Category Archives: Days Out

5 things to do during Whit week half term 2017

The Whit Week Half Term falls under the sad shadow of the Manchester bombing. I live 5 miles away from the arena, and we’ve felt the emotional reverberations of the atrocity. The mood is defiant but subdued. Everyone I know wants to stay at home, holding their kids close where they can keep them safe. But generally kids don’t always love being stuck at home and will want to do something over the half term regardless.

For us our half term fun will be had on the fringes of the city. Whilst I’m happy to visit the city centre myself; for the next week or so at least we won’t be going in as a family. I know we can’t wrap our children up forever. We can just make sensible, informed choices and get on with life and live it well.

If you’re keen to avoid the city centre with your kids for now, I’ve selected a few out of town things to do in Manchester over the Whit Week Half Term. I’ve not included them here, but there will be lots of things to do over the Whit Week Half Term in the city centre, at the Whitworth Art Gallery, the Museum of Science and Industry, and at the People’s History Museum. However you choose to spend half term, enjoy it.

Waterside Arts Centre, Sale

We will be going to see The Three Musketeers at the Waterside Arts Centre in Sale on Friday 2 June. Presented by The Three Half Pints;  Fresh from Justin’s House and Spot Bots, we will be joining CBeebies’ favourites in this hilarious new slapstick adventure of chivalry, swordplay and suddenly falling over!  For ages 5+

5 things to do during Whit week half term 2017

For ages 3+ catch Julia Donaldson’s famous book The Scarecrows’ Wedding, brought to the stage by Scamp Theatre. Running on Friday 26, Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 May. Scarecrows Betty O’Barley and Harry O’Hay decide to get married and Harry sets off for their wedding day essentials. This truly heart-warming adaptation promises wit, drama and wedding bells!   

On Thursday 1 June, Waterside will be screening Sing-a-long Trolls.  Bring the kids and sing your socks off to Trolls hits such as Can’t Stop The Feeling and True Colours.  Come along in Troll-themed fancy dress or costumes in bright rainbow colours. Prizes will be given out for the best outfits!  Tickets just £5 (or £2.50 for Family Club members).

Based on the fabulous new book by Steven Lee and with magic designed by Paul Daniels, Don’t Dribble on The Dragon is a spectacular musical adventure about growing up and the importance of family is the perfect feel good show.  For ages 3+ on Saturday 3 June.  Steven will also be signing copies of Don’t Dribble on The Dragon after the show.

Salford Quays Culture’s Summer Showcase

Over half term, endangered species from land and sea migrate to the metropolis of MediaCityUK, in the form of four gigantic sculptures for Quays Culture’s Unnatural Borders exhibition, which will run from Saturday 20th May until Monday 29th May. 

Four large sculptures represent endangered species – Polar Bear, Whale, Red Squirrel and a Bee. By day the sculptures tower over the public on large separate plinths. When the sun sets at 9pm they are illuminated with stunning visual projections, bringing a magical show of light and illusion to these 3D animals and their location. Day or night, these sound pretty awesome and worth seeking out, especially if you’re visiting Media City for other reasons too.

5 things to do during Whit week half term 2017

Catalyst Science Discovery Centre

Ok, so this means a bit of a drive to Widnes, but the boys go here often and they really enjoy their visits. This amazing science centre has three interactive galleries to explore as well as a stunning rooftop observatory. During this half term they have two interactive workshops for budding scientists to enjoy.

Ludicrous Liquids – A chance for young scientists to get some hands-on fun in the lab, experimenting with interesting and surprising liquids. How many colours can you get into your rainbow straw and do you make a lava lamp? Hands-on workshops at 11am and 2pm

Fantastic Plastic – One of their most popular hands-on sessions. Enjoy working with an amazing plastic material to make a keyring to take home. Hands-on Workshops at 12 noon and 3pm

For more information about the Catalyst Science Discovery Centre, visit their website.

Wythenshawe Community Farm

Join the Junior Farmer’s Club and learn how to care for the animals on the farm. Groom and feed Pip the friendly pony, feed and muck out the pygmy goats and collect the eggs from the chickens. Available on Thursday 1st and Saturday 3rd June from 1-3pm. The cost of the session is £10, for more information or to book phone 0161 946 0726.

Read about one of our previous visits to Wythenshawe Community Farm here.

Wythenshawe Community Farm

SHIFT Digital 

Over Whit week half term, Shift Digital will be running a series of free events in libraries and other venues in Cheshire. If you’ve got kids who are into coding, computers or science, it’s well worth taking them along.

Join Shift for Superhero Sewable Circuits on Wednesday 31 May at the Electric Picturehouse, Cross Street, Congleton. Make your own light up superhero mask. Learn the basics of e-textile sewable circuits and stitch light up LEDs onto felt to customise and create your own design. Ages 7+ FREE Places limited – to book call  01260 270908.

Minecraft fans should go to PatternCraft at Congleton Library on Tuesday 30 May  – 10am-12noon / 1-3pm. Go along and create 8 x 8 punchcard designs; feedback your card into the reader and by the magic of python code converting the physical holes in to binary files of 0’s and 1’s, build it on a minecraft map. Drop In – FREE – All Ages Call 01260 375550.

At Holmes Chapel Library on Thursday 1 June 10am-12noon / 1-3pm, learn to program the Micro:bit LED display and create interactive bitmap art that responds to movement and button presses. Ages 7+ FREE Places limited – to book call  01477 689550.

The full SHIFT programme – including talks, workshops, professional training, tech meet ups, art installations, family events and drop-in coding sessions – is listed on their website: www.shift-digital.co.uk

We hope you have a great Whit Week Half Term. If you’ve got any ideas for other fun things to do, please do mention them in the comments below!

Nine reasons to go to the Just So Festival this year

The Just So Festival is an annual, intimate, weekend-long family festival is a wonderful, creative, arty, family outdoor adventure like no other. We go each year and it is such a highlight. I look forward to it all year long; we can’t wait to get there and we are always sad to leave.

Now in its 8th year, the 2017 this award-winning family festival just gets better and better. Each August the Just So Festival pitches up in the gorgeous grounds of Rode Hall in Cheshire, filling three days with music, literature, arts, theatre, dance, comedy, storytelling, magic and adventure. We always leave feeling inspired, rejuvenated and completely reconnected as a family.

Nine reasons to go to the Just So Festival this year

Produced by Wild Rumpus, the Just So Festival this year takes place on 18th-20th August. You can go for a day, or you can camp for the weekend. We have done both. We loved camping at the festival so much, being under canvas really adds to the adventure.

Why should you go to the Just So Festival this year?

ONE – Around the campfire
There’s so much to do at Just So, it’s hard to pick favourites. But we loved being around the campfire before bedtime, singing our hearts out with Scout Master, Ian Macintosh and listening to stories told by Just So legend, Ian Douglas. It sends you off to bed feeling happy, content and smelling vaguely of wood-smoke.

TWO – The first ever Just So Jelly Fight!
This year for the first time, in the Social Barn next to The Social you’ll find insect eating, foraging, jelly bean architecture and the first ever Just So jelly fight. Get ready to join in with the messiest, stickiest and most ridiculous of food fights.

THREE – Tribal Tournament
Just So veterans will know all about the famous festival Tribal Tournament. Festival goers of all ages dress up as a fish, frog, fox, owl, lion or stag and compete throughout the weekend to see which tribe comes out on top. Join in the Wild Rumpus Parade at the end of the weekend where the winners are crowned!

FOUR – Food, glorious food!
The range of food available at the Just So Festival is incredible. The Social area is where most of the food stalls are, but there are more on the Village Green and in the High Seas area. If you wanted to you could eat something wildly different for every meal at Just So. Our favourites are the grilled sweetcorn from Cotswold Corn Roast, ice cream from Ginger’s Comfort Emporium and hot dogs a-plenty from Piggy Smalls. Though other food vendors are available.

Nine reasons to go to the Just So Festival this year

FIVE – Do the Jitterbug!
Strut your stuff at the night time retro discos in the Jitterbug tent – dressing up is encouraged! If daytime dance is more your thing, you can learn to dance the CanCan, Charleston, Circus Swing, Flatfooting, Bollywood, Ballet, Tap and Jive. 

SIX – The wonderful Rode Hall Estate
The Rode Hall Estate is beautiful and absolutely perfectly designed for the wonderful goings on at the festival. Explore the grounds and find hidden magic around every corner. New this year is the Forgotten Courtyard, a beautiful Italian Garden tucked away in the ruins of the Old Tenants’ Hall complete with a fountain, Italian cypress and olive trees. Find this secret spot and take part in workshops, discussions, debates and talks, plus meet some of the UK’s favourite children’s authors there.

Plus this year the Rode Hall Tea Rooms will be open for homemade breakfasts, lunches and cakes made from the organic produce grown on the estate. I heartily recommend their Staffordshire Oatcakes and steaming mugs of tea!

SEVEN – Carry on Camping, or glamping if you prefer
I didn’t think I’d be a happy camper, but I was. In our first family camping weekend, we whispered into the night under the canvas, cooked sausages on our little camping stove and snuggled up like caterpillars in our sleeping bags. 

With toilet blocks and actual real life showers with hot water, the facilities are excellent. If you have tiny tots they have their own special baby bath time available in Peekaboo. 

For campers who fancy a touch of luxury, there are a range of glamping options available to pre-book and campervans and caravans are welcome. Come for the weekend, camp, have fun, go off grid, get twigs in your hair, let go, have fun.

Nine reasons to go to the Just So Festival this year

EIGHT – Award winning Accessibility
I have chronic pain and nerve damage. I can’t really feel my feet and legs, so accessibility is important to me. The Just So Festival organisers have thought of everything; from accessible camping, refrigeration for medication, wheelchair charging points as well as accessible toilets and changing areas.

I used many of the accessible facilities last year I can say hand on heart they accessibility is excellent and is seamlessly woven into the fabric of Just So.  It’s a truly accessible event. And that’s exactly how it should be for everyone, everywhere.

NINE – Lively live music!
Down by The Social, you’ll find the Footlights stage with over 20 brilliant artists and bands performing over the weekend, including Just So legends David Gibb, The Baghdaddies and singer, Laura Oakes. 
 

These are my nine reasons to go to the Just So Festival this year. These are only nine of about 900 wonderful reasons. There’s so much to see, do and experience there. Immerse yourself in the magic and creativity of this wonderful family festival. Leave feeling inspired, rejuvenated and completely reconnected as a family.

Tickets for this intimate and fabulous family festival are selling fast, so make sure you book your tickets as early as you can. 

For information and tickets visit www.justsofestival.org.ukKeep up with the adventure and follow Just So on Twitter and Facebook.

Nine reasons to go to the Just So Festival this year

My blog post about my accessibility experience at Just So can be found here.

Days Out: Madame Tussauds Blackpool

Blackpool is the Vegas of the North. As a Manchester lass, Blackpool has always been my first port of call for days out, trips to the beach, or for a fun mini break. There is so much do see and do in Blackpool, it’s very easy to fill a couple of days. I recently took my son on a trip to Blackpool and amongst all the traditional bucket and spade fun, we visited Madame Tussauds Blackpool.

Days Out: Madame Tussauds Blackpool

The last time I visited Madame Tussauds Blackpool maybe 30 years ago and I don’t really remember much other than the Princess Diana waxwork. I know they keep their waxworks up to date, so I was interested to see what, or rather who would be there. 

We got our tickets and we were ushered through to see Simon Cowell. Lots of people were having pictures taken with him and we don’t watch talent shows so we just walked past him and to Paddy McGuinness, John Bishop, Gok Wan and Chris Tarrant. We didn’t linger as my son had no idea who these people were and I don’t watch their shows either. 

Through the doors and by the stairs stood John Thaw and Helen Mirren being good cop, bad cop. We paused for a photo with John Thaw, who grew up near where I live and my Grandma knew him when he was a boy. 

Up the escalator we found more reality TV stars (we don’t watch those kind of shows either). We managed to spy Ben Fogle and David Attenborough amongst the elaborate I’m A Celebrity areas, which we mostly skipped because it was busy. That said, we did enjoy looking at the frogs.

Days Out: Madame Tussauds Blackpool

Once you’ve escaped from the I’m A Celebrity area, you move on to the sports zone, which was a bit more like it. Even I recognised a few faces, Wayne Rooney, Joe Hart, Lewis Hamilton, Mo Farah, Gary Lineker etc. 

From the sports zone, your next stop is the Rovers Return, which is a working bar where you can get drinks and snacks. Bet Lynch is behind the bar looking fierce. It’s an ideal stopping point if you need a break. But my son has never seen Coronation Street and was keen to move on. So we did. 

I was pleased to find myself in the music zone. Where Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson were the most notable stars. Again, talent show singers dominated, with Olly Murs, Susan Boyle and Leona Lewis featuring. 

Days Out: Madame Tussauds Blackpool

Moving on to “Best of British”. We met Hugh Bonneville as he was in the Paddington movie. Plus Morecambe and Wise, some of the Ab Fab gang and Her Majesty and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Ben was very pleased to be standing next to the Queen.

Days Out: Madame Tussauds Blackpool

I was hoping my son would enjoy the “Family Favourites” area a little more, which he did. He enjoyed seeing Spider-Man, Bob the Builder and Sooty and Sweep. I would have liked to have seen a bit more in this area, but it was good there were some things he recognised.

Days Out: Madame Tussauds Blackpool

One area my son really enjoyed was the mirror maze and funny bendy mirrors. It’s worth taking a few minutes to enjoy rather than rushing through. 

At the end of our tour of Madame Tussauds Blackpool was a room full of classic comedians. Ken Dodd, Tommy Cooper and The Two Ronnies were probably my highlight of our visit. 

Days Out: Madame Tussauds Blackpool

There was a small display about how they make the waxworks. I would have liked a bit more on the behind the scenes aspect really. It was also very loud in some areas. If you are troubled by loud noises, music and cheering then you might want to wear earplugs. My son who has sensitive hearing walked around with his hands over his ears for most of our time there.

The attraction is dominated with reality TV and talent show waxworks, so we whizzed by them quite quickly. We are probably very much in the minority of visitors to Madame Tussauds Blackpool, but if you watch those kind of TV shows, then you will enjoy Madame Tussauds. 

The staff were excellent, very helpful, friendly and smiley. They are a real credit to Madame Tussauds Blackpool. The waxworks were well done, some of them were quite eerily lifelike. I loved the comedians at the end of the tour and it was worth it just to see them (for me at least).

Tickets to Madame Tussauds Blackpool cost from £10.50, but entry is free with a Merlin Annual Pass. If you are visiting several Merlin Attractions in Blackpool you can get multi-attraction tickets which will save you money.

For more information on Madame Tussauds Blackpool, or to buy tickets, visit their website.

 

I’m a Merlin Annual Pass Blogger Ambassador. I have been given a Merlin Annual Pass to do this review with my family.  I wasn’t paid to write this post.

Days Out: The Blackpool Tower Circus

Over the Easter break, the small boy and I headed off to Blackpool for a couple of days of seaside fun. We had a bit of a check list of things we wanted to see and do while we were there, but mainly we wanted to have fun and chill out a bit. First on our holiday agenda was a trip to the Blackpool Tower Circus.

I’d heard very good things about the Blackpool Tower Circus. Virtually everyone we told that we were planning a trip to Blackpool said that it was well worth seeing. I have very vague memories of going when I was a child, but that was about 800 years ago and things have probably changed since then.

Days Out: The Blackpool Tower Circus

We had been told be friends to visit the Blackpool Tower early and pre-book our tickets. You can pay an extra £5.99 on top of your ticket to sit on one of the front few rows if you like. If you do this you get drinks and snacks included and a chance that some of the performers will chat to you. Sadly these tickets were fully booked, so we got a pair of tickets in the stalls instead.

An adult ticket is £13 and a child is £10.50. We are Merlin Annual Pass holders, the ticket price is covered by our Merlin Passes, so we just showed our Merlin cards at the box office and we were issued our tickets.

You’re advised to arrive a good half an hour before the show starts. Tickets are unreserved so you have to find your own seats. We sat around 5 rows from the front and we had a great view. If you’re in a large group you might struggle to find seats together, so do go early.

Before the show and during the interval you can join the performers in the circus ring to buy lights and tricks, learn to spin plates or have your face painted like a clown (for a small additional cost). There is a bar at the back where you can buy drinks and snacks too.

The Blackpool Tower Circus has been in residence in the Tower since 1894. We visited the circus on 5th April which was only the 5th day of their 2017 season. We felt pretty honoured to be seeing it all so early in the season.

The approach down the winding corridors to the circus ring is filled with memorabilia and exhibits. We felt a bit pushed past it all by the crowds keen to get to their seats. This was a bit of a shame and I’d very much like to go another day and have the time to take it all in. 

Days Out: Blackpool Tower Circus

The circus ring itself is in the round, meaning wherever you’re sitting you should get a good view. The current circus design was completed in 1900 and it is remarkable. It’s beautiful and baroque with padded velvet seats. There is room for several hundred people to enjoy the show but you still feel you’re close to the performers.

Photography is not permitted once the show has started, so I wasn’t able to take any photos of the performance. However, the two hour long show, with additional interval was both breathtaking and hilarious.

Days Out: The Blackpool Tower Circus

The glue which holds the show together are the clowns Mooky and Mr Boo. Mooky the Clown is the hilarious and cheeky funny guy which everyone loves and Mr Boo is his straight man. They’re brilliant and they were very much the highlight for my six year old. Mooky the Clown is a Blackpool Tower Circus legend and has been clowning around in Blackpool since 1992.

The whole show was incredibly good. With acrobats, an amazing tightrope walker, trapeze artists, a fantastic live band and a troupe of beautiful dancers. There were several eye-watering acrobatic feats, my favourite being the neon clad trapeze artists and the Chinese tightrope walker. The circus is filled with amazing acts from all over the world and is genuinely incredible.

Days Out: The Blackpool Tower Circus

Blackpool Tower Circus – April 2017    Picture © Jason Lock Photography

The finale of the circus show is the dancing fountains. The circus ring is lowered and filled with water and beautiful acrobats twirl and swirl on a Roman themed carousel of sorts. It’s an awesome sight. The Blackpool Tower Circus is one of only four circus rings left in the world that can do this.

We felt it was excellent value for money, especially with our Merlin Annual Passes. We would definitely consider the £5.99 VIP seating upgrade next time though. The circus itself was awe inspiring. The show is two hours long with an interval and it’s packed with fantastic performers and performances. The small boy is still raving about the clowns and I’m keen to go back and watch it all again. Always a good sign.

For more information about The Blackpool Tower Circus and to book tickets visit the Blackpool Tower website.

Days Out: Blackpool Tower Circus

I’m a Merlin Annual Pass Blogger Ambassador. I have been given a Merlin Annual Pass to do this review with my family.  I wasn’t paid to write this post.

Days Out: Jurassic Cove Adventure Golf at Bents Garden & Home

Over the Easter weekend we hopped in the car and drove from South Manchester to Bents Garden & Home, near Leigh, Greater Manchester. We’d heard that they had recently opened the Jurassic Cove Adventure Golf course and we thought we’d take our six year old dinosaur enthusiast to check it out.

Days Out: Jurassic Cove Adventure Golf at Bents Garden & Home

The Jurassic Cove Adventure Golf course at Bents Garden & Home is nine holes of dinosaur excitement. Tucked away in a corner of the garden centre, out by the lake the Jurassic Cove Adventure Golf is certain to appeal to all ages of dinosaur or crazy golf enthusiasts.

We made our way to the Jurassic Cove Adventure Golf shop where you buy your round (or rounds) and pick up your golf club, ball and score card. The shop also sells a small range of dinosaur related gifts and outdoor games. In one side of the shop there’s a dinosaur dig area where little ones can brush away the sand to discover the remains of a dinosaur. 

Days Out: Jurassic Cove Adventure Golf at Bents Garden & Home

When we arrived it was pretty busy. We had to wait around ten minutes in a queue before we could tee off. The course seems to be in a bit of a windy spot. It was a bit chilly in the wind, so if it’s not a glorious day make sure you’re layered up. It wasn’t a problem that we had to wait a few minutes. There was plenty to look at and our miniature paleontologist filled the time by pointing out some of the dinosaurs he could see and telling us a bit about them.

Days Out: Jurassic Cove Adventure Golf at Bents Garden & Home

The golf course itself was lots of fun. It was challenging at times but just the right level for my six year old. We all had fun, but really it was the surroundings and the novelty with made it. If I had to find something to criticise; at other crazy golf courses, they’ve had a sign suggesting what a good par would be (the ideal number of shots for each hole). I missed being able to see if I was doing well or not so well. 

Days Out: Jurassic Cove Adventure Golf at Bents Garden & Home

The Jurassic Cove Adventure Golf course is on a fairly small plot, but it’s packed with dinosaurs. There are a couple of life-sized animatronic dinosaurs which roar and make noises. There are also lots of static dinosaurs which are close enough to get a good look at. The course is planted with Jurassic style trees, grasses and plants. It’s very, very well done.

Days Out: Jurassic Cove Adventure Golf at Bents Garden & Home

Our son absolutely loved it and is very keen to go back again soon. If you or your kids love dinosaurs then the Jurassic Cove Adventure Golf at Bents Garden & Home really is unmissable.

A round of golf for over 12’s is £4.90, ages 4-11 £4 and under 4’s it’s £3. A family ticket is available at £16. The course is open 10am – 5.30pm, last admittance is at 5pm.

For more information about Jurassic Cove Adventure Golf at Bents Garden & Home, visit their website.

 

We paid for our visit in full.

Things to do in Manchester: Easter 2017

I was checking my diary this morning and realised with a slight sense of panic that my son breaks up from school this Friday. Easter is a few short weeks away and between now and then I have two weeks of school holiday to fill. I do enjoy having the boy wonder at home, but now the weather is a bit better I feel we ought to get out and do stuff.

We have plans for a couple of days in Blackpool to see the sights and hopefully get on the beach, but it’s good to have a few things closer to home to do. I’ve picked out a few things to do around Manchester over the Easter 2017 holidays.

Things to do in Manchester: Easter 2017

 Whitworth Art Gallery

Last week I visited the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester for the first time ever. I’m slightly ashamed that in the 40 years I’ve been alive and living in Manchester I’ve never visited before. The (closing soon) Andy Warhol exhibition drew me in, but I was impressed and in awe of virtually everything I clapped eyes on. 

I already knew they had an impressive and inclusive arts programme for families. When I spied the Art Hampers on my visit, I knew we’d be back to put them to the test.

Just pick up an Art Hamper, they’re free and available any time during gallery opening hours. The Art Hampers are filled with materials for you to get inspired and make, draw and build anywhere in the gallery. Let your imagination and creativity run wild, but don;t forget to return your hamper at the end of your visit.

For more information about the Art Hampers, or the other family events during Easter 2017 at the Whitworth Art Gallery, visit their website.

SHIFT / Cheshire East

SHIFT is a vibrant and interactive programme celebrating all things digital in Cheshire East. From exhibitions and workshops to talks and hands on making – SHIFT is full of inspiring and creative events for all ages and abilities. During Easter 2017, SHIFT have a range of digital activities for tech savvy families. 

On Saturday 8th April at Sandbach Library learn about Interactive LED Art (BBC Micro: bit). Ideal for ages 7+. Get your LEDs flashing and learn to program the Micro:bit LED display to create interactive bitmap art that responds to movement and button presses. The possibilities are endless. Places are free but advance booking is advisable via the library: 01270 375355.

On Monday 10th April at Handforth Library, learn about Animations in Minecraft (ages 5+). Go along to combine coding, making and tech to create 8-bit animations in Minecraft using physical punchcards, powered by PatternCraft. In this free and interactive workshop you’ll learn basic computing and code, and have fun! Places are free but advance booking is advisable via the library: 01625 378272.

For more information about SHIFT and the other events they’re running over Easter, visit their website

The Museum of Science and Industry

Experience the amazing power of steam, water and electricity at MSI, Manchester. Activities run from April 1st to April 17th. Admission to the museum is free, there may be a small charge for some activities

The Museum of Science and Industry is powering up for Easter 2017. Whether it’s the power of water, steam or electricity – experience the sights, thundering sounds and astonishing power of the museum’s machines, muscles and contraptions as they burst into life through a series of hands-on demonstrations, workshops and shows for everyone.

For more information about what’s on at MSI over Easter, visit their website

Waterside Arts Centre

The Waterside Arts Centre in Sale have lots going on over Easter, but this show caught my eye, Mush Ado About Puffin on Saturday 29 April 2017. 

Things to do in Manchester: Easter 2017

Join Open Attic as they sail the stormy seas to bring you this funny tale about a man all alone; a friendly puffin, and a whole lot of fuss over nothing. Much Ado About Puffin is about old habits, new friendships, and stepping out into the unknown! Suitable for ages 4+. 

Merlin attractions in Manchester

LEGOLAND Discovery Centre, Manchester has just re-opened after a huge refurb and has a brand new LEGO Ninjago City Adventure play feature with a Ninjago Training Camp, Ninjago Build Table, Ninja Skill training, Interactive Adventure playground and a Rotating Climbing Wall, Sounds pretty awesome, especially for Ninjago fans!

At Manchester’s SEALIFE Centre, on 1st and 2nd April visit the Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler’s The Snail and The Whale event at SEA LIFE. Experience this beloved children’s book as you follow the story around the centre through an amazing underwater world.

Don’t forget to decorate your very own ‘Snail Rock’ with a ‘Save The Whale’ message to display at the centre and support marine wildlife conservation. This is a ticket only event which you can book here.

SEA LIFE Blackpool

Open Day – Helly Hansen Watersports Centre, Salford Quays

If you are interested in trying out watersports this Easter, Salford Leisure are hosting a family Open Day at the Helly Hansen Watersports Centre at Salford Quayson 16th April 2017.

The event is FREE and includes face painting, arts and crafts, a climbing wall, a bouncy castle and various stalls. Plus the Easter bunny will be paying a visit to Salford Quays and hiding eggs for a special Easter Egg Hunt.

For a small fee of £4, adults and children aged 8+ can book hour-long taster sessions in sailing, wakeboarding, windsurfing, canoeing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, powerboating, polo training and so much more.

There’s something for everyone to enjoy, so bring the whole family for a fun day out. Just don’t forget your towel!

The event opens at 11am until 5pm at the Helly Hansen Watersports Centre, Salford Quay. You can find more information here.Things to do in Manchester: Easter 2017

There’s always so much to do in and around Manchester during Easter 2017. If you’ve got any suggestions please feel free to comment below. I’d love to hear what you’ve got planned!

Create a year to remember with a Merlin Annual Pass

Start your year off as you mean to go on and bag the ultimate bargain – 52 weeks of family fun with a Merlin Annual Pass, from just £109 per person in their New Year sale. A Merlin Annual Pass opens the door to 32 magical adventures across the UK, so wherever you live, a Merlin Annual Pass is the ultimate passport to fun!

Last year our family had a Merlin Annual Pass and we really squeezed a lot of value out of it. With regular visits to our local SEA LIFE Centre and LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Manchester, to several days out in Blackpool enjoying the Merlin attractions there, and to various attractions around the country. They really do represent good value for money.

With a Merlin Annual Pass, you can experience the UK’s biggest and best attractions, including the Coca-Cola London Eye, Thorpe Park Resort, Dream Works Tours Shrek’s Adventure! London, Chessington World of Adventures Resort, Alton Towers Resort, LEGOLAND Windsor Resort, SEA LIFE Centres across the UK and many more. 

Create a year to remember with a Merlin Annual Pass

Watch history come to life in re-enactments at Warwick Castle, come nose to fin with fascinating underwater creatures at SEA LIFE centres across the country, go selfie mad with the Hollywood stars at Madame Tussauds in Blackpool and London, transport to the future on Galactica at Alton Towers Resort or how about gazing over London’s beautiful skyline on the Coca-Cola London Eye?

There are also some amazing new additions coming in 2017. In May, the LEGOLAND Windsor Resort will challenge guests to become Masters of Spinjitzu at the all new LEGO NINJAGO World. In this brand new world, families can join their favourite NINJAGO heroes in a series of training activities before putting their Ninja skills to the ultimate test on LEGO NINJAGO The Ride.

One of the UK’s best-loved children’s characters, The Gruffalo, is set to bring a brand new experience to Chessington World of Adventures Resort in 2017!. Expect excitement, an awesome adventure and lots of fun. Alton Towers Resort will have a new CBeebies Land Hotel, uniquely designed for young families and bursting with music, stories and adventures for little ones to enjoy. Plus, the UK’s only LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Manchester is re-launching with a Ninjago themed area that little ones will love! 

Create a year to remember with a Merlin Annual Pass

Upgrade to a Premium Merlin Annual Pass and get priority entry to all of Merlin Entertainments’ UK attractions, automatic membership to the Merlin Holiday Club (an exclusive club with magical treats for Passholders who stay overnight!), discounted entry for family and friends, invites to exclusive Passholder preview events, complimentary standard parking at Resort Theme Parks and a Privilege Pack containing three £5 off Fastrack vouchers for a single use at selected theme parks and three Share the Fun vouchers where a friend can join holders for just £15 each.   

Create a year to remember with a Merlin Annual Pass

The BIG New Year Sale starts at 10am on Sunday 1st January 2017 and will end at midnight on 13th February.

For more information please visit www.merlinannualpass.co.uk.

I am a Merlin Annual Pass Blogger Ambassador. I was given a Merlin Annual Pass to do this review with my family.  I was not paid to write this post.

What’s new at the Just So Festival 2017?

One of our family highlights of 2016 was going to the Just So Festival in Cheshire. It was our first year of camping at the festival and it was a wonderfully magical family weekend. We decided before we even packed the car up to come home that we wanted to go to the Just So Festival 2017, and that we definitely want to camp as that was so much fun.

Just So is an annual, intimate, weekend-long festival – an outdoor adventure like no other. Each year Just So seems to grow and change, with new and magical new elements being added. This year is no exception and the line up is already giving me goosebumps.

What's new at the Just So Festival 2017?

With Early-bird tickets for the festival being released in January, we take a look at what’s new for the Just So Festival 2017.  

The glorious lakeside Silver Screen glade is a large-scale area dedicated to all things cinematic. Recreate famous dance scenes from favourite musicals, join a musical chorus line and become extras in a Just So epic production. Expect marvellous music, theatre dance and circus all themed around the big screen. Bring a blanket while night falls to the beautiful outdoor cinema here and snuggle up to watch the best silent movies and family classics together. 

Inquisitive family explorers can discover the new Forgotten Courtyard. Tucked away in the ruins of the Old Tenants’ Hall is Rode’s beautiful Italian Garden. Expect to stretch your knowledge of the world around you and take part in workshops, provocations, debates and talks. Experience soundscapes and spoken word events here against the backdrop of the beautiful fountain, Italian cypress and olive trees. 

What's new at the Just So Festival 2017?

Head to the new covered Social Barn for a completely crackers celebration of fodder. It’s located next to The Social (with its incredible array of street food and drink) and home to the colouring cafe, midnight feasts and The Great Just So Bake Off.

Back by popular demand for 2017 is Away With The Fairies – deep within The Spellbound Forest find a secret fairyland. See if you can spy some fairies making mischief up in the trees and meet the Fairy Queen.

What's new at the Just So Festival 2017?

Together with these new areas, family festivalgoers can also re-visit much loved and established Just So areas such as Peekaboo, Spellbound Forest and the Woodland Theatre. Adventure into Tales of Animalia, dance the night away in Jitterbug and enjoy the Footlights stage. Not forgetting the wonderful High Seas and the wonderful Tribal Tournament.

Just So is set in woodland clearings, rolling parkland, arboreal amphitheatres and lakeside spots in the Rode Hall Estate, Cheshire. It’s one of the most stunning landscapes in the UK, with limited public access the rest of the year.

Families planning on going to the Just So Festival 2017 are advised to buy tickets earlier than usual this year, with tickets selling at record speed for the 5000 capacity August festival. 

What's new at the Just So Festival 2017?

The Just So Festival 2017 takes place on 18 – 20 August 2017 at the Rode Hall Estate, Cheshire and we can’t wait. 
For information and tickets visit www.justsofestival.org.uk.

Review: Christmas at SEA LIFE Manchester

Over the weekend we popped to the Trafford Centre to run a few pre-Christmas family errands. I sent my husband in to do battle with the hordes of shoppers and I took the small boy for a look around SEA LIFE Manchester, a calm oasis in a sea of Christmas chaos.

We arrived very early and we were the first people through the door. We had our Merlin passes scanned and we headed off to explore. We are regulars at SEA LIFE Manchester, and we always enjoy our visits. The boy loved being first in and it seemed like we had the place to ourselves (we didn’t, other people were a couple of minutes behind us).

Review: Christmas at SEA LIFE Manchester

We quickly sought out some of our favourite sea creatures. I love the jellyfish and we spent some time changing the coloured lights in their tank and seeing how different they looked in the different lights. I also love the stingrays, they glide so gracefully through the water, they’re really calming to watch. 

Review: Christmas at SEA LIFE Manchester

The boy is a big fan of the turtles, so we watched them swim in their tanks and learning more about them. He’s also very keen on seahorses and “Nemo fish”. Although he’s not keen on touching, we did spend quite a lot of time in the rockpool area. The staff were very helpful and told us all about the sea creatures which live in the tank. Some of which we might find in a rockpool in the UK.

Review: Christmas at SEA LIFE Manchester

We had a lovely explore of SEA LIFE Manchester, it felt so peaceful and it’s the perfect antidote to the busyness of Christmas. We’d spent an hour or so peacefully chatting about all of the creatures. We learned a little more about them and wondered what they’d be having for their Christmas dinner.

Review: Christmas at SEA LIFE Manchester

I can absolutely recommend SEA LIFE Manchester if you want to do something with your family this Christmas that isn’t full of flashing lights and fake snow. It was an absolutely delightful way to spend the morning.

What’s on at SEA LIFE Manchester this Christmas?

This Christmas at SEA LIFE Manchester, guests can take part in a festive fish hunt. Come face to fin with a Snow Flake Eel, Humbug Fish, Angel Fish, Star Fish and even a Turkey Fish! 

Excitingly, during the evenings of 17th, 18th, 22nd and 23rd December, visitors can see beautiful diving mermaids in the tropical ocean tank. The Mermaids will grace the water in a spectacular dive with the sharks and Ernie, the giant green sea turtle. 

Find out more about what’s on this Christmas on the SEA LIFE Manchester website.

I am a Merlin Annual Pass Blogger Ambassador. I was given a Merlin Annual Pass to do this review with my family.  I was not paid to write this post.

Christmas: A truly magical visit to LaplandUK

One of my favourite things about Christmas is creating a bit of magic for the small boy. Having had a childhood filled with real magic, it’s only fair I pass some of that sparkle onto the next generation. Over the weekend the most magical Christmassy thing happened to us and the pure wonder on my son’s face is something I will hold in my heart forever. We visited LaplandUK and had the full Lapland experience! 

A few weeks before our visit I filled out an online form to give Father Christmas some extra information about Ben, then a personalised letter arrived for him which I put away for us to read the day before our visit.

On Saturday morning, our elf on a shelf Elfie brought a letter from Father Christmas. Apparently too many children had made it on the good list this year and the elves needed an extra pair of hands. Ben needed to go to Lapland to help out. We live in Manchester and LaplandUK is in Whitmoor Forest in Ascot, so we drove down the day before and stayed nearby in Bracknell.

Christmas: A truly magical visit to LaplandUK

We arrived at LaplandUK and we made our way to through a beautiful pine forest to the warmth of the welcome cabin. We checked in, the boy was given his Elf Passport and we were whisked off on a tour of the Enchanted Forest. We met a whole host of helpful elves, starting with the Elf Travelmaster who greeted us. On into the forest to meet Sage and Eeko, and through the magical doors to the toy workshop to help the elves make some toys.

Christmas: A truly magical visit to LaplandUK

The workshop was really beautifully decorated, if you look up and there’s a conveyor belt of toys doing circuits on the ceiling and three lively and cheeky elves busily keeping the production line going. Ben helped make two toys – a reindeer cuddly toy and a wooden teddy bear. He loved building the bear, and we slightly regret not asking Father Christmas for one this year. 

Christmas: A truly magical visit to LaplandUK

Christmas: A truly magical visit to LaplandUK

After half an hour or so of helping the elves out, we wandered some more through the snowy forest to Mother Christmas’s House to see what she had in her oven. She’d been baking gingerbread and gave everyone a gingerbread man to decorate with runny icing and sweets. It was sticky fun, but that’s the best kind of fun.

Christmas: A truly magical visit to LaplandUK

Once Mother Christmas’s kitchen was clean and tidy, she read us a lovely Christmas story and we headed back out into the snowy woods to explore the Elf Village.

Christmas: A truly magical visit to LaplandUK

You get around two hours to spend in the Elf Village, exploring and having fun. By the time we got there it was dark and the village was beautifully lit up with lights. At the heart of the village is an ice rink with a huge and beautiful Christmas tree in the centre. The village also has a small cafe, the Elf Post Office, the Elf Emporium, a large cafeteria style restaurant and a handful of little stalls selling mulled wine and bratwurst sausages.

Christmas: A truly magical visit to LaplandUK

There’s plenty to keep you occupied in the Elf Village. I’m not allowed to ice skate and my husband had hurt his leg, so none of us were able to get on the rink, but we enjoyed watching everyone whizz by. Little ones could skate with a sturdy penguin figure to keep them upright, and there were a few elf helpers skating about to help anyone who struggled. 

Christmas: A truly magical visit to LaplandUK

The Elf Emporium was a huge and glorious gift shop. I spent quite a lot of time in there browsing and picking up a few things for home. I really liked the the restaurant, it had a lovely festive woodland feel and the food was very good. We didn’t have much to eat, just a quick snack really, but they had an interesting selection of hearty winter dishes to choose from at what I thought were reasonable prices.

The little cafe on the other side of the ice rink was the place to go for a quick snack or coffee and cake. We paid a visit to the Elf Post Office and we wrote a postcard to send home and I had a hot mulled cider to keep the chill off. Whilst we were in the village, elves and huskies wandered about talking to visitors, making sure everyone was happy and entertained. 

Christmas: A truly magical visit to LaplandUK

At the appointed hour, we queued up and we were shown through the forest, past the reindeer and the sleigh, up to a cosy cabin in the woods where an elf told us all about the journey Father Christmas makes each Christmas Eve. After a few minutes our name was called and an elf walked us through the Enchanted Forest to see Father Christmas.

His cabin was cosy. He sat in his chair and invited Ben to sit next to him. They chatted a while about Ben’s recent birthday party in the woods, about how he’s getting on in Beavers and about what he’d like for Christmas. Father Christmas thanked him for his hard work making toys and gave him a cuddly husky and a book to take home. We had our photographs taken, said our goodbyes and left the cabin in the woods with the promise to leave carrots, gingerbread and a drop of something warming by the fire on Christmas Eve.

Christmas: A truly magical visit to LaplandUK

It was beyond a shadow of doubt the best Father Christmas experience we’ve ever had. He was incredibly realistic and so believable I got festive goosebumps and a little tear in my eye. If it’s good enough for Elton John, the Beckhams and Strictly Come Dancing, it’s good enough for us!

It was magic. It was the real Father Christmas. It was a fantastic memory our family will treasure forever. Ben has done nothing but talk about his visit to LaplandUK since we got home. It’s filled him full of Christmas spirit and excitement. It was pure undiluted Christmas magic and wonder. We loved it. 

For more information about LaplandUK and to book tickets, visit their website.

We were invited guests of LaplandUK. All images and opinions are our own.