Sundown Adventureland, Retford

We had THE BEST day at this amazing theme park for the under 10s! We’d been last year, and had a great day but left feeling the park was a little tired in places and needed some tlc. Since then there’s been some!

The park consists of a number of areas with themed rides and play areas. There are also small towns, with lots to explore and buttons to press! With a couple of indoor soft play areas there is lots to do in all weather 👍👍

At three, Jess was able to go on all but one of the attractions, and I was able to take James (7 weeks) on most things too.

The rides were definitely the highlight for Jess, her favourite was the water ride which was a pirate themed raft ride which squirted you as you went past! She liked driving the tractors on that ride; great that with four seats our whole little family could get on.

My personal favourites were the flying pigs and ostrich ride!

The play areas are fab; we loved the fort with all the slides and Captain Sandy’s Play Cove which is based on a huge sandpit.

There are picnic areas all over, but there are plenty of food places too (if a little pricey). There’s a great ice cream shop!

If you have small children I honestly can’t recommend this place enough! We spent the full day here and still didn’t cover everything. I think the ticket prices are great value compared to other days out, particularly if you pay in advance!

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Chester Zoo

On Monday we visited Chester Zoo; it made sense to break up our return journey from Wales and we’ve never taken Jess before. It was a lovely day for it, but even if the weather hadn’t been as good there’s lots of shelter around, making this a great day out all year round.

It’s an impressive start; the elephants are the first thing you come to and so Jess was on side from the moment that we arrived.

There are plenty of ‘big’ animals about; lions and tigers, chimps and orangutans, rhinos and giraffes. But plenty of smaller animals too- particularly inside the huge buildings like the Tropical Realm. And best of all there’s LOADS of information; loads of stats and interesting stats to read. We were having such a good time I took barely any photos!

When we’d been previously we’d never made it to the ‘Islands’ area, but this time we did, and enjoyed the boat trip. James wasn’t allowed on (children have to be able to walk unaided) so I went on with Jess who gave a running commentary to the whole boat 😂

There are picnic benches everywhere if you plan on taking food with you, but also lots of choices to buy things dotted about. We just had burgers from the food court, but MASSIVELY regretted our choice when we saw the street food kitchen in the islands area. The food isn’t priced too badly, but drinks ramp it up, and we were surprised that water bottles could only be filled at certain food areas; the smaller snack vans sent you elsewhere. On such a hot day we would have liked more options for warmer fountains etc.

Other things we didn’t do but want to, are a trip on the monorail and a go on the treetop challenge (both have a supplementary cost), as well as visit the free nature reserve that you can get to from the car park.

It’s a big site, and so there’s lots of walking. Jess was shattered by the end! You can hire buggies (single and double) at the entrance if you need it.

Overall a really good day out with LOADS to see; which you’d expect from the admission price. It’s definitely worth it, but do go prepared- think about the amount of walking, take more drinks and snacks than you would do usually and perhaps plan your route and must-see animals before you go. If you want to see any of the animal talks they’re on the website so you can plan this into your day too.

The Alnwick Garden, Northumberland

These gardens are just GORGEOUS. On a sunny day, grab a picnic and head there to enjoy the stunning surroundings. Even better, if you picked up a copy of Gardner’s World back in May you can get in on the 2 for 1 offer.

On entering the ticketed area you see the superb cascading fountains. They are spectacular, and provide lots of entertainment watching people getting caught out and soaked! In front of the fountains are mini diggers that our three year old enjoyed using to collect water and dump it over my feet!

The grassy area soon filled up with picnic rugs and deck chairs as families set up for the day. There are some provided, but got snapped up quickly so I think you need to get in fast! The cafe does do really good food, but expect to pay high prices… no doubt partly the reason for the number of picnickers!

Before we arrived we downloaded the free app; A Giant Adventure. This was fantastic – you can see the giant asleep in the Lake outside, and then follow the trail inside. The app uses augmented reality and is really good fun. Jess LOVED it, although it completely baffled her 😂😂

Inside the garden we all loved the different fountains and water features, lots of fun. Lots of children were playing in them in the scorching weather, although there were signs around warning against this. A few surprise water spurts soaked some over eager parents… great laughs.

The gardens are perfect to explore and wander around. Covered walkways take you up the side of the cascade fountains to a gorgeous flower garden, brimming with colour!

There are further surprises dotted about the gardens that kept Jess engaged!

We didn’t enter the Poison Garden on this visit, but it does seem a firm favourite for many, with tours every 20 minutes.

At the gardens you can also play golf and go on a woodland walk.

Overall it’s a really good day out, particularly when you can take advantage of the weather. If you’re visiting the area its somewhere you should try to fit into your itinerary- particularly if it’s a sunny day! If you’re not staying in the area, its right next to Alnwick Castle so you could combine the two to make the most of a day trip.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield

To a certain extent I consider this place my old stomping ground; back when I was a Leeds Uni student I switched electives in Law for Dance (the natural choice) and so regularly travelled to the Bretton Hall campus for classes. It still brings back happy memories when I see the old buildings 😍 We came here on an EXTREMELY wet Monday, Steve’s last day of his paternity leave. Jess may have been less than impressed with our rainy walk, but we were still impressed with the beautiful grounds and variety of sculptures.

Whilst there’s not your usual family attractions here (namely no play area), there are activities that children can engage in; the website is a good starting point. It has a number of resources that can be used.

The essentials

  • Location: https://ysp.org.uk/visit/getting-here
  • Parking: It’s pricey; over 2 hours is £12. BUT with no entrance fee it still means a relatively cheap family day out.
  • Facilities: Plenty of benches if you want packed lunches. A few cafes with good toilets and change facilities.
  • Accessibility: Mixed. There are definitely flat paths suitable for buggies, but not all of them are, so choose the route of your visit carefully. If it’s your first visit it might be worth checking at the visitor centre so you don’t get stuck. Parts of the grounds are also closed off for renovations which also doesn’t help.

This place is gorgeous, and is a great place to take children exploring! Here’s some pictures from our visit, we’ll have to head back in the sunshine when Jess is a bit happier to be outdoors!

There were some smiles!!

Jess was less than impressed with the rain!

Damflask Reservoir walk with a great cafe stop! (3.5 miles)

This is another lovely walk courtesy of Yorkshire Water; it’s buggy friendly, and with the option to stop at the fab licensed cafe in Low Bradfield, it’s a great choice for families.

Route: Download the route here; https://www.yorkshirewater.com/things-to-do/walks/damflask

Facilities: In Low Bradfield a local family friendly cafe open Wednesday to Sunday has great food, a small play area and good toilets 👍 Plenty of benches around the route.

Accessibility: Pretty flat with decent paths (small sections on the road), suitable for buggies

Parking: Lots of roadside free parking. We parked on the damn.

The route is really clear and there is no need for a map- just follow the side of the reservoir. We went in a clockwise direction starting at the damn. There are loads of spots to stop for a picnic by the waterside, or benches on the path.

The advantage of starting at the damn means that the half way point is Low Bradfield, a short detour from the path takes you into this pretty village, where we found an ice cream van as well as The School Rooms, a massive find!! We’d had a picnic, but stopped in for drinks when Jess caught sight of the bouncy castle! The food looked awesome, next time we’re definitely stopping for lunch!

I love that this reservoir has boats! The walk back passes the boathouse giving Jess another point of interest. After the walks there are lots of pubs nearby for further refreshments and toilets (I sound bloody obsessed with toilets but given 4 weeks ago I gave birth that’s allowed).

Overall, it’s a fab little walk, I was so impressed that Jess managed most of it and was cheery throughout (although the ice cream van helped her spirits). A massive thumbs up!

A perfect day at Saltburn-by-the-Sea

Move over Whitby, we have a new favourite seaside town!! I cannot believe we’ve not visited this total gem of a place before! It seriously has EVERYTHING that you could want for a perfect day at the seaside.

Our day was off to a great start getting the Cliff Lift (Great Britain’s oldest water balanced funicular railway in operation) from the town down to the pier (£1.10 adult).

Down on the beach you can get fish and chips, sweets, or play adventure golf. We hired deck chairs for £1.50 per half day from the Surf school to sit on the beach with a picnic whilst Jess made sandcastles. Well actually she made sand crocodiles, but it kept her entertained! The beach is huge and sandy… and damp so perfect for building on!

Next up a walk along the pier (sole surviving Victorian pier in the North East), and a look at offerings from the Yarnbusters!

We let Jess burn through some 2ps at the amusements next, because you really can’t visit the seaside without a chance to be up on 2p.

Toilet stop! OMG these were probably the nicest public loos I’ve ever seen. I chickened out of taking any pictures!

We walked along the seafront and picked up ice creams before spotting Saltburn valley, where we squeezed into the miniature railway with pram for a one way trip. We came across this by chance, so were completely oblivious to the delights of the Valley! On our next visit (100% we’ll be back soon) I think we’ll spend more time to explore this properly. There seem loads of little trails in the beautiful woodland. And we didn’t visit the Woodland Centre which also looks a great place to see!

We took the short walk back from the drop off point of the railway past the play area and stream where lots of people were taking advantage of the sunny weather with picnics and paddling.

After another short play on the beach we headed back to the car via the cliff lift. The town looks lovely too, so I’m looking forward to exploring that next time. Another advantage to Saltburn over Whitby is that the drive back doesn’t involve the A64 and so much more traffic free!!

We’ve had SUCH a good day I can’t wait to return!!

Adventure Valley, Durham

Don’t go expecting bells and whistles, this place is refreshingly all about good old-fashioned family fun!

We’re up in Newcastle introducing James to family, so thought we’d take advantage of the trip to squeeze in a visit to Adventure Valley. We’ve not been before, and after seeing mixed reviews on the internet weren’t quite sure what to expect but I’m pleased to say that we had a great day, with lots of fun and laughs!

I’m not sure what you can compare Adventure Valley to; it’s great mix of farm, play areas and soft play. As with any of these places, on a sunny day it would be fantastic- particularly for slightly older children where you could set up a picnic base and let them explore the masses of outdoor play areas.

We were impressed with the selection of animals, particularly in creature corner which housed the world’s fastest tortoise (who didn’t move) and a variety of reptiles. There are regular petting experiences- even on a week day (although no pony rides through the week). Goat mountain gave you the chance to pull food up to the goats by a train!

The play areas are fab. In the bottom field there are loads of things to explore; slides, forts, sandpits, pirate ships, zip wire… with lots of picnic tables dotted about.

The Dragon Slide was a hit…. the first time Jess went down. Second time she fell out on the way down, not quite so successful! Think maybe for a little older ones.

The Bouncing Pillows were fun, and there was a separate one for over 5s which reduced the worry of bigger children jumping all over Jess!

As well as petting activities through the day, there are tractor rides and at weekends goat racing.

Other things to enjoy;

  • The indoor soft play area (including an area for under 5s) next to the cafe, which we thought was reasonably priced. There’s also an Indoor Wild West Area.
  • Pedal Go karting track for older children and pedal tractors for those too little
  • The Runaway Races for over 4s- like a huge slide in inflatable rings

I’m sure there’s more- you can pay extra to do adventure golf too. In the summer it looks like a Maize Maze will be open.

Website: https://www.adventurevalley.co.uk

We bought tickets the day before online; as it was a weekday we paid £7.95 each (under twos free in). Personally I thought this was well worth the money. I’m not sure we’d make the trip from Yorkshire specifically for a day out here, but would certainly come again if we’re up this way and looking for a fun day out.

  • Cannon Hall Farm, Barnsley

    Making the most of the hubby’s paternity leave, on Monday we celebrated James’ one week birthday with a trip to the always-fun Cannon Hall Farm. Whilst he slept most of the afternoon, Jess had a great time and did not want to leave! We were so busy enjoying ourselves I forgot to take many pictures, so instead of a blow by blow account of what we got up to, here are the reasons we love to visit…

    The Play Areas

    Always happy with a slide, there’s a great adventure playground with lots of slides and tunnels. She loved the tube maze (pictured above)- especially when she saw what had happened to her hair! she spent at least half an hour on here exploring. We also tried the indoor soft play for the first time- what a fantastic space! There were some great slides, and for the younger ones a designated space.

    Farm Life

    It’s a farm! So seeing the animals is a clear perk. We were lucky enough to see newborn piglets en masse. And I felt suitably silenced complaining about the pain of breastfeeding when I saw 11 piglets climbing and squealing over each other to get to their tired mother. Never have I been so glad not to be a pig 🤣🤣

    As well as standard farm animals (pigs, goats, sheep, cows), there’s a really great reptile house. There’s also lots of opportunities to pet animals throughout the day. Jess was resistant to the iguana, but much happier to see the rabbits!

    Tractor Trailer rides are good fun- just be warned that through the week they’re less frequent.

    Quirky Activities

    Sheep racing and ferret racing are highlights of any visit here. The gambler in me always loves a good race, and combining this with some good ‘ole family fun is a winning combination!!!

    And finally….

    The food!! It’s got a great farm shop and cafes- including a dog friendly one. Get a stamp to enter/ exit the farm as much as you need.

    So in all a great family day out. Top tip; if you’re local after 3.30pm the entry price drops to just £3 and whilst you might have missed most of the organised activities, there’s still plenty of time for play and animals!

    Website: http://cannonhallfarm.co.uk/about-the-farm/

    Plumpton Rocks, Harrogate

    If you’re looking for a stunning picnic spot with lots of opportunities for little ones to explore, Plumpton Rocks should be top of your list! With a short lakeside walk and plenty of rocks for scrambling around its a great destination to create some real family adventures.

    Website: http://plumptonrocks.com

    Accessibility: Not suitable for buggies- be prepared for steps, slopes and scrambling.

    Cost: It was £3.50 an adult and £2.50 a child on our visit- but check website for up to date pricing

    Opening: Weekends only in season, 11am-6pm.

    Facilities: None, parking included in entry cost.

    If you’re looking for a decent walk, this probably isn’t the place for you. It’s barely a kilometre to walk around the lake. BUT if you’re looking to spend a few hours adventuring and exploring in some incredible scenery then this is the perfect place. I can’t believe we hadn’t been before!

    I’m not sure what we were expecting, after looking at the website I could see it was a pretty picturesque area. But I was completely unprepared for the beauty we found there.

    After looking at the information board, we decided to do a rough circuit of the lake. From the car park, moving in a clockwise direction it’s a steep descent down to the lake for little legs, but straight away it captured Jessica’s imagination. The path of the west side of the lake gave pretty views and a walk through some bluebells.

    At the top of the lake was a great grassy area perfect for picnics and a run around. Following the path round the rocks start and the exploring begins!

    There are loads of little trails and climbs for children; surprises round every corner! No areas seemed off limits, so you can explore to your hearts content, and easily get lost amongst the rocks! I loved that there were benches situated in the most surprising of places.

    Obviously the scenery continued to delight too! In the woodland behind the lakeside rocks there was more fun to be had with den building and even more climbing!

    If you haven’t been before, get that picnic packed and prepare to see some serious energy getting burned off. An absolute treat to find.

    Five Fab Reasons to visit Harewood with children

    We’re making the most of our Gardner’s World 2-4-1 cards and so today spent this sunny Friday afternoon at Harewood. The gorgeous weather kept us out of the house itself, so here’s our top five things we enjoyed whilst there!

    1. The Himalayan Garden

    All I can say is wow. Such GORGEOUS colours and beautiful setting with a stream running through and stepping stones. The fact a 3 year old was so taken by it just shows it’s charms. Absolutely lush.

    2. The Bird and Animal Experiences

    Through the courtyard you can enter the animal experience. Lucky them, they have a pretty incredible view! There’s a relatively small selection of animals, but enough to keep interest with rabbits, goats and pigs. The birds include penguins 😍 with a twice daily penguin feed to watch! There are also flamingoes, owls and macaws. Harewood and the surrounding is also famed for the possibility of spotting Red Kites, and we were incredibly lucky to see one really close during our picnic. Breathtaking.

    3. The ferry across to a picture perfect picnic area

    There is a free ferry between the bird garden and the picnic area- it’s a short trip across but a novelty journey to get lunch! There was a converted horse box selling refreshments- including Prosecco if the mood takes you!

    4. The Play area

    What would a family friendly day out be without a decent play area? This one is a good size with different age-appropriate equipment.

    5. Pretty walks around the grounds

    Walking from the picnic area towards the Himalayan Garden takes you past Fairy tree ❤️ If you have older children you could keep them entertained with one of the trails on the Families page of the website. The path between the walled garden and lake affords some stunning views, and we were delighted to see some cows cooling off!

    Other highlights;

    • Food and drink is reasonable and readily available (including ice cream!)
    • The Curiosity Cabin; a place for little ones to learn and get creative
    • The House!
    • Facilities for changing and toilets 😂😂 such a mum comment but so important!
    • The walled garden- with scarecrow!

    For full details of Harewood visit their website; https://harewood.org

    Enjoy!