Magic Garden – Hampton Court Palace

If you’re looking for something different to do as a family and you’ve not visited the Magic Garden at Hampton Court Palace, move this day out to the TOP of your list.
We’ve had some amazing weather over the past few weeks and i’m not sure about you but I just want to be outdoors in the sunshine. My little girl is definitely an outdoor child. She loves playing outside, loves a sandpit and is a definite water baby so when I saw some pics on a friends Instagram, I knew this place was perfect for her.

We left home just after breakfast to be there as it opened, at 10am. You cannot book tickets for the magic garden in advance so I wanted to get there early, especially as it was looking to be a beautiful sunny day. The cost is £7 per adult and £5.20 for children over 3 years old. Under 3’s go free.

MAGIC GARDEN MAP

Upon arrival, you are greeted by a magical childrens paradise. There is a dragon, towers, castles, a secret grotto and much more. Each area represents something different; myths, legends and stories and provides a different way for your family to explore the palaces history.

There is a buggy park on your right as well as a little cafe that sells drinks, sandwiches and coffee. There are a few tables and chairs (some covered and some out in the sun) that overlook the tournament areas and tower. There are loads of places to sit and watch your kids have the best time.

I would definitely recommend bringing the following items so that you can let your kids run wild and not have to worry.

–  SUNCREAM
– CHANGE OF CLOTHES
– SWIM SHOES
– TOWEL
– WATER BOTTLE  – there are 2 drinking water fountains in the garden.

Georgia absolutely loved splashing in the fountains and spent most of her time there – so much so that we didn’t even make it to the Maze (which is also included in the ticket price )

We will definitely be heading here again over the summer as we do have to visit the Maze, i’ve heard this is brilliant too.

Toilets and baby chance facilities are found to the right just as you walk in. If its peak season or a busy day when you visit your stay may be limited to 90 minutes. They have a coloured wrist band system and tell you what time you need to leave by. You can come back later that day if capacity allows (say after visiting the maze) which is quite a nice touch. If you have a ticket to visit the Palace itself, entry to the Magic Garden and Maze is included too. You are not allowed to picnic in the garden due to them wanting the area to be enjoyed by the kids (not having picnic set ups get in their way) and there have been rumours that the Dragon could eat your picnic blanket and all your yummy goodies if he see’s you setting one up.

One of the dragon’s top tips was to have fun, and we certainly did.

For more info click here

In The Night Garden Live – a fab family day out!

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We recently booked tickets for Georgia to go and see In The Night Garden Live – she is almost 2 and In The Night garden has been quite a big part of her life as nana introduced us to it when she was around 5 months old. Every night before her milk we watch an episode of it regardless of where we are. It’s our thing and such a nice way to have a cuddle and end the day.

I wasn’t sure if she was ready for it after booking Panto tickets at Christmas and poor daddy spent the whole show in the restaurant with her as she didn’t get into it at all. I thought that as she was a few months older and this was going to be full of her favourite characters she may be more engaged. I was excited to see how Georgia would react to her favourite characters right there in front of her and larger than life, so booked the tickets and here’s how we got on.

 

You can still see the shows at 3 venues – we went to the O2, but this showing has now finished. It is now moving to Richmond Old deer park from 16 June until the 1st of July when it heads up to Birmingham (7-22 July) and Manchester (28 July – 19 August).

There are 2 shows, the Ninky Nonk show and the Pinky Ponk show. The show lasts around 50 minutes and each show follows a different story line – but don’t worry, they both feature all the characters.

There are 2 options when buying your tickets, Standard (from £12.50 pp) and Premium (from £20 pp).  If you choose premium tickets you will get to sit in the first 5 rows. We booked standard seats and were seated in the 6th row. Its auditorium style seating so you can see from any row.

Georgia was a bit taken a back when it first started – the characters really are quite large so I think the standard seats were better for us anyway. She came around and was eventually smiling and dancing away to the songs she’s listened to every night before bed. The ticket price includes a souvenir activity book which Georgia loved.

When booking your tickets in advance you can pre book a Goody Bag worth over £60 for only £29 which is a great saving. If you don’t book it in advance you can buy one on the day for £39.00 – they really did look decent – here is what’s inside:
goody bag

Another add on is to ‘meet a character’ – this happens after the show and you will have a private 2-3 minute meeting with your chosen character. A great opportunity to give your favourite character a cuddle or get a selfie. The cost is £15 per character – you can meet either Igglepiggle or Upsy Daisy. Looking back, i’m glad we didn’t book this as I don’t think Georgia would have cooperated. The slightly older kids were loving their meetings on the day and came out with smiles from ear to ear.

Upon arrival, your tickets are checked and you’re directed to collect your goody bag and then line up in Premium or Standard seating rows. The gates open 30 minutes before the show starts. There is a bar where snacks and drinks for both kids and adults can be purchased.

vSit back, relax and enjoy watching your little ones take it all in.

Before you leave the Showdome you have another opportunity to be persuaded by your kids to spend some money. Shirts, memorabilia and balloons are available to buy. My tip would be to bring your kids’ In The Night Garden character from home so that they don’t try and get you to buy them a new one before you leave.

All in all it is a very well run and organised event. We were emailed 3 days prior with instructions on how to get there, where to park, info on baby changing facilities and where to park your buggy. They even tell you the walking time (at buggy pace) from the parking area to the Showdome.

Georgia loved it and it really was a lovely family day out. I would highly recommend it to friends with little ones who like the show.

 

Don’t miss out – book your tickets here

 

Why not visit Inverness and Loch Ness for your next family holiday?

I have only ever visited Inverness and Loch Ness once before and it wasn’t a family holiday but a work trip but still the memories I have from this stunning part of the country are locked firmly in my head. It was spring, the day was fresh and bright and Loch Ness looked stunning. It’s no wonder that the city of Inverness and Loch Ness are two of the most popular destinations in the UK, however families in the south of the UK tend to head for the southern coast line maybe. If you are reading this and living in the south, this little overview will help change your mind and tempt you in taking a family holiday in the Scottish Highlands.

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I doubt there are many people of most ages who have not heard about the myth surrounding Loch Ness. Kids will love the adventure and mystery of searching for Nessie, a boat trip on the Loch is a must!

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There are lots of forts and castles in the area to explore. Urquhart Castle is located on the sore of Loch Ness and offers more than 1000 years of history! The Castle is open throughout the year; visit the Urquhart Castle website for details.

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The beautiful scenery and countryside is there for adventure, fun and exploration but if you are looking for something a little more structured, why not visit one of the many child-friendly attractions around Inverness and the Loch Ness area.

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Landmark Park is a Forest Adventure Park for all ages and is open all year (check the Landmark Park website for opening times). Climb aboard the Runaway Timber Train for a rollercoaster thrill ride or explore The Lost Labyrinth with its bubbling mud pools, dangerous creatures and magic waterfall. The Wee Monkey Trail offers a fab challenge for 2-5 year olds whereby The Tarzan Trail and Ropwrox will appeal to the older children and adults alike.

Getting back to nature for a while take the Funicular Railway, the UK’s highest, and grab a bite to eat at the top, or try your hand at one of the many snow sports on offer.

For sea lovers head to the coast and one of the local sand dune-backed beaches or join The Dolphin Cruises in Inverness to see the majestic dolphins in their natural habitat from land or sea.

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This is merely scratching the surface on what Inverness and Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands have to offer for a fun-filled family holiday. I know we will be planning a visit very soon!

Visiting with babies and toddlers couldn’t be easier either, staying at one of these fabulous cottages featured on the Holiday Tots website.

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This collection of child-friendly holiday cottages offers the perfect base for exploring the area of Loch Ness, Inverness and beyond. The owners are fully committed to the principles of The Children Welcome Scheme and have been approved by Visit Scotland to cater for the needs of children. They provide stairgates, cots, baby bath supports, sterilisers, the list of baby and toddler equipment really is extensive.

Within the grounds there is an enclosed play area with sunken trampoline, swing and sandpit plus an ice cream bar and café for an end of day treat after a day of sightseeing. If you do not want to cook, the owners provide a home-cooked meal service and also have a stock of frozen meals available. More details on the Holiday Tots website.

We think that this area of Scotland, Loch Ness and Inverness, is an overlooked little gem of a location for a family holiday. Full of adventure, magical mysteries, history and stunning scenery, it promises to be an amazing holiday destination for all ages.

Spring to West Sussex for a short family break

West Sussex is perfect for a short spring break with the family as it is located less than two hours’ drive from London and an easy train ride , just. 1 hr 10 from Victoria  to Shoreham-in-Sea.

Boasting beautiful countryside and coastal scenery, West Sussex is also officially the sunniest country in the United Kingdom according to the Met Office records.

There are plenty of child-friendly beaches here, perfect for a brisk walk in wellies wrapped up with scarf and hat on a fresh spring morning. As the weather warms the layers of clothing can disappear and the kids can rummage in the rock pools looking for interesting sea creatures and build sand castles too!

 

West Wittering beach

West Wittering beach has been a family favourite of ours for years. Boasting Blue Flag status, West Wittering offers high quality water, shallow lagoons when the tide is out, and plenty of sand for castle building, all making it perfect for toddlers and young children as well as older members of the family. There is ample parking, especially during the spring, and a dog-friendly section too. During the winter the beach café is generally open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays ( do check before you head off if this important to you).

littlehampton beach

Littlehampton beaches in West Sussex offer an alternative family vibe to West Wittering. Littlehampton itself is a bustling seaside town with award-winning architecture, stage by the sea, award-winning beaches and a seasonal miniature railway. If you are looking for family-friendly events they seem to kick off in April. The Littlehampton beach is a mixture of sand and shingle and there are plenty of amusements for all ages.

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West Sussex is also home to some beautiful and historical market towns, villages and stately homes. Steyning village stands out as possibly one of the prettiest towns in West Sussex with lots of charm and full of independent retailers. The children will love browsing through the interesting shops looking for a gift for a friend or family member back home.

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Arundel Castle is a popular  family-friendly day out, the castle and gardens open on 1st April

Late summer evening shadows on the Downs near Goodwood

The South Downs National Park is perfect for a family adventure. It offers 1,600km2 of amazing views, rolling hills, ancient woodland, market towns and villages, lowland heaths, country pubs, rivers and attractions for everyone.

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Springtime in the South Downs National Park is such a beautiful time to visit with plenty of bluebells to be found!

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Why not get the kids involved in the John Muir awards. Children and adults of all ages are encouraged to explore and create their very own National Park. There are lots of missions your family can take part in. For details visit the John Muir Mission Explorer page of the South Downs National Park website.

Child-friendly holiday cottages in West Sussex

If you are looking for a child-friendly holiday cottage for a short spring family break to West Sussex look no further. These two child-friendly cottages are located within walking distance to this area of the South Downs National park and the River Adur with its woodland trails and miles of beautiful countryside and only 10 minutes’ drive from Shoreham-on-Sea.

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There are two cottages both of which are ideal for families of up to four. They can also be rented together to offer accommodation for up to eight as the interlocking door can be unlocked to create a four bedroom holiday cottage. Within the gardens there are toys, swing, animals to feed and there is also a tea barn and artisan bake house open at various times throughout the year (and swimming pool open May to September)

https://www.holidaytots.co.uk/view-property/211-cottage-shared-facilities-in-nr-steyning/

Steyning is located just 5 minutes from here and the owners also have a lovely cottage in the heart of Steyning itself. It has two bedrooms and is ideal for a family of six guests who are welcome to use the facilities at the main house.

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The owners can offer babysitting and beauty treatments in any of their cottages. All the cottages are baby and toddler friendly with stairgates, cots, highchairs, baby bath, monitors, toys etc.

Child-friendly holiday cottage in Steyning, West Sussex

More family days out in West Sussex…

Here are some more ideas for a fab family day out during Spring (or any time of year) in West Sussex, all are close to the holiday cottages above:

 

Lambing at Coombes farm

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Stans Bike shack is fun for a pit stop before a lovely walk or cycle along the downs link.

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The wetlands centre in Arundel is a great day out, with family friendly events throughout the year including Puddle Jumping Championships – spring half term 2017!

Petworth Park has wild deer and the house is national trust and always runs great fun events in school holidays and also nearby Knepp Castle has wildlife safaris which are great fun, they do dawn/dusk/bees and other animals. The owners of the cottages went on a deer rut safari there in Oct and say it was great fun!

West Sussex is beautiful any time of year. Springtime here is just as stunning as other seasons, you can just feel everything waking after its long winter sleep, buds on the trees, bluebells in the woods and spring lambs popping up in the fields and maybe some puddles to splash in too!

What are you waiting for!

 

 

Our visit to ‘Christmas at Kew’ 2016

kew3I have been wanting to go to ‘Christmas at Kew’ for a few years but every year remember too late and by the time I try to book they are sold out! This year we booked in time and got tickets!

We booked a 6.30pm slot which gave us time to drive from school, grab dinner and park in the Kew car park – which by the way, I would highly recommend if you have young children. By the end of the trail they were ready to drop and slept all the way home.

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We were really lucky with the weather, clear skies and a little chilly so perfect for getting in the Christmas spirit. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, so often when you have high expectations of something you are eager to see and it disappoints but Christmas at Kew certainly didn’t.

 

 

Beautiful light displays are spread over a mile of gardens, winding pathways take you on a journey of a fairy tale Christmas delight and the kids enjoyed the freedom to explore.

kew2One of our first stops was at a floor display which we thought looked like a magic carpet and the kids promptly jumped on board!

 

 

 

 

 

I had been eager to visit The Hive this year and was delighted that it was part of the display, the kids enjoyed listening to bee sounds through their teeth!

 

Every so often there are activities to titivate a different sense. Toasted marshmallows were especially welcome!

Father Christmas and his elves also made an appearance!

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One of the most amazing light displays takes place on Palm House, a fabulous light display set to music across the lake. The whole adventure ends with some festive food, shops and fairground rides (please note that the rides are not included in the price).

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Freddie thought Christmas at Kew was ‘amazing’ and was surprised by ‘how many lights’ there were, I have to say I agree.

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If you have tickets to go to Kew this Christmas you are in for a real treat, if you haven’t then make sure you get it in the diary to buy some next year! We will certainly go back.

There are a few main gate tickets left (ones with car parking have sold out).

Off peak still available family ticket £48 (2nd January only date available now)

All other times £52 for a family ticket (£18 adult and £10 child)

http://christmasatkew.seetickets.com/tour/christmas-at-kew/calendar/2

Standon Calling Festival: boutique, family fun in Hertfordshire

IMG_0796Standon Calling Festival is held in the beautiful Hertfordshire countryside. It’s small, but not too small that you feel you are milling around in a field.  There is enough to keep all ages entertained from babies through to grandparents, offering family fun by day and a young party vibe by night. The music acts are varied from pop and rock to hard hitting electronic and everything in between. My husband had never been to a festival before and so he joined us under duress, at the end of the three days we had to drag him away!

If you are a virgin festival goer but like camping the main difference you will find is that the camping fields (we stayed in the family field) are quite tight, you get to know your neighbours! If you have a group going like we did just pitch up at the same time and this will give you a little area for a gathering, although you will find that you spend most of your time in the festival ground.

IMG_0945Freddie is 7. When I asked him what he enjoyed the most he simply said ‘everything,’ then when I asked him ‘do you enjoy camping or festival camping the best?’ He replied festival camping of course ooh arghhh!’

Standon is a great introduction to festival life, the themed costumes are amazing, this year being Legends of the Sea- I’m looking forward to seeing what next year’stheme will be.

There are the usual children’s activities and a baby and toddler area but the added bonus is the swimming pool, if the weather is favourable it’s a great area for a family splash around. There is also an annual dog show that seems to be very popular, our dog Millie won first prize in the waggiest tail class!IMG_0908

The main stage has a great space in front of it, room enough to laze through the afternoon listening to lesser known bands and didn’t feel too cramped when the main acts were on either. In fact the children’s area was situated to the left of the stage which lent itself to the left hand side of the stage becoming a family area.

People here were nice, we felt safe and there really was a happy go lucky festival vibe, it was great to mill around stopping at a stage or act that caught our fancy when we felt like it. The kids loved being able to get close to the main acts too and the cashless wrist bands were a god send, they loved having control of their own money and we had no fear of them losing it.

All in all Standon Calling Festival rocked! Here are is our journey in pictures…

We were given tickets for Standon Calling Festival this year and this is our honest review. When we get given tickets to anything for review I always ask myself ‘would we go if we had to pay?’ We will be going back in 2017 even if we are not invited to review, so there is your answer, and we can’t wait!

Family Festival Series part 3 – Henley Festival Family Sunday plus your chance to win tickets…

In the third of our family festival series we look at this year’s Family Sunday at Henley Festival. ‘Not just for grownups’, Family Sunday promises fun for all ages. We also have a family set of five tickets in our competition on the Holiday Tots website.

There are children’s entertainers, musicians, comedians, magicians and street entertainers. Mad scientists will be electrocuting members of the audience and there will be superheroes too!

So if dipping your toe into a festival for a day, rather than camping overnight, appeals to you then Henley Family Sunday just might tick the box, oh and dressing up for day is obligatory!

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Confirmed acts for all the family include:

Superhero battle where three of planet Earth’s greatest go head to head for the title of ‘Most Supreme Superhero… Ever!’

The Henley Music School

Jay Foreman and his disgusting songs

Science Mania

Solomo’s Beatbox Adventure for Kids

lighthouseThe Lighthouse Workshop where the lighthouse keeper will be sharing stories of the sea and showing animations of his adventures

Awe inspiring acrobatic feats from Upswing and more

Henley Festival Family Sunday takes place on Sunday 10th July 2016 from 11.30am to 3pm

Visit their website for more details: http://www.henley-festival.co.uk/2016-programme/family-day

Sadly we are camping at Blackberry Wood otherwise we definitely would be visiting this one!

Competition – Your chance to win a family ticket for up to five people

The organisers have kindly offered a family ticket for five for the Family Sunday as a competition prize. Visit the Holiday Tots competition page where you will find all the details. Good Luck! The competition will close on Friday 26th May.

https://www.holidaytots.co.uk/competition/24/