Gulliver’s Kingdom at Christmas

It snows every day at Gulliver’s Kingdom in Matlock Bath during the festive season.

The children who had gathered for the little Gully show were asked to close their eyes and cross their fingers and make a wish for snow – then, as if by magic the white stuff fell from above and the music began to play.

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As soon as that snow began to fall the children who had been mesmerised by the characters could not run over to it fast enough.

Obviously it was fake, but it was white and fluffy and they had the best time playing in it.

Seeing my children stood there wishing for snow then watching their faces as it began to fall was truly magical.

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WISH: Oliver and Jamine Lovell wish for snow at Gulliver’s Kingdom

Straight after it was our turn to see Santa. Gulliver’s Kingdom – a theme park which is aimed at children aged three to 13 – is the only place we’ve seen him this year and not had to queue. We were able to walk straight through the lovely winter wonderland during our time slot and admire the displays, then were taken straight to Santa by his friendly elf.

MORE REVIEWS: Gulliver’s Kingdom, Matlock Bath in summer

It wasn’t the best grotto we’ve ever seen, or the most enthusiastic Santa – but the kids did love being invited into his workshop afterwards where they were able to choose their present themselves. They loved searching through the shop and it’s nice as a parent to say you can have anything you like – absolutely anything – and not have to worry about the price!

Seeing Santa is included with all tickets during the festive season and despite it not being in the height of summer, there was plenty of rides open, including the log flume!

The wide range of rides and attraction – from the Western World and pirates play area, to the log flume and Drop Tower – makes Gulliver’s Kingdom one of the best theme parks in the UK for children which is why we didn’t mind the 90 minute journey from Hull.

Children shorter than 90cm go free, yet can still go on 11 of 23 rides and enjoy all of the shows, play areas and interactive experiences.

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VIEWS: Oliver and Jasmine Lovell at Gulliver’s Kingdom, Matlock Bath

The theme park is set on a stunning hillside which gives fabulous views over the main street in Matlock Bath. Make sure you’ve got your comfortable shoes on for walking up the hills though! However there is a travellator for one of the steepest hills you can hop onto and also a char lift to transport you from the bottom of the park to the top.

With that in mind I’d say it’s best to start at the top and work your way down to the bottom of the park.

If you want to keep the costs down, picnics are allowed in the park. I was really impressed there’s a warm indoor picnic area upstairs in the party house where adults can also get a hot drink.

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GROTTO: Oliver and Jasmine Lovell meet Santa at Gulliver’s Kingdom, Matlock Bath

But it’s downstairs where the real fun happens! The huge house has everything from a cinema room to rides, a massive sandpit, indoor soft play, ball pools, pedal tractors and interactive games. You could actually spend hours in the party house alone, I’ve not come across anything quite like it anywhere else.

Mrs Christmas’ Kitchen is also inside the party house where you will find a very welcoming Mrs Christmas. Due to it being so cold, we spent a long time in the party house and we still had to drag the kids out.

The entire park is decorated very festive and if like us you leave when it closes at 4.30pm it will be dark so you will be able to see all the twinkly lights which light the entire park up.

I loved the fact there wasn’t a teenage crowd at Gulliver’s Kingdom too. It’s very family orientated, there are no bars and no alcohol is permitted. Unlike other large theme parks, you won’t come across groups of teenagers, as not one guest who isn’t part of a family can enter.

MORE REVIEWS: Dayton Manor including Thomas Land at Christmas 

My six year old son loved Western World, where you can explore little buildings, including a bank, a church and a jail. He also loved operating the diggers, which surprisingly didn’t need extra money to operate and my three year old daughter liked the outdoor play areas and the magic carpet.

There’s also Gulliver’s parks in Warrington and Milton Keynes so no doubt we will be trying them next!

 

Need to know…

LOCATION: Temple Walk, Matlock Bath, Derbyshire, DE4 3PG

OPEN: March to December, excluding November.

PRICES: Children measuring under 90cm go free. £15 if booked online for those taller than 90cm. Prices range at Christmas for various packages.

FACILITIES:

  • Lockers
  • Wheelchair hire
  • Cash point
  • Dedicated smoking areas

BABY:

  • Mother’s feeding room
  • Microwave facilities in the restuarants
  • Baby change rooms in each area of the park
  • First Aid point

PARKING: Free

VISIT: www.gulliverskingdom.co.uk

HOTEL: www.batemansmillhotel.co.uk

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West Midlands Safari Park (Christmas)

I can’t remember the last time I laughed as much as I did last weekend when we drove through the Safari at West Midlands Safari Park (WMSP).

It was absolutely amazing to come face to face with such a wide range of animals including white rhinos, spotted deer, Asian water buffalos, giraffes, lions and tigers.

But we couldn’t stop laughing when a rather large camel began rubbing itself against the car, making it rock from side to side, despite six people being inside. Wing mirror 0, camel 1!

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AMUSING: My sister gets up close and personal with a camel!

I have to say we felt safe at all times though, and there was several Safari rangers vans along the four-mile route.

The kids loved seeing all the animals through the comfort of our own car and got really excited when they came up to our car to say hello.

My five-year-old son had never experienced anything like it before and practiced taking close-up pictures of them on his iPad because at the zoo you can never get so close.

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AMAZED: Watching the animals from the comfort of your car seat!

You can’t get out of your car once on Safari, but you can actually feed them – not the carnivores, but we saw saw a giraffe eating from the palm of someone’s hand.

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UP CLOSE: Deer eat from someone’s hand At WMSP

Until we arrived I didn’t realise there was so much else to do there, as well as the drive-through Safari – it’s definitely a full day out.

There’s a massive Safari village which is transformed into a winter wonderland at Christmastime. It was so magical walking in whilst festive music played and snow fell which we could walk though and play in.

All the trees were covered in snow and there’s a huge Christmas tree in the centre, as well as lots of lovely decorations.

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WINTER WONDERLAND: The kids loved the festive atmosphere

Santa’s grotto is impressive too. You need to take a sleigh ride to get there but that’s not as good than it sounds! In fact it’s a bit naff, but the younger kids will like it.

There’s plenty of animated displays inside to keep the kids amused as you queue and afterwards they get to choose their own toy from Santa’s workshop.

Santa was great with the kids and spent a lot of time talking to them, there was no rush despite the queues. Included in the ticket price was a photograph for each child.

Also included in the Santa Safari price which runs from the end of November each year until Christmas Eve is a mince pie and drink for adults and a cookie and a drink for the kids.

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MAGICAL: Santa had plenty of time to chat to Oliver and Jasmine

Outside there’s also a penguin cove, a sea lion theatre and an indoor heated lorikeet landing where you can walk amongst one of the largest flocks in the UK.

You can also see crocodiles and turtles in the reptile house, and in the African Village theres lemurs and meerkats. There’s also the land of the living dinosaurs – the UK’s largest animatronic dinosaur attraction.

The theme park isn’t open in Winter, but opens from February 4 until November. There’s 28 rides and attractions to choose from including everything from the pirate ship to roller coasters. I’d love a day out here in summer.

TIP: If you buy your tickets online you can choose between return tickets or a safari gift.

There’s plenty of places to eat too, or picnic benches if you choose to take your own.

It’s too far for us to travel to from where we live in a day, so we made a mini-break out of it and also visited Cadbury World whilst in the area.

We stayed at the Premier Inn in Stourbridge which I can highly recommend for a good nights sleep! It’s a brand new hotel so everything is fresh, new and clean. We had a large ground-floor family room which looked out over a grassed area. You can’t beat a new hotel. It’s also got a Brewer’s Fayre attached which was perfect for tea with the kids whilst the parents relaxed with a bottle (or two) of wine knowing we only had to walk back to our room.

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HAPPY: Fun in the Premier Inn hotel

Bedrooms are eqquiped with an impressive 40″ flat screen TV, freshly-updated bathroom with large shower head, and brand new, slumber-inducing, king-size Hypnos bed.

We included breakfast in our booking which was served buffet style so you could have as much as you liked. Couldn’t have asked for anything more when away with kids and you just need somewhere comofrtable and relaxed to stay. Parking is free and there’s also free wifi.

Need to know…

LOCATION: WMSP: Spring Grove, Bewdley DY12 1LF

PRICES:  Santa Safari: £21 for adults and £17 for kids. £7..50 for under-threes. Includes Grotto entry.

CALL: 01299 402114

VISIT: http://www.wmsp.co.uk

HOTEL: Premier Inn, Stourbridge, DY8 1JR

PRICES: From £31.50 per night

Brigg Garden Centre, at Christmas

I know where the real Santa is!

In the run up to Christmas he can be found meeting and greeting children at Brigg Garden Centre in Lincolnshire.

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The ‘real’ Santa at Brigg Garden Centre

With a real white beard, huge round tummy, and the friendliest personality, if ever there was a real Father Christmas, this is him!

Over the years we’ve seen our fair share of Santa’s up and down the country, and the big man at Brigg is the best yet.

I took my son and daughter and my niece and nephew and he must have chatted to them for at least ten minutes.

He told them they weren’t on the naughty list, but also weren’t quite on the nice list either. He said he knows they argue, don’t clear up, don’t help around the house and are sometimes cheeky. They all looked sheepish and couldn’t believe what he knew!

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He asked each child what they would like for Christmas then discussed their choices and asked if they thought they had been good enough.

He then spoke at length about what happens on Christmas Eve and the importance of being asleep when he visits.

He was so interested in them and genuine and engaging. All four children literally stood on the spot and were hanging on his every word. He also high-fived them all and made them promise to be good.

The look on my children’s faces was just a picture. It really was magical. He was just amazing. They left his grotto with a golden ticket to go into his workshop and choose their own toy, believing they had met the real Santa.

Yes choosing a toy takes away the fun of the unwrapping, but to take a child in a “shop” and tell them they can choose anything they want (knowing it’s already been paid for) is brilliant.

For 2016 a visit costs £9 and includes a go on a small train and the bouncy castle. Its very good value really because the presents are decent.

We went back this year because our visit last year was so good, but last year it was a different Santa. I believe they have a few, so I’d recommend checking which one is on if you want to see the ‘real’ one!

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Inside Santa’s workshop at Brigg Garden Centre

We went at the beginning of November and it was heaving! I’d definitely recommend booking online before you go as there are two queues – one for those who have pre-booked a time, and another for ‘walk-ins’ on the day.

As well as the Grotto there’s so many magical displays to look at, festive music, including the animated polar bear band and there’s also a train ride outside too.

We also met the real reindeer. Even if it’s cold, it’s definitely worth going outside as there’s a big play area. We will definitely be going back in summer as there’s a big sand play area, zip wire, roundabout, swings and slides and climbing frames.

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Need to know…

Location: Bigby High Road, Brigg, North Lincolnshire, Brigg DN20 9HE

Web: www.britishgardencentres.com