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/

Family Friendly Festival Series – Camp Bestival in Dorset

 

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28th – 31st July 2016

Lulworth Castle, Dorset

 

 

Our second post in our family-friendly festival series looks at Camp Bestival in Dorset. If you are looking for a kids festival this year? this one just might tick the box. There are so many children’s activities to choose from you won’t know what to do! This year’s Outer Space theme is sure to inspire a few fab costumes.

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A large section of the festival site is totally devoted to small people with the Upper Kids Garden for younger kids offering bouncy castles, bikes,  go karts, circus training and more. Here there is a separate toddlers area and Bestival’s own Breastival Mother and Baby Chill Out.

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The Lower Kids Garden is full of entertainment for older children with fairground rides, face painting, Kids Catwalk and also here, for the under 5’s, is a soft play tent and sand pit.

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Children’s entertainment is not restricted to the Kids Gardens, there are plenty of fun and games throughout the site and performances by well-known household names from Dick and Dom to Lazy Town and Mr Tumble. Art Town is the place to be if your children love to get a little creative, offering a huge range of drop in activities all weekend from sculpting to sticking, colouring, recycled fashion and more.

For a thrill the Wall of Death return to Camp Bestival, watch the Fox family defy gravity!

This is just the tip of the iceberg of what’s on offer for family festival fun at Camp Bestival. For more details checkout their kids page.

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So the kids are entertained but what about the adults? Don’t worry there is plenty to keep you happy too! The live line-up includes, Fatboy Slim, Jess Glynne and a treat for us, err slightly older folk, on Sunday night Tears For Fears take to the stage.

 

Sasha_6_barchan_sasha_fabric-room-1_21458666817Other acts include, Katy B, Reggie N Bollie, DJ Yoda, Dawn Penn and more. Bestival also offers lots of fun from theatre shows, DJ sets, poets, authors, talks, various attractions and activities such as the Travelling Barn and vintage fun, music and 78’s spinning DJs in Caravanserai.

 

Camp Bestival is on the same weekend as Standon Calling which we are already going to, I think if it wasn’t we could be tempted here!

All campsites open on Thursday to give you an extra day to settle in: for more details on prices and accommodation options visit the Camp Bestival camping page in their website.

Website

http://www.campbestival.net/

Family-friendly Festival Series – Standon Calling in Hertfordshire

In our family-friendly festival series we will be writing about the best family festivals in the UK for 2016- here at Holiday Tots, we love festivals as much as holidays.

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Our first festival is one close to our heart as it is only a few miles from where we live: Standon Calling is held in leafy Hertfordshire and is in its eleventh year. It promises lots of fun for all the family.

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This year’s theme is Legend of the Lost Seas. For families looking to get into the true festival spirit there are lots of ideas that spring to mind for costumes for parents and children alike. Most children at tot level and beyond love a bit of “ooh arrgghiing” so expect to see lots of pirates, pearls and mermaids running about. Maybe even a few Octonauts hitting the craft tents! Older children might be able to relate to a little bit of Sponge Bob or Pirates of the Caribbean. Whether you get into the spirit of dressing up or just want to enjoy what promises to be an amazing theme throughout the festival you are sure to have lots of fun!

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It is also set to be one of the best years yet for family fun as the Standon Calling organisers are teaming up with Elissa Gold Events for this year’s festival. They are known for providing an amazing mix of creative and education activities for children of all ages at festivals in the UK including Wilderness and Secret Garden Party.

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The family camp site is thankfully hidden away from the night time activities but family areas during the day are dotted all around the festival so you can get really involved in the atmosphere. As well as the arts, crafts, games, workshops, kids-only trapeze classes and much more there is even a swimming pool to dip into if the weather is hot.

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The festival also includes the annual dog show which can be loads of fun if you are bringing your four-legged friend with you!

And then there is the line-up of music artists …

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The first wave of acts have been announced and included: Suede, Jess Glynne, Kelis, The Hives, Everything Everything, Ghostpoet, Anna Calvi, Blossoms, The Thurston Moore Band plus many many more.

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Jess Glynne is one of the head-line acts

What started as a small birthday party eleven years ago has really come on in bounds!

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Fancy just chilling? Indie fans will not be disappointed either with artists offering a cool mix of jazz, funk reggae, futuristic soul and more.

Standon Calling is described as a ‘boutique festival with an ear for talent’ by The Guardian and so you can be sure to find something new to tantalise your ears.

We are so excited that this year we are actually getting to go- previous years have fallen when we have been away but we planned our holidays carefully this year! We are already planning our costumes and tent coverings with eager excitement.

For more details visit the Standon Calling website or connect with them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

The first tier tickets sold out quickly and they are now on the second tier so don’t delay in getting yours. Maybe we will see you there!

Standon Calling – 29th to 31st July 2016

book nowTickets to choose from: day, weekend, family camping, camping and you can also book bell tents etc – all subject to availability. They also offer a payment scheme whereby you pay just £60 to reserve your ticket and the balance is paid before 4th July.

Images ©  Standon Calling Festival

Family day trip to Southend

When I was a child I loved the seaside, its sea breeze, fish and chips, penny arcades and ice cream. It didn’t take a lot to keep me happy, I didn’t need it to be glamorous or warm and sunny- I just loved the atmosphere. I spent the youngest part of my childhood in Hackney in London and, because my mum worked, spent the summer holidays with my Aunty near Southend (in Rayleigh). I have really happy memories of this time: we spent time on the farm harvesting and looking after the pigs, and some days  we visited Southend.

On a trip down memory lane, I decided to pop to Southend for the afternoon with my daughter (25) and son (6). The weather wasn’t great but it didn’t matter, we had so much fun and,before we knew it, it was time to leave…

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 Adventure Island

We hit the adventure golf here but there really is something for everyone: roller coaster, swings, crooked house, Flying Jumbos, Helter Skelter, Jungle Express, Kiddi-Koasta (roller coaster for the littlies!) and more. Trip Advisor reviews are great too!

After building up an appetite we headed for fish and chips, of course! We went to Clarks Fish and Chip Shop opposite Adventure Island. If I had read the Trip Advisor reviews beforehand I would have avoided it like the plague but actually the lady who served us was lovely, the dining area itself clean and comfortable and the fish and chips went down well for all three of us so we would go back.

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Then we headed for the arcades, sooooo much fun!

2p slot machine is a must and stick with it you might get lucky and win a prize, we won three!

Freddie beat Tas at the racing car game oops!

I beat Freddie at Mario Kart – double oops!

There is a fab water fountain feature that I think would be fun on a sunny day, was a little too cold today…

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But never too cold for an ice cream!

Southend provided a fun family day out, and the fact we live in landlocked Hertfordshire, it makes a good place to visit to see the sea for a drive in under an hour. We will be back.

http://www.visitsouthend.co.uk/

‘What’s on’ in West Sussex – ideal for a family short break this autumn

West Sussex is located just south of London within a couple of hours drive or train and is ideal for a short family break or if you are near London why not visit for a day out?  It has something to offer every family member with beautiful scenery, amazing food and drink, festivals, beaches, and stunning quaint villages and castles to explore.

There are three child-friendly holiday properties in West Sussex on Holiday Tots close enough to enjoy all the activities below and with availability from 14th September. Prices start at £475 for a short stay Mon – Fri or £525 for a weekend, a week is from £845. The family-friendly activities below are either on the doorstep or less than half an hour drive. Owners Les and Louise also run a Bakehouse with freshly produced cakes, bread and home cooked meals workshops too!

 

So if you fancy taking the family on a little holiday or just a family day out, there are a few ideas on what to do this autumn in West Sussex.

Walk and explore the South Downs National Park.

Now this is vast and I have lots of headings below that are technically within the South Downs National Park but I felt it necessary to add this as a simple excursion too. The South Downs National Park covers 1,600km2 of landscapes, visitor attractions, beautiful villages, country pubs and much more. It is worth taking a look at their website and seeing what is on when you want to visit or just get a map and compass and explore away…

Family-friendly events in West Sussex September/October 2015:

The Ploughing Match

19th September – join the fun and watch the annual ploughing match as horse and tractor-drawn ploughs battle it out, plus a livestock show, farrier display, sheep shearing, tractor/trailer rides food and drink. Fun starts at 9.30 http://www.westgrinsteadploughing.co.uk/index.php/this-years-events

Daylands Farm walk & cream tea plus hedgerow workshop

27th September – Led by Mother Nature join in the walk and cook what you pick. “Pick It Cook it” run special events for all ages at Daylands Farm in West Sussex from 10am – 4pm. They involve a short walk to forage for ingredients and include refreshments and a homemade lunch. You also get to take home what you cook. For more details visit http://www.pickitcookit.com/

Lewes October Feast

September 18th – October 10th

Now in its sixth year the Lewes October feast runs for three weeks in the Autumn and is run by a small charity. With food markets, pop up stalls, apple pressing, beer tasting and more, it might be a lovely introduction to some culinary delights for the kids and adults alike. To see what’s on where, visit their website for more details. http://lewesoctoberfeast.com/

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Arundel Castle – Life in a Medieval Cattle

20th September

Arundel Castle is a fab place to take the family for a fun day out, the castle and gardens are great to explore. There are lots of family-friendly events throughout the year too. Life in a Medieval Castle is set in The Keep and Barbican at Arundel Castle. Characters will be portrayed by members of the Raven Tor Living History Group: with stories and tales and craft displays, there will be lots of opportunity to learn about the Castle’s history. Arundel Castle is open until 1st November 2015 with the last admission at 16.00hrs. For more details visit their website http://www.arundelcastle.org/

Chiddingly Festival

24th September – 4th October 2015

This lovely parish of just 1000 residents stages this amazing festival of the arts every year. This year is no exception with Jo Brand and many other fab artists from jazz bands to bell ringers. Music comedy, drama and workshops all in one place for all ages. Specifically for children there is The Amazing Adventures of Librarian Lil, Circus Skills with Jimmy the Juggler and a Cartoon workshop with Matt Baxter. Intrigued and want to know more? Just visit their website: http://chiddinglyfestival.co.uk/category/children/

Bentley Woodfair

18th ,19th and 20th September

In its 20th year the Bentley Woodfair is a celebration of woodlands, forestry, trees, woodcrafts and more. With exhibits and displays of amazing skills and activities,  it is a fun and different day out for the whole family. There are demonstrations of machinery, tree climbing, children’s activities, local food, beer tent and a great family atmosphere. http://www.bentley.org.uk/woodfair/4575405571

Parham Harvest Fair

26th and 27th September

The house and gardens will be open for this family-friendly fair of the celebration of the abundance of produce that autumn brings. With homemade food, deer walks and cookery demonstrations plus an outdoor arena with a variety of events such as displays from the gun dogs and heavy horses. To bring it all together there will be live jazz playing in the grounds. http://www.parhaminsussex.co.uk/event/parham-harvest-fair/

Apple Day Brighton

27th September

Brighton is located just outside West Sussex in East Sussex. It is a fun place to visit any time of year with lots of attractions and activities for all the family. Apple Day Brighton is one of many events, it is a free event and is located in Stanmer Park, Brighton from 11am to 5pm. There will be lots of children’s activities with traditional fun fair rides and storytelling in the Orchard. Music and Dance is also on offer as well as apple themed workshops and produce. https://brightonpermaculture.org.uk/index.php/courses/appleday

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Beaches galore…

Finally don’t forget there are lots of wonderful child-friendly beaches too!

West Wittering beach

So what are you waiting for?!