Summer 2018 has been super festival heavy for us and in fact lots of our friends. If you fancy trying out a festival with the kids in 2019, here’s five of our favourite family friendly festivals to consider:
Summer 2018 has been super festival heavy for us and in fact lots of our friends. If you fancy trying out a festival with the kids in 2019, here’s five of our favourite family friendly festivals to consider:
TraffordCity, Manchester is a “city within a city” – a shopping and entertainment destination built up around the Trafford Centre (which incidentally is currently celebrating it’s 20th birthday . . . I couldn’t quite believe it when I read that recently but then realised that it’s over 15 years since I stopped working there myself!) There’s so much to do at TraffordCity – from retail therapy and a whole host of dining options in the Trafford Centre itself to a variety of sports opportunities. When it comes to entertaining the kids there’s something for everyone – from snow fun at Chill Factore to Legoland Discovery Centre or SEA LIFE.
This week, I set off up to Trafford City with the kids for a day out. It was a fairly grey and miserable day in the summer holidays so I knew that TraffordCity had the potential to be quite busy. I decided it was best to just get up and out meaning that we were at our first destination by 9.30am!
Dinofalls Adventure Golf is situated just off the M60 and is part of the Trafford Golf Centre. Featuring 18 holes of dinosaur themed crazy golf, and costing £24 for a family ticket (2 adults, 2 childen) – Dinofalls Adventure Golf is good fun for all ages and my little gang were super excited to be able to finally go to “the dinosaur place” they had seen from the motorway every time we went to the Trafford Centre!
We arrived at Dinofallls Adventure Golf at 9.30am, knowing that it had been busy during the holidays and hoping that being there first thing would combat this. (Now when I say first thing, Dinofalls golf is actually open from 7.30am . . . I’m not sure I would ever feel the need to play crazy golf before breakfast but you never know). As it turned out, we timed it really well – we arrived at the first hole at the same time as another family but they were clearly much quicker than us as after the first hole we never really caught them up again meaning we were free to play at our own pace without waiting around. By the time we had finished the course there was quite a queue behind us – I’d like to think this was more because Dinofalls was getting much busier as the day went on rather than that we were so rubbish that we were holding everyone up . . .
Right about now I should be dancing in the rain with Dave at The Big Feastival, enjoying a bit of old school hip hop from Sugarhill Gang (which Dave would have rapped incessantly throughout) and wondering what to eat for tea. What I’m actually doing is sitting in my pyjamas catching up on Coronation Street after spending the day cleaning and tidying . . .
Friday lunch time we packed the car up and set off down to Alex James’ Farm in The Cotswolds for The Big Feastival (which is considerably further away than I had realised and thanks to some heavy traffic took over 4 hours to get to!) We managed to get the tent pitched just before the heavens opened – it has to be said it’s considerably easier when it’s just the two of us! Once we’d got ourselves set up we were able to take shelter from the worst of the rain before sticking on our raincoats heading into the festival for the evening.
We spent much of the evening pottering around and perusing the different food and drink vendors – picking out ones we’d like to re-visit over the weekend, Dave might have got a bit excited about some peanut butter brownies! I was too cold to want to drink gin (I know, I know but ice . . . ) and decided to save that one for Saturday, preferring a steaming cup of hot chocolate from Neigh Coffee whilst Dave was all about the Birra Moretti (which wasn’t exactly cheap at £6.50 a pint but it’s his favourite so who am I to deny him!)
Last weekend saw our third trip to Just So Festival – which I guess makes us regulars (though there are certainly people who have been plenty more times than we have!) Each year we have done things slightly differently. The first time we just visited for the day, the second time we camped for the full weekend and this time we made a last minute decision not to camp due to the weather forecast and just drove over each day. (We live just under an hour away from the festival site of Rode Hall Estate, Cheshire.) Although we are fully set up for camping in the rain and wouldn’t let the weather spoil our fun, in this instance the forecast was bad for Sunday and the idea of putting the tent down in the rain when we didn’t really have the time or space to get it back up again to dry it out at home ahead of camping again the following two weekends was the deciding factor.
One of the things I love most about returning to Just So Festival each year is the mix of familiar favourites with the new. There were things we were familiar with from previous Just So Festival adventures, others we saw at Timber Festival earlier in the year and yet more still which we’d never seen before at all. Even just the fact that some things had moved around the site keeps things feeling fresh.
William’s Den, situated in a small village called North Cave near Hull in East Yorkshire, is an adventure play space with a difference. The team at William’s Den were keen to create a space which was just that – a huge open space full of possibility and adventure. They wanted to create a place where children could play whatever the weather, where they could enjoy the outdoors and experience the freedom that comes with it. And yet, at the same time they have created a space where children are safe, where their parents can get stuck in or sit back and enjoy a coffee while they’re children roam to their heart’s content.
For many, Blackpool is the epitome of traditional British seaside holidays – but despite it being just an hour away from home, it’s not somewhere we ever go. In fact, aside from a trip to the circus a few years ago, I don’t think we’d ever actually been during the day until our visit earlier this month! Funny isn’t it that something can be right on your doorstep and yet you never take advantage of it.
Heading over to Blackpool on one of the hottest days of the year didn’t feel all that smart – I was worried that we’d get stuck in traffic, struggle to park, that it would be heaving and that we’d suffer in the heat (this is a major concern when your family is 40% ginger!). We decided to set off early doors (I’m talking 8.45am) to beat the rush and actually made it over to Blackpool in little over an hour and easily found a parking space in the Bonny Street car park opposite Coral Island.
Coral Island is Blackpool’s largest indoor free admission family attraction – perfect positioned right on the seafront and ideal for passing the time on a rainy day or in our case, an air conditioned oasis in a heatwave!
From the moment you walk through the door, Coral Island is an assault on the senses – it’s dark and noisy with flashing lights drawing you in everywhere, tempting you to pour your holiday money into a vast array of games and machines. Basically heaven for our children who have only ever really been to an arcade once before in Scarborough where they developed a heavy obsession for 2p machines (and who can blame them!)
Whilst we got our bearings and started to choose what things we might like to try out, Dave made a beeline for a change machine to make sure we had a ready supply of coins! The kids were fascinated by the Pirate Flyer ride which literally takes you on a ride above everyone’s heads, giving you a great view of Coral Island in the process! You have to buy your tokens before you go on the ride and one of ours got stuck in the machine, it took me a matter of moments to find a member of staff to help us out and remove the token from the machine.
Next on our list was hitting up the 2p machines, where I honestly think we could have played all day. We picked out machines which not only give out 2ps but prize tickets and so began our collection! The kids were so excited when the machines spat out reams of tickets for them to gather up, you’d think they’d won the ticket lottery!
The Camel Derby was great fun, though the kids found it quite tricky and the other adults who were playing alongside us were difficult to beat – Dave couldn’t resist giving the kids a hand but we soon decided that it was probably not worth them playing again!
Of course we couldn’t visit the Admiral’s Lounge, Island Slots or Casino as these areas are clearly fenced off and suitable for over 18s only but we did have a lot of fun playing Prize Bingo. This isn’t quite the same as the old bingo dabber on a card situation, you sit yourself down in front of a screen, pop your coins in and basically press at the cards as the numbers are called – they are automatically highlighted for you and over the course of a few games both girls managed to win a line each giving them points to spend on a small prize. (A flashing hedgehog and a light up ball if I remember rightly!)
We loved that nothing was really that expensive so we didn’t feel we had to say no to rides or arcade games (though we did limit some of them to one turn!)
One of the newest additions to Coral Island is a VR simulator ride – I warn you now, this isn’t cheap at £3 so was definitely a one go only ride, but Ben absolutely loved it!
When it comes to eating in Coral Island there are four restaurants offering a range of food and best of all, kids eat free! One under 10 eats free for every paying adult so we obviously had to pay for an extra children’s meal but this is fairly typical. I let Dave choose where we ate and he picked out The Buccaneer – a fairly traditional pub with a piratey twist from the decor to the staff (yes, the staff were in full pirate costume which the kids loved!). I had a lasagne (which was possibly the most tomatoey lasagne I’d ever had in my life but it filled a hole!) Dave and Ben went for burgers whilst the girls had chicken nuggets as is standard!
Of course the most important thing to do before we left was to cash in ALL our tickets! As it turns out, we didn’t actually have that many tickets at all compared to some of the people we saw feeding them into the “ticket eater” but we had enough for Ben to be able to choose a small toy from the Treasure Chest!
I think we spent about £40 on the arcades and the same again on dinner & drinks for five . . . we could have easily spent longer in Coral Island but we felt it was only right that we went for a quick paddle before our car parking ran out! We’ve promised the kids we’ll go back another day.
*We were invited to visit Coral Island and our expenses were paid however all thoughts and opinions remain our own*
You know how sometimes life just seems to be careering on at full pelt and there seems to be nothing you can do to slow it down? Things are crazy busy for us the moment – well always if I’m honest – but it seems to be particularly hectic at the moment with pretty much all our weekends booked up from the start of March through to the summer holidays combined with the usual frenzy of after school activities and tight work deadlines. And whilst I do love to be busy, and much of what we are doing is super exciting, it can sometimes all feel a bit too much.
Back in the middle of March I was invited to spend the day at The Spa Hotel, Ribby Hall Village with some blogger friends – this practically makes it work right? Ribby Hall Village is about 45 miles from where we live but if I’m honest I don’t mind a bit of time on my own in the car so the drive really didn’t feel like much of a bind! I arrived mid morning, was given a robe and flip flops and shown to the changing rooms where the lockers were explained to me. There are no phones allowed in the spa which frankly is bliss – locking my phone away for a few hours and really switching off was exactly what the doctor ordered!
The main purpose of our trip to Ribby Hall was to experience the Aqua Thermal Journey – “an amazing journey, where mind and body are treated to all kinds of unique and tantalising treatments, varying in temperature to detoxify, relax and revitalise.” Essentially this is a series of experiences – a mix of steam rooms, saunas and hot tubs – which gradual increase in temperature. The idea being that alternating between increasingly hot and cold temperatures can “stimulate and and improve your circulation, relax aching muscles, cleanse and rejuvenate your skin, and boost your immune system, as well as feeling luxurious and invigorating.” The website suggests that the Aqua Thermal Journey should take about two hours but it definitely took us longer – probably because we were chatting so much – and we ended up rushing the end of the journey as we had a booking for lunch in the The Orangery. If I’m honest I think I could have merrily spent all day taking my time on working through the various steps of the Aqua Thermal Journey and lying on the very inviting loungers – which I actually didn’t get chance to do!
Because the idea of the Aqua Thermal Journey is that it steadily increases in temperature as you work your way through the journey, each step is numbered and a small explanation of the treatment and it’s purpose given outside the room. Sally was thoroughly amused by my need to experience all of the steps in the recommended order, I couldn’t bring myself to miss any out or do them in a different order. This is in part due to the fact I’m naturally someone who follows the rules but also because I wanted to make sure I was getting the full benefit!
Following the Aqua Thermal Journey in order meant that yes I did tip a bucket of ice cold water over my head (or at least down my back) and whilst it was brutal, I actually did quite appreciate the intensity of it! There was only one room which we all really struggled with – The Balinese Salt Inhalation Room is the hottest steam room at 49 degrees! The salt infused vapour encourages detoxification and cleansing of the skin and lungs – which I loved in theory but actually just found really overwhelming – it made my eyes sting and I couldn’t settle into breathing comfortably so soon left to move onto the next step!
One of my favourite parts of the journey was sitting outside in the hot tub in the Zen Garden – it was a cold day, but bright and sunny so being able to sit in a steaming hot tub whilst looking out into the countryside was absolutely lovely! (I did end up overheating a bit and having to get out but I think I had just sat in there for far too long!)
After experiencing the Aqua Thermal Journey we took ourselves off to The Orangery for a light lunch – I didn’t bother getting dressed as I had a treatment booked later in the day but I did feel a bit daft sitting in my swimming costume and robe as most of the other guests were fully clothed! Lunch was delicious and the service, whilst lovely, was decidedly relaxed. It was nice not to feel harassed or rushed but as Sarah had to get off to do the school run we could have done with things being served a little quicker!
I had quite a gap from the other girls living to my booked treatment but I can’t say that having to spend more time in the spa was any kind of hardship! The only downside was that I had got muddled up with my times and ended up getting ready for my treatment a good half hour too early – time I could have spent in the pool or hot tub rather than hanging around in reception but that was my own fault for not checking my booking!
I’m a big fan of NEOM fragrances and use them at home, but hadn’t realised until I was browsing the Ribby Hall Spa website that they actually do treatments – it would be rude not to try one! Having had a couple of facials fairly recently I decided to pick a body treatment – I think I could have happily chosen any of them but the NEOM Energise treatment stood out to me: “Using changes in temperature, speed-of-touch and different textures this treatment begins with the Neom Body Scrub with its potently invigorating oils of wild mint and mandarin. Your skin will be buffed head-to-toe, left feeling amazingly uplifted and ready to be enveloped in the NEOM energising cream clay wrap. Whilst you’re wrapped you’ll experience a 20 minute face and scalp massage plus specialist reflex foot massage techniques (and back massage for 90 minute treatment option).”
Oh. My. Days.
It was amazing.
I honestly don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything like it! The treatment started with a guided meditation which was played on a CD while the therapist started work. Now this sounds a bit odd but it was actually lush, listening to the instructions and concentrating on my breathing helped me to really relax into the treatment making sure I got the best from it. The products used smell heavenly (as you’d expect from NEOM) and the whole experience left me feel really relaxed, with beautifully soft skin. I loved that this was a whole body treatment – not just a fancy scrub but a treatment from head to toe. I would book it again in a heartbeat – and I’d also love to try some of the other NEOM treatments on offer! I was only gutted that I hadn’t left myself time to chill out after the treatment and had to set off straight home!
Ribby Hall is certainly up there as one of the nicest spas I’ve visited. That makes it sounds like I’ve been to loads – I haven’t – but I’ve certainly seen a fair range of quality and Ribby Hall sits nicely at the top end and I’m already planning a return trip with Dave!
*We were invited to experience the Aqua Thermal Journey free of charge for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions remain my own*
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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*
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.
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.
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!!)
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 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.
Children: £7.00 (2 – 16 years, children under 2 are free)
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.
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
Will you be visiting a farm this spring? I’d love to know your favourites too!