Diggerland, Castleford

IT’S the place you and your children get to operate live, real diggers – and it’s not as easy as it looks.

Before arriving, I was a bit worried my three-year-old son would be too young to enjoy the rides, but measuring over a meter tall he was allowed to go on practically everything.

For most rides, children have to measure a minimum of 90cm and staff do measure them ahead of every ride to make sure they are safe to go on it. There is also a minimum height to drive some of the rides.

But there was something for everyone. There was even a baby digger ride for my one-year-old daughter, and the attraction was perfect for my seven-year-old nephew and five-year-old niece.

But, I must say, I think some of the adults in our party enjoyed it just as much as, if not more than, the children did.

Mummy and Oliver attempt a big one!

As a desk-bound office worker, being let loose on a JCB digger isn’t something I ever imagined doing, or ever thought could be so much fun.

But I can’t have been the only adult enjoying it because a quick scan of the park revealed plenty of adults queuing up to have a go, without children in tow.

We started off with a gentle ride, on the Dig-a-round – sitting in digger seats that went round and round like a carousel – which was fun for the younger members of our party.


We also had a go on the Diggerland train – again, something for people of all ages.

Next, the children went on the mini land rovers. It’s one for children between 90cm and 140cm, so not one adults can join them on.

They all loved it because the cars are not computer driven, so the children must drive them around the track themselves, through a mini-course, which includes navigating over a bridge.

All three children with us loved this, and we only had one crash between them. Next, it was time to operate a giant digger.

Operating a huge piece of machinery by digging, lifting and releasing the dirt might not sound like fun, but it genuinely was.

My son Oliver sat on my knee in the cab and basically went wild at being let loose with the controls. It was like giving him free run in a sweet shop.


The fact he could control such a huge piece of machinery “on his own” was an amazing experience for him.

Across the park are the smaller diggers, which have very cleverly been turned into a game of hook a duck, which tests the drivers’ skill and precision at the controls. For the more daring customer, there is the Spin Dizzy ride – the biggest at the park.

My mum and sister could be heard screaming across the park as they were hurled up in the air on a massive JCB and spun around.

Spin Dizzy

The best part about it is that the rides are operated by a staff member and so no two goes on the same ride are the same.

I didn’t brave Spin Dizzy, but I did have a go on the Shuttle, where you are raised high in the air by a forklift.

The Shuttle

I thought it just went off for a gentle drive, but once behind the trees in an open field of mud, the driver went crazy doing skids to give us a thrill.


There is also an indoor soft-play area, and a café and plenty of picnic benches should you want to take your own picnic.


Although there is plenty to enjoy included in the theme park entry price, there are also a couple of extra paid-for rides, including the dodgems and motorised cars.

If you’ve not got Diggerland on your list of places to visit this summer, I’d highly recommend you do. It’s not a cheap day out but worth it for such a memorable one.



  • Reviewed Summer 2014


Need to know…….

LOCATION:  Willowbridge Lane, Castleford, West Yorkshire WF10 5NW.

OPEN: Every weekend from 10am to 5pm and during school holidays. A full opening times list is available online.

PRICES: £19.99 for people who measure 90cm and over – if booked online.

CALL: 0871 2277007.

VISIT: http://www.diggerland.com







East Park, Hull


THEY SAY:  Visit Hull’s largest park, one of the premier park venues in the north of England.

WE SAY: Fab day out, whatever the weather and best of all it’s all free.

We love East Park and visit often – mainly because it’s free!  We can rely on it for a day out, whether it’s for some summer fun with ice creams and donkey rides or a winter’s walk to kick the leaves, East Park is always open.

As soon as you are through the gates and into the 130 acres of open space, it feels a world away from the busy city that surrounds it.

For me, as I’m sure it is for many locals, the park is a place full of childhood memories and now somewhere my children are making their childhood memories.


It was opened in 1887 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee and recently underwent a £10m transformation.

We usually start in the play park. It’s got everything from swings and slides to a zip wire and trampolines.


The last time we went, my four-year-old son Oliver was having such fun on the trampoline that his trousers fell down!


We always have a go on the donkeys when they’re there too. It’s usually about £1.50 for quick go which is a rip-off because you don’t get long at all, but the kids love it!




No visit to East Park is complete without a visit to the animal education centre. If you’re feeling brave, get up close to the indoor collection of snakes, tarantulas, millipedes and beetles.

You can walk through the centre and into the outdoors again at the other side, where you will find everything from peacocks, guinea pigs, rabbits and goats to deer, alpacas and wallabies.


There is also a walk-through aviary, which is one of the largest in the country and includes Koi carp, waterfall gardens and exotic birds.

2014: Jasmine with her Great-Grandad in the aviary

Visitors are reminded not to feed any of the animals and birds because they are on special diets and the wrong food could be harmful. You can talk to the parrot though, and he will talk back!

Thee’s plenty of places to have a picnic so you can take your own and use the picnic benches or sit on the grass.


There’s also a steel musical instrument section which encourages the children to pretty much bang as loud as they can – what’s not to love?!


There’s often ice cream vans parked in the park, or there’s a side street opposite the splash boat which does a great Mr Whippy!

Oliver & Jasmine with their Great-Grandma

The splash boat is just one of three in the country and has been providing thrills and memories for visitors since 1929.

A footpath runs alongside the length of the water chute so viewing is made a lot easier, and wetter.

The splash boat is now back up and running which is a must for most children.

There is also a 16-acre boating lake which was dug out by unemployed locals after World War I. Now, you can take a peddle around the lake during the summer in a swan pedallo boat, or enjoy a trip in a more traditional row boat.

All boats run from the wooden jetty in front of the boathouse and charges apply.

There’s also the land train for a small charge which takes you on a little ride around the park. Don’t expect to see too much though as it’s mainly open fields it takes you to!


If you enjoy hearty homecooked meals, visit the family run Pavilion cafe.  The cafe is popular with local community groups and welcomes residential home outings.

There is also a wide selection of specially adapted bikes for use by children and young people with disabilities and their families and carers in the park. The scheme is also open to adults with disabilities.

The water play area is still closed while the council consider it’s long term future.


LOCATION: Holderness Road, east Hull, HU8 8JU.

OPEN: The park is staffed daily from 7.30am until dusk. Times depend on season.

PRICES: Free entry.

CALL: 01482 300300.

WEB: www.hullcc.gov.uk

Blue Kangaroo, Cottingham

THEY SAY: A fantastic children’s indoor adventure play centre. We have capped our age limit to 8 years old to help reduce the all too familiar scene of older kids riding rough shot over the younger ones.

WE SAY: Perfect indoor soft play for younger children. I’ll be sad when mine are too old to go.


When you’ve got young children, there is nothing worse than allowing them to enter the world of the huge indoor play centres where you know they are likely to get trampled on by the bigger kids within seconds.

Every parent knows smaller children are easy prey for the spotty teenager who can push and shove in the dark corners while mum enjoys a gossip with friends, blissfully unaware her child is tormenting the others.

It’s for this reason I’ve always avoided the big play centres – especially on a rainy day – so I was really pleased when I was introduced to Blue Kangaroo, which is everything its larger counterparts are not.

The adventure play and party centre in Cottingham has a capped age limit of eight years old – so the younger ones won’t get duffed up by the older ones!

It goes without saying the kids love the multi-level adventure play frames, but it’s also a very pleasant experience for adults, too.

Firstly, it’s a lot smaller than the massive indoor play centres where the kids tend to get lost.

The adventure play equipment has been designed and positioned to allow parents to sit back, relax (if you’re lucky) and enjoy a drink, snack or meal and still keep a close eye on the children from almost any seat in the centre.

Staff are very friendly and there is also a great café serving a variety of hot and cold food, with proper filter coffee.

If you want somewhere indoors, it’s the perfect place to take the kids to allow them to let off some steam without the worry of them being pushed and shoved by the older kids.

It’s obvious a lot of thought has gone into developing the intimate family entertainment centre.

There is a separate area designed for children under three, which includes a two- level padded play frame with biff bags, over and under runs, a ball pool, a slide and soft play.

The larger area for the four to eight-year- olds includes a bigger double slide, spinners, steps, wobbly floors, biff bags, roller squeezes, spiders webs and tunnels

TIP: Socks must be worn at all times so don’t forget!

All play equipment is RoSPA-checked and has been created to provide challenges that will help develop your children’s co-ordination, fitness and social skills, all in the shape of fun.

There is also a large area with Little Tykes cars for your little ones to race each other in.

My son Oliver loves the place so much he chose it as the venue for his fourth birthday party, and my daughter had her 3rd birthday party there.

In the past I’ve hired a venue and sorted our own invites, food and entertainment, which can actually be quite stressful – especially for a December birthday, when it’s a busy time of year anyway.

This year, I booked Blue Kangaroo and they took care of it all. It was so nice on the day being able to enjoy the party with my son and his friends, rather than being in the background setting out the food and blowing up balloons.

When I add up what I’ve spent on previous birthdays, it was actually very good value for money at Blue Kangaroo.

On the day, I felt I’d forgotten something because all I needed to do was turn up with Oliver. It was so stress-free it was worth every penny.

You can host your party at Blue Kangaroo for £7.95 per child, which includes 90 minutes of play, plus 30 minutes of food in the dedicated party room, unlimited juice, a balloon for each child and a free return visit voucher for the birthday child.

Jasmine’s 2nd birthday party – April 2015

Optional extras include pass the kangaroo and pin the tail on the kangaroo. Or, you can do as I did and hire out the entire venue for £225, which includes 20 invites, including food.

It was so nice having the entire place to ourselves. Oliver thought it was brilliant he knew everyone there and it was special that it was closed to all others because it was his birthday.

The only problem is, we’ve been to so many great parties there, that if we now go on our own, Oliver asks what time the party food is going to be served!


  • Reviewed April 2015


Need to know….

LOCATION: Finkle Street, Cottingham, HU16 4AZ.

OPEN: Monday to Saturday, from 9am, with last admission 5pm, and Sunday, from 10am, with last admission at 4pm.

PRICES: Babies under eight months old enter for free. Nine months to three years: £2.95. Four to eight year olds: £3.95. Adults: 50p.

CALL: 01482 844200.

E-MAIL: thebluekangaroo@hotmail.co.uk

WEB: www.bluekangarooplay.co.uk

Elsham Hall, Gardens & Country Park, North Lincolnshire

THEY SAY:  One of the most imaginative gardens in England. There is a sensory garden, great drifts of bulbs and wild flowers.

WE SAY: Plenty of open space to run about. Perfect for a few hours of outdoor fun.

IT was meant to be summer when we visited Elsham Hall but despite being August it threw it down! We had to keep stopping for cover, and even ate lunch under a parasol to shelter from the rain – but it didn’t spoil the fun.

I like days out at places like Elsham Hall because it reminds me that great family days out don’t always have to include hours travelling in the car and big theme parks.

Sometimes all kids need is to pull on their wellies and splash in muddy puddles and that’s exactly what we did when we visited.


We packed up a picnic and took my niece and nephew, aged five and seven, and my two children, aged three and 18 months, and we had a great time.

Never too cold for a cocktail sausage!

There’s an adventure playground, animal farm, woodland trail and a walled garden, not to mention the wild butterfly garden and the carp and trout lakes where you can feed the fish.

Located about 20 minutes from the Humber Bridge it’s easy to find and parking is free.

The attraction opens in March and always hosts a lambing Sunday and closes in September.

I’ve noticed a lot of the reviews of Elsham Hall online are negative, noting there isn’t that much to do, and while I agree it may not be a full “day out”, and it is one that should be enjoyed at a slower pace, there was certainly enough to keep us occupied for a few hours, even on a rainy day.

I think days at places like this are what you make of them, but if you like to be entertained, choose to visit at a time when there is something going on because throughout the year there is all sorts, from Easter egg hunts to bank holiday fun days.


The park dates from 1790 and today is well known for the peacocks that freely roam the grounds.

Having bought fish food in the shop at the entrance, my nephew Lewis was keen to find the fish to feed first.


And we didn’t have to look very hard, from the viewing platform dozens of carp immediately swam to the surface to take the food.

We spent quite a while feeding them on the first viewing platform we reached, but just around the corner there is also another bridge platform.

Mummy trying not to fall in!

We enjoyed walking through the butterfly garden and the animal farm area was also another favourite for us.

Main courtyard at Elsham Hall

There is a guinea pig house and we also met Eddie the turkey, who struts his stuff freely, but he did scare my youngest.

The staff are really friendly and helpful and allowed my niece Emily and my son Oliver into the area where the rabbits are kept so they could stroke them.

They were asking all sorts of inane questions, as kids do, but she was very patient in answering them.

There’s also a small farming museum, and an indoor old school where my kids enjoyed sitting at the desks and drawing.


If you visit on a Sunday you will also be able to see the working blacksmith.


  • Reviewed August 2014

Need to know…

LOCATION: Brigg, N.E. Lincolnshire, DN20 0QZ

OPEN: March until September and bank holidays.

PRICES: Adults: £5.75. Children: £4.75, children under 2 are free. Family ticket – £21. Family season ticket £45.

CALL: 01652 688698.


VISIT: www.elshamhall.co.uk


HAVEN: Thorpe Park caravan park, Cleethorpes

THEY SAY: Round-the-clock family fun from dawn until dusk. Our breaks are about spending quality time with your family.

WE SAY: A fantastic well-kept holiday park, right on the beach. Plenty to do for all the family and lots of places in the local area to visit too.


CHILDREN love caravans.

It doesn’t matter how many all-inclusive foreign holidays we go on, or how many luxury hotels we stay in – the excitement for my two when I tell them we’re going to stay in a caravan is unstoppable.


After grabbing their sleeping bags (saves making the beds), they love choosing their bedrooms and fighting over which bed to sleep in. It’s fun, fun, fun all the way and as a family we love it.

One of my friends laughed when I said I was off in a caravan – reckons it’s not something he could imagine me doing. Granted I like my luxuries, but there’s nothing wrong with staying in a caravan. I draw the line at a tent, but if there’s heating and a shower I’m there.

We’ve got a static van, (loving named the tin box) at Thorpe Park in Cleethorpes and despite the fact we go several times a year, the kids never get bored. The holiday park is one of 36 Haven parks nationwide.

It’s a very well kept Haven park so you can be assured of a decent level of service. You can book your accommodation direct with Haven or use a private owner to rent from.

First you need to decide which van to stay in. There’s something for all budgets so you can take your pick from a standard, deluxe, prestige, summer house or platinum van, with either two or three bedrooms to sleep up to six people. Alternatively you could book a pitch and bring your touring caravan or tent. Check-in times vary depending which caravan you go for, but timings are between 1pm and 4pm.

INFO: Travel cots are available to book but are designed to go in the main living room and do not fit in the bedrooms.

If you book directly with Haven the fun passes for all your party are included in the cost of the accommodation. If you book with a private owner the passes will need to be purchased from the reception.


Although you can still access the caravan site including all caravan areas, a large park, two fresh-water lakes, the golf course and access to the beach without the fun passes – they are needed to be able to enter the main complex where you can participate in the kids’ clubs and get unlimited access to the swimming pool, amusements, parks, activities and evening entertainment.


Inside the pass zone, the main outdoor area is a lovely huge open space with parks, trampolines, sand areas and outside seating. You can enjoy a drink from the bar whilst sat outside in the sun whilst the children play which is really relaxing you for and fun for them!



With these passes there’s a variety of daily Haven activities included at no extra charge – for example mini archery, fencing, make a mess craft sessions, baby sensory classes, quizzes pop up theatre and discos. They’re all run by the funstars team who are lively and friendly with the kids.

TIP: Download the Haven app to keep up to date with the daily activities.

Haven also run tons of additional paid-for activities on site including pool parties, the zip wire, the climbing wall, nature classes, fencing, archery, biking, mini golf, water walkers and swimming lessons, to list a few.

Water Walkers and the trampoline.

TIP: You can book your activities online before you come under ‘My account’ in your holiday confirmation online.

Oliver loves the turbo paddlers. The 30 min class is £4 and is taught by an instructor who is in the pool with the little ones. They play games and learn how to manoeuvre them across the pool. The pool is closed during the sessions so the kids (no more than eight) have it to themselves.FotorCreated

In the passes area there’s also a mini fairground which you can buy tokens for and pay for each ride, including helter-skelter, dodgems, bouncy castle and a few smaller rides individually.

Indoors the pool is a big part of the complex and is a massive fun pool with indoor slide, baby pool and Jacuzzi. Outside, when it’s warmer the lazy river is open, along with the outdoor tube slides and there’s plenty of sunbeds too.


© Haven


Outdoors pool fun!

There’s also a big amusements hall, a soft play area, the showbar for the evening entertainment and a large bar/lounge/restaurant area which has been refurbished for 2016.


The whole park is flat so it’s pretty easy to get around, but there is a land train which goes around the site and there are also bikes you can hire. On a recent trip my sister and I had the best laugh trying to transport four kids with us at the back pedaling. *Shout out to the kind bloke who pushed us up the hill when we started going backwards!*


The beach is accessible from directly from the site. It’s just literally sand and sea but is fairly private and only used by Haven guests. If you want to be on the seafront near the amusements, shops, bars and cafes you will need to go into town which is less than ten minutes away by car.

You can also visit the main seafront via the open top bus which comes onto the Thorpe Park site.

On site there’s a Spar shop, but not too far down the road is a massive Tesco Extra if you wanted to do a big shop whilst you’re here.

Don’t forget their scooters for getting around!

INFO: There’s free Wi-Fi in the Carousel Bar

There’s also plenty to do in the local area making it the perfect base for day trips. Pleasure Island Theme Park which is just a stone’s throw away, as is the Jungle Zoo and Cleethorpes Light Coast Railway. On the seafront there’s everything you would expect including amusements, the pier, a massive beach, cafes, bars, restaurants and souvenir shops.

A little further up the road in Lincolnshire is Hall Farm Park, Rand Farm Park, Woodside Wildlife Park and Pink Pig Farm. Not too far are also the cities of Lincoln and Hull which are both worth a visit.

You could easily spend a week away at Thorpe Park with all the activities and events on-site, plus visits to Cleethorpes and other local attractions.

You can also get day passes for Thorpe Park if you’re not planning on staying over.


  • Reviewed April 2015



LOCATION: Thorpe Park Holiday Park, Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, DN35 OPW

OPEN: The park opens from March 31 until October 1.

PRICES: Vary depending on length of stay and time of year. Check website.

CALL: 0333 202 5256

VISIT: www.haven.com/parks/lincolnshire/thorpe-park




Rand Farm Park, Rand, Lincoln


THEY SAY: Kid-focused farm with animals to feed, tractor and trailer rides and indoor and outdoor play areas.

WE SAY: Great family day out. Outdoors and indoors. If we lived closer I’d get a season pass.

I ADMIT I was slightly nervous as my eight-year-old nephew flew through the sky like a superhero when we visited Rand Farm Park. (I couldn’t imagine how I would it to my sister if he ended up with a broken leg!

But as soon as he saw the Sky Rider, he had his harness on quicker than you could ask “Do you want a go?” so I didn’t really have a choice about letting him on or not. He loved gliding through the air on the first attraction of its kind in the UK and I breathed a sign of relief, until my six-year-old niece decided she wanted a go too.

Anyone taller than 1.2m can have a go and it’s included in the price of entry. Let’s hope it stays that way, too!

As the title suggests, Rand Farm Park is a farm, but also has plenty of other attractions, including adventure playgrounds, water wars, summertime sledge racing, go karts and huge inflatable pillows to bounce on.

 Oliver, 4, and Jasmine Lovell, 2, on the summertime sledges 

There was so much to do my two children and niece and nephew were literally running from one thing to the next all day.

We also got a chance to try archery for the first time, which was great fun, but it is definitely more difficult than it looks.



There’s also indoor play if the weather isn’t so nice, but luckily we visited on a hot day so spent the entire day outside.

The farm is impressive. It’s not just a few cows and sheep, there’s a full farm and most of the animals live in cosy, covered pens, ensuring you can still meet them at any time of the year.

There are also lots of animals outside in the paddocks, including alpacas, donkeys, goats, sheep and cows.

We visited in the school holidays when there’s a full animal activity programme, so the children got to hold rabbits, guinea pigs and chicks and feed the lambs and calves with milk bottles. We then saw a full milking demonstration in the diary, which takes place every day at 1pm.

There’s also a chick hatchery, where you can see all stages of the lifecycle, from egg to chick. My four-year-old son particularly liked walking the length of the room seeing in each cage how they grow. I didn’t point out what happens to the ones in the last cage!

TIP: There are plenty of picnic areas and even an indoor area where you can eat your own food, so you don’t have to spend a fortune when you get there.

We had a fab day out and it’s easy to see why the farm has won so many awards for being a great attraction. Click here for the park map.

The farm is also unique in that it also offers farm-stay holidays for schools and groups, with a purpose-built dormitory.

TIP: The farm is suitable for anyone who is disabled and all areas have easy access with wide aisles and ramps.

If you live close enough you can also host your childs birthday party at the farm. Packages start from £12.95 per Child and each birthday party lasts 2 ½ hours.  Plus, you can stay and play at Rand Farm Park after your party. Click here for details.

  • Reviewed August 2015

Need to know…

LOCATION:  Rand, Lincoln, LN8 5NJ

OPEN: All-year-round. Peak season: seven days per week. From 10am to 5pm.

PRICES: Under-twos free. Anyone over two £8.95 online or £9.95 at the gate. Family ticket: £32.50 online or £37.50 on the gate.

CALL: 01673 858904

VISIT: http://www.randfarmpark.com


Gullivers Kingdom, Matlock Bath


THEY SAY: Derbyshire’s Best Family Day Out. The wide range of rides and attractions makes Gullivers Kingdom one of the best theme parks for children in the UK.

WE SAY: Fab day out. Great family feel to the park. Good value for money too.

IF you want a theme park without the teenage crowd, Gullivers Kingdom is for you. There’s three parks across the country and so far we’ve only sampled the one in Matlock Bath. However we love the family-feel about the place and will definitely make a trip to the others in Warrington and Milton Keynes.

The family theme park is aimed at children aged between three and 13 so was perfect for our party which included children from the age of two to nine. It’s very family orientated, there are no bars and no alcohol is permitted. Unlike other large theme parks, you won’t come across groups of teenagers, as not one guest who isn’t part of a family can enter.


There’s everything from teacups and a pirate ship to a log flume and rollercoasters.

I didn’t have to pay for my two-year-old daughter Jasmine, as those shorter than 90cm go free, yet she could still go on 11 of 23 rides and enjoy all of the shows, play areas and interactive experiences.


For Oliver (four) and myself, tickets totaled £30, which was brilliant value for money for a full day out. I spent more at Hull Fair the week before, within the hour!

My son loved Western World, where you can explore little buildings, including a bank, a church and a jail. He also loved operating the diggers, which surprisingly didn’t need extra money to operate.



It also has to be said that the staff on each and every ride were friendly and helpful – with one staff member even charging my phone for me. (Can’t be without it too long or I come out in a rash!)



The theme park is set on a hill, so you do need a bit of energy to get around it, but it offers amazing views over Matlock and was probably the only form of exercise I got in 2015!

TIP: There’s a chairlift and a travellator  and you can get your pram on both to make the uphill sections easier.



The other added bonus is car parking is free.

If you enter your child’s height here, you can see if there are any ride restrictions for them before you go.



I was in two minds whether to allow my children on the log flume or not. They’re only four and two, but they wanted to go on so we gave it a go. It was lovely at first on the flat stretches – but as soon as we made our way up I knew it was a bit of a mistake! Lets just say we only went on it once!





There isn’t a hotel on site at Matlock Bath. We decided to stay over and make a weekend of it. We chose the Bateman’s Mill Hotel, just a 20 minute-drive from the park.

A warm and friendly welcome awaited us when we checked in at the 18th-century converted mill, and our massive family room was really comfortable.

The next day, we enjoyed a full English breakfast before setting off back home. Staying over turned a day out into a memorable weekend away.




Need to know…

LOCATION: Temple Walk, Matlock Bath, Derbyshire, DE4 3PG

OPEN: March to December, excluding November.

PRICES: Children measuring under 90cm go free. £15 if booked online for those taller than 90cm.


  • Lockers
  • Wheelchair hire
  • Cash point
  • Dedicated smoking areas


  • Mother’s feeding room
  • Microwave facilities in the restuarants
  • Baby change rooms in each area of the park
  • First Aid point


VISIT: www.gulliverskingdom.co.uk

HOTEL: www.batemansmillhotel.co.uk



Lightwater Valley, North Yorkshire

Flamingoland, North Yorkshire

CBeebies Land at Alton Towers Resort, Staffordshire

Tropical World, Leeds

THEY SAY: One of the UK’s most popular garden tourist attractions and home to the largest collection of tropical plants outside Kew Gardens

WE SAY: Good value for money and a fun way to spend a couple of hours.

Due to the low admission fee, I was expecting Tropical World in Leeds to be really small and perhaps a bit naff.

Both my children are under five, so they entered entirely for free and my adult ticket was only £5 – so this was a cheap day out to say the least!

But I must say, it really did exceeded my expectations – from snakes and fruit bats to fish and meerkats, we saw them all.

At the Leeds Council-run attraction you can take a walk through the rainforest, stop off briefly in the outback of Australia, before a quick excursion through the desert – all in the same morning.

Oliver catches a butterfly!


My children particularly enjoyed walking through the rainforest and letting the colourful butterflies land on their hands.

It was brilliant to get up so close to them as they flew around in the tropical heat and you can stroll along at your leisure.



I can now see why Tropical World, which is only three miles from the city centre, is one of the most well-loved attractions in Leeds.

We loved seeing the meerkats through their glass enclosure. We were there at feeding time and she enjoyed watching them dive about for food.


There’s a new cafe and it’s conservatory overlooks the  Canal Gardens and there is plenty of outdoor seating too for warmer days. See what’s on offer on the menu here.

We were lucky enough to visit on a warm day, so afterwards we sat outside at the café and enjoyed an ice cream, while the kids ran around in the perfectly manicured gardens.

We then crossed over the road and went to the park to burn off even more energy before the drive back.

Roundhay Park is open every day of the year, with free admisson to over 700 acres of beautiful award winning parkland.

Although it’s not a full day out, going to Tropical World is a nice way to spend a couple of hours which can be lengthened by going to the park too.

Tropical World has recently been refurbished, so if you’ve not been for a few years I am sure it is worth another look.



Parking for Tropical World is on the park’s Perimeter Road, or a five-minute walk away is the official car park, where you can park for free.

I guess the name of the attraction does give it away, but remember, it’s hot inside, so leave coats in the car!



  • Reviewed July 2015

Need to know…

LOCATION: Princes’ Avenue, Roundhay Park, Leeds LS8 1DF

OPEN: Every day of the year, except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. From 10am to 6pm during summer. From 10am to 4pm during winter.

PRICES: Adults: £5. Children aged five to 15: £2.50. Under fives are free.


  • Large cafe
  • Baby change

Call: 0113 2370754

VISIT: www.roundhaypark.org.uk/tropical-world-leeds/#anchor_opening_times

Thorpe Park Resort, Surrey

THEY SAY: One of the first theme parks in the UK. 20 miles from central London. 

WE SAY: Best for older children. The highlight for us was the splashpark and beach.

I nearly passed out as I opened my car door and stepped out from the air conditioning into a 34C heat. I chose the hottest day of the year to visit Thorpe Park theme park and it felt like we were abroad.

Due to the weather, we headed straight for the beach and splashpark area. There was no way I was going to queue with two young children for rides in that sort of heat!

Armed with swimming costumes and buckets and spades, we headed straight for Amity Beach, which lies in the heart of the resort.



TIP: Use the one-time height check for younger guests to avoid having to get them measured at every ride.


We got ourselves a couple of sun loungers, a parasol and made a base, where we stayed for the next few hours enjoying the slides and paddling in the pool.It was so relaxing you could easily forget you were in the centre of a theme park.



I could have stayed there all day actually. I can honestly say it was one of the best family days we had in summer 2015. There’s slides for different age groups and the kids were having a brilliant time but with more than 30 rides and attractions, it was time to explore.

Mummy and Jasmine

For the younger riders, there is the Flying Fish rollercoaster, (need to be a minimum of 0.9m tall), the Teacups (need to be 1.1m tall) Mr Monkey’s banana ride, (need to be at least 0.9m tall), the rocky express train ride (need to be 0.9m), the dodgems (minimum of 1.1m tall) and the Angry Birds 4D experience. However I don’t really think Thorpe Park is the place to go if you’ve only got pre-school aged children. It’s definitely more of a place for older kids. Check the resort map here.

For those who are a little taller, there is the log flume, rumba rapids, quantum magic carpet ride and the Vortex giant spinning pendulum.

And for the real daredevils, there’s the Swarm, which is the UK’s first winged roller coaster; Samurai, which reaches forces of up to 5Gs as you spin 360 degrees; and Stealth, one of Europe’s fastest and tallest rollercoasters.

TIP: If your children are under the height restriction but you still want to ride, try Parent Swap, where one parent queues on behalf of both.

There are plenty of places to eat and drink and, with free wi-fi, you can tweet your experiences as you go.

Parents can also still enjoy the height- restricted rides when visiting with toddlers, and you only have to queue once. After swapping over, the second rider gains entry to the ride via the ride exit. A voucher is required to use this service, pop in and collect one from guest services.

And the fun doesn’t have to end at the end of the day.

During the summer months, there are a programme of evening events including Island Beats and Ministry Of Sound music nights.

As the sun goes down, the park comes alive with a soundtrack of swooshing rides and amazing music.

Guests can upgrade their tickets for just £10 to book in for Island beats.


There is a Thorpe Park Hotel on site. If you stay over in this hotel, your second day in the theme park is free. Hotel rooms include a buffet breakfast. Hotel guests can also get a free Fastt-track pass which is valid until 11am. Parking is also free at the hotel.

Due to cost, and the fact we were going into Windsor the next day, we choose to stay at the Christopher Hotel in Eton.

Just 20 minutes drive from Thorpe Park, Eton is a beautiful town best known as the location of Eton College – a famous public school attended by the Royals.

The hotel was really nice and family friendly. The rooms had their own front door onto the driveway so there was no traipsing through corridors or faffing about with lifts and stairs. We parked right outside our room.

Our room at the Christopher Hote
Breakfast at the Christopher Hotel


Need to know…

LOCATION: Staines Road, Chertsey, Surrey, KT16 8PN

OPEN: Seven days a week. Opening hours depend on season. Check website.


  • Free wifi
  • Buggy hire (£9)
  • Three baby changing facilities
  • lockers
  • First Aid point
  • Wheelchair hire (£50 deposit)

PARKING:  £6 per day. They advise to buy a car parking ticekt online in advance. There’s a barrier system so make sure you have your ticket handy when leaving.

PRICES: Vary. Online booking in advance is cheaper. Online day ticket: £27.99. Children under the age of three enter for free.

CALL: 0871 663 1673.

E-MAIL: enquiries@thorpe-park.co.uk 

VISIT: http://www.thorpepark.com

Hotel:  www.thechristopher.co.uk


Alton Towers

Lightwater Valley




CBeebies Land at Alton Towers Resort

THEY SAY: CBeebies Land is the only place where you can meet all your favourite CBeebies characters. With free entry for all children under three.

WE SAY: A must if you have pre-school children!

IF you have pre-school aged children you must take them to CBeebies Land. Must. We went two days running and the kids would have gone back for a third.

Based within the Alton Towers Theme Park in Staffordshire, the world’s first CBeebies Land is full of TV character rides and attractions.

TIP: Children aged three and under go FREE! You can get their tickets online or at the turnstiles

As soon as you walk into the magical land, you hear the familiar theme tunes to your children’s favourite shows and almost feel as if you have stepped into your TV. Trust me, your little ones will love it.


It really is a magical place for young children, where they can do everything from driving Postman Pat’s van, to taking a gentle boat ride through the In The Night Garden set.

View from one of the rides

TIP: To get into CBeebies Land you have to pay the Alton Towers entrance fee because there’s no separate entrance. CBeebies Land is inside Alton Towers so even if you’re taking very young children to CBeebies Land you might as well explore the entire theme park. There are several rides for smaller children 

Seeing my three-year old son’s face light up as he drove Pat’s famous red van was worth the visit alone.

Postman Pats van

The ride takes you through Greendale, picking the right parcels to deliver to the village’s favourite residents as they drive along.

Driving Pat’s Van!

Next was a visit inside Justin’s House. The Pie-O-Matic Factory is full of fun chaos where you can shoot foam balls at each other, go down slides, and basically just run about in a stupidly colourful room. I think the rules are, there are no rules.



Justine’s mad house!

My personal favourite was the In The Night Garden boat ride. Despite the fact the theme tune completely does my head in, it was actually quite serene floating along looking at the different characters, including seeing Upsy Daisy waving and blowing kisses and the Tombliboos playing peek-a-boo. Everyone was there to find, including Igglepiggle.

View from the Boat Ride



We also visited Mr Bloom’s allotment and Nina and the Neurons Science Lab, as well as Charlie and Lola’s home on Crocodile Street.

In CBeebies Land, as well as all the rides, there is also a pre-school-age-friendly outdoor park and a sensory garden where you can follow Mr Tumble’s spotty bag trail and look out for some special objects as you wind your way through the woodland and garden.


Adventure Playground in CBeebies Land

It was a hot day when we were also lucky enough to see the ZingZillas live on stage at the Big Fun Showtime. We sat on the grass to watch the show and chilled with a drink and it felt like a kids’ festival. It was fab.

Big Fun Showtime is a good place to get some shade too
First-ever festival fun

TIP: There are are two baby changing facilities available in CBeebies Land for both Mums and Dads to use. There are private feeding rooms in the toilets located in Big Fun Show Time and in the toilets located next to Justin’s House.


Oliver and Jasmine Lovell with Charlie and Lola

Under threes can experience all of CBeebies Land except for Octonauts Rollercoaster Adventure and Justin’s House. Despite the fact my children are only three and 13 months old, we still went into the main Alton Towers theme park too and found rides suitable for them. Head over to Cloud Cuckoo Land and Sharkbait Reef By Sea Life for rides and attractions suitable for younger children.

Driving School in Alton Towers


The park offers an unrivaled selection of theme park rides and attractions for the whole family. It’s not difficult to see why Alton Towers is the UK’s leading theme park.

If you can be bothered to go on the bigger rides, you can get the Parent Queue Share passes. One parent queues in the usual way, and gets the pass stamped by the ride attendant. Parent two meets parent one after the ride and takes the pass to the ride host via the access point to enter the ride.

Click here for the theme park map.


We choose to stay overnight in the Splash Landings Hotel, which is on site. It was definitely worth it because if you pay to stay and to enter the park you can get tickets for the next day for free. It meant we didn’t have to rush it all in one day and could make a proper mini-break out of it.

The family rooms have bunk beds and a double bed

In the Splash Landings Hotel there’s also early-evening entertainment, led by the Kids Club crew. There’s no big stage – it was more of a platform, but the staff entertained the kids whilst we had a pre-dinner drink.

TIP: Book your evening meal in the hotel early on – we arrived and expected to be seated and had to wait until 9pm to eat. #mummyfail

Kids Club crew leading the kids fun

Plus, those who stay in the hotel are given access to the theme park an hour earlier than those with day passes, so on our second day we made sure we were in the park for 9am and were able to try every ride in CBeebies Land before everyone else was let in at 10am, when the queues became really long.

View from our hotel room

We also paid for waterpark passes – if you have time, this is a must. The waterpark is inside the Splash Landings Hotel and is perfect for all ages.

TIP: If you stay over, you can park free of charge


Splash Landings Waterpark
Mummy and Jasmine at Splash Landings Waterpark

TIP: Alton Towers has its own app  if you want to check the map and queuing times

  • Reviewed May 2014


Need to know…

LOCATION:Alton Towers Theme Park, Alton, Staffordshire ST10 4DB. Three hours’ drive from Hull.

OPEN:March to November. With certain rides open for Christmas breaks. See website for full details.

PRICES: For the main theme park prices start from £37.80 for an adult and £34.20 for children aged three and over for a one day ticket. Under three’s go free.  Cheaper online.


  • Buggy Hire: Single £7, Double: £10. Buggies aren’t suitable for babies.
  • PARKING: Standard: £6 per day. Express: £16 per day.
  • Baby changing rooms and feeding rooms
  • Lockers

VISIT: www.altontowers.com

Call: 0871 222 3330.


Flamingoland, North Yorkshire

Lightwater Valley,. North Yorkshire