William’s Den

With a reported £3m investment, William’s Den opened in 2017 and the pair of us went with 2 other families on a summers Wednesday to see what it was all like!


Located 5-10 minutes off the M62, it does feel as though it is in the middle of nowhere, (so trust the Sat Nav!) but that is because of the vast open space that William’s Den needs for all the outdoor play areas.

There are effectively 2 sections – an indoor and an outdoor play area. The indoor area is a huge rustic play/climbing frame with rope bridges, slides and sand. The adults favourite was the chill-out area, but we weren’t sure whether the area was suited for adults or children – it was much needed towards the end of the day as we were getting tired!!

The outdoor area included 2 zip wires, climbing stones, mud kitchen, swings and a maze of hills and tunnels which were made for creative, energetic play! Also outside were numerous picnic benches for the adults to watch the children go and enjoy themselves.

This is a place where you can let the children play amongst themselves, albeit watch from a relative distance, in part because it is a secure location, but also because the nature of the attraction means that it isn’t suitable for any children under 4 (or you will be doing a LOT of lifting and carrying on the climbing activities!)


One of the really good things about William’s Den is the fact that you are allowed to bring a picnic in and so you don’t have to spend a small fortune on food – however, the food prices didn’t seem too bad at all, especially compared to elsewhere.

Another really excellent thing is the toilet facilities. Yes, I said that right! Being a single dad to a 4 year old girl, going to public toilets are often a challenge, but here they have family toilets, with baby change (see picture below) which make it so much easier. However, it also means that my 4 year old daughter has now discovered going to the toilet with her best friend – which means chaos in the future!!! Suffice to say, the toilets were clean and in good condition.


Also, on the entry wristband for the children, adults were encouraged to put a contact number in case they got lost – very simple but never seen it before and it could come in very useful at times.

In terms of downsides, as it is a partly outdoor attraction, you do need a dry day to make the most of it. Also, it is somewhat exposed and so if the wind is blowing, it can feel a bit cool so make sure you take a jacket, even if the sun is shining!

As you can imagine, with a new attraction that has had positive reviews, it does get full and so it is advisable to pre-book online to avoid disappointment. However, regardless as to how full it gets, car parking is plentiful and free.

All in all, we spent 5 or so hours at William’s Den and at the end of it, we were all exhausted, but in the best way possible.  I’m pretty sure this will be a place for us to visit regularly, especially as the kids get a bit older and stronger and can enjoy the activities a bit more.

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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!



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.


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!!


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.


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!!)


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.


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.


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.


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!).


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.


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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Tree Top Nets

So Fathers Day 2017 was spent in the company of a group of friends who we have known since we started doing Rhythm Time almost 3 years ago (read all about Rhythm Time here) and for our first “day out” together, we decided to go to Tree Top Nets in Ripon.

While there are a few Tree Top Nets locations, the Ripon one is easily located if you follow the signs for Lightwater Valley theme park as they share the same (free) car park.

Tree Top Nets is basically lots of net trampolines set high in the trees with walkways between each mini-section. There are also slides from the trampolines down the ground as well as “stepping stone” logs on the ground. One of the sections is specifically age restricted so the little ones have a safe place to bounce – I put safe in italics because it is all very safe, but restricting the ages in a specific section is a good idea to help the smaller ones build confidence. There is also a safety talk before you’re allowed on, which is reassuring and scary at the same time!!


It’s not like a prison, honest!!

When you first go on the nets, it is a very strange experience and does take a while to get used to the sensation of bouncing and walking, as well as the fact you’re up in the sky! This is especially true for the children and the children in our group (3 and 4 year olds) did struggle for the first half an hour or so, so you need to factor that into your expectations of the attraction.

However, once they got used to it, they loved it and just as importantly, the parents of the group enjoyed it too!! Our favourite was the area with the “footballs” and we had great fun playing with those whilst trying to make sure the little ones were safe!! This is probably the one area where it is advisable to avoid if you have a smaller child, or wear glasses!!


Bouncy fun!!

Further up into the nets, the Crows Nest is one for the more adventurous and stronger climbers (we didn’t get up there to see the wonderful view) but the hopscotch is very fun to watch!

We stayed for about 6 hours, although the allotted time is 2 hours (we had a voucher) and as you can imagine, we were suitably tired on a hot and sunny day by that time, but it showed that we enjoyed it so much!! You are free to bring picnics into the site and while there are no lockers, there are enough picnic tables so you can leave your things there while you climb and bounce. There is a small tuck shop, vending machines and most importantly, a water dispenser. The fact that you’re climbing and bouncing means you need to keep your fluids topped up, however, up in the trees, it is remarkably shaded and cool.


Not sure you can take umbrellas onto the nets!!

Under 3’s are not allowed onto the nets at all and I wouldn’t want to take a 3 year old who wasn’t confident as the sensation can be particularly strange. As the attraction is not geared to babies, I didn’t see any baby changing facilities, but I am sure that the friendly staff would help as much as possible. (UPDATE! The friendly Tree Top Nets staff have told me that the baby change facilities are in the unisex toilets!)

This type of attraction is geared towards going with a group of friends and having a laugh with each other and playing with the children at the same time. Because of the physical nature, it does help if you have enough adults so you can rotate and have a rest, because the children seem to go on forever because they have a brilliant time!!

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Alton Towers Hotel


As my post on Cbeebiesland mentioned here, we went for 2 days and as a result, we stayed over and made it a mini-holiday. There are a couple of hotels on site – Alton Towers Hotel and the Splash Landings Hotel. From July 2017, there is a Cbeebies Hotel which I would love for us to stay in (and use our free tickets!)

We stayed at the Alton Towers Hotel, for the only reason that it came up first in the search results! Both hotels are interconnected and the entertainment/restaurants in both hotels are available to residents of both hotels (It looks like Cbeebies hotel is going to be more standalone). Both hotels are a very short walk to the monorail which takes you to the park.

Rather than describe the hotel room, I think this video would probably do more justice…!!

The Alton Towers Hotel seemed more “business like” with the restaurants and entertainment, with the excellent Michelle singing in an evening. It was really good to see the majority of the children listening very politely and in a grown-up way, even with a little bit of dancing as well…!! There were many cuddles when the 7pm set was finished and many of the little ones knew it was bedtime.

The children’s entertainment in the Alton Towers Hotel was limited to Meet and Greets with various characters at half hour intervals in late afternoon/early evening – so think about your dinner reservation timings! However, in the Splash Landings hotel, it was more child focused with story time and a mini disco in an evening – but the beauty is that you can see/do both.


In terms of food, the breakfast is in the Secret Garden restaurant and is help-yourself to warm/cold breakfast and is what you come to expect in such hotels. For dinner, we also went to the Secret Garden as it was the most appropriate child menu for us, but I would have liked to try the all-you-can-eat buffet in the Splash Landing hotel as the variety of choice looked really good.


Because of the location of Alton Towers, you are best to keep on site as you’re in the middle of nowhere, but that isn’t a bad thing as it feels as though you’re on holiday more than if you went to a “standard” place for tea etc. There is also a small shop in both hotels so you don’t need to leave the hotel.

One tip is to make use of the Porters Lodge if you’re arriving early/leaving late after check-out. This makes it easier when getting to the park and they will try to put your bags in your room if you’re an early arriver. The only downside is that there wasn’t an ice bucket facility which meant that I had to improvise to have a cool drink after bedtime!!

Next time, I’m sure Cbeebies Hotel awaits us (sneak preview of the bedroom below!!!)


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We made the trip down to Alton Towers for a 2 night stay, particularly to take in Cbeebiesland while Heidi was still interested in those programmes and while we could go before she started school.

Cbeebiesland is within the Alton Towers park, although set aside so it is very much child friendly and you don’t get any of the crowds going on the rollercoasters – in this respect it is very much like Peppa Pig World at Paultons Park (See here for our visit there!)

As it is only for children, the staff are very friendly and the setting is very colourful in the Cbeebies colour scheme. Within the park, there are around 12 attractions and you should be able to do them all in 1 day, depending on how little your little one is and whether they need a nap during the day!!

All the rides/attractions are Cbeebies themed, from Octonauts to Postman Pat, in the Night Garden to Charlie and Lola. The only one which is height restricted is the Octonauts rollercoaster and while it is not fast in the great scheme of things, but I would watch it go round first before queuing up.

There are also “Meet and Greet” with various characters throughout Cbeebiesland which seemed to be a bit ad-hoc so keep your eyes peeled, but there is a specific tent for an “In the Night Garden” which seemed to be a big hit with the babies (or the parents more likely!).  There are hourly interactive shows as well which are really good if your child can get involved – such as Tree Fu Tom and do the actions etc.



Our (or should I say my!) favourite attraction is Justin’s House and is basically a mock up of Justin’s house but the main fun is going onto the balcony overseeing the ground floor and collecting the foam balls and then using them in the play guns and fire them at people!! It is a bit more than an adult attraction, and while it is impossible to get hurt, care needs to be made not to hit small children!!


Justin’s House!!!

In terms of facilities, there are quite a number of toilets and the ones near Justin’s House had plenty of space. There is one small food outlet which offers a standard theme park menu/prices – although there are numerous outlets throughout the rest of the park. There is also a shop selling Cbeebies themed goodies and the “In the Night Garden” ride exit feeds into the shop so if you have a “needy” little one, you might want to do this ride at the end of the day so you can avoid the shop until then!

All in all, we had 2 good days here, although you don’t need 2 just to do Cbeebiesland. Our first day was beset by winds and rain and because of this, everyone in the park got a free ticket and so we have a ready made excuse to go back!!

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