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

If you’re considering a visit to Kidzania London you’ve come to the right place!

I’m always on the lookout for new activities to do with my 3 young children.  Not only to keep them occupied (though that’s obviously important too!) but because I genuinely love to see their happy little faces when they are enjoying a novel experience.  I am practically a collector of days out and activities, well before I started writing a blog.

I heard about Kidzania from a friend’s friend about a year ago.  She had heard of it but hadn’t actually visited yet.  It sounded strange but intriguing, from her description.  I then checked out the website which really piqued my interest, and it’s been on my list of things to do ever since.

Entrance to Kidzania Westfield London
Entrance to Kidzania Westfield

Kidzania is a “City” for 4-14 year olds with more than 60 real life role play adventures.  The idea is that it is like a mini real world, where children can take charge and choose what they want to do, earning play money and using it to purchase things.  If your child is 8 years and over they can actually be left in Kidzania by themselves as it is secure and children wear an electronic wristband that allows them to be tracked as they go from one activity to another.  So if your children are older you could leave them and enjoy the rest of Westfield child-free! I decided to stay on this occasion, of course, as my daughter had never been before, plus I didn’t want to miss out on the fun!

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It is a little pricy and for us not a regular activity, so we chose a special occasion when my eldest had just done a music exam which she had worked very hard for!  I also managed to find a discount online at picniq.com which made it more affordable.  We were both very excited when the day finally came to go to Kidzania.

It was extra specially exciting as it was just the two of us that day, and the boys stayed at home with their dad.

First of all, my daughter was wowed just to even be at Westfield shopping centre.  “This place is am-aaaa-zing…” she said, looking around in awe.

The arrival process was smooth.  It’s recommended to arrive about 15 minutes before your actual time slot begins.  I had booked a slot from 2-6pm, so we were there for 1.45pm after a light lunch of fish and chips in the food court.

The arrival counter is styled like an airport check-in.  Everyone is in character, which was very impressive!  The lady on the counter explained a little about what we could do, since it was our first visit to Kidzania.  She attached a security wristband to both of us, then handed over 50 kidzos to my daughter, which is the toy money used in Kidzania.  The fun began!

Kidzania London Westfield
Receiving kidzos at the check-in counter at Kidzania Westfield

We were a little overwhelmed to begin with, as it was quite crowded, but luckily for us the crowd thinned out within the next 1-2 hours.  My daughter wasn’t sure where to start, so she ended up choosing the hotel activity.  After that she did the fashion design activity which takes place in a realistic version of H&M!  She was keen to get her face painted so we headed to the shop where you can purchase this.

She proceeded to do the following activities, all of which she enjoyed very much: surgeon (really quite realistic looking operating theatre and equipment), beauty salon, special care baby unit (unbelievably cute to watch the children taking care of the “newborn babies”), pilot, newsreader (very realistic, with cameras and a green screen!) and finished with the chocolate-making.

Special Care Baby Unit Kidzania London Westfield
Special Care Baby Unit

 

Kidzania Westfield London
My daughter “working as a surgeon,” giving oxygen to her “patient” before a kidney transplant!

I think she enjoyed the newsreader activity the most, as she asked if she could do it again!  We stopped for a break to eat ice cream, and briefly attended the magic show in the theatre.  This looked like a really cute and fun activity in which the kids are taught tricks they then get to perform for a live audience. I hope my daughter will try it next time!

Tips for visiting Kidzania

Kidzania is a brilliant day out. However there was a lot which I felt wasn’t explained at the start. But perhaps, as with real life, you are meant to find out more as you go along, so this isn’t really a criticism.  In any case, to help you make the most of your experience, I can give you some advice which I wish I had known, as well as some more general info.

Look at the Kidzania website before you go, to get a feel for which activities are available and discuss it with your child beforehand (maybe make a list in order of priority).  If there is something your child is desperately keen to do, head there at the start to see when they might be able to do it, as some activities only take place at particular times or have longer queues.

You’ll be given a map at check-in, which is really useful to help get your bearings.  For several of the activities your child will receive a kidzos payment for participating (these are marked with a “+” sign in the map guide) and some of the activities your child has to pay for with kidzos (marked with a “-” in the map guide).  If you look at the chart outside each activity it tells you how much you will be paid or need to pay, how long the activity lasts, and how many children can participate in the activity at a time.

If your child attends the “university”, they will receive more kidzos for each paid activity they do!  So this might be useful to do first.  My daughter didn’t actually make it to the university this time, as we didn’t realise this till later on.  But we’ll definitely go there first next time.

If you manage to collect 75 kidzos you can open a bank account.  There is no charge for this but you need 75 kidzos.  You will receive a bank card, which you can use at a rather realistic looking ATM machine!

If you pay 5 kidzos you can get a passport.  This has your child’s photo in it, and gets stamped at every activity you then do, and makes a nice souvenir for them to take home.  In addition you are eligible to some “discounts”, for example the face-painting costs a little less if you have a passport!

Once you have a passport/bank card you can keep these and use them again on your next visit! You get to keep your kidzos as well.

Food and Drink

Kidzania Westfield London
Seating area outside cafe – relax and get a coffee while your kids zoom around busily working
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Make a cereal bar at this factory

There are stalls and counters within Kidzania where you can get food and drinks.  These cost real money, so make sure to bring some actual pounds with you.  You can’t bring any food in with you.

There are also some activities which allow your child to have a go at preparing food, for example the chocolate making activity and the cereal bar factory and the burger factory. Apparently the burger activity allows your child to make a burger which they can actually then eat, but we sadly we ran out of time before we could get to this one! It’s worth noting that the you don’t eat the chocolate from the chocolate making activity, but you do get a coupon which you can then take to “immigration” at the end of kidzania, and redeem it for a small free chocolate bar.

Photography 

You can take as many photos as you like in Kidzania which in my opinion makes it really great, but they do ask that you remain outside the activity, so this has to be done from the doorway or through the windows and sometimes it’s not possible to see, for example during the pilot activity.

There are also hired photographers roaming around who carefully take photos of your child and the photos can be viewed and purchased if you wish at the end of the session. We didn’t purchase any on this occasion but I took lots!

Lockers and buggy park

It’s a good idea to get a locker to stash your coat and cumbersome items as you’ll probably be doing a lot of walking around!  Locker rental costs £3.  Locker plus buggy parking costs £5.

Parking at Westfield

Parking in the enormous car park costs £8 for the whole day.  There are hourly parking rates as well, for shorter stays.

All in all we both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The 4 hours raced by in a flurry of exciting activities and we were completely exhausted by the end.  We finished off the day with dinner at Pizza Express.

I highly recommend this activity for kids.  It is fun and has educational value too!

We can’t wait to go back again, as there is so much we didn’t have time for. Next time I would love to take my 4-year old son as well.  I know he would go absolutely bonkers for the emergency services activities!

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If you’re interested in another great day out, do read my post on Legoland Windsor.

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

 

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