at Stockeld Park before when a less effective queuing system was in place and we stood outside in the cold for SO long – it really took the shine off the experience.  Last year they had it absolutely spot on, you were given a number on arrival (reminiscent of going to the butcher’s counter in the supermarket) and you basically just had to keep an eye on the signs around the park letting you know which number was next, once your number was displayed you could head down to the grotto for your turn.  Any queuing after this happens indoors where it’s warm and it all becomes part of the magic so you don’t mind half as much!

Father Christmas - Christmas Adventure at Stockeld Park

3. Incredible hot chocolate

Of course if you’re visiting the Christmas Adventure at Stockeld Park, you have to expect that it’s going to get pretty cold.  It doesn’t matter how well wrapped up you are, at some point the need for a hot chocolate is going to hit you and the guys at Stockeld Park have got you covered.  As well as The Woodland Cafe which is indoors (and I must admit we’ve never found a seat in) there’s also the Lake View Cafe which is essentially a large marquee and Hansel’s Cabin in the main forecourt.  I know in the past there’s been quite a big queue at Hansel’s Cabin but it was well worth it for the delicious hot chocolate!

Hot chocolate at Stockeld Park

Hot chocolate at Stockeld Park, Christmas adventure

4. The gorgeous gift shop 

Now I do love a good gift shop and Stockeld Park doesn’t disappoint – at this time of year the gift shop is packed to the rafters with gorgeous Christmas decorations and toys – I’m sure it get’s bigger every year.  (It’s also worth mentioning that it’s perfectly possible to avoid going into – there’s nothing worse than an attraction whcih exits through the gift shop when you’ve got three small children with you!)

5. A real ice skating rink

I do think there’s something gloriously festive about ice skating so it seems like the perfect activity to have at Stockeld Park during the winter months.  Skate hire is included in the ticket price and the penguin skate aids are free to use on a first come, first serve basis.  Ice skating at Christmas with the Butlers has become something of a tradition for us now (and one which we’re really looking forward to again this year).  We haven’t braved taking all three children on our own as when we had the chance to at Stockeld Park last year, Dave had a broken elbow and getting on the ice with the kids on my own really wasn’t going to happen!

real ice skating rink - Christmas Adventure at Stockeld Park

6. The Enchanted Forest

The Enchanted Forest has been a key part of our visits to Stockeld Park at Christmas over the years – we try to time it for late afternoon so it’s starting to get dark as we go into the forest, by the time we come out the other end it’s properly dark and you can really feel the full effect of all the magical twinkly lights.  The downside of going into the forest at this time is that you can’t take full advantage of the additional play areas which have been added in recent years.  (I keep promising the kids we’ll go back for the Summer Adventure again but have yet to manage it!)  I love that there is a clearly defined route around the forest and the kids really enjoy finding the things they remember from previous trips (like the trolls under the bride) or new things that have been added.

illuminated enchanted forest Christmas Adventure at Stockeld Park

7. A range of play areas to suit different ages 

As I’ve already mentioned – there’s an indoor play area in the Woodland Cafe and a Farmer Foster’s Barnyard which are free to use and are situated centrally.  As you walk through the Enchanted Forest you will come across four large adventure playgrounds which are spread out along the route.  What I love about these is that there’s something to suit each of my children – Ben loves all the ropes and climbing of the Spider’s Lair whereas Amy prefers Woodsand’s Cove.  The only downside is trying to get them to move onto the next space – I usually manage it with an as yet unfulfilled promise of returning when the weather is warmer!

play area at Stockeld Park

8. Plenty of free parking 

Something which really annoys me is turning up to a large attraction where I’m already going to spend quite a bit of money, and then being expected to pay for parking too.  Thankfully that’s not the case at Stockeld Park – the parking is free and plentiful (albeit on grass so maybe don’t take your fancy sports car!)

9. Friendly, helpful staff

Clearly at an attraction like this, the staff can really make or break the experience and it’s safe to say that in our experience, the staff at Stockeld Park really do make it.  Everyone is super friendly and helpful and keen to add to the magic of your day out.

Elves working at Christmas Adventure at Stockeld Park

10. Gorgeous gifts

One of the things I love most about vistiting Father Christmas at Stockeld Park is the gifts – there’s no rubbish plastic tat here.  Every child gets the same gift – and every year it is a different cuddly toy.  We now have a collection of them – a reindeer, a penguin, husky dog and a seal I think from memory and each year they get packed away with the Christmas decorations.  It has become part of our Christmas traditions, to keep these cuddly toys just for the festive season.  The kids love getting them out at the start of December and adding a new one to their team!

presents from Father Christmas at Stockeld Park

Cuddly toys from Father Christmas at Stockeld Park

11. The REAL Father Christmas 

And finally, the most important point of all.  The Father Christmas at Stockeld Park is the REAL one!  We all know he has lots of helpers who work in the various grottos around the country making sure that everyone gets a chance to ask for whatever present they would like but the one at Stockeld Park?  It’s really him.  I just know it.

The Snowman, Opera House Manchester – Review

As a child of the eighties, The Snowman is a long-established part of my childhood Christmases, sitting down to watch the film adaptation of the Raymond Briggs book in front of a roaring coal fire with a mince pie . . .

What I hadn’t realised until very recently is that the live show first appeared on stage over twenty years ago – there was me thinking this was a new thing!  The Snowman is currently running Opera House Manchester, providing a glorious starting point to our festive season.

The Snowman

Although Ben, Chloe and Amy have most definitely seen The Snowman on tv and have ‘read’ the book, I don’t think they’re all that familiar with the story so at first they were a little unsure as to what to expect from the show.  Just like the book and the film, there’s no words – the story is told entirely through music and dance – which is utterly beautiful but certainly a new experience for the likes of Amy who has only just turned 4 this week!  At first I think she was a little confused by the fact that nobody was talking but she soon settled into it and was completely absorbed by the magic happening on stage in front of her.

The set and costumes were very clever, and as is usually the case Ben was keen to figure out what might be going on backstage as we moved from scene to scene – he finds stage trickery absolutely fascinating but it’s a little frustrating at times when he’s trying to explain things to the girls instead of just letting the magic wash over them! I adored the way the scenery referenced the book and film so closely whilst adding it’s own twist.

The Snowman on stage

For me the highlights of the show included the opening scenes which, from memory, mirrored the opening scenes of the film very closely – I felt like move for move I was watching the Christmas film of my childhood come to life on stage in front of me.  And then the iconic flying scene with Walking in the Air sung by Aled Jones (as featured on the album One Voice at Christmas) and some skillful use of wires gave me goosebumps from the start.

The stage show stays true to the original book and film adaptation whilst adding in elements such as bad guy, Jack Frost to give the show it’s own identity.  We loved the “battle” between The Snowman and Jack Frost to win the Ice Princess (who wowed my girls by “dancing on her toes like a proper ballerina“) and Scotty Snowman raised a lot of laughs from the grown ups with the way he chose to deal with Jack Frost!

The Snowman live on stage

The magic of The Snowman runs through the show from start to finish – the music, the costumes, the beautiful dancing and even a smattering of fake snow at the very end.  I was almost reduced to tears when it had finished – my children were as enchanted as I was.  It’s worth considering that with a running time of 1hr and 45 minutes (including an interval) this is a long time to sit and watch a show with no talking or interaction – and as such I don’t think I would take anyone younger than Amy.  She was definitely pretty fidgety in the run up to the interval and spent the second half sat on my knee whispering to me about what was going on.  She’s a pretty sparky little girl and had a good grasp of the story being played out in front of her but I know the lady sat behind me said her son, who is almost 5, wouldn’t have been able to sit and watch it.  Although it’s a children’s book – I do think the show itself is quite grown up in a lot of ways.  Chloe and 6 and Ben at 8 were perfect for it.

The Snowman runs at Opera House Manchester until Sunday 12th November before moving on to Glasgow, Milton Keynes and Brighton.  Tickets are available here.

You can also see what Sarah from Extraordinary Chaos and Jenny from The Brick Castle thought of the show.

*We attended The Snowman at Opera House Manchester free of charge for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions remain our own.  This post contains affiliate links.*

Disney on Ice presents Passport to Adventure at Manchester Arena

On Wednesday evening I picked everyone up early from childcare, the big two got quickly changed in the car and we hopped a tram into town, eating butties on the way!  There’s nothing like the excitement of a cheeky after school adventure!  Of course they didn’t know where they were going – they never do.

We got off the tram at Manchester Victoria ready to climb the stairs to Manchester Arena only to be met with notices stating that backpacks were not to be allowed in the venue.  Of course it makes perfect sense, I understand why they’ve instigated that ruling.  Unfortunately I just didn’t know anything about it beforehand.  It wasn’t like there was even really anything in my backpack – just a camera and a few snacks – I tend to carry it out of habit, especially if I’m out with the three of them on my own.  I like to keep my hands free!

So I’m left standing there on my own, with three kids having to make the decision between chucking my bag away or taking them home again and missing out on the show . . . at this point I was extremely glad that they still didn’t know what we were actually going to see.  It took me a minute or two to get my head straight and to come up with a plan – having three little ones rabbiting on at you isn’t conducive to thinking properly!  I decided I would try and get a smaller bag to decant my things into and dump my rucksack.  I’d had it a couple of years and it was on it’s way out – I’d been looking for a replacement for a little while.  I decided that the value of my old bag versus the value of the tickets and experience meant the bag would have to go.  A quick trip to the M&S Simply Food in the train station for a carrier bag to decant my bag into and we were all set.

No backpacks allowed in Manchester Arena

By the time we’d got over this debacle and made our way round to the box office, we’d basically missed the VIP Meet & Greet so we didn’t get to see Mickey or any of the other characters this time.  I don’t think the kids were all that bothered though, they were just glad to be there and to see “The Gingers“.

We soon realised when the show started that the Passport to Adventure show is extremely similar to the Disney on Ice Silver Anniversary Celebration we had seen in Liverpool some 18 months ago.  It featured the same characters in the same order – and whilst still impressive, probably lacked the wow factor for us as we were left feeling that we’d seen it all before.

We're going on an adventure at Disney on Ice, Manchester Arena

That said, Ben and I both took great pleasure in watching the show through Amy’s eyes instead.  Although Ben and Chloe have been to two Disney on Ice shows previously, this was Amy’s first time.  I’d always felt she was too young to really appreciate it before, and too young to cope with such a late night.  She absolutely loved it – she was mesmerised by all the different characters from some of her favourite films (Frozen and The Little Mermaid are especially well watched in our house – though Chloe would have you believe she’s now too grown up for Frozen!)

Very excited to see Olaf

Highlights for us included the wonderful national costumes during It’s A Small World, the impressive use of flight for Peter Pan & Tinkerbell, and the enormous inflatable Ursula who held a commanding presence on the ice!  Of course the cherry on the cake was the Frozen performance at the end – Amy was beyond excited when Anna skated into view but almost burst when Olaf bumbled onto the ice!!  The clever use of special effects to make it “snow” added magic to the performance.

Enormous inflatable Ursula at Disney on Ice

Anna & Olaf at Disney on Ice, Manchester Arena

Snow effects during Frozen at Disney on Ice

Disney On Ice presents Passport to Adventure runs until Sunday 15th October in Manchester and TICKETS ARE STILL AVAILABLE. Prices start around £31 per person including the booking fee and Venue Restoration Levy.

After Manchester, Disney On Ice presents Passport to Adventure will visit:

Arena Birmingham 18-29 October
SSE Arena, Belfast 3-5 November
Citywest Hotel, Dublin 10-12 November
FlyDSA Arena, formerly Sheffield Arena 15-19 November
The O2, London 20-30 December

Looking forward to the new year, tickets are now available for Disney on Ice Worlds of Enchantment hitting Liverpool Echo Arena on 11th April 2018.

Check out what The Brick Castle and Red Rose Mummy thought of Disney on Ice presents Passport to Adventure too!

*We attended Disney on Ice at Manchester Arena free of charge for the purpose of review, all thoughts and opinions remain our own*

Thorpe Park Fright Nights 2017 – Review

Because a) I live too far away and b) I’m a massive scardy cat, I wasn’t able to attend the press launch of the 2017 Thorpe Park Fright Nights last night but I knew a girl who would!  So, let me introduce you to my good friend and guest reviewer Cesca:

Hi, I’m Cesca.  I am pretty lucky, I live in a bit of a “theme park Bermuda Triangle”, and am pretty much equi-distant to Thorpe Park, Chessington and Legoland.  So, when Colette asked if I would like to attend Thorpe Park’s Fright Night I jumped at the chance!

On reflection this was a little fool hardy, I’m still not sleeping properly at night after being scared by ET: The Extra Terrestrial when I was five. But, duty called, so I took myself over to the park on an autumnal Thursday night to experience what was on offer.

Fright Night 2017 includes seven horror filled activities, plus the usual rides.  On the launch night the 5 Fright Night mazes were open, and the park’s six biggest rides (Stealth, Swarm, Colossus, Saw : The Ride, Nemesis Inferno and Derren Brown’s Ghost Train) were running.

All throughout the park they’ve made a real effort with the Fright Night theming, it’s eerily dark, there are a few zombies on the loose and lots of scary noises and music are played which gets the old anxiety levels up!  We did Stealth first, which for those who’ve never been is a bit like Alton Towers’ Rita, but on steroids.  Daniela, my sister, is petrified of it for some reason so we were getting it done first.  Even then I had to shout at her when she tried to bottle it and get off in the loading bay!!

Thorpe Park Stealth - Fright Night

We then went on Swarm, which is another big coaster and really exhilarating in the dark! This looked amazing, with the car looping around a post apocalyptic wasteland themed area with menacing red lights on it.

At that point we happened to stumble across one of the mazes, Sanctum, which was themed around The Walking Dead series.  There are some rules common across all mazes: they are designed to SCARE you!  They are aimed at 13+ so aren’t suitable for young children.  They use sounds, smoke, lights and smells for an immersive experience and they use live actors.  The live actors WILL TOUCH you (and scare the living daylights out of you!!) but they will never hurt you.  Well it’s fair to say I screamed the whole way round, (the man with his intestines out was disgusting) but we managed to escape the Zombies successfully.

Thorpe Park Fright Nights 2017 - The Walking Dead

We then went on Derren Brown’s Ghost Train, which is a virtual reality Ghost Train (I’m not allowed to spoil the secret by saying any more than that); suffice to say it’s like no other Ghost Train you’ve been on before!!  I then forced my sister, who was still being a big jessie, onto Saw: The Ride, which is based on the Saw film franchise.  Think chainsaws, and lots of Billy the Puppets with a huge rollercoaster and you’re on the right lines. Well, it was so scary – it was pitch black and you couldn’t see what was coming!

Thorpe Park Fright Nights 2017 - Saw

Next was the Saw: Alive maze which was BRILLIANT!  You were taken through various torture rooms based on the film and there were dead bodies, and really bad smells, and body bags and body parts… and people trying to capture you to be the next victim.  It was a lot gorier than the other maze (but still good fun!)

We then headed over to The Big Top, a circus themed maze with lots of scary clowns.  My sister and I both liked that they were all so different – this one had really bass heavy dance music playing and really good lighting effects.  The strobes totally played with my vision I got so disorientated.  And there a clown that took a shining to me and followed me round the whole maze.  Joy.

Thorpe Park Fright Nights - The Big Top

Our final ride of the night was Nemesis Inferno, which is similar to the original Nemesis – fast, thrilling and disorientating.  We finished the night with a maze, Platform 15, which was based on a train and abandoned village and used the old railway tracks of the Canada Creek railway (going back to the 80’s there!).  This one was more spooky than scary, other than the bit at the end which was terrifying!  Again, totally different to the other ones we tried.  At that point we left, checking over our shoulders approximately every 30 seconds on the way back to the car to make sure we didn’t have a stowaway in tow!

Both Daniela and I thoroughly enjoyed Fright Night. If you don’t like being scared or feeling afraid of what might be ahead it’s probably not for you, but we think they’ve got the balance of fear, excitement and laughter just right.  The attention to detail and the quality of the actors & acting is first rate.  The length of the attractions is just right, too – at the point when it’s getting a bit too much you realise you’ve reached the end.

Thorpe Park Fright Nights 2017

Top tips for Fright Night 2017:

Stay in the middle: you go round the attractions in groups. If you are a little nervous, stay in the middle of the pack. Those at the front come across the surprises first, and those on the back usually end up with things tailing them, or being separated from the main group (as happened to us).

Mix it up: whilst all the mazes are different, there are some similarities and you could become desensitised if you went on all 5 in a row (“oh look, another severed head, yawn”) which would be a shame.  We found that interspersing rides with mazes avoided this.

Plan your trip: this is stating obvious, but Fright Nights are very popular.  Book your tickets in advance, don’t just turn up on the off chance (like we did in 2008 to find out it was full at 10am – we’d all taken a day’s leave too – I was not popular that day), and expect long queues (they are expecting 3+ hours for the mazes on the busiest nights).  Think about the things you really don’t want to miss and aim for those as it’s unlikely you’ll get round it all.

Sleep with the light on when you get home: well it can’t hurt, right? Better safe than sorry…

Our thanks to Colette, We’re Going on an Adventure and Thorpe Park for a great night!

This year’s Fright Nights run from tonight (29.09) through to Halloween – don’t forget to book in advance!