If you’ve got a Merlin Annual Pass, you might have some favourite places to visit with it. A lot of passholders tend to visit the same two or three attractions, but it’s good to branch out a bit if you get the chance. This year we have been Merlin Annual Pass Ambassadors and we’ve made a conscious effort to get out and about a bit more, using our passes on holidays and weekends away to get the most out of them.
There are (I think) 32 UK attractions you can gain entry to with a Merlin Annual Pass. Whilst we’ve not managed to visit them all, we’ve had a lot of fun trying. Below is a list of all the (current) Merlin Attractions in the UK along with links to a write up of a visit there, either by myself or another blogger. It’s a cracking to do list if you’ve got a Merlin Annual Pass. How many have you visited?
The Ultimate Review Round up of Merlin Attractions in the UK
When we heard that SEA LIFE Manchester were unveiling a new exhibit, we had to go down and check it out. SEA LIFE Manchester is one of our favourite places to spend a few hours and we were keen to meet the new resident – a Japanese Spider Crab!
Japanese Spider Crabs can measure over 5 metres claw to claw, and can live to up to 100 years old! There are three Japanese Spider Crabs at SEA LIFE Manchester in a huge new tank area. Given they can grow up to the size of a small car, even though they seem huge, they still have plenty of growing to do.
The hard shell of the Japanese Spider Crab helps to protect them from larger predators such as octopuses, but giant spider crabs also use camouflage. The crab’s bumpy shell can help them to blend into the rocky ocean floor. They really are incredible creatures. Almost nightmarish in appearance, but apparently they are quite placid creatures. It felt really special to see these deep-sea creatures close up.
SEA LIFE Manchester has been given a bit of a makeover since we were last there just before Christmas. A few things have been moved about or refreshed, with, I’m pleased to say, another jellyfish tank in the building. You can crawl through the fluorescent world of the floating moon jellyfish in their brand new 360-degree doughnut tank. I adore jellyfish and we always spend lots of time watching them swim about. They’re very relaxing to watch.
We also stopped by the Jurassic Ranger area to have a look at the fossils. The Ranger expertly told us all about the fossils she had on display and let us touch some. She also gave the kids a sharks tooth each to take home with them as a souvenir. It was really interesting to find out more about sharks and sharks teeth, especially as that’s one of his topics at school this year.
SEA LIFE Manchester is one of our favourite places to visit. I’m pleased to see it’s been given a little makeover in parts. The centre is packed full of beautiful, weird and wonderful creatures; it’s well worth a visit for a few hours if you’re wanted a few hours of wonder and awe.
Find out more about what’s on at SEA LIFE Manchester on their website.
Disclosure: We are Merlin Annual Pass Ambassadors this year. All images and opinions are our own.
I don’t know about you, but Sunday evenings are Blue Planet time in our house. We all snuggle on the sofa and spend an hour being wowed by the wonders of the deep. With SEA LIFE Manchester virtually on our doorstep, we decided to take a trip and discover some of the amazing creatures who live in our oceans.
SEA LIFE Manchester is our nearest SEA LIFE Centre and as such we tend to go there quite a lot. It’s great to spend a couple of fairly chilled hours there. We’ve met most of the creatures in the centre before, but this time there had been a couple of changes.
I have my own favourites, namely the jellyfish, this time they were much smaller, so I think these were new to the centre. It was quite interesting to see their relatively small bodies floating and undulating in the water.
Te other big change was that Ernie, the huge green sea turtle has found himself a lady friend – Cammie. I think the hope is that they will find love and produce some baby turtles of their own.
Despite us being regular visitors to SEA LIFE Manchester, we did manage to experience a few things we’d never seen or done before. The boy felt brave enough to touch a starfish in the Rockpool Zone. Then I put my hand in to say hello to a shrimp. I was told the shrimp would nibble my fingers, taking away dead skin and it found a nice meal and gave my finger a bit of a tug I wasn’t expecting. I may have squealed in a most unnecessary way.
We also spent quite a lot of time talking to some of the Jurassic Rangers who were on hand to talk about fossils and show off some specimens. The boy is a massive dinosaur fan, so this was a bit of a treat for him.
Best of all, towards the end of the day we managed to catch the Ray Talk. We watched them being fed while a very knowledgeable man told us all about them. There are three species of ray at SEA LIFE Manchester including the lovely Blue Spotted Stingrays. The Ray Talk is well worth catching if you’re interested in these graceful creatures.
The boy went all around SEA LIFE pointing out creatures he’d seen on Blue Planet and telling us a bit more about them. The same is true when we’re watching the TVseries; every so often he pipes up “I’ve seen that at SEA LIFE”!
If you’re a fan of Blue Planet then a visit to your local SEA LIFE Centre is a must. It’s really helped to connect the dots for my son. Seeing things in real life that he’d seen on the TV suddenly made everything extra wonderful and real for him.
Find out more about what’s on this Christmas on the SEA LIFE Manchester website.
I’m 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.
Last weekend we had a furiously busy few days. We were rushed off our feet going Christmas shopping and all kinds of festive prep. It was busy and stressful, as the run up to Christmas so often is.
Whilst my husband did battle with a shopping centre, I took the small boy to the SEA LIFE Centre for an hour. We love it there, it’s usually a lot of fun and an interesting way to spend an afternoon exploring under the sea. But this time we were the first through the door and as we skipped the initial photograph and film, we were a good few minutes in front of everyone else. It was fantastic.
After the chaos and bright lights of the last few weeks, we took our stress levels down a notch or two. Watching the fish swimming in the tanks and the calm undersea lighting worked wonders on our fraught moods.
I have a real thing for jellyfish. I’m terrified of them in the sea, but in the tanks of the SEA LIFE Centre they are shown up as the real things of beauty that they are. I love taking photographs of them and trying to capture some of their alien beauty. Here’s my favourite from our visit. I hope you like it too.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Recently one thousand families were put to the test at SEA LIFE Manchester to see how many of 10 fishy facts they were given during their visit they could remember.
Apparently the average score was only 5 correct questions out of 10, with mums and dads out-performing their children by a narrow margin of just 2%.
During the summer school holidays, SEA LIFE are hosting Finding Dory trails and events at all their UK SEA LIFE centres. They thought it would be interesting to see how their visitors compare to Dory when it comes to remembering things.
Apparently the results were quite surprising, and seem to suggest that we can all can be a little forgetful from time to time.
Some of the simple facts and statistics that SEA LIFE Manchester visitors struggled to remember were:
There are seven species of sea turtle in the world’s oceans
The Emperor Penguin is the largest penguin
The most common octopus in UK waters is the Lesser Octopus
What is interesting about the survey is that the facts people remembered best were the ones about the harm humans are doing to our oceans and their inhabitants. Most could remember that an estimated 70 million sharks are being killed every year for their fins, or as bycatch for example.
It is encouraging that important conservation messages like this are filtering through and helping to raise awareness and support for marine conservation, something that popular films like Finding Dory will also help to do.
SEA LIFE’s themed event is running at the 12 UK centres until September 11th, and includes a trail inspired by Hank the cantankerous octopus – one of Finding Dory’s central characters.
For further information or to pre-book tickets online before your visit please go to www.visitsealife.com/manchester. Reduced prices are available for tickets booked in advance.
It only seems like five minutes since the kids when back to school after Easter and the May half term is just around the corner. It’s often hard to think of things to do to entertain the troops. Playdates and trips to the park always feature heavily, but it’s good to have a few bigger things in the diary too.
I’ve picked a few things to do in (and around) Manchester with the kids this May half term. We’ll definitely be popping along to some of these.
The Lost Carnival
If you’ve ever been to the Just So Festival, A Day at the Lake or event The Lost Carnival last year, you know that Wild Rumpus know how to put on an event. Last year we went to The Lost Carnival which was in Bury, this year you can experience an evening of wonder in Crewe, and trust me, it is an experience to remember for all the best reasons.
This year features a “Battle of the Carnivals” between the rival carnivals, The Ingenues and the Birds. Together they will meet for a thrilling evening of spellbinding theatre and enthralling installations, circus, music, visual trickery and sideshows galore. Last year was so good it gave me goosebumps and this year looks set to be even bigger and better!
The Lost Carnival will take place on May 28/29/30 (4-9.30pm) at Queen’s Park, Crewe, Cheshire CW2 7SE. Early Bird tickets cost £10 per ticket. Under 3s go free. Carnival goers should dress for the weather, and wear sturdy shoes.
LEGOLAND Discovery Centre & SEA LIFE Manchester
Over the May half term, LEGOLAND Discovery Centre and SEA LIFE Manchester at the Trafford Centre will have lots to entertain families come rain or shine. better still, guests only have to buy one ticket and will have the freedom to explore two brilliant attractions!
In the LEGOLAND Discovery Centre visit the brand new play area, City Builder. Visitors can create their own buildings and structures in the City Builder zone. The only limit is your imagination!
For movie enthusiasts, LEGOLAND Discovery Centre has another new 4D movie starring the LEGO Nexo Knights. Experience this fantastic new 4D film with all the elements – wind, water and smoke – bringing the battle to life all around the cinema.
Down at SEA LIFE Manchester, families can dive deep to the fascinating world of new exhibition, Octopus Hideout and spot the star of the show, the Giant Pacific Octopus called Hank and his Cephalopod friends. A visit to SEA LIFE is always a fascinating, fun and educational day out.
For more information and to buy tickets, visit the LEGOLAND website and the SEA LIFE website.
Roald Dahl’s Tremendous Adventures at Tatton Park
From Easter until the end of 2016, Tatton Park is is bringing Roald Dahl’s imagination to life, with a host of children’s trails and events for all the family. Join Danny the Champion of the World in the gardens, Fantastic Mr Fox at the farm and Matilda in the mansion and you’ve got to be careful of The Enormous Crocodile out in the parkland!
We’ve already visited and explored the farm at Tatton Park where we found Fantastic Mr Fox, and we’ll be visiting again over half term to explore some of the other fabulous Roald Dahl goings on. You can read the full preview of the Roald Dahl adventures at Tatton Park here.
GeronimO Festival at Tatton Park
The Geronimo Festival is on at Tatton Park (May 29th and 30th) and will feature CBeebies star live shows, a full circus, 3 theatre companies, amazing bands, a full county fair arena including jousting, sheep shearing, motorcycle displays, funfair rides, tortoise encounters, spy school den building and 100 other amazing activities.
This year CBeebies megastar Justin Fletcher will be there, as well as Mr Bloom, presenters Andy Day and Alex Winters and Cook and Line from Swashbuckle. As well as Les Enfants Terrible who present their Imaginary Menagerie. We’ve seen this show before and it is fantastic, so we won’t be missing that particular festival highlight! You can read my preview here.
Manchester is a lively, vibrant city full of museums, art galleries, things to see, do and explore. Just a short drive out fo the city you have a wealth of unspoilt countryside and fresh air to fill your lungs with.
If you’re looking for some Easter fun for all the family this coming half term, families can have the ultimate fun day in Manchester at not one, but two fantastic attractions this Easter! LEGOLAND Discovery Centre and SEA LIFE Manchester have a fun-filled week planned, with lots of exciting activities and a taste of some brand new additions at the attractions to show off.
LEGO fans will soon get a fresh fix of their favourite heroes as this Easter “The LEGO Movie 4D, A New Adventure”, a brand new 4D attraction, re-unites the characters from the original movie at LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Manchester from Saturday 12th March.
The riotous, action-packed plot sees Emmet, Wyldstyle, Unikitty, Benny and MetalBeard receive a mysterious invitation leading them to a new theme park, bearing a suspicious resemblance to LEGOLAND. But all is not as it seems as the heroes are once again thrust into the middle of an evil secret plot masterminded by a totally new character, the scheming Risky Business. The larger-than-life experience will sweep the audience right into the action as the gang hurtle through a fast paced adventure featuring some very special theme park attractions, from Unikitty’s cute and colourful ‘Wainbow Wubble World’ to Wyldstyle’s ‘Super Cycle Mega Ride’ and MetalBeard’s ‘Pirate Plunder Danger Cave’. It’s up to Emmet and Wyldstyle, enlisting the Master Builder skills of the audience, to try and save the day.
Fans will love the chance to immerse themselves in The LEGO Movie world in a totally new way with 4D elements such as wind, water, smoke and special lighting effects bringing the story to life.
Enjoy the most amazing city in the world, the brand new play area, City Builder. Visitors can create cities and buildings in the most unique city that can be imagined. From the creativity of countless budding architects will flourish the most beautiful and imaginative buildings and stories. Girls and boys can meet the heroes of City and the girlfriends of Heart Lake City, and they’ll see everything from huge skyscrapers to cosy family houses all made from LEGO.
Visitors can also lose themselves in 1.5 million LEGO bricks and explore the wonders of MINILAND, have an adventurous ride in LEGO City Forest Pursuit, try dodging the lasers in LEGO Ninjago Laser Training Camp, play in the soft play area at the LEGO Construction Site and much more.
If that wasn’t enough, visitors should prepare to be amazed by the brand new exhibition Octopus Hideout just next door at SEA LIFE Manchester, which gives guests a unique opportunity to come face to sucker with one of the oceans most intelligent creatures.
Meet the star of Octopus Hideout, Hank, the Giant Pacific Octopus that has eight arms, blue blood, three hearts and can grow up to a jaw-dropping five metres in length and weigh up to 50 kilograms! One of the biggest octopus species in the world, Giant Pacific Octopuses can solve mazes, blend into their environment and even open jars.
Families will also not want to miss the jet-propelled, gas-fuelled prehistoric nautilus, a primitive octopus in a spiral shell, the cuttlefish, a captivating type of mollusc which can change colour to give itself the perfect camouflage against any background, or the teeny tiny Atlantic Long Arm Octopus, a small sea creature with arms longer than its 90 millimetre body!
SEA LIFE Manchester is also home to an incredible array of sea creatures from all over the planet, including family favourite Ernie, the Giant Green Sea Turtle, captivating seahorses, colourful clownfish, Black Tip Reef Sharks, rays and more.
Ah-ha! I bet you were expecting something with hearts and flowers since it’s Valentine’s Day, sadly not. Yesterday we visited SEA LIFE Manchester and had a whale of a time (pun intended). You can read all about our aquatic adventures here, but for now I’ll leave you with this picture of the boy, tackling a tunnel and finding Nemo.
February half term is a tough one, the weather is unrelentingly gloomy, and I have no desire at all to stand shivering in the park afternoon after afternoon watching the boy hit muddy puddles with an equally muddy stick. The sensible thing to do is to plan a week of mainly indoor activities, where they can explore, have fun and maybe learn a little something too. SEA LIFE Manchester have launched a new attraction just in time for half term, so we went along to check out the new Octopus Hideout.
We’ve never been to SEA LIFE Manchester before, the small boy loves an aquarium, so he was very much looking forward to his visit. We were in for a real treat, the layout and design of the centre has been incredibly well thought out, with atmospheric lighting and mood music playing throughout, as well as lots of interactive displays so you don’t just feel like you’re looking at things, you’re getting involved too.
We were wowed by the range of aquatic life they’d managed to fit into the aquarium, with sharks, turtles and rays swimming about, as well as more fish than we dared to count. There were weird and wonderful species of fish, most of which were imaginatively displayed in shaped tanks, some of which you could walk under, peep into through portholes, or just stand in awe at the underwater scene in front of you.
The Octopus Hideout is a brand new attraction which was launched just in time for this half term, we met up with Dan the curator who was able to tell us more about the creatures in the new Octopus Hideout. Although technically we were looking at more than just octopus, we were looking at cephalopods.
Cephalopods include octopus, squid, cuttlefish and nautilus, they can change colour, texture and body shape to blend into their surroundings, and if threatened they can squirt a cloud of ink as a smokescreen or decoy. Cephalopods have three hearts and blue blood, and they are thought to be among the most intelligent creatures in the ocean.
We met the Nautilus, a slightly weird looking cephalopod with a hard shell. It can alter its buoyancy by filling its chambers with water. They were quite hypnotic to look at, pulsating and bobbing up and down in the water. Nautilus is an ancient creature which has been around for more than 500 million years. We also met the Common Octopus (called Octopus Prime), as well as the tiny Atlantic Long Arm Octopus and Cuttlefish.
Hank the Giant Pacific Octopus, Photo courtesy of SEA LIFE Manchester
Dan showed us Hank the Giant Pacific Octopus, he explained that octopus were nocturnal and Hank, like me, isn’t great in the mornings. Hank was pretty big, but was fast asleep on a rock, having disguised himself as a rock, so he was grey. Dan told us when they fed him earlier (he enjoys a crab three times a week) he was bright red. Hank was fascinating and we learned a great deal about this mysterious creature.
We took our time looking around everything, paused mid way to let off some steam in the soft play room half way around, had a funny photograph taken, touched a starfish or two and learned all about life under the sea. It beats shivering in the park any day!
To find out more about the Octopus Hideout and to book tickets for this half term and beyond, visit the SEA LIFE Manchester website.
Note: We were invited guests of SEA LIFE Manchester. All opinions are our own.