The Rainforest Cafe, London

I don’t normally do restaurant reviews because we have what could be politely described as an unrefined palette, but The Rainforest Cafe isn’t an ordinary restaurant.

As the name suggests, the restaurant (not a cafe!) is set in a rainforest theme, with elephants, monkeys and various other animals. The only thing missing is the rain and humidity (thankfully!)

Set in a basement in Piccadilly Circus, you can’t actually see the restaurant from the street, and you access it through the ground level shop (handy for post meal-nagging for a present!!). However, don’t let this put you off – the decor is amazing and creates such an atmosphere and sensory experience for the little ones (and big ones!)

Heidi was besotted by the elephants that were next to us and was even more amazed by the Rainforest Cafe mascot “Cha-Cha” who came round for meet and greets during the meal. It is a dining experience that is somewhat unique to say the least!

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Cha-Cha!!

In terms of the actual food, the service was really quick (the food was served before the drinks!!) and was of good quality. I had burger and fries – at the end of a busy London weekend, that was all I could face and Heidi had chicken and fries. Both with drinks came to just under £40, which is expensive for a Yorkshireman, but coming here is a one-off treat, rather than a daily occurrence. The staff were very child focused and were happy to talk to the children a s much as the adults!

Children get a colouring pack but there is the option to buy an activity pack, which comes with an animal mask. If truth be told, the excitement of eating in such a cool place was more than enough stimulation and is probably not needed – however, it would be a good way to navigate the shop at the end of the meal!

We went on a Sunday late afternoon and the waiting area was full and so booking is a must do – the website is so easy to navigate and we were seated within 5 minutes of arriving at the restaurant. As mentioned, the restaurant is in the basement, so pushchairs are left upstairs (not sure there is a lift). In terms of toilets, there are baby changing facilities in the Gents, which is good to see.

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As I said previously, the cost will be prohibitive for some, but this is perhaps the coolest restaurant that I have ever been in and so child focused, so it is well worth a visit if you’re wanting a treat.


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Sneaky Experience – Fairy Tales Kingdom

So we finally managed to get to a “Sneaky Experience” event and given that the second day of the event is tomorrow, I thought that I would try and do a quick recap, without giving too much away!!

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So, the event is in Kirkstall Abbey itself, and so be prepared for uneven ground and narrow walkways (not suitable for double buggies!!!) and given the recent rain, take a picnic blanket to sit on as there is a bit of sitting down watching performances. (While you’re at it, take some food as well!!)

So, having never been to a Sneaky Experience event before, I didn’t know what to expect, but essentially there are 10-14 pop-up entertainers throughout the Abbey performing for the whole of the 3 hour session. While it seems a bit chaotic, it tends to be a good idea just to go with the flow and it is all very fast paced anyway, so you don’t have that long for downtime.

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The entertainment ranged from puppet shows, Elsa singalong, Anna fashion show and a big version of Twister.

However, the best entertainment was the 2 person performances of both “Hook and Pan” and “Toad and the Mole”. Whilst they lasted 20 minutes or so each, the audience fully bought into the show – so much so that the children were so excited that they nearly invaded the stage! The children were so loud that I couldn’t speak to the person next to me (who I thought that I knew but wanted to ask!!)

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The fabulous Hook and Pan

The entertainers were all dressed up and if they weren’t doing a performance, then they were more than happy for pictures to be taken with the little ones and this was almost as exciting than the shows for the little ones.

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We lasted 2 ½ hours and I enjoyed a sleeping 4 year old on the way home, mainly because the event was so fast paced that there was always something to see or do. It probably wouldn’t be suitable for those under 3 and above 8 or so, and while there were a high proportion of girls, there is nothing gender specific about it. Likewise, while plenty dressed up in princess outfits, there is no obligation ro incentive to do so – it might make the event a little more special, that’s all.

There were a few stalls to buy ice cream/drinks, but you are probably best taking your own so you’re not queuing and thus, getting the most out of it.

Sneaky Experience do all sorts of events and I’ll be sure to check out some of the others in the future as this was of an excellent quality.


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Rainbow Factory – Summer Holiday sessions 2017

With Heidi about to start school in September (boo!), this is the last hurrah of having random time off during the week to do random kiddie stuff. As a result, we went down to one of our favourite places in the world – the Rainbow Factory – for their Summer Holiday themed sessions, and we went to the Superheroes event.

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Batgirl Photobooth (free)

The events change each week, but the concept is the same for each week. As a result, you could go every week during the school holidays, and have a different experience each time.

The general theme is there is a “warm-up” at 10.45am before the activities start at 11am. Each activity is timetabled for 30 minutes and there is a sequence to the activities so if you have got a clash, you can still do the activities that you want to do.

To get the most out of the day, the best tips are:

Get there for 10.30 – It does get busy and you really want to get there for the warm-up

Sign-up to the activities – Once you know what you want to do, sign up to the activities on the sheets provided. They do get filled quickly and so it is a good idea to do that first. However, if you/your child changes their mind, cross off your name so someone else can do the activity!!

Go for the whole day – Even if you just pay for a couple of activities, there are loads of free things to do and make sure you don’t have to rush off after an hour or so.

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Playing in the Secret Garden (free)

The activities are completely different each week, but we did Super Hero and Super Villain training, Controlling the Weather, Creating explosions (both science related) and Marshmallow target practice (which was just firing marshmallows at targets – very fun!).

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Marshmallow Target Practice!

In reality, we couldn’t have done another activity as the pair of us were tired, but I think if you had an older child, then they could squeeze another activity in. We did the online VIP pass (£13.75), which made it easier at the reception and meant that you didn’t have to ration the activities – it also guaranteed entry, which is also a reassuring thing because it did get busy.

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Ingredients to make rainclouds

In terms of ages, I wouldn’t want to take a child under 3 to be honest, because it would probably be a bit too much for them, and the top end would probably be about 10 years old. There were loads of 6 to 8 year olds, and the activities are best aimed for them.

When people ask me what the Rainbow Factory is, it is very difficult to describe, because everything is totally different. However, it is teaching children through play and structured activities so they become more creative and confident. However, none of this would be possible without the excellent staff there – always happy (at least on the outside!), always willing to help and always wanting to interact on your child’s level. They help the shy children come out of their shell and they interact with the uber- confident children. They are the stars of the show, and they put their heart and soul into every single thing they do for the children and it shows.

The Summer Holiday sessions are running until 1st September during the weekdays, with a different theme each week, so there is no excuse not to pop down!!


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