Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

Finkley Down Farm

2 February, 2018

Last Friday we had an Inset day so decided to make the most of it with a day out. We went to visit Finkley Down Farm in Hampshire.

It is so much more than a farm and has lots to see and do both inside and outside. We started off visiting the birds of prey outside – at some parts of the day they have talks and you can hold the birds.


Then we went to explore some of the animals outside. We first headed towards the field areas where you can find sheep, goats, alpacas and at some times of the year there is even sheep racing! I was pleased we were getting some fresh air after weeks of rainy days.

Afterwards we headed inside to the play barns. There are 5 different areas in the barn, catering for different age groups. A favourite for my son was the giant Lego blocks where he made himself a castle! There other areas are made up of various soft play, slides and a ball cannon area.

We worked up an appetite so decided to head next to the Happy Cow Cafe for lunch. There was lots of hot and cold choices – my son went for the children’s lunch box where you could choose 5 items for £4.95. I decided I wanted something hot, but didn’t want an adult sized portion so ordered myself the kids chicken and chips which was plenty. Prices for the hot food ranged up to about £7 but it was all freshly cooked and looked good.

Finkley5After lunch we headed out to the farmyard side to meet more animals. There was so much to see – rabbits, horses, pigs, goats, sheep, ponies, bird watch area and a reptile centre. Our favourite were the cute baby lambs. My son thought it was funny watching two lambs chewing at their heat light and told them to be good!

We treated ourselves to an ice cream back at the cafe before heading outside again for more play. There were tractors you could ride, trampolines, a large playground with different areas suitable for different ages, a sandpit area and a crazy golf course.

Finkley16There is lots going on throughout the day, rabbit handling, lamb feeding, pony grooming etc or you can go at your own pace. I think the only activity that cost extra were the pony rides which were £3. Overall it was a great day out and there was so much to do at Finkley we’ll definitely go back again!


Block Party Play Cafe

21 January, 2018

I was wondering what to do on a horrible rainy Sunday when a friend suggested checking out the Block Party Cafe. I remembered seeing an advert about it and as I have a Lego mad 4 year old it seemed like an ideal combination – somewhere he could play and I could get a cup of tea!

I was really pleasantly surprised to find it not rammed to the rafters – usually trying to find things to do on a rainy weekend means getting stuck with the rest of the population of the area also desperately trying to entertain their kids.  You can call in advance and reserve a spot but there was no need on this occasion.

Inside the shop is made up of different areas – there is a soft play brick area for the young ones and a section with some Duplo, some large mats of little Lego for free play, and a whole lot of different sets marked up as 1/2/3 rating to show their complexity that you can borrow and do at the tables by the cafe.

We found the staff all really friendly and helpful – we found a piece missing in our set and they immediately helped find a replacement so we could finish our set.

It’s £4 for a 2.5 hour session, and the food and drinks in the cafe are reasonably priced.  There was a good selection of healthy options as well as treats too!

Our top tip for parking is Lances Hill car park – if you park the far end of the car park there is a walkway from the carpark which comes out directly opposite the shop by the crossing, and it’s 5 hours free parking.


20 August, 2017

Considering I lived in Portsmouth for a couple of years it’s surprising what you discover when you go back with a different pair of eyes! We went to Southsea today, parked for free just off Eastern Parade and had a cheap day out full of fun.

We started off by visiting Portsmouth Natural History Museum (yes that was new to me!) which is just near the Canoe Lake.  It isn’t huge, but it is free and Isaac loved it. We spent about an hour pottering around looking at fossils and bones, doing jigsaws, looking at things under a microscope and meeting their dinosaur.  It’s also just got a brand newly renovated butterfly house on the side with some lovely big blue butterflies.

After that we headed outside. There is a nice gated play area with splash fountains, zip wire, playground and lots of hills and grass and places to picnic.  I think there is a larger splash pool further West near the Pyramids, but this one happily entertained Isaac and wasn’t too busy even for an August Sunday when the sun was shining.

We went for a paddle on a swan boat on the Lake – 20 minutes for £7.50 was reasonably expensive, but as everything else around the day was pretty much free I decided it was worth a treat – although my legs may not forgive me tomorrow!

We went for a play on the beach and threw stones in the sea – a necessity for a 4 year old boy.  Some brave sole was even swimming!  And then we headed back via stopping at the bouncy castles and slide (apparently also essential) – £2.50 for 10 minutes.

All in all, despite being suckered into paying for the boats and bouncy castle, plus two ice creams (it would have been rude of Mummy not to get one too right?) it was a fun and cheap-ish day out.

Lappa Valley Railway

26 March, 2017

On Saturday we went to Lappa Valley Railway. On arrival you get your tickets, and you get into the park on a steam train.  Note, there is no way to walk into the park – so check the timetable before you go (which luckily I had!) and give yourself time to get in and seated – those arriving nearer the train time didn’t get a seat and had to wait 40 minutes for the next train – and at the current time the playground at the entrance is being worked on so there is nothing to do.

Once inside you are free to explore and go on anything as many or as little times as you like.  There are two other railways – one a small, and quite fast, circuit that you go round twice and the other a straight line, where you get a choice to exit at the other end and use the play field, or stay on. There is also a walk back from there.  Isaac (and Mummy!) liked the little one best.

There is a 18 hole crazy golf course – although the first half are more putting holes and less crazy (unless you are armed with a pre-schooler wielding a club!).  Isaac loved this, and luckily the park was quite quiet and we could wander in any order to whichever hole he chose!  Some of the crazy ones are quite tough for a little one, but seemed to keep him amused.

Mummy and Isaac went for a paddle on the canoes.  Nice and gentle, and Isaac liked that he got to paddle too – although was a little jealous that Mummy got the big paddle.  There was no times or route, or people forcing you into life jackets so all seemed relaxed and good fun.

We ate at the cafe – not a huge selection, but a few hot choices (jacket potato, sausage roll etc.) plus a selection of sandwiches and the typical kids “lunch box” you get most places.  Prices were in line with most places, so probably worth bringing a packed lunch and just supplementing with essential icecreams if you want to save some money.

Overall, a great place to visit with younger age children, but probably wouldn’t be enough to entertain older ones for long.  At this time of year for their “Winter Weekends” it was only £6 to get in which was a bargain – I think that about doubles from 1 April onwards.

Wildlife Tots: Winter Wonderland

3 January, 2017

stickmanLuckily for us the New Year Bank Holiday on Monday was a beautiful day – albeit freezing cold! Lucky, because I’d booked Isaac onto the Blashford Lakes Wildlife Tots which is an outdoor activity aimed at pre-school children run by volunteers from the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust. Isaac had loved the Nature Tots we did in Dorset on holiday back in September, and he enjoys going to Wild Things near us, so when I spotted this on over the holidays I thought it would be good to try.

We started the session in the Education Centre making our very own Stickman and snowflakes, giving everyone a chance to turn up and get ready.  Or actually should I say I initially started by trying to coax Isaac through the door as he suddenly decided to be incredibly shy and not want to go in, but luckily he got over that after I wafted a granola bar in his face!

stickman-trailAfter that we wrapped up warm and headed off outside to explore. As we went, one of the volunteers read us the story of the Stickman. And with each page of the book we got to play along his adventure. We found nice warm scarves hidden for him in the woods, we played Pooh Sticks on the bridge, we created a large nest for a swan, we made sand castles on a special “pop up” beach, we made snowmen (or rather dough men!) and we lit a fire (and made sure to put it out after we were finished).

It was a lovely fun afternoon and I’d really recommend these outdoor Nature based groups – there are lots around. So long as you are prepared for the weather it is a great opportunity to get outdoors, have some fun and learn something too.

Intech aka Winchester Science Centre

31 December, 2016

On Thursday I took Isaac to Intech in Winchester. I previously went around 14 years ago when they first opened the current site for an event through work involving encouraging the new generation of kids to take an interest in science and technology, and had been meaning to take Isaac when he was old enough to enjoy the exhibits.

Intech6The centre is made up of two large floors of interactive exhibits, and although at 3 years old he can’t really appreciate the science behind them, I thought he was old enough to make the most of a day out. I wasn’t wrong as we spent five and a half hours there… and only left because it was closing time!

It was reasonably busy, being a cold Winters day in the school holidays, but not so much so that you had to wait more than one turn to have a go at anything.  Isaac was particularly fascinated with an exhibit called the Colon Café where you had to use a touch screen to chose some food choices, which produced a ticket you could then scan in various places inside a giant pink “colon” tunnel.

Intech8There was also a number of light tables where you could look at x-ray style pictures. There was a large human skeleton which was broken into pieces so you could put it together like a jigsaw – another favourite we had to visit around 6 times!

Some of the exhibits were a little dated, and a few not working, plus there was a large section of floor space fenced off downstairs which made it look a bit tatty.  Overall though there was plenty of exhibits to entertain.

In the centre of the lower floor was a walled, circular soft play area with sofas around the edge – a perfect excuse to chill out for a while safe in the knowledge the little man was enjoying himself and safe!

We visited the café for lunch – there was rather a long queue as they only had one working till, but the food was reasonable – Isaac had the kids meal deal of a sandwich, drink and three snack items for £4.95 which is pretty on par with most places.

The cost for an adult and child ticket was just about the £20 mark, so coupled with £10 for lunch it wasn’t a cheap day out, but I do think he really enjoyed it, and it saved me a day hanging out in the freezing cold outdoors somewhere!  There was a large indoor picnic area too so we could have taken lunch, although I am sure he’d have still dragged me for something else in the café.

One thing that was a bit disappointing was the lack of baby changing facilities, given that it is aimed at families.  There appeared to be just one upstairs and one downstairs and we ended up with quite a wait.

I’d like to go back sometime when he is older and visit the planetarium cinema too, although that costs extra again.

Weymouth Sea Life and the Jurassic Skyline  

22 December, 2016

During our holiday back in September we went to visit the Weymouth Sea Life centre in Dorset. The first thing that shocked me as I was researching what to do on holiday was how expensive the tickets were, especially as the price for my 3 year old was the same as for an adult! Luckily there seems to be a few offers around if you look for them, and I found one that got us in for about half the price and included tickets to go on the Jurassic skyline tower too.  Then another blow as I realised you had to pay for parking on top of the entrance fee.

Our final sucker punch of the experience we didn’t find out until the day itself.  We had booked over the phone and the person I spoke to asked what entrance time we would like as apparently you have to book in half hour slots – I guess so they can control the flow of people entering.  So we had chosen 10am thinking we wanted to make the most of the day given the price, and according to both the person on the phone and their website that was the earliest opening time.  On the day we arrived for 10am, and after a short struggle with paying the car parking fees over the phone as we didn’t have enough change, we headed for the door… to find a gathering group of rather annoyed looking people.  It turns out they weren’t opening until 11am that day! So both their own website and the person we spoke to on the phone (who had insisted we pick a time) had got the opening times wrong.  Which meant we had an hour to kill hanging around, and had paid for an hours more parking than we need to have.  Needless to say we didn’t start the day in as good a mood as we could have!

Luckily the day we went the weather was good, which meant we could make the most of the different parts of the park, and our spirits picked up.  The sea life park itself was one of the larger ones I had been to and Isaac enjoyed some of the interactive elements – such as the small waterfall which gushed over the path in the rockpools area.  The park was laid out with a number of different buildings which meant that had the weather not been great you could still have enjoyed a lot of the park, but to get your money’s worth you really need to go on a dry day.

dorset6One building housed what was known as the New Ideas Zone where they had around 4 different interactive exhibits. The purpose being to see what went down well with the public that they might adopt in other parks.  One area of this had lots of different pools and cameras on long leads attached to big TV screens so that you could explore the different pools. Isaac loved this so it was the one we voted was a good idea!

Going in September meant the area with the children’s rides had closed as it was out of season (although the price was still the same!) but luckily we caught the last day of the Splash Pools being open. Another big hit with Isaac as he spent ages running in and out of water jets and going down the slide – despite it feeling freezing to us!

dorset15After some lunch in the restaurant we headed to the Skyline Tower.  It’s about a half hour walk from the sea life centre – there is a little train, but you have to pay extra so we decided to walk there and catch the train back when we were tired.  Sadly however, the train stops running about mid afternoon so we ended up walking back too!  The ride in the tower is about 15 minutes, and it was nice to fly up and see the coastline, although I don’t know that I would be bothered to go had it not been included in our tickets.

Overall, we did have a really lovely day and I would go again, but it is a shame that a few small things could have made our experience even better.  Definitely do a search for offers and double check what is open when and what is included before you go though!

The Dinosaur Museum in Dorchester

23 November, 2016

So the flyers said it was an award winning museum… and it certainly sounded cool, boasting life-sized reconstructions and hands-on displays.  So as we were looking for something a little more sedate, and trying to avoid the swimming pool and play areas following Isaac’s 24 hour sick bug we thought we’d give it a try.

dorset59As we drove up I could see a dinosaur outside – and yes it was large – but something in my head was making me wonder whether these “awards” were a bit like Rhod Gilbert’s Award Winning Mince Pie. (Which if you haven’t seen I highly recommend!)  It may have been that the building looked smaller than my house and the dinosaur outside was just literally that in a little fenced off courtyard by the building.  But we carried on in.

Inside, we paid up for the three of us – £22. We were handed a sheet of paper and pencil for Isaac, along with a magnifying glass.  It turned out that hidden through the museum there were a number of “clues” (letters) which spelt out something. On completion of the treasure hunt you got a prize.

Inside the museum was made up of about 5 rooms on two floors – rooms about the size of those in a normal house. Three of them were packed with all sorts of displays – from life size dinosaurs to fossils. One room had a large TV screen showing some short documentary. And then final room was a sort of kids interaction room – e.g. it had a number of boxes you could put your hand in to guess what was inside, or a couple of things where you had to guess whether a dinosaur would feel like this or that.

dorset63Overall we were there a lot longer than I expected given how small it was – but mainly because Isaac thought it was insanely funny to keep squeezing the horn inside one of the boxes. We sort of tried to encourage him to find the clues, but he wasn’t really interested.  Our “prize” at the end was a cheap plastic medal.

I can see they had tried to put on interactive displays, and there was a couple of iPads dotted around to make it look like it hadn’t all been there since prehistoric times, but overall I felt it was possibly more suited to school visits.  Paying £6 for Isaac, at just 3 years old, felt too much as he really was too young to appreciate most of it.  I think they should have made it free for under 5s.

Upton Country Park – a hidden gem!

15 September, 2016

dorset18On Thursday through some magic googling I had managed to find mention of a “Nature Tots” event which sounded good.  It was running at Upton Country Park near Poole.  The park is free to get into, and parking is free, although there is a box for donations.  The Nature Tots event was £3 and turned out to be great!

We started off on a Butterfly hunt – they had hidden photographs of butterflies all the way through the park and gave each child a scavenger hunt sheet so they could tick off each one they found.  Then we headed back to the hut for some craft fun – creating butterflies – before heading out again on a real bug hunt with our magnifying glasses.  The whole session was about 2 hours long and Isaac absolutely loved it.  Isaac got given an RSPB badge at the end – it was their first ever session, of what I think now runs weekly – shame we don’t live closer!

dorset29After the Nature Tots we went for lunch in the café.  They unfortunately didn’t seem to have any kind of children’s menu, but we asked if they would do a child size portion. Someone disappeared off to ask, and came back and said they could do something for us which was nice, but shame they didn’t have something as standard as it might put many people off eating with kids.

After lunch Isaac enjoyed splashing around in the Walled Garden Splash Fountain, and climbing on the wooden play trail.

The park was really lovely, and a real hidden gem. Everything was nicely integrated in the park, feeling natural and yet fun for all ages.  We had a whole day’s entertainment for not much money and we could easily have spent more time there.

Breakfast with the Big Cats

21 October, 2012

Earlier in the year I spotted a Groupon offer that sounded like it was made for me – Breakfast with the Big Cats!  So I bought the voucher and got to use it this summer.

Cheetah faceThe voucher included an overnight stay at the Cheshunt Marriott hotel with dinner included.  The hotel was clean and nice.  The menu for this break was fairly limited but you could choose alternative things off the ordinary menu if you didn’t mind paying extra.  They seemed to be a bit confused about which menu they were giving us as they gave us two different ‘special’ menus at one point.  I thought it was a shame that they didn’t let you pick something off the main menu if it was cheaper than the options on the specials menu.

In the morning we made our way to Paradise Wildlife Park before it was open to the breakfast.  There we met our guide, who was one of the cat keepers, and the other 4 people who were doing the tour with us.  We also got given some goodie bags which included DVDs and t-shirts.

Our guide took us around the different big cats and told us about their stories, as well as some general information about the work that Paradise was doing.  It was lovely to have an opportunity to see the cats while no-one else was around – made for some nice photo opportunities.

Om nom nomAt the end of our tour we got to get up close with one of the tigers while our guide showed us how they perform some routine medical checks on the animals – namely feeding small bits of meat through the bars so the tiger put his feet up and the keeper could check his paws and belly!

After the tour we got to go and have a full English breakfast in the restaurant.  They couldn’t have been friendlier – greeting us and checking what we’d like to eat, and then coming back and asking if we wanted more!  There was plenty of tea, coffee and orange juice to go around too.  The food was fairly basic canteen style but it was all freshly cooked and nice.

Doesn't taste like chickenWhile we were eating breakfast the zoo opened to the public and we were free then to spend as much of the rest of the day as we wanted in the park.  One of my highlights was watching the white lions – they were just about to get their enclosure refurbished, but the male lion decided it was time to make a start.  He managed to chew his way through one of the huge logs making up his platform and totally rip it out of the rest.  It then became a rather large cat toy!

Overall I thought the deal was excellent, and the park very good.  The zoo is relatively small but they had made a lot of effort to design to park in ways that meant there was plenty of room for everyone to see, with raised walkways as well as the standard viewing windows.  It also meant that is was good for photography as there was some different angles and places you could view the animals from.

More photos from our visit on my Flickr set.

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