3 Fabulous Family-friendly Hotels in Phuket, Thailand

If you’re planning a family trip to Phuket right now, you’re in for a treat.  Though we have been to Thailand before, our recent trip was our first time in Phuket.  We didn’t know what to expect, but I’m happy to say we really enjoyed it and will definitely go back.  We actually went to Thailand this time as part of a bigger trip to attend a family wedding in Malaysia, but we love Thailand so much we couldn’t go all that way and not take our kids there, so we decided to combine a visit to both countries.

Sunset on Nai Yang beach, Phuket
Sunset at Nai Yang beach, Phuket

One of the major positives about Phuket as a destination for a holiday with small children is convenience.  You can fly directly to Phuket from Bangkok (as opposed to some Thai islands which require a flight or road travel from Bangkok to a port town, and then a subsequent boat trip).  Also there are some great hotels in the immediate vicinity of the airport itself.  I think we would still visit Phuket even when our children are older, as there were many activities we didn’t get a chance to do this time as they aren’t as toddler-friendly, such as elephant treks.

In this post I’m going to tell you about 3 wonderful family-friendly hotels in Phuket, Thailand, all of which we stayed in, would highly recommend, and are close to the airport.

  1. The Slate, Nai Yang Beach – Of all the family-friendly hotels in Phuket, we absolutely loved this one.  The whole place looks like a work of art! It is so stylishly decorated, every corner seems to have something interesting to look at.  We got off to a good start with an early check-in, which is always a plus when you’ve just got off a long haul flight plus connecting flight with children!  We were so relieved and grateful to get to our lovely room, a D-Buk Suite.  It had a large bed for us, as well as a comfy daybed for our 8 and 4 year old children.  Our youngest (age 2) slept in a cot which was already set up and ready for use when we checked in, along with a little welcome pack containing soap and some baby toiletries.
Sun loungers around a swimming pool, overlooked by palm trees
The Slate Hotel, Nai Yang Beach, Phuket – view of the baby and toddler pool and surrounding sun loungers

One of our favourite features at the Slate was the main pool, which has a lagoon shape with a “waterfall” feature, large rocks in the shallow area, and is surrounded by greenery, all of which gave it a lovely natural feel.  There is a separate toddler pool and a small box of toys to use at the pool/beach was provided.  And there are two further adults-only pools.  We managed to visit one of these and it was brilliant!  There was never a problem getting sun loungers by the pool.  In fact the whole resort felt quiet and exclusive, despite the pretty reasonable price tag.

Nai Yang Beach in the morning
Nai Yang Beach in the morning

The hotel is located on Nai Yang Beach, though it is separated from the beach by a road.  The beach is a little dirty in places, to be completely honest, but to balance this there are several independent places where you can eat, right on the beach, get massages, and do your laundry cheaply (we had to do laundry pretty much straightaway, to our surprise, due to some travel sickness!)  Having these amenities is a major plus, as we like to get out of a resort, have a wander and check out the local scene, where possible.

Fruit and drinks stall at Nai Yang Beach
Fruit and drinks stall at Nai Yang Beach
Chicken satay and pandanus chicken at the Beach restaurant, Nai Yang beach

There’s a good kids club called the Tin Box, which our children enjoyed.  There are some paid activities and many free ones.  We paid for our daughter to do tie-dye T-shirt and Batik T-shirt making and “walk on waterball” in the pool.  There was a free kids cooking class which took place in a very grown-up kitchen, which they enjoyed.  They were actually shuttled there by golf buggy, which was quite a highlight!

Playground outside the Tin Box kids clu
Playground outside the Tin Box kids club

The food is very good at the Slate.  It is on the pricier side, but kids eat free at the restaurants which helped a lot.  Also water is provided in your hotel room, on a daily basis, as well as jugs of iced lemon water by the pool.  I don’t think we had to buy any bottled water at all during our stay!

Grilled fish and rice by the swimming pool

Grilled fish and rice
My favourite poolside meal (grilled catch of the day and rice) – highly recommend!

 

 

 

If you’re looking for something truly special I recommend their signature restaurant, Black Ginger.  In order to get there a man rowed us from the spectacular entrance (pictured below) across the lagoon on a raft, while lit torches flickered all around us.  It was a unique experience! The food and drinks were fabulous too, and despite the sophisticated ambience they cater completely for children as well, providing a kids menu and crayons.  My daughter enjoyed her won ton soup and mocktail!

The beautifully lit entrance to Black Ginger restaurant
The beautifully lit entrance to Black Ginger restaurant

 

2.  Sunwing Kamala Beach

Next on the list of great family-friendly hotels in Phuket is the Sunwing.  We stayed here for a couple of nights.  It is certainly a family-friendly hotel to the max!  In fact, if you don’t have children I probably wouldn’t advise staying here as it is SO popular with families and the noise could get a little much if you’re hoping for a relaxing resort.

View from our balcony at the Sunwing Kamala Beach
View from our balcony at the Sunwing Kamala Beach

It is located on Kamala beach, which is quite a buzzing stretch.  There is no road to cross so you can get straight from the back of the hotel onto the beach.  There are vendors on the beach selling drinks.  The beach here is a little cleaner but it isn’t pristine by any means…I found (and disposed of) a piece of broken glass bottle which was alarming!

Kamala beach
Kamala beach

There’s a large kids club at Sunwing, but kids can’t be left by themselves here.  They have various activities such as free face-painting and T-shirt decorating (paid).  There’s also a games room for older children age 8 and above, which my daughter liked!

There are many swimming pools, I think we counted about 6, and waterslides too!  The pools were lovely and very much enjoyed by our children.  There is lots of entertainment around for kids, including special appearances by the hotel mascots.   The main restaurant has a relaxed atmosphere, and there’s a section with lots of pillows where children can sit and watch cartoons projected on a big wall.  There were many children playing or sleeping on couches in full view of their parents, during dinner, so you can feel quite at home here even if your children are active like ours and don’t like to sit still for too long!

Food is decent at Sunwing.  The breakfast buffet was very busy, but not bad.  At dinner there is a kids buffet, which was free if accompanied by a paying adult.  They label all foods so any potential allergens are clearly marked, which I felt was very thoughtful.

3. Phuket Marriott Nai Yang Beach

We only had a night here, but it was long enough to know we would like to come back!  Of the 3 family-friendly hotels in Phuket we stayed at this one had the nicest, calmest beach which was great for our kids.   The hotel is literally right on the beach, and it is a lovely clean, quiet stretch which isn’t shared with any other hotels or businesses at the moment, giving a real get away from it all feeling, despite being so close to the airport (you can hardly hear the planes, though you can see them in the distance, which our youngest actually enjoyed anyway.)  At low tide you can wade a long way out and play on the sand banks.  Bliss!  Just don’t forget the sun cream!

Infinity pool at Phuket Marriott Resort and Spa
Infinity pool at Phuket Marriott Resort and Spa

There’s a good kids club here too.  Our 4 year old son was happy the instant he entered the place, and the two women working there were so friendly and really took an interest in him and some lego models he brought with him, so he was really won over.

The main pool here has an infinity edge with a great view of the beach.  It’s a lagoon style pool which winds around the resort to some extent, so there are several rooms with direct pool access from the room.

We had two interconnecting rooms on the first floor (note there is no lift to the first floor rooms though we were escorted to our room at the start by a bell hop and driven the whole way there in a golf buggy).

You can relax in this hammock by the pool while your kids enjoy the kids club (pictured in the background)
You can relax in this hammock by the pool while your kids enjoy the kids club (pictured in the background)

We didn’t have many meals here but the ones we had were great.  The breakfast buffet was out of this world.  There was even a juice bar!  You could select the fruits or vegetables you wanted to include and it was all prepared for you.  There was a huge fridge with lots of different juices to choose from.  There were whole coconuts on offer (to drink from).  There was also a custom noodle soup bar.  We could have spent hours at this breakfast buffet.  It felt relaxed and staff were attentive and helpful.  During the day free ice lollies were handed out near the pool.

Made to order curry noodle soup from the breakfast buffet
Made-to-order coconut-based curry noodle soup with chicken “Khao Soy Kai” from the incredible breakfast buffet

All in all these family-friendly hotels in Phuket were winners.  If you’re looking for a lovely holiday with kids, in Thailand, I suggest you try them all!  But if you just want one hotel for your trip I think our favourite was the Slate, as it seemed the most unique. Wishing you happy family travels!

If you liked this post you might be interested to read about our family trip to Bali, another beautiful destination that’s great with kids!

Family trip to Bali – Kuta and Ubud

 

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9 of the Best Restaurants for family dining at Disneyland Paris – Reviews by a mum of 3

This is an easy post to write as I love both eating, and Disneyland!
There are tons of good options for eating at Disneyland Paris. Obviously I haven’t tried all of the restaurants, but we did sample a fair number on our recent trip. Due to some unforeseen medical circumstances we stayed longer than expected, but looking on the bright side, it means I can share more information with you all.

So, for my first top tip: If you’ve already booked a trip to Disneyland Paris, the first thing I recommend you do next is to book restaurants in advance if you plan to dine out at any buffet or sit-down restaurants. It might seem like over-the-top organisation to have everything mapped out in advance, but trust me. It’s much easier to book and cancel later than to try and organise a last-minute reservation, especially at some of the more popular restaurants.  There are a handful of restaurants that you can’t book beforehand eg Rainforest Cafe or Annette’s Diner in the Disney Village, which is probably fine if you don’t mind chancing it and waiting in a queue sometimes, but if your group consists of mostly small hungry people like ours then it makes sense to book!

Disney 25th anniversary chocolate cake dessert at Plaza Gardens
Disney 25th anniversary chocolate cake dessert at Plaza Gardens

My second tip: Plan dinner around the Disney parade times.  When we visited, the parade was daily at 5.30pm (this may vary so check the programme, which you can obtain at the entrance to the park).  You may wish to eat before or after this if you’d like to see the parade.  Though on days you aren’t planning to watch the parade you might find 5.30pm is a quieter time at restaurants and therefore a good choice!

There are 3 main types of places to eat at Disneyland Paris.  The first is a sit-down restaurant, where you order and your meal is served to you.  The second is a buffet style restaurant.  The third is counter service, where you order at the till and receive the food there, and carry it over to a table yourself.  I’ll mainly talk about the first 2 types as we visited those the most, and they’re the ones you’ll want to book in advance.  But there are plenty of counter service places where you can get yourself something to eat, eg fast food like hot dogs, chips or chicken nuggets, but the quality was a little variable and not necessarily cheap, either (though admittedly it is cheaper than eating at buffet or sit-down restaurants).

So without further ado, here is a list of restaurants that we dined at just a few weeks ago at Disneyland Paris.

Inventions – This is probably the most popular restaurant at Disneyland Paris, as it is THE place to meet the likes of Mickey and Minnie Mouse, et al, at the comfort of your dinner table, without queuing for eons.  It is located in the Disneyland Hotel, at the entrance to the Disneyland Park.  If you’d like to eat here, you absolutely must book in advance!  I booked a table a month in advance, for 8 persons, and the only time slots they had left during our 4 night stay were 2pm and 10pm, on one of the days.  Admittedly this was during May half-term, which is a busy period.  You can also book a character breakfast here, which I am sure would be a brilliant start to the day.

What we loved: The food is amazing at Inventions.  It’s a buffet style restaurant, but it feels high end and special.  Of course the main draw is that this is the only restaurant where you get to meet Disney characters during your meal (with the exception of Auberge, where you can meet the princesses).  They will come over to your table and pose with you for photos, and sign your autograph book if you like!  It really is lots of fun.

Would we go again: Given the opportunity, of course!

Just to be aware:  All this fun and celebrity experience comes at a price.

Auberge De Cendrillon – This was my second visit to the Auberge Restaurant, located in Fantasyland in the Disneyland park.  The last time we visited was 6 years ago, and my then 2.5 year old daughter met Disney princesses as well as some of the princes. These days for some reason the princes no longer do the rounds at Auberge, but it was still a lovely experience, albeit with a hefty price tag!  The Disney princesses Ariel (Little Mermaid), Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), Rapunzel, Cinderella and the two mice all visited us at our table.  There is a friendly chaperone with the princesses, who helps make sure each princess visits every table so in theory there is no need to worry that you will get missed.

What we loved: Besides the thrilling moments of meeting the princesses (though this was lost on our toddler, who just wasn’t interested at all, haha!) we loved the interesting desserts at the restaurant.

Meeting Rapunzel at Auberge de Cendrillon Restaurant
Meeting Rapunzel at Auberge de Cendrillon Restaurant

Just to be aware: Very expensive.  All this Disney magic comes at a price!  You may like us feel a little anxious waiting for the princesses to come to your table.  The chicken that I had as a main course was a little overdone.

Would we go again: As we have now been twice I think it will depend if the children are still interested to meet the princesses when we go next time.  But something tells me we will return to Auberge!

Prawn starter at Auberge de Cendrillon Disneyland Paris
Tasty prawn starter at Auberge
Dessert at Disneyland Paris Auberge
Dessert from children’s menu at Auberge
Disney Auberge de Cendrillon dessert
White chocolate “glass slipper” on a delicious velvet cushion biscuit – dessert at Auberge

Cafe Hyperion – This counter service cafe is located in Discoveryland (not far from the Buzz Lightyear ride) in the Disneyland Park. We only had breakfasts here, as it is one of the locations where you can get breakfast if you have a “Plus” breakfast voucher (more info on this, later in the post).  The breakfast consisted of a hot drink, bottle of water or orange juice, a croissant or pain au chocolat, and a bacon and egg muffin. I found this amount of food to be more than adequate, considering we had plans for a big lunch.  It was also good not to be TOO FULL before marching around the park with small children, trying to fit in all the attractions!  While you are eating you can sit and watch Star Wars clips and sometimes there are amateur music performances.  There was a visiting choir there when we went, singing Disney tunes.

Plaza Gardens – A buffet restaurant in the Disneyland Park.  Really great food!  Rather busy atmosphere.

What we loved: Great selection of delicious food, lots of variety.

Would we go back: Yes.

Sweet jars at the dessert buffet, at Plaza Gardens Restaurant

Restaurant Chez Remy – this sit-down restaurant in the Walt Disney Studios is very popular, particularly as it is new and Ratatouille-themed.  We were a little alarmed when we arrived for our 11.30am reservation as we were ushered into a waiting room which was chock full of families waiting for their table, but it was only a matter of minutes before we were shown to our table, and I think there was only a wait because the restaurant hadn’t quite opened yet.

Restaurant Chez Remy Disneyland Paris
A rat’s eye point of view – Restaurant Chez Remy

What we loved:  The “giant” furnishings.  Our chairs were champagne corks, and the tables look like giant jam jars.  From some of the tables you can see people getting off the Ratatouille ride.  Excellent food and a really helpful and nice waiter.

Would we go back: Absolutely.  And next time I’m determined to go on the Ratatouille ride as well!

Restaurant Chez Remy Disneyland Paris
My daughter enjoyed her eclair, from the children’s menu at Restaurant Chez Remy

Restaurant Des Stars – This buffet restaurant located in Walt Disney Studios has a relaxed atmosphere, and lots of old photos from classic films and famous actors from back-in-the-day.  The food here was truly delicious and there was a great variety.

What we loved: The ice cream and dessert bar.  You can help yourself to soft-serve ice cream (think Mr. Whippy) and decorate it to your heart’s content with sweets and sprinkles.  There were so many desserts and I was so stuffed from the delicious buffet…I need to go back again and this time save room for pudding!

Would we go back: In a heartbeat.

Steakhouse – We booked this place quite last minute and I wasn’t sure what to expect.  It’s a sit down restaurant in the Disney Village.  It was actually very good, and the portions were large!  It has an airy feel inside, not too crowded and we all agreed it had a spacious feel to it with dark wood and quite high ceilings.

What we loved: Generous portions

Would we go back: Not my top choice, as I’m not a huge meat-eater, but still a very good restaurant so yes we would go again.

Disney Steakhouse chicken main course
Generous chicken main course at the Steakhouse – all items pictured were included as part of the main course – there was also a bread roll (not pictured). Needless to say I couldn’t quite finish it!

Parkside Diner – This 1930’s style diner is in the New York Hotel, which is just on the opposite side of the Disney Village to the parks.  We really enjoyed our meal here, and as the weather was so beautiful we actually sat outside and I enjoyed a lovely cool glass of cider with my starters.

Disney Hotel New York Parkside Diner
A refreshing drink at Disney’s Hotel New York Parkside Diner

Our little one was asleep at the time so it was an extra-peaceful moment!  Not much quiet time during that week in Paris so I really soaked it up.  The picture below just shows the starters I ate!

What we loved: Lovely location for sitting outdoors, wonderful food (though possibly not quite as much selection as Cape Cod)

Would we go back: Without a doubt

Disney Parkside Diner New York hotel

Cape Cod – This buffet-style restaurant is in the Newport Bay Hotel, about a 15 minute walk from the parks.  We booked this place quite last minute as well (just a couple days before), and didn’t get a table near the windows facing the lake, which we would have liked.  But on the other hand it did mean we were closer to the buffet which was quite a seafood feast.  My 4-year old even enjoyed fish soup, which is definitely a first!

What we loved: Mini pecan pie desserts.  Delicious food.  Lovely walk along the lake from our hotel (New York) to the Newport Bay Hotel.

Would we go back: Absolutely.  Though the location is not as convenient, it’s definitely worth going if you’re staying at one of the nearby hotels.

Disney dessert buffet at Cape Cod restaurant
Dessert buffet at Cape Cod restaurant
Panoramagique Disneyland Paris
View over the lake, walking back from Newport Bay Hotel to the Hotel New York.  You can see the Disney Village in the background

Should I purchase a meal plan for Disneyland Paris?  And how does it work?

Before going to Disneyland Paris this year, I did quite a lot of online research to work out whether we should organise a pre-paid Disney meal plan or not.  This has to be booked prior to your stay, and if you book a Disney hotel you will be asked or sometimes offered a meal plan as part of a package deal or offer at the time of making your Disneyland booking.

There are 4 plans that you can choose, if you decide to go for it: Hotel, Standard, Plus and Premier.  Hotel is the least expensive plan, Standard and Plus are mid-range, and Premier is the priciest option.

The Hotel plan is just that, it allows you to dine at your hotel.  Which may be a perfectly good option.

The Standard plan includes all of the buffet restaurants, for example Restaurant Des Stars and Plaza Gardens.

The Plus plan includes all of the buffet restaurants and some extra ones, for example Restaurant Chez Remy.

With the Premier plan you can dine at any of the restaurants, including Inventions and Auberge de Cendrillon (assuming you can get a reservation! Did I mention yet about booking in advance?!)

When you arrive at your hotel and check in, you will be given lots of meal vouchers which state which plan you are on.  If you are on half board you will get a breakfast voucher and another voucher which can be used for lunch or dinner.  The vouchers are flexible so it is absolutely fine to not use a lunch/dinner voucher one day, and then use two lunch/dinner vouchers the following day.  For full board you will get vouchers for all 3 meals.  Then when you go to a restaurant, you produce these vouchers instead of payment.  However, in practice you may need to pay a little extra if you have more drinks and so on.  The vouchers do not include alcoholic drinks.

As touched upon above, each restaurant at Disneyland is in one of the 3 categories.  If you have standard vouchers but wish to eat in a Plus or Premium restaurant, the voucher will have a value which will be put towards your meal at that restaurant.  Unfortunately I didn’t have any luck finding out what the value would be, before going to Disney, even though I did call up and ask!  But while at one of the restaurants we did enquire, as we had a Plus voucher and were interested in a Premium menu item.  To our amusement our waiter checked for us in a large complicated-looking spreadsheet he had in a folder, and I’m pleased to report the amount was reasonable.  But it might vary from one restaurant to another, I really can’t say.

You can find a list of all the available restaurants and use the filter to determine which category they are in, on the Disneyland Paris website:

http://www.disneylandparis.co.uk/dining/

If you’d like to check out the prices of the meal plans you can find that here:

http://holidays.disneylandparis.co.uk/meal-plans.html

 

Overall I think the Meal Plan is a great idea if you are planning to eat at many restaurants in the same category, however it may not work so well if you have a mix of restaurants in different categories as we did!  However, if you can get a good offer on a hotel which includes a meal plan, it is really great to feel that food is already included and you don’t have to pay as you go.

I am not sure much money is saved as you may end up spending more than you would have on food, but you’ll be more inclined to have some dining experiences, and it does take some of the stress out of the trip!  Though one thing to note is that on some meal plans, the breakfast vouchers actually have to be redeemed at a cafe in the Disneyland Park, before it stops serving at 11am.  This could be a little inconvenient if you fancy a slow start to the day, or you like to eat breakfast the minute you wake up…and is just something you might want to factor in.

Another thing to mention is that a kettle is not provided in a lot of hotel rooms!  There was one in our room at the Disneyland Hotel but not at Hotel New York.  This was not great news for me as I really like to have a tea or coffee as soon as I am up.

And finally, they used to include an afternoon snack and drink called the “pause gourmand” with the meal plan, but this is no longer included.

Enjoy your dining experiences at Disneyland Paris!  It really is a major part of the fun, for us anyway, and it’s a great way to take the weight off your feet for a little while and soak up the great atmosphere at Disneyland.

Smoked salmon starter from the children’s menu at Auberge

If you haven’t seen it yet, please check out my previous post, for info on trip planning, accommodation and attractions at Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris Review and Top Tips by a mum of 3

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Accidental Hipster Mum

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Disneyland Paris Review and Top Tips by a mum of 3

Yes it’s the review you’ve all been waiting for, our 2017 trip to Disneyland Paris, as a family of 5!  The last time we visited was 6 years ago exactly, when my oldest was 2 and a half.  She would have loved to return sooner, but we seem to have been so tied up with baby brothers and other holidays that all of a sudden she is now 8!  It was high time to return…  I’ve divided this post into hopefully helpful sections covering the following topics.  Of course these are only my opinions and I am not an expert, just a mum who loves Disneyland! (Please note: I’ll talk about food, restaurants and meal plans at Disneyland Paris in my next post)

  1. From what age is it worth taking the kids to Disneyland Paris?
  2. When should we visit Disneyland Paris
  3. Where should we stay at Disneyland Paris
  4. Rides and attractions at Disneyland Paris
  5. Should I get a photopass?
  6. How do we use the Fast Pass system?

From what age is it worth taking the kids to Disneyland Paris?

I’ve been asked from what age it is worth taking the kids to Disneyland.  I think it’s definitely enjoyable at age 2 and a half, but perhaps I’d say 3 and up is ideal, as they can remember more, and possibly by this age they may have seen a few Disney films and recognise more characters at the park (which is very exciting!)  However even children who have never seen a Disney film can enjoy Disneyland!  My 4 year old and 2.5 year old had a brilliant time and they hadn’t seen many films.  They barely knew who Mickey Mouse was, yet it was still magical to see him.

Given a choice I probably wouldn’t take a baby or a one year old to Disneyland, as it is quite an intense trip and so much more enjoyable just a year or two later (if like us you don’t live close by and only manage to go occasionally and not on a regular basis.  It is, after all, a fairly expensive holiday once you consider how everything adds up!).  Having said that, Disney is baby-friendly, and you can hire pushchairs there if you haven’t brought your own.  There is a baby switch service too so parents with young children can take turns getting onto a ride without having to queue twice.  So all in all if you’re a diehard Disney fan you’ll still have a good time.  Do remember to bring all the bits and pieces you need for your baby, including any medications…as there is no pharmacy at Disneyland and you would need to venture out to Val d’Europe even just to get some paracetamol (yes, we had this experience!)

When should we visit Disneyland Paris?

My main bit of advice is to avoid school holidays or any French national holidays if possible, as the park will definitely be busier at these times!  Both times we have visited have been during the May half term holidays.  We were lucky to have absolutely wonderful sunny weather on both occasions.

Where should we stay at Disneyland Paris?

We decided to make the most of our trip this time by staying in the Disneyland Hotel, which we had never tried before.  I can highly recommend this, especially if members of your party have little legs and/or tire easily, as it is the closest hotel to the park itself.  In fact, you might even say it is IN the park!  However, there are several other Disney hotels which are pretty close as well (walking distance) and somewhat cheaper…all include a shuttle bus to the parks and free “magic hours”, meaning you can enter the Disneyland park 2 hours before everybody else, at 8am instead of 10am.  (The Walt Disney studios did not open early for magic hours, only the Disneyland park, and note that even though it opens early there are some rides that aren’t open till later.)

There are also Disney character meet and greets in the hotel lobbies of all Disney hotels.  After the Disneyland Hotel, the next closest hotel to the parks is the New York Hotel, and we have actually stayed in this hotel as well.  It has a very different vibe and is a slightly longer walk, but the walk is through the Disney Village, full of restaurants, bars and shops which is good fun in itself!  My 4 year old son was cockahoop for the Lego store in the Disney Village.  This was almost a drawback, as we had to make a pitstop at the Lego store every time we passed by!

Toy Story characters at the Lego store at Disneyland Paris
Woody and Buzz at the Lego store, Disney Village, Paris

Anyway, I will share a little more about the Disneyland Hotel as we did love it and would stay here again if we can.  Upon arrival at the Disneyland Hotel the check-in process was quick and easy.  We were pleased to find we had interconnecting rooms with the rest of our party, as we had requested.  And we found a box of tasty chocolates and a card on the table (pictured below), which was a nice touch.  Additionally every evening there were little chocolates placed on the beds.

Chocolates Disneyland Hotel

Each room contains two double beds, with very comfortable pillows.  There was a mini-bar (though the prices were exorbitant!)

Disneyland hotel room

The bathroom has lots of subtle Disney details, including super cute Disney toiletries with mouse ears.

Disneyland hotel bathroom

The Disneyland hotel has a small kids club area called the Minnie Mouse Club as well as an arcade.  I believe you can leave your kids at the Minnie Mouse Club, but we didn’t on this occasion.  There’s a lovely indoor swimming pool too which our daughter enjoyed.  The hotel has a bar and 2 restaurants, one of which is Inventions, well-known for its character breakfasts and other meals.  I’ll write more about Inventions in my next post.

There are many, many accommodation options around Disneyland and a little further afield in Paris.  Previously we have stayed at the Radisson Blu hotel, which was a shuttle ride away.  You may find that you prefer an apartment-style accommodation.  There is something to suit most budgets.  You can check prices here for the Radisson Blu hotel:

https://www.booking.com/hotel/fr/hoteldisneyresort.en-gb.html?label=opensearch-plugin;sid=ebf252bf5befd103a5c8a1086c5f72d2;dest_id=1569;dest_type=region;dist=0;hpos=14;room1=A%2CA;sb_price_type=total;srfid=f81818b6680f103531395a34afe0c31400f4cec0X14;srpvid=24e1976650d90029;type=total;ucfs=1

The Explorers Hotel looks like it is child-friendly to the max and you can check out prices here:

https://www.booking.com/hotel/fr/explorersdisneyland.en-gb.html?label=opensearch-plugin;sid=ebf252bf5befd103a5c8a1086c5f72d2;dest_id=1569;dest_type=region;dist=0;hpos=10;room1=A%2CA;sb_price_type=total;srfid=f81818b6680f103531395a34afe0c31400f4cec0X10;srpvid=b3c4979c59ad0189;type=total;ucfs=1

This is the official site for booking the Disney Hotels:

http://www.disneylandparis.co.uk/

I haven’t included a whole section on travelling to Disneyland Paris, but as we were travelling from the London area we found it easiest to go via Eurostar.  We had seats in the Standard Premier section, and a drink and light meal is provided.  Children under 3 do not require a ticket if they are able to travel on your lap.  The journey from London St Pancras to Marne La Vallee in Paris was smooth and straightforward.  The most brilliant thing, is that when you arrive and come out of the station you can see the Mickey Mouse ears and Disneyland gates straightaway, which is incredibly exciting!  There’s a service you can pay for as well (25 euros) which allows you to send your luggage straight to your hotel so you can enter the park immediately.  We didn’t use this, but it does sound ultra-convenient.  You can use this service on the way back as well.

Rides and attractions at Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris has 2 parks – the main Disneyland park and the Walt Disney Studios. There is high security getting into the parks and hotels, which I see as a positive thing. I’ll start by talking about the Disneyland park, which is subdivided into Main Street and 4 lands.  We spent the majority of our time in Fantasyland and Discoveryland, but we also enjoyed Frontierland and Adventureland.  In this section I’ll list a few of our favourite rides and attractions.

  1. It’s a small world 

The “It’s a small world” ride was a real favourite with our children.  Luckily the queues are never too long for this indoor boat ride as it’s fast-loading.  The tunes may drive you crazy eventually, but it’s a happy and gentle ride that will have you singing along…

Small World ride

2. Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast ride

The Toy Story Buzz Lightyear ride was another huge hit with our children, especially our 4 year old son.  I think we went on this one about 6 or 7 times!  You get a laser gun with which to shoot targets and you get points for successfully hitting targets.  The competitive element makes it quite addictive.  Hint: Hit the moving targets for more points!  And smile for the camera 😉

Buzz lightyear laser blast ride

3. Casey Junior is a gentle rollercoaster train ride in Fantasyland which even my 2 year old son was ok with.

4. Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups – Our 2 year old also seemed to enjoy this ride which really made him giggle, and I didn’t suffer too badly despite all the spinning around in circles which normally makes me very dizzy!

Main Street by night, Disneyland Paris
Main Street by night

5. Disney Illuminations Show – The next most popular attraction, for us, was this beautiful show which took place every evening in the Disneyland Park at 11pm (but this varies according to park closure times).  It was pretty late for our kids to stay up but our older two (age 4 and 8) managed it quite happily, and it was well worth the effort as the show is absolutely sensational!  It includes amazing light projections onto the castle, pyrotechnic effects and fireworks, all accompanied by a stirring Disney soundtrack that included many of our favourite tunes from the Little Mermaid, Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and Frozen, as well as Star Wars (which our 4 year old was particularly thrilled by).  Get there early to get a good spot to view the show.  The best position is probably directly in front of the castle, or along Main Street.

Disney castle by night

6. Autopia

The Autopia ride is great fun as well for any budding car enthusiasts.  The queue is very long however, due to slow loading!  But the length of the ride is quite decent.

7. Disney Princess Starlit Waltz

The Disney Princess Starlit Waltz show is a must-do for all princess fans.  This takes place a few times a day on a stage just to one side of the Disney castle, which is a great backdrop.  You’ll see most of the Disney princesses (though not Elsa or Anna from Frozen), as well as the corresponding princes.  Check the leaflet for the show times.

Disney princesses show

8. Peter Pan’s Flight – when we visited 6 years ago our then 2.5 year old daughter found this ride a little dark and scary, but this time she loved it, as did our 4 year old son.  You sit in “boats” which seat 4 persons, and are suspended from above.  It moves quite gently, and I do love the beginning where you see a cityscape scene by night, from above, but Captain Hook does look rather menacing in the dark!  Still, it’s a magical ride and a very popular one too.  Definitely try use the fastpass for this one!

9.  The Disney Stars On Parade –  Another must-see, this parade takes place daily in the Disneyland park at 5.30pm.  Last time we went to Disneyland Paris I recall seeing the parade twice, and it was a major highlight for our 2 year old daughter.  Frozen fans will be pleased to find that Elsa and Anna feature in the parade.

Disney parade dragon

I haven’t mentioned Hyperspace Mountain or Star Tours, but if I had had the chance to go on these I would have!  I’ve been on Space Mountain many times in the past both here and at Walt Disney World in Florida, and it’s one of my all-time favourite rides anywhere in the world.  Also, for all Star Wars fans out there, you can meet Darth Vader in the “Starport”.  He and his crew do not break from character for a second, and it’s quite a formidable experience not to be missed!  Professional photographer is present to capture the moment, but as with all meet and greets you’re welcome to take your own photos as well.

Shopping at Disneyland

Main Street is a fun and atmospheric place to wander and do some shopping.  Our daughter was treated to a new Snow White dress and some accessories (her last Snow White costume, from M&S has been well-loved for 5 years!)  I would advise though that if your child has their own costumes at home you should bring these along, to avoid having to spend exorbitant amounts in the rather overpriced shops, though it seems inevitable that most people will end up buying something!  We also enjoyed the Star Wars shop in Discoveryland and came home with 2 huge light sabers which I probably could have done without…

Snow white princess dress
A brand new Snow White dress, with accessories!

Walt Disney Studios includes many of my favourite attractions.

  1. Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular – I insisted that we go to see this epic show which displays some amazing automobile stunts. Disney “Cars” fans will enjoy seeing the real Lightning McQueen, too!  There are some loud bangs so parents may prefer not to bring children or babies who aren’t too keen on noise.  The show takes place just a couple of times a day so make sure to check the show times leaflet and plan accordingly.  There is usually a huge queue for the show but once the doors open it moves quickly, and there is normally space for everybody as the seating section is enormous.

Disney Studios Park

2. Mickey et le Magicien – Another not to be missed show is Mickey and the Magician.  It’s a vibrant, exciting show for all the family, with lots of singing, dancing and Disney magic!  A lot of the show is in French, with a little English thrown in.  You can see characters from many of your favourite Disney films, including Queen Elsa singing “Let It Go.”  And you know you want to see that!

3. Disney junior Live! was a fun show too, note that the audience sits on the floor.  My 4 year old was excited by the Disney clubhouse puppets and declared that it was ” the REAL Mickey Mouse!!”

4. Rock n Rollercoaster starring Aerosmith – Big kids and adults will enjoy the Rock n Rollercoaster which has an Aerosmith theme and music.  We didn’t get to ride it this time, but thoroughly recommend it as we loved it last time.  The queues can be long so you might like to use a fast pass for this ride (I’ll explain what this is at the end).

5. Toy Story Playland – Toy Story fans might enjoy the Toy Story land, which has a fairly gentle rollercoaster called Slinky dog.

6. Ratatouille – There’s also the Ratatouille ride here in the Studios, which is supposed to be awesome but sadly I didn’t get to ride it this time so I still have no idea what it’s like!

7. Crush’s coaster is in the Studios as well, which is a brilliant rollercoaster with many twists and turns!

8.  The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror – obviously this one is not for the faint-hearted!  Has some brilliant visuals, quite creepy and thrilling!

Should I get a photopass?

There are many meet and greets with characters in the Studios, including Belle from Beauty and the Beast, Spiderman, and the Toy Story characters.  I recommend getting a photo pass if you plan to do some meet and greets, and if you’re keen to get some good photos of yourselves.  It costs about 60 euros, but all of the professional photos that are taken of members of your party (there are photographers at many, though not all of the meet and greets) will be uploaded to your photo pass account as high quality digital images.  You can then use those photos however you like.  In addition any photos that are taken on rides eg. Buzz Lightyear, Thunder Mountain will be uploaded and saved to your account as well.  A word of advice though, if any photos are taken by photographers at meet and greets in the 1-2 hours before your holiday at Disneyland ends you may have trouble accessing them, so it is important to plan for this.  It takes a little while for the photographers to get the photos uploaded from their memory cards onto the system, in order for them to show up and be available for printing.  You will eventually be able to view them, provided you have shown the photographer your photopass card BEFORE they take the photos.  We got caught out by this, but in the end it was not a problem as I wrote to the photopass customer services and they were very helpful and fortunately were able to retrieve some photos of my son with Spiderman which I had thought were lost forever!

How do we use the Fast Pass system?

Make use of the Fast pass system!  This is free to use.  Some visitors may not be aware that it’s free, as there is often a charge at theme parks for this sort of thing.  Basically in order to use it you have to scan your Disney admission ticket at the Fastpass terminal (usually located near the entrance to a ride), and you’ll get a Fastpass ticket that tells you what time to return (usually in a couple hours’ time).  You then return at that time and you can board the ride via the Fastpass entrance which normally has little or no queue (depending on the time of day and popularity of the ride). You can only have one Fastpass ticket at a time.

Also note that some hotel packages may include fast passes, as ours did.  Additionally if you have a disability whether it is permanent or temporary, or if you are pregnant, you can obtain a special pass from City Hall to reduce your need to queue (you’ll need to provide some documentation). 

5 more Top Tips for visiting Disneyland:

  1. Remember to pace yourself and take breaks to relax and refuel.  You and/or your children will become exhausted and crazy otherwise! The Walt Disney studios tends to be a little less busy and taking in a show is a great way to have a rest and get out of the sun.
  2. Book 3-4 nights stay at Disneyland – We think a 4 night stay is ideal, and allows you to enjoy the best of both parks without having to adopt a breakneck pace. Though you can of course still have a fabulous trip if shorter. If you have longer you could venture to the sights of the centre of Paris itself, also there’s apparently good shopping a train stop away at Val d’Europe.
  3. Bring bottles for water!  There are several water fountains dotted around where you can fill your bottles up. Stay hydrated, without breaking the bank
  4. Bring suncream – there’s nowhere to buy this in the parks (at least, I didn’t see any!)
  5. Pack some on-the-go entertainment for the kids – the queues can be very long so you’ll want something portable to keep them occupied. We found the Animated encyclopaedia of Disney characters really good and it doubles as an autograph book…though it’s a little heavy to carry (we kept it mostly in the buggy!)

Coming soon: My next post is live! Click below to read about Restaurants at Disneyland Paris and understanding the Meal Plan system. Eating at Disneyland Paris is fun and can be stress-free, but it will really improve your experience (and may help you spend less) if you plan in advance!  Sign up for my email newsletter to be alerted when the new posts are published.

9 of the Best Restaurants for family dining at Disneyland Paris – Reviews by a mum of 3

If you enjoyed this post you might like to read my post on Chessington World of Adventures, please click below:

Chessington World of Adventures and the New Gruffalo River Ride – Mummy Review and Tips

Twin Mummy and Daddy

What Katy Said

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Wanderlust Kids

Naptime Natter
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Top tips for visiting Hampton Court Flower Show 2017

We had such a wonderful time at Hampton Court Flower Show 2017. I went this year (my second time) with my youngest (now 2.5 years), who was able to really enjoy it this time, as opposed to last time when he was only 6 months old and it was an extremely hot day which was quite tough on us both!

Tips if you’re going to Hampton Court Flower Show:

Arrive early if you need to park your car. Traffic in the surrounding area may slow you down more than you expect.  I arrived at 9.30am and was able to get a space easily in the main car park, but there was a constant flow of cars arriving and parking so it was filling up steadily.

Bring cash for parking (it costs £15 in the main car park opposite the main entrance to the palace). I am not sure about the other car parks. You may be able to park for free at Bushy Park and walk.

Wear a sun hat and sunscreen. Bring a bottle of water, which you can refill on site. Wear good walking shoes or sandals.

Buy a show guide (£5). It comes with a map, and is very useful for finding whichever bits of the show you’re most interested in.

 

Hampton Court Flower Show

There is a cash point within the show grounds.

If you have small children they might enjoy the children’s play area, which is quite small but does have a little ball pool and some soft play type items, some giant Lego bricks and giant Jenga. There are also various activities for children, especially on the weekend.

Don’t miss the butterfly dome! My toddler was excited though a little wary of these beautiful creatures. Bring a camera!

Blue butterfly

Check out the scarecrow competition, I was really impressed with all the creativity and detail. Each entry is from a different school.

There are loads of great food and drink options at Hampton Court Flower Show and you can get everything from champagne to churros with chocolate.

The restaurants require pre-booking but there are plenty of stalls where you can get various interesting foods, and free samples of treats like fudge. I tried some gin fudge which I must say was very tasty! The Allium Cafe is undercover and doesn’t require pre-booking. The queues were a little chaotic though, and they had run out of all the salads we wanted so we had to choose different ones at the last moment. Though we enjoyed some very tasty chicken and vegetable pies (£5.50).

There is of course a lot of shopping to be done, if you’re so inclined. Save some time to do this as lots of vendors offer special discounts on products if you buy it at the show (and you can bring/buy a crate on wheels to carry it in if you don’t have a buggy with you in which to stash it!) I came away with some lovely palazzo trousers and matching scarf, and half a dozen small potted succulent plants.

Have fun! I found the whole day flew by and I soon had to leave to get home for my older children. Till next time, Hampton!

If you enjoyed this post, you might like to read about our trip to Center Parcs!  Click on the link below:

Center Parcs Longleat – amazing family break

 

Twin Mummy and Daddy

 

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The Amazing Bushy Park, London – an inspiring day out with the kids

When we first moved to southwest London, several people asked us if we had been to “the amazing Bushy Park” yet. We were a little puzzled as though we had been to Bushy Park, we had only been to the playground and seen vast expanses of grass… Admittedly it is really lovely and it’s wonderful to see freely roaming deer here, but it seemed we must still be missing something!

Beautiful pink azaleas at Bushy Park
Beautiful pink azaleas at Bushy Park

Then we discovered the area around the Pheasantry Cafe, with gorgeous azaleas and darling ponds with little bridges over them. This woodland enclave of Bushy Park feels very special indeed, and it’s quite tucked away so you feel far from the hustle bustle of London, yet it’s still very close to London.  Finally I understood about the “amazing Bushy Park”!

Bushy Park

Bushy Park is actually one of London’s Royal Parks.  Others include Richmond Park, Regents Park, and Hyde Park.  Bushy Park is conveniently located right opposite Hampton Court, so you could potentially combine a visit to both in the same day.

Azaleas in Bushy Park

There are always plenty of ducks bathing in the ponds here, enjoying the shade. We spotted a few friendly squirrels, and in the past we’ve seen little bunny rabbits too!  My youngest was intrigued by a very tame squirrel he met.

Bathing ducks in the shade at London's Bushy Park
Bathing ducks in the shade at London’s Bushy Park

Travelling to Bushy Park

Bushy Park is accessible by car (definitely get there early to park, on weekends). There’s a small sign to the Pheasantry cafe, from the main road (Chestnut Avenue) that runs through Bushy Park. Blink and you’ll miss it so keep your eyes peeled! Follow the sign which leads you down a drive towards the car park.

By train you could go to Teddington or Hampton Court or Hampton Wick train stations.  It is a bit of a walk…so depending how you feel you might want to consider getting to the Pheasantry by bicycle, or getting a taxi from the station.

Eating and drinking

As usual we brought a little picnic with us, but my daughter was determined to try out the Pheasantry cafe too.  Of course!  It’s not a proper day out without buying something from the cafe…?!

The Pheasantry cafe itself has indoor and outdoor seating. They serve hot and cold food and drinks, including tuna/crayfish/egg mayonnaise sandwiches, pasta salads, pizza, chips, cakes, jelly and ice creams. The toilets are in the same building as the cafe and there is a baby changing room and disabled facilities.

The staff were very helpful, filling up my son’s water bottle for him which was much appreciated as he likes to drink a LOT of water!

Ball games and dogs aren’t allowed in the Pheasantry enclave but you can enjoy them in the rest of Bushy park.

In the main expanse of the park there’s a huge playground which is great for all ages, with a large sandpit. There’s a separate car park with a cafe stand, closer to this playground. There are decent toilet facilities located next to the playground. To find the car park look for the Diana fountain and you’ll see the car park entrance.

There is probably much more to explore than I’ve managed to cover this time, and I must add as well that there is a good Italian restaurant which backs onto Bushy Park, called Cafe La Fiamma.

You can see a map of Bushy Park and the surrounding area using the link here: 

https://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/bushy-park/map-of-bushy-park

If you enjoyed Bushy Park, you might like to visit Richmond Park.  Check out my post on visiting Isabella Plantation, a gorgeous part of Richmond Park you’ll fall in love with.  I’ve also written a post about Hampton Court and the Magic Garden, a great day out with the kids (or without!)  Click on the link below to find out more and plan your visit.

Stunning autumn leaves at Hampton Court Palace and the Magic Garden playground

Exploring Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park

Twin Mummy and Daddy
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Exploring Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park

Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park is just breathtaking at the moment.  We’ve been a number of times, but it never ceases to amaze.  If you have never heard of it, it’s just a small part of the expansive Richmond Park, which is one of the eight Royal Parks in London (the others include Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, St James’ Park and Bushy Park).  It’s completely free to visit, and easily accessible by bicycle or car.  It is a little trickier by bus or train but not impossible if you are not averse to a bit of a walk!  You can also hire bikes at Richmond train/tube station.

Isabella Plantation in RIchmond Park

Isabella Plantation itself is quite hidden, so it’s definitely worth checking out the map before embarking upon a visit.  Richmond Park has other gems well worth exploring too, such as Pembroke Lodge and Gardens which has a great cafe and amazing views (there is even a straight sightline all the way to St. Paul’s cathedral, which you can view through a telescope that is conveniently provided at King Henry’s mound), the Richmond Park playground, and hundreds of free-roaming red and fallow deer.

Isabella Plantation in RIchmond Park

The colours at this time of year at Isabella Plantation are exquisite.  It is honestly one of the most uplifting places I’ve ever visited, and has the impressive ability to be simultaneously beautifully kept and cultivated, while still looking quite natural and wild.  There is also good signage within the plantation, so if you keep an eye out you shouldn’t get too terribly lost!  There are many benches and logs to sit on, if you or the kids need a little rest.

Isabella Plantation in RIchmond Park

I took my 2 year old there on a whim this week, as we had a morning free.  We parked at the Broomfield car park, from which the entrance to Isabella Plantation is a 5-10 minute walk (I recommend bringing the buggy (or sling) if little one is easily tired!)  There is a refreshments stand in this car park, where I noticed you can buy drinks including coffees, and ice creams.

We wandered aimlessly along a beautiful flower-festooned path and eventually came to the other end of Isabella, where there is a large pond with ducks and geese called Peg’s Pond and another entrance gate.  There is a helpful map (pictured below) and public toilets here.  Just outside the gate there is a disabled persons parking area for those who require it.  We then headed back along a parallel path, which breaks away, opening onto Stills pond which is just absolutely stunning.  There were several people here taking photographs and even painting with watercolours.  But in most of Isabella Plantation on a Tuesday morning we very much felt we had the place to ourselves, taking in the scenery.

Isabella Plantation in RIchmond Park

We then walked along some smaller paths, which took us back to Peg’s pond.  I hadn’t realised we were going in a circle! I am directionally challenged to say the least. I managed to then get my bearings and take us to the fabulous Thomson pond, where our kids have always enjoyed the stepping stones, visiting the ducks, and having a little picnic. There is a big grassy space  here to set up a picnic blanket and have a run around.

Isabella Plantation in RIchmond Park

This time we were lucky enough to see a family of ducklings!  My toddler was absolutely thrilled.

Isabella Plantation in RIchmond Park

Isabella Plantation in RIchmond Park

Isabella Plantation in RIchmond Park

Such a beautiful spot!

If you’re in the area you might like to check out Petersham nurseries which is nearby. Here’s my review of our tasty meal there!

Dining like a flower fairy at Petersham Cafe

Accidental Hipster Mum
Rhyming with Wine
What Katy Said
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Chessington World of Adventures and the New Gruffalo River Ride – Mummy Review and Tips

We’re lucky enough to have Merlin passes this year, and how better to use them than by checking out the new Gruffalo River Ride at Chessington World of Adventures!

Gruffalo River Ride at Chessington World of Adventures
An Owl Saw the Mouse and the Mouse Looked Good…

 

Over the Easter holidays I braved Chessington World of Adventures on my own with our 3 children, aged 8, 4 and 2 years.  Am I completely bonkers, you may well ask!  Well yes quite possibly.

However, I am pleased to say it was a success!  There were a few tricky moments like trying to take everybody to the toilet at once, and having to tell my 8 year old she couldn’t go on particular rides as the queue would be too long and the little ones might not manage the wait…but on the whole I think we managed to do a lot!

Of course it does help that we have Merlin passes, so there wasn’t pressure to do everything in one day, and I just needed to focus on enjoying (surviving) the day, doing whatever the children fancied.  I’ve also got the benefit of familiarity with the place as we had annual passes (just for Chessington, not the Merlin pass) a couple of years ago and visited many times.

You may have been to Chessington World of Adventures before, so I’ll start off my review by talking about the Gruffalo River Ride and then I’ll talk more broadly about the whole theme park.

 

The Gruffalo River Ride

The Gruffalo River Ride at Chessington World of Adventures
Queuing and boarding the Gruffalo Ride River boats, as you enter the Deep Dark Wood

The first thing to note is that as the ride is new it certainly attracts big queues!  Though the ride is quite fast-loading, meaning that the queue does not stagnate.  I strategically left this ride till the end of the day.  We started queuing at about 4pm and the queue on a Tuesday during Easter holidays was about 20 minutes long, which is lucky because my younger ones were getting rather fatigued with it all!  So I can recommend leaving this ride till the end (or possibly, get there super early and leg it straight over to this ride).

Those of you who have been to Chessington previously may remember the Bubbleworks ride.  Oh, I have been on that ride so many times and I must tell you, I did have a pang of…oh no, they really have replaced it!  It’s GONE FOREVER!  But fortunately I managed to get past my longing for the Bubbleworks and immerse myself in the new Gruffalo River Ride which now physically occupies the same space and as you may expect, structurally resembles the Bubbleworks ride.

Other than sitting in the same circular boats which wind their way around to a grand finale of beautiful fountains in a tunnel formation the ride is completely new and different, and any Julia Donaldson fans will not be disappointed.  The characters from the Gruffalo story feature in larger than life form, and it is really done so beautifully.  It even smells good!  As my 4 year old son said, “I love that ride, it was amazing, I went INSIDE A STORY!”

This brings me to the final point I wanted to make about the Gruffalo River ride.  Perhaps we are a little sensitive to the dark and anything that seems rather thrilling, but I think I would be remiss if I did not mention that I think the Gruffalo ride, perhaps as they are trying to appeal to the whole family and not just very little ones, is a little on the scary side!  So if you have very little ones who may be very imaginative or prone to nightmares, you may wish to test out the ride yourself first.  I actually spent much of the ride cuddling the 4 year old in order to reassure him that all was well as he had been worried while queuing that we would be entering a Very Dark Tunnel – which is the entrance of course, to the Deep Dark Wood), but in doing so found that the 2 year old who is normally quite fine and oblivious to these things was not a happy bunny by the end!  Perhaps it was all the evil-sounding echoes of the snake’s voice!  I don’t really wish to criticise the ride as it is so well done with lots of special effects, but it does seem a little odd that it is so theatrical that it can frighten children in the very age bracket I imagine the Gruffalo story is marketed toward.  I did not find that to be an issue, for example, when we saw the Gruffalo stage show in the West End last year.

Anyway, it’s still a must-do at Chessington World of Adventures so hope you will get to check it out, with tots in tow, or not!

Read my review and top tips for visiting Chessington World of Adventures and the New Gruffalo River Ride
An owl saw the mouse and the mouse looked good…

The other great thing to mention is that the Gruffalo film is now being played, several times a day, at the main stage in Chessington World of Adventures (where the Madagascar show was performed, previously).  As my sons are big fans of the Gruffalo they enjoyed watching this, while my 8 year old went on the Treetop Hoppers ride which is located right next to it (minimum height 0.9m, under 1.1m needs adult to accompany).  There is also a regular meet and greet with the GRUFFALO himself.  So obviously, diehard fans will not want to miss this.

Gruffalo film screening and meet and greet
The Gruffalo Arena, where you can meet and greet the Gruffalo as well as watch the film

Other Favourite Rides and Attractions at Chessington World of Adventures

If you’re not tired of reading yet, here is a list of what else we have been up to at Chessington World of Adventures besides the Gruffalo River Ride (some of these we enjoyed last weekend, when we returned to the park with my husband for another visit! I didn’t do them ALL by myself with 3 children!)

  1. The ZOO – the kids really enjoy this, and at the moment there are lion cubs at Chessington.  The gorillas are another hot favourite, the tigers, and the sea lion show.
  2. The SEA LIFE centre – I find this rather magical still, even though I have been many, many times now!  Sea life is just so colourful, isn’t it?  One thing my daughter always enjoys doing here is allowing the shrimp to “clean” her nails!  Watch out for the gift shop at the end…hard to make a speedy exit but it can be done.
  3. Tiny Truckers – Oh my goodness, this ride is VERY slow-loading.  Bring something to entertain little ones if you plan to queue for this.  But they do love it, pretending to drive little trucks (under 1.1m needs to be accompanied by an adult)
  4. Dragon’s Playhouse – Soft play – You’ll need to bring socks for this one.  Good for the little ones to burn off some energy and it’s all indoors so head here if the weather goes sour (it has a maximum capacity, but they let another group in every 15-20 mins, maximum height 1.40m)
  5. Sea Dragons – this relaxing merry-go-round style ride was just perfect for the 2 and 4 year olds.  It’s located right near the Dragon’s Playhouse.  Adult has to accompany children under 1.1m.
  6. Canopy Capers – fun for the 4 and 8 year old, it’s a play area that’s outdoors and above ground.  Under 0.9m needs to be accompanied but to be honest our 2 year old is above that height and I would want to accompany him as not all of the play area is within view from the ground.
  7. Tuk Tuk Turmoil – this is basically bumper cars – our 8 year old was able to drive her own and my husband accompanied the 4 year old – they all loved it!  By the way just a footnote about the actual tuk tuks they used to have at Chessington which children could climb in and out of – these seem to have gone!  It’s a shame for us, as my 4 year old used to love playing in those.
  8. Flying Jumbos – lovely ride that all 5 of us were able to do together (we sat in 3 separate elephants)
  9. Hocus Pocus Hall – we haven’t done this one since we visited a year ago, but it was great fun then.  It is a little spooky but not as bad as I expected!  Probably again not one for very little ones (though it was actually fine with a baby aged 6 months, as he was quite oblivious!)
  10. The Vampire – I haven’t been on this hanging rollercoaster ride for years!  But I had to mention it as I used to love it so much as a teenager, many many moons ago…
Tiny Truckers Ride at Chessington World of Adventures
Tiny Truckers ride – hot favourite with the little ones but be prepared, queues are slow moving!

There’s much more that I haven’t mentioned, including a penguin talk, a nice new safari-themed carousel (called Adventure Tree), the Zufari ride (which I still haven’t been on!), a petting zoo (called Children’s Zoo), and Amazu which has lots of lovely spider monkeys located in and around one of the play areas.  There’s also a Madagascar meet and greet with characters near the SeaLife centre, and an Animal Antics show which takes place on the lawn outside Hocus Pocus Hall which is a great place to relax with an ice cream.

With all these activities I can safely say you could fill 2 whole days at Chessington World of Adventures.  If you want to stay overnight they now have a glamping area which I haven’t checked out but it looks interesting! There is also the Chessington on-site Hotel.

Queuing

It might be worth mentioning there is a constantly updating electronic board in the Market Square that tells you how long the queues are for most of the popular rides, so that can be helpful for planning where to go next.  You can also download an app which apparently allows you to keep this information at your fingertips.  There are fastrack passes available, for a price, if you do not wish to queue.  You can actually buy a fastrack pass which can be used for all rides, or buy a pass for just one specific ride or group of rides (the pass for one ride has to be bought from a kiosk at the park, on the day, but the pass for a group of rides can be purchased online in advance).  If you don’t plan to get fast passes and you’re visiting at peak times make sure to bring something to entertain little ones in queues, and take lots of breaks to do other activities that don’t involve queuing like attending a show, having a bite to eat or checking out the SeaLife Centre.

Food and Drink

With regard to food, the Fried Chicken company is a place we keep returning to.  It is easy and the kids and I both like it.   We also tried out the hot dog and nachos stand in the Market Square this time, they were quite generous-looking hot dogs!  I’m afraid I can’t really comment on the other food places as we usually try to bring a picnic to keep costs down!  But there are many places to eat at Chessington World of Adventures.  Of course you can feed your family to your hearts’ delight on doughnuts, ice creams, and slushies.  But healthy food I haven’t managed to find yet, though there has to be some somewhere!  You’ll have to let me know in the comments, if you find anywhere you’d like to recommend.

Read more on the Chessington World of Adventures website, link below to the opening times.

www.chessington.com/plan/chessington-opening-times.aspx

Be sure to look out for buy one get one free vouchers to save on ticket costs (often to be found on cereal boxes).

Have fun if you go to Chessington!  We love it.

If you haven’t been to Kidzania London, read my review of our visit and top tips for enjoying this “mini city for kids” here:

Kidzania London review and tips – successful first visit with my 8-year old

 

If you fancy a trip to Legoland you might like to read my blog post below:

Top 16 attractions at Legoland Windsor – Fantastic family day out!

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Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

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Great Cotswolds Day Out with the Kids at Birdland

Like birds?  Love dinosaurs?  You’ll have a great Cotswolds day out with the kids at Birdland.

Over Easter we visited Birdland park and gardens, in Bourton-on-Water in the Cotswolds.  It’s fantastic for families with young children as it’s just the right size to have enough to entertain everybody without getting too worn out.  We have actually been to Birdland 3 times now, as my 4-year old son just loves it so much!  Our last visit was at Christmas time, just over a year ago.  Since that visit he has been asking to go back to Birdland, probably about once a week!  So I was delighted that we spent Easter in the Cotswolds, and were able to return on our way back to London.

Arriving at Birdland

Parking near Birdland is easy, as there is a pay-and-display car park right next to it where you can park for £1 an hour, and parking after 3pm is free.  I noticed that on this occasion there was also some parking across the road in a field, which was being advertised as £3 for the whole day.  I am not sure about public transport links but there may well be some!

There was no queue to get into Birdland.  We visited on the Tuesday after Easter, which was an inset day for my children.  At the ticket counter, within the gift shop, you can get your child an activity card for the Jurassic Journey, which is a brilliant dinosaur trail with dinosaurs cleverly hidden among the woodland on the outskirts of Birdland.  This dinosaur trail is the main reason my 4 year old son is such a massive fan of Birdland!

 

Meeting the Birds

One of my favourite activities at Birdland is checking out the King and Humboldt penguins.

Penguins at Birdland in the Cotswolds, great day out with the kids

I really do love them!  There is even a famous penguin called Seth, who featured in “Batman Returns”.  There’s a large information board which has each penguin’s mugshot and name, which tells their date of birth and their story, as well as info about different species of penguins.

Great Cotswolds Family Day Out

There’s a huge variety of different birds to see and learn about at Birdland, including splendid flamingoes and many exotic birds.  Any bird fan will not be disappointed!  A keeper gives a flamingo talk which we had just missed, but we have seen it before and it was very good so try to catch that if you can.

Cafe

It was almost lunchtime when we arrived, so after checking out a few birds we headed to the cafe to eat our picnic, which was supplemented with kids meal hot dogs from the cafe which are served with chips and salad for £4.95.  The cafe serves teas and coffees (as one would hope!) and there are toilets located within.  There are some other toilets near the penguin reserve as well.  Drinks cost about £1.40-£2.50 and you can bring your own soft drinks into the park, so I would definitely recommend bringing some if you can.  There was a selection of the usual sorts of ice creams, that you can buy.

 

Jurassic Journey at Birdland

After checking out some African birds we moved swiftly onto the Jurassic Journey.  About 10 different types of dinosaurs could be seen here, from the Pteranodon and Triceratops to the obligatory T. Rex, though there are a few less well-known dinosaurs too.  We didn’t do the activity this time as we have done it before, but older children might enjoy collecting the “clues” around the trail, which are alphabet letters that can be rearranged to form a secret message.

Although the dinosaurs are static and don’t make any noises, this is actually appealing to my little ones.  They found it less fearsome than Jurassic Kingdom, which we visited a couple weeks ago.  You can also peer through gaps in the fences at some of these dinosaurs.  This adds to the sense of being a seriously adventurous dino-spotter 😉

Dinosaur at Jurassic Journey, Birdland, Great Cotswolds Day Out with the Kids

About halfway round the trail there is a covered shed which has some sandpits with brushes.  Here your children can “discover” fossils.  This was quite a hit with our children and allowed us to sit and chill for a few minutes!

 

Petting Zoo

Finally, with all the excitement of the dino trail over, we headed over to the encounters area, which is like a little petting zoo.  There were guinea pigs, a rabbit, several tortoises, chickens and even some baby chicks to make friends with, under the supervision of helpful staff.  Our toddler was thrilled to pet a guinea pig.  His zeal made me a little nervous, but the keeper was very patient with him.

There were also snakes, spiders, and a rat (not freely roaming!)  Previously they had a little owl here, which the children are able to hold (while wearing a bird-handling glove). But apparently the owl’s keeper was not around on the day we visited so we didn’t get to meet the owl this time.  If you’re keen on this activity you might want to call and check before you go.

 

Playground 

No trip is complete without a stop at the playground, and Birdland has some good equipment here which easily kept the children occupied for a half hour.  Even my 8 year old thinks it is pretty good!

 

Bourton-on-Water

Outside Birdland is the wonderfully charming world of Bourton-on-Water.  It is like a mini Venice, with lots of tiny bridges over little canals.  It’s a little touristy, but if you don’t mind that then you’ll love it.  Many little shops to browse and nice pubs to get lunch!  There’s also a model railway museum which we have visited before and enjoyed.

You can find out more about Birdland on their website at www.birdland.co.uk/

Birdland is open all year round, from 10am-6pm March to November, 10am-4pm November to March.

Current prices are £9.95 for adults, and £6.95 for children age 3 and up.  Under 3’s are free.

You can get 10% off admission if you book online.

Have fun!

Giant Tortoise at Birdland, Cotswolds Day Out with the Kids

If you enjoyed this post you might like to read about our trip to Center Parcs Longleat, in the post linked below.  It’s a brilliant outdoorsy family holiday in the forest, with all the comforts of home, which you can do in 3 or 4 days.

Center Parcs Longleat – amazing family break

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7 wonderful activities for kids at Shetland pony riding club

Last week we took our 3 little ones (age 8, 4 and 2.5) to Shetland pony club in Cobham, Surrey.
What a gem of a place! The ponies here are just the perfect size for children under 10. If your children are even the slightest bit interested in ponies, they are guaranteed to have a lovely time here getting to know, learning loads about and riding the Shetland ponies. And you’ll enjoy it too!

“Pony morning” experience 
Our 8 and 4 year old took part in what’s known as the “pony morning” which is a great opportunity I can highly recommend. Children as young as 4 years old can take part in this fully supervised and led experience, which lasts for 2 hours, but if you have younger children who are 2 and a half years or older they can do a starter pony ride too (session lasts 45 minutes, which includes various activities similar to those listed below).

Shetland pony riding club for toddlers and kids

7 activities for kids at the Shetland pony club’s “Pony morning”

Here’s a list of 7 of the wonderful, hands-on activities that the children were able to participate in:
1. Meet and greet the ponies – very special moments indeed meeting these stunning animals, too cute for words
2. Brush the ponies – brushes are provided for grooming “your” pony
3. Help to tack up the pony and lead the pony – your helper shows you exactly how to do this!

4. Ride the pony (two good rides are included) – children are fully supervised and accompanied at all times on a one to one basis

5. Poo-picking (helping to clean up the pony’s poo!) – didn’t watch this but hygiene is properly observed and the kids really do enjoy this activity!

6. Enjoy learning about other skills in looking after ponies such as painting a moisturising coating onto their hooves

7. Receive a rosette at the end for their efforts – this takes place during a proper little prize-giving at the end, our 2.5 year old was delighted to get one too!

Shetland pony riding club

We were lucky to attend on a beautiful sunny albeit chilly morning, when the whole place looked absolutely stunning. It was decorated with colourful bunting and the seats are bales of hay. Parents can watch their children do all the activities though you don’t see the entire pony ride as they take the ponies out on a nice circuit of the fields. I was most impressed that the children get one to one supervision with a teacher, as well as their very own pony to look after and ride.

It truly was a very special experience, and I was delighted our 2.5 year old enjoyed it too as he got to hang out with and attempt to ride Honeybee, a gorgeous 15 year old pony. He was a little wary initially but he soon got into brushing Honeybee and even sat in the saddle for a few minutes, before he decided to get down again, but it was a great little taster experience for him. The immense cuteness of seeing one’s toddler with one of these beautiful Shetland ponies is just too much! I’m sure it won’t be long before we go back for him to try out a pony morning and an actual ride…

My 4 year-old son was a true superstar as he had never been on a pony ride before, and before we went was very uncertain about the whole thing! But he got completely involved and absorbed in looking after “his” pony and enjoyed two proper rides with no problems! I believe this is testament to how fantastic the helpers are at Shetland pony club and how comfortable they make the children feel around the ponies.

Besides pony mornings there are other activities at Shetland pony club like pony parties (from age 3), summer camps and even Easter egg hunts with a pony (now fully booked for this year).

There is a car park and a toilet at Shetland pony club. Hand washing facilities are available (very important!) Drinking water for the children is available but you may wish to bring some water and snacks, which is what we did. There’s a great child-friendly pub with a garden nearby where we had a delicious lunch afterwards, called The Old Plough. http://www.oldploughcobham.co.uk

RHS Wisley Gardens and Painshill Park are nearby too. We haven’t been to Painshill yet but I hear it’s lovely, and Wisley Gardens is just glorious!

You can find out more about Shetland Pony Club at http://shetlandponyclub.co.uk

If you’re looking for another activity that is fantastic for kids age 4 and up please check out my review of Kidzania London http://awaybies.com/kidzania-london-review-and-tips-successful-first-visit-with-my-8-year-old/

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Jurassic Kingdom London – Mummy Review and Tips

Experience walking among “live dinosaurs” at Jurassic Kingdom London!

We’ve just got back from a great day out at Jurassic Kingdom London, located at Osterley Park in Isleworth.  The day exhausted me, but as the event is only on in London for one more week (till 17th April), I thought I would write my blog review straightaway so it can benefit more people!

If you haven’t heard of Jurassic Kingdom, it’s an animatronic display of dinosaurs, complete with moving parts and realistic sounding roars.  The setting is beautiful, in the National Trust property Osterley Park.

The display is only on in London for 2 weeks in total, after which it moves on to other parts of the UK including Birmingham and Manchester.

Jurassic Kingdom London
Pteranodon dinosaurs at Jurassic Kingdom

Getting there

We all enjoyed our day out at Jurassic Kingdom, and we were lucky to have glorious weather for it!  Getting there was not too difficult as we travelled by car.  (I’m afraid I can’t comment on the public transport links.) We were able to park on a residential road nearby, thanks to a tip from another mum.  There is a huge car park within the gates of Osterley Park, and it costs £7 to park for the whole day.  On the weekend there is some free parking on the residential roads.  Whether you park in the main car park or a residential road, you will be walking a lot.

Remember to bring comfortable shoes and your buggy!  We actually brought 2 buggies, one for our 2 year old and one for our 4 year old.  The 4 year old can walk just fine, but it was useful to have once he got tired.  The terrain is very uneven, which can be a problem for buggies, but we were able to manage ok with a Maclaren.

Caged Raptors dinosaurs escaping at Jurassic Kingdom
Caged Raptors escaping at Jurassic Kingdom

Arriving at Jurassic Kingdom

The entrance to Jurassic Kingdom is located just after the lake, to the left of Osterley House, which you can’t miss seeing – it’s the main building you’ll see with huge grand columns.

Within Jurassic Kingdom there are portaloos, or you can use the toilets around the corner from the cafe at Osterley.  I recommend bringing some tissues as by the end of the day there was no toilet paper!

There are places to buy food and drinks.  I did not heavily investigate this as we brought a picnic, which I recommend, but I noticed hot dogs, noodles, and curly fries were on sale at various stands.

There was a virtual reality game for £5.  We didn’t try it.

An impressive Tyrannosaurus Rex robot greets you immediately.

Staff will check your tickets (if you have a smartphone you can download these and save them to your phone for scanning) and you pass through some barriers you begin walking around the trail.  There was no queuing at all at this point which was great, and we sailed right through.  Just to note, no map or guide is provided.

 

Strolling Along The Dinosaur Trail

As it was a Saturday today as well as Easter holidays it was incredibly busy, and this was a slight drawback to the whole event.  In combination with the lovely sunny weather and loudly roaring dinosaurs some of our children were finding it all a little intense!  But things did improve as we found some shady, leafy spots to enjoy where the children found logs to sit on and sticks to play with.  They actually seemed to really have the most fun mucking around in the forest!  I recommend taking time to hang out and find a nice spot to play, as there are many beautiful nooks to get away from the crowd.

Halfway round the trail (about 30 minutes in, for us) there is a clearing where there are more food stands and a sandpit.  There was a moving dinosaur which your child can ride here for £2.  A little further on from the food stands is a large tent within which a documentary was playing.  There are several rows of chairs, and a few dozen people were taking a break from the trail there.  After the tent are more portaloos, and you can find a sizeable hatching dinosaur egg here.

Majestic dinosaur at Jurassic Kingdom
Majestic dinosaur at Jurassic Kingdom

 

Photo opportunities

On the final part of the Jurassic Kingdom trail there was a place where your child can sit on the back of a small dinosaur.  This makes a great photo opportunity.  There was also a large dinosaur head which you can climb into, which also seemed like a great place to take a photo.  Unfortunately the queue was quite long, so we didn’t wait to do that.

 

Souvenirs and snacks

Once you get to the very end of the trail you return to where you entered.  There are souvenirs like T-shirts and soft toy dinosaurs on sale.  All we were really interested in by then was buying ice creams, but the ice cream stall outside Osterley cafe accepts only cash, and I had forgotten to bring any!  So it was yogurts and a chocolate brownie from the cafe instead.  This was not such a bad thing in the end!  We spread out our picnic blanket on the grass by the lake and the kids enjoyed playing hide and seek in the shade of the trees.

All in all a lovely day out.  A must for all dinosaur-lovers.  You should be prepared for a lot of walking.  Bring buggies, cash, tissues, bottles of water, suncream (if you’re lucky like us with the weather) and a picnic blanket.  Enjoy!

Find out more at www.jurassickingdom.uk/experience/

I’ve noticed discount tickets are also available at groupon.co.uk

 

Escaping Raptor Jurassic Kingdom
Escaping Raptor – watch out!

Other posts which may interest you:

Kidzania London review and tips – successful first visit with my 8-year old

 

Top 16 attractions at Legoland Windsor – Fantastic family day out!

Naptime Natter

 

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