A Laid Back Trip To Santa At The London Transport Museum

A trip to the London Transport Museum always goes down well with my lot, especially at Christmas. I mean being in the heart of Covent Garden which is always brimming with festive cheer has to be one of the most perfect settings; and last weekend as we caught sight of the beautiful red and blue christmas tree standing proud outside the museum we were filled with excitement and anticipation of what the day would hold.

We made our way inside where the boys immediately jumped on board the buses letting their imaginations run wild, asking where we wanted to travel to and recalling all the London landmarks they could think of.

When they had finished we made our way to the magical forest to see if we could find Santa. Unlike last year where you went inside a cabin to meet Santa as a family things have been changed around a little and the whole experience is less formal and has a lovely laid back feel to it.

We sat on cosy cushions whilst the boys played with wooden toys and read books until the big man himself arrived. He sat amongst and chatted to us all, asking how far we had come and what the childrens wishes were for christmas. He gave each child a special badge and was more than happy for you to take photos with him.

There were lots of tiny tots there which for me seemed like the perfect introduction to meeting Santa without the long queues and hefty price tags. Santa will be there until the 23rd December from eleven to three so keep an eye out for him throughout the museum.

The festive fun doesn’t stop there as there is the opportunity to sit amongst the magical forest for the story time sessions that run everyday at 11.30 and 1.30 and use an array of different props and instruments.

The boys also took a chance to get crafty by making glittery, sparkly christmas decoration with all manner of glitter glues and pretty pom poms.

All the sessions are completely free of charge and come in with the entry price which at £17.50 per adult and children going free is amazing value. This entry price also gives you admittion for 12 months so you can enjoy the museum time and time again.

We headed around the rest of the museum where the boys got to play at being train drivers, took me for a ride in a taxi and played for ages in the play area which is always a big hit.

One area of the museum which seems to have eluded us until now is the Upper Deck cafe where we had an amazing lunch. On previous visits we had eaten inside the hub of the museum which was a great way to grab a quick bite whilst the kids play, but the Upper Deck gave us a much vaster menu and an amazing view of Covent Garden whilst we ate.

We were all super hungry and we filled our bellies with delicious juicy sausages, oozing burgers and crispy chips. There was a great choice from salads and sandwiches to coffees and cakes and the cake were certainly the piece de resistance for us with a super cool London underground icing top.

To finish our day we headed back down to the museum shop which is probably within the minority of attraction shops I don’t wizz the kids through.  They have a gorgorgous range of eclectic gifts, stunning christmas decorations and pocket money toys that are a far cry from the usual brittle plastic rubbish you usually come across.

I really can’t stop singing praises for the London Transport Museum and it really is a brilliant place to visit at this time of year.

* We were gifted this day out plus gifts for the purpose of this review and they are all my own honest opinions.

An Uber Cool Christmas At Winterville

Last year we had our first visit to Winterville on Clapham Common. We didn’t really know what to expect and we were pleasantly surprised with its calm, cool, festive vibe.

When we were asked to visit again this year we jumped at the chance and as soon as we got there we knew it was going to be just as much fun. The neon sign shone out across the park and welcomed us in with its pretty christmas lights, catchy christmas tunes and the smell of wonderful food.

I would actually sat that if you are  bit of a foodie then Winterville will be right up your street.  There is so much on offer with the Truck Stop and Street Feast areas homing the majority of the stalls. From crispy chips to sticky ribs, Baileys hot chocolates and warm cookie dough puddings.

Of course its not just food and drink on offer at Winterville. There is a whole plethora of amazing activities to join in with and the kids didn’t know where to start first!

The gleaming lights of the fairground rides were calling us and while Izzy headed to the bigger rides I stayed with the boys and took a ride on the train, span around in the tea cups and watched them as they bounced as high as they could on the trampolines.

It was now a bit of time for Mum so I grabbed a mulled wine and took a look around the Solo Craft Fair that had some amazing gifts for some amazing independent business which makes a very welcome change to some Christmas markets that are full of  mass produced items you can get anywhere.

Crazy golf is always something my lot love and the the UV – powered Plonk Golf course at Winterville was great fun.

Anything that involves being on wheels or blades draws my children in but is my worst nightmare! Winerville have both a beautiful ice rink and a roller disco on offer and i managed to persuade the kids to only try out the ice skating as I don’t think my nerves could take both.

All of the children could take to the ice and there are penguins to help the round the rink. We all did really well until the very end where Oscar took a tumble just as he was putting his penguin back. We ended up with a split lip and a very sad little boy and I have to say that in this moment of need we were confrunted by a surly and very unhelpful member of staff which was a real shock after having such an amazing experience with everyone we had come across.

We literally scrapped the surface of everything on offer at Winterviile. There are live DJ sets, cocktail bars, wrestling, Backyard Cinema, Big Fish Little Fish family rave, family shows on a double decker bus and so much more.

So if your looking for somewhere to kick off that festive spirit then this is the place to be!

*we were given tickets to Winterville for the purpose of this review and they are all my own, honest opinions.

A Dickens Inspired Christmas At Hever Castle

Last year was our first visit to Hever Castle at Christmas time and I was completely taken in with the traditional feeling they had created, and on our return trip to the press evening last week those same feeling came flooding back the minute we drove into the car park.

The entrance was filed with light covered trees and and as we walked down to the main hub the sky was filled with laser beams that were being projected across the lake.

The whole walk down to the castle was in fact a visual delight with disco balls sparking in archways and pretty lights everywhere we looked.

On of the highlights for me last year was the little area tucked behind the entrance to the toilets….yes it doesn’t sound to glamorous, but it was full of snow covers trees and peopled huddled around an open fire and it got our visit off to the perfect start.

The children didn’t know what to look at or were to go first so we had a few goes on the beautiful carousel and a run through the hall of mirrors to let off some steam!

After this we were all eager to get inside the castle and see how it had been decorated. We were greeted with hot mulled mine, sausage rolls and mince pies which made for an amazing experience but my nerves wear more than a little on edge at the though of sticky fingers and all the beautiful furniture!

We went in and out of every room or which each one was breathtaking. A castle steeped in history and full of Christmas spirit had got to be a pretty amazing sight to see.

Before we knew it it was our turn to go and visit Father Christmas. The boys exciting skipped along the candy caned lined walkway until we reached the grotto and were welcomed by Father Christmas’s friendly elves.

They lead us threw a snow covered pathway until we reached his little house that was tucked away behind the trees.

He greeted the children in such a warm manner and the children’s faces lit up as soon as he started speaking to them…even Izzy’s.

They were each given a lovely gift and we headed out to giant our evening with the ‘Christmas Carol’ trail.

The trail was themed around the Dickens classic and saw us meeting characters from the classic tail along the way. It is an interactive experience that kept us wondering what we were going to come across next!

We left the castle full of Christmas spirit and wanting to visit again before Christmas is out!

*We were asked along to the press evening for the purpose of this review and they are all my own honest opinions.

Nativity Rocks:Review

The Nativity movies have been a big hit in our house for many years now. The light hearted, feel good factor they give you is a huge attraction and always fill you with the spirt of Christmas.

A couple of weeks ago we were invited along to a screening of the fourth Nativity movie – Nativity Rocks in Leicester Square.

Kitted out in my sparkly jumper…much to the embarrassment of the kids we started the morning with some fun in the foyer making snow globes, getting glitter tattoos and eating out first mince pies of the year.

This movie had a very different feel to it then the others as the main bulk of the story was based around a young Syrian refugee called Doru and his Father who get separated in there quest to seek refuge in the UK.

Doru finds himself in the middle of Coventry in the midst of their Christmas preparations where he is found and taken to safety by the warm and friendly social worker Shelly(Helen George) who in-lists the help of the super foster mum(Merry Syal).

We were a little concerned about the absence of our favourite character, Mr Poppy bit we needed had worried as he had been replaced by his long lost brother who made an equally loveable Mr Poppy mark two!

Whilst Mr Poppy(Simon Lipkin) searching for his long lost family at St Bernadettes he bumps into Doru who has enrolled in the school and they form a bond over their similarities.

Of course there has to be some kind of musical theme to the movie and this comes in the form of the whole of Coventry competing to represent their town in The Christmas Town Of The Year.

Emmanuel Cavendish(Craig Revel Horwood) is brought in as the superstar set to put Coventry on the map with his expert knowledge of everything showbiz but the evil villain has the opposite effect and the community come together to go it alone.

Along the way there are all kinds of adventure from Doru and Mr Poppy, an unlikely friendship is but between a little boy from the rival private school.

I won’t spoil any more of the story for you and I will leave you safe in the knowledge that this thought provoking, heart warming story with have you laughing and crying in equal measure and will fill your heart with everything that Christmas should represent!

David Lloyd Know How To Party

As I’m sure most of you know by now that I only have praise for the amazing health club that is – David Lloyd.

It helped my find my mojo again and was the catalyst for my weight loss, it’s a great way to spend quality time as a family as well as keeps you fit and it has even pulled my gaming mad son away from his Xbox which is no mean feat and I will be talking more about this soon.

As well as everything I have mentioned above one of the big pulls for me is the sense of community that David Lloyd encourages. There was is always something going on from quiz nights to BBQs and the other evening we went along to experience this at the kids Halloween party.

The three hour long party was full of fun from beginning to end. The children got the chance to make slime, try their luck with the slimy lucky dip, bob for apples, get their faces painted and so much more!

The staff all got into the spirit of the event and were dressed up and full of life. They boogied away with the kids and seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as the children.

All parties need some good food and there was plenty on offer…even cheeseburgers in the shape of pumpkins!

It was the perfect way to kick off our Halloween half term and has only instilled in me more why David Lloyd is the only health club we would choose.

*We have been given a family membership for the purpose of these posts and they are all my own, honest opinions.

Pumpkin Picking At Secretts Of Milford

I had a mini meltdown the other day as I had missed our annual day out pumpkin picking at Priory Farm. It is one of our favourite things to do at this time of year and so I went on the hunt for somewhere else we could visit.

I stumbled across Secretts Of Milford and thought that it would make the perfect place to explore this half term.

After a short drive we arrived at the garden centre to a pretty packed carpark which I was a little apprehensive about but I needn’t have worried as after a short while queuing we made our way into the event field that was full of things to do from face painting to fairground rides, tractor rides and a favourite for mine – corn blasting!

We headed straight to the tractor ride that lead us into the jam packed pumpkin fields, full of pumpkins of all different shapes, sizes and colours. The children didn’t know where to look first and spent ages racing through the fields and selecting their perfect pumpkin.

We hopped back on the tractor and grabbed a bite to eat which was very fitting with the theme with hot dogs, pumpkin soup, pumpkin curry and pumpkin cake. There was plenty on indoor and outdoor space to sit and relax while the children enjoy the freedom of the open space and even a hay fight or two!

Secretts made for an amazing day out and we will certainly be back to visit next year!

ZSL London Zoo:Our Best Bits

I am ashamed to say that although ZSL London Zoo is probably to closest Zoo to us I have not had a visit in probably over ten years. Considering we absolutely love an outdoor adventure and one with animals even more so I am not entirely sure why I have left it so long.

We did however rectify this the other week when we took a trip there to check out what they had to offer.

It was a scorching hot day and as we approached the entrance I was dreading the queues I had already envisaged in my head to get in, so I was pleasantly surprised when we were greeted by a super happy member of staff who showed us in and wished us a good day.

I was a little shocked as to quite how vast the zoo was and we were all eagar to get exploring as soon as possible.

After seeing a little about the Superhero Academy this was our first port of call. The boys were so excited to get started by colouring in their own superhero mask and getting hands on with all there was on offer.

My children certainly learn most from being hands on so being able to race against the cheetahs to see how fast they can actually go and climb like geckos in search of food. Seeing what superpowers the animals possess was a great way to keep the boys engaged and learning at the same time.

As well as this they got to learn a great deal about plastic waste and what an awful effect it is having on their world. It was great for them to be able to realise this destruction is going on and to then relate it to different animals as we explored the zoo.

Just outside was the perfect setting for a picnic which can all to often be missing from places such as this. We opted to take a picnic along to make the most of the good weather but there were plenty of options when it came to eating from ice-cream and candy floss, a delicious smelling BBQ stand and a cafe serving anything from coffees to full main meals and even a cheeky glass of wine if you fancied it!

I think for us the biggest pull of the zoo was how close you could get to all the animals. For the bigger animals such as the gorillas there were huge glassed walls that allowed everyone a good view without being bundled on top of each other which is fantastic. But for us getting even closer in the butterfly house and the lemur walk through was such an amazing experience.

Oscars face completely lit up when he saw the adorable lemurs casually walking around taking everybody in. The boys normally can’t sit still for more than five minutes but they were more than happy to listen to some very interesting facts while watching the lemurs explore their territory. I mean who knew that their beautiful black and white stripped tails are in fact used as a balancing aid?

Another highlight for us was Penguin Beach. The Humboldt Penguins who are lucky enough to be homed on this great sized beach have plenty of room to waddle around and dive into the water for a quick dip which the boys found amazing to watch through the many viewing areas available.

Into Africa also came high on our list of best bits with the giraffe viewing area which enabled us to get really close to these super tall, majestic beasts.

I have barely scratched the surface when it comes to the animals that we saw, but these were certainly our highlights from the trip.

Not having visited for a number of years now I didn’t know what to expect from our visit and I came away pleasantly surprised by all the changes that had been made. All of which were in the favour of the animals happens and welfare which is all you can ask for. We had a wonderful day and will be back soon for some more fun, especially as the annual membership is such great value for money if you are going to be making multiple visits…which I’m sure you will!

*collaborated post

Days Out With The Kids This Christmas

Yes I know we have only just put our sandals and summer dress aways but before you know it Christmas will be upon us and if you want to get those special days booked in then you really do have to start thinking about it now!

Christmas is by far my favourite time of year and I have compiled a list of a few of our favourites that I hope you might enjoy:

Lapland UK – This one just had to be top of my list as I have experienced nothing like it before. We were lucky enough to have our first trip there last year and we were absolutely blown away.

From helping the elves in Father Christmas’s toy factory, icing biscuits with Mother Christmas, taking to the ice in the most beautifully setting and finally meeting the main man himself who Frankie has named ‘the real’ Father Christmas it was sheer magic.

It brought a tear to my eye and I don’t think that day will ever be topped!

Hever Castle – For me Hever brings you everything you would imagine when you think of an English christmas celebration. The traditional fairground rides and beautiful christmas trail are perfect for the little ones, whilst the stunningly decorated castle is a sight that everyone will enjoy.

We are off there at the end of November so keep an eye out for what they have in store this year.

Chessington World Of Adventure – The Winter’s Tail event at Chessington World Of Adventure is always a fantastic day out. There is the chance to visit Santa in his grotto, ride on a few selected rides that are specially opened including our favourite – The Gruffly River Ride Adventure, decorate festive treats in the Gruffly kitchen and something new this year will be The Gruffalo Christmas Groove.

alongside all of this they are also offering sleepover packages and we can highly recommend a stay in their fantastic hotel.

Painshill Park – This one for us has the ultimate wow factor when it comes to the grotto. After a walk along a pretty lit walkway you find your way to the crystal grotto where Father Christmas is waiting to hand out his gifts.

It is certainly different from the norm and gets booked up extremely quickly so don’t leave it until the last minute.

Southbank – If you are looking for a day out with festive foods, quirky gifts and the perfect London backdrop then the christmas market at Southbank if definitey one for the list.

Hobbledown – I am so sad that I won’t be going along to the toddlers lunch with Father Christmas this year.

I have visited for many years now and it is the perfect trip for preschoolers where they decorate a biscuit, have some lunch and meet Santa in the cutest little wooden hut.

Winerville – We had our first trip here last year and it really exceeded our expectations. It is an uber cool experience in the heart of Clapham common offering a bit of everything from great food and drink to ice skating, roller skating, fairground rides, crazy golf and a whole lot more.

Disney On Ice – This has become somewhat of a tradition for us to visit a few days before christmas. The culmination of all our favourite Disney characters, the chill of the ice and the excitement of Christmas makes for a great day out.

National Trust – We have visited a fair few properties over the festive period and each one has its on unique and wonderful christmas feel. They offer visits to Father Christmas, crafts galore christmas markets and brilliant trails to wear the kids out which is always a bonus!

CBeebies Christmas Show:Thumbelina – Getting cosy in the cinema is perfect at this time of year and when its to watch a classic such as Thumbelina put on by some of your favourite Cbeebies characters then its always going to be a hit.

We are off to see this later in the year so keep an eye out for what we think!

RHS Wisley – Now the illuminated trail at Wisley is something I’ve heard so many good things about but haven’t actually got there yet. I think it will have to go on my list for this year.

Winter Wonderland – If you want Christmas on a grand scale then this is the place for you. Winter Wonderland is a huge area in Hyde Park full of fairground rides, food stalls, gifts, ice skating, shows and bucket loads more. We had our first trip there last year and had an amazing time!

Bocketts Farm – I love a farm visit over the christmas period and Bocketts offers an amazingly festive day out complete with a trip to santa in his hay barn.

The Snowman – My children laugh at how much I love The Snowman in any form. My first love was of course the illustrated character and I have loved watching how he has evolved over the years. We watched the stage show a few years ago which was absolutly spell binding and keep the attention of my younger two for over two hours which is no mean feat. This year there is also a magical exhibition at the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, an immersive experience at The Backyard Cinema, a special story telling session at Bath Pavilions by the talented author Michael Morpurgo and a the most magical showing of the animated film at the Royal Albert Hall accompanied by the Royal Philamonic Orchestra.

Priory Farm – This has been our Christmas Eve tradition for a few years now. We stop off in the cafe for a mince pie and a warm drink, get the last of our foodie bits at the fab farm shop and a trek round the discovery walk to wear out the over excited little one.

A Sleepover At Alton Towers

A few weeks ago now we took the long journey to Alton Towers. I had not visited this theme park since I was sixteen and I was eager to see the changes and introduce the children to all the fun.

After a five hour drive we were more than happy to arrive at the Splash Landings Hotel. Its bright and cheery decor made for a warm welcome and once inside our family room we were pleasantly surprised by how spacious it was.

There were facilities to make a much needed cup of tea and before long beds had been claimed and we rested our heads in anticipation for a big day ahead. The room offered everything we need from cosy beds, a good shower and entertainment packs to keep the little ones amused. The only problem we encountered were our nightmare neighbours that keep us awake for half the night!

We headed down for breakfast and had a little bit more time to explore the hotel in the light of day where the children stood amazing by the huge waterpark that was housed in the centre of the hotel. Sadly we just didn’t have the time to try it out but it really did look absolutely amazing.

Time to fuel for the day we made our way to the restaurant to have our breakfast where there was a huge variety of food to choose from. From cereal and fruit to a full english breakfast.

The children loved being able to go an help themselves to cereal from the special machine and chose from the vast selection at the hot buffet. It was also a really refreshing change to have so much choice for Frankie and all his allergies.

Full to the brim it was time to head off to the park for a day of fun. There is a shuttle bus that you can catch to take you directly to the park but we chose to take the short walk.

Once inside we spilt up with Archie and Izzy heading off to the thrill seeking rides whist we stayed with the younger two and headed off to CBeebies Land.

CBeebies Land had been on our list of places to visit for a while now and as soon as I saw the boys faces light up as soon as they saw the huge, rainbow coloured welcome sign I knew that they were going to love every minute. They dashed back and forth for sometime before they finally decided on their first ride which as the In The Night Garden Magical Boat Ride that saw us winding through a little stream spotting all our favourite characters as we went, next up we took to the sky with the Go Jetters, played at being Postman Pat in the bright red van, took in the sights of the whole of Cbeebies Land with the ‘Get Set Go’ Tree Top Adventure.

We took a little break from the rides and took a walk around the much calmer Something Special Sensory Garden and found some familiar names in the walk of fame.

There was so much to see and do and so resfeshing to have such a huge area dedicated to preschoolers in a theme park as this is something that is so often missing.

A quick pitstop with our adrenaline junkies who came back buzzing from the excitement of the amazing Wicker Man and Oblivion. I think I was actually most exited that the two children they get on the least had spent some quality time together and enjoy each and every minute of it. Hot doughnuts are a must on a day out like this and we plotted up on the huge grassy area that was perfect to take in the pretty surrounds Alton Towers has to offer.

I was a little concerned that Frankie was going to be a bit left out when it came to the bigger rides but I needn’t have worried as there was a huge variety of family friendly rides that were a good middle ground for those that couldn’t enjoy the thrill seeking rides but still wanted something a little faster.

I loved that we could all take to the water in the River Rapids, Swing high and low in the Heave Ho and battle with our competitors on the Battle Galleons.

Fit to fall after a day full of fun and adventure we headed back on the monorail to the Crooked Spoon restaurant to fill our hungry bellies and rest our weary feet.

When we arrived I was really surprised at the laid-back, outdoorsy feel to it which was right up my street. The little play area directly outside meant that the children could happy play whist waiting on their food.

When in came to the food there was a great choose for both adults and children from juicy burgers and mouth water steaks to roasted summer vegetable carbonara and spicy Sri Lankan curry.

I opted for a classic prawn cocktail to start followed by a creamy chicken carbonara which came served with a beautifully crispy chuck of garlic bread. The larger men of the family dived into a huge bowl of loaded nachos that i couldn’t help but try followed by a mixed grill that definitely came with their seal of approval.

The little ones had a mixture of dishes such as soup and crusty rolls, fresh melon and delicious sausage and mash that they all devoured with not one complaint which is a rarity.

Im not sure how we managed but I couldn’t resist desert – especially cheesecake, and Izzy defintiy wasn’t going to turn down a gooey chocolate browniw with a side of ice-cream now was she!

The friendly, attentive staff who didn’t batter an eyelid when they had to clean up an entire glass of squash that was poured over the table minutes after we sat down and didn’t moan once about having to navigate the huge cuddly toys they had won earlier was a real bonus to a fantastic meal.

If I was to round up our experience of Alton Towers I would say it was a bundle of fun from beginning to end, thoroughly exausting and definitely worth a trip.

* We were invited to Alton Towers for the weekend for the purpose of this review and they are all my own, honest opinions.

Behind The Scenes At Sea Life

For many years now my gang have loved visiting Sea Life. They love being able the ability to wander around freely discovering all kinds of weird and wondful creatures that live under the sea…well actually a fare few that live above it too!

The other week we headed to Southbank for a trip around our favourite Sea Life and the chance to take a look behind the scenes with their behind the scenes tour.

In our usual fashion we were running late and had to rush in and get over to the behind the scenes tour. So a quick dash over the shark walkway which the boys weren’t to impressed about and a zig zag past everything else we got their just in time to be greeted by our friendly and thankfully laid back tour guide.

The doors were opened and we headed behind all the exhibits to a small area that was home to some very special creatures. I was a little apprehensive about taking this tour with Oscar as he is only four but only being 30 mins long it was the perfect timing to keep him engaged and I was so pleased to see that all three of them listening intently as we were shown round.

We got the chance to see some of the fish being feed, meet a beautiful chinese snapper turtle that had sadly been discarded by his owner, meet some super cool sea dragons that fast became my favourite of the day due to the male getting pregnant and so much more.

The children loved being shown the huge variety of food the animals were feed, thoroughly enjoyed being able to get hands on and touch things from lobster shells to egg pods, and the highlight for me was how much information they were given and were able to retain as the tour was done in such a relaxed, interactive and informative way.

Full to the brim with a whole host of knowledge on marine life we headed back out to explore the rest of Sea Life. One tip is to get there as early as you can to avoid the crowds although to be honest even though we were there in the middle of the school holidays it was really easy to navigate still and didn’t feel like we struggled to see things in any of the tanks.

The aquarium is set out in sections which include Shark Walk, Atlantic Coasts, Ray Lagoon, Rock Pool, Open Ocens, Ship Wreck, Ocean Tunnel, Nemo’s Coral Reef, Seahorse Kingdom, Creatures Of The Rainforest, Thames Walk, Penguin Point, Conservation Cove, Shark Reef and Ocean Invaders.

Each area has its own uniqueness to it and being in distinct groups means its a lot easier to for the children to understand where each creature is from.

The sharks were certainly a huge hit with the boys and we sat for ages watching them glide around the tanks in their majestic manner, they all got to touch a star fish which I think is such a wonderful experience and something you certainly can’t do everyday! For me the highlight had to be the seahorses as I am always in awe of their delicate beauty.

As we moved around each section I loved the fact it wasn’t all about gazing into tanks, We thoroughly enjoyed getting a shock from the jelly fish wall, getting a nip from a parihna and climbing on board a distressed ship that was getting battered with thunder and lightening.

For us Sea Life gets better and better on each visit and there really is something for people all ages to enjoy. We will be back very soon!

*We were asked along to Sea Life for the purpose of this review and they are all my own, honest opinions.