Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Dates for your Diary - Peter Pan at the Epstein Theatre

The swashbuckling adventure of LHK Productions' panto Peter Pan, comes to the Epstein Theatre this Christmas from Friday 8th December to Monday 1st January 2018.

Children and adults alike will be whisked away on a sensational journey to Neverland this Christmas. With a sprinkle of fairy dust from Tinkerbell, join Peter, Wendy and The Lost Boys on an adventure full of Pirates, Mermaids, Indians and a devious tick-tocking croc, in this enchanting story of the boy who never grew up.

Headlining Peter Pan is Another Level's Dane Bowers, who will have audiences hooked this festive season as Captain Hook. Dane began his career as a member of Another Level, one of the most successful boy bands of the 90's - achieving several platinum selling albums and singles. He has also made appearances on Celebrity Big Brother, Celebrity Come Dine with Me and ITV's The Big Reunion, which saw him form a supergroup boy band with the likes of Gareth Gates.

Photo credit: David Munn Photography

Set to take audiences by storm is Liverpool's own Lewis Pryor who will be playing the lead role of Peter Pan. Lewis appeared in the 2016 series of Britain's Got Talent, finishing 3rd place in the Live Finals as a member of dance troupe Boogie Storm. Supporting Peter Pan will be Radio City 2's Claire Simmo, starring as the lovable Tinkerbell.

No LHK Production would be complete without everyone's favourite dame, Michael Chapman, who returns for 2017 as the Darling Family Cook and is guaranteed to bring his usual hysterical capers and comedy antics. New cast additions also include the incredibly talented Joanne Harper as Wendy Darling and local performer Georgia Austin as Tiger Lily.

As ever, audiences can expect a huge production from LHK Productions with dazzling sets, sparkling costumes, laugh-a-minute scripts, brilliant songs and exquisite trade-mark choreography that everyone has come to know and love from Liverpool's acclaimed panto production company!

Listing Details

Dates - Friday 8th December 2017 to Monday 1st January 2018
Venue - The Epstein Theatre, Hanover House, 85 Hanover Street, Liverpool, L1 3DZ
Times - Times vary, please visit www.epsteinliverpool.co.uk for more information.

Opening night ticket offer: Friday 8th December all tickets £13
Special Offer: Tuesday 26th December 5pm & Sunday 31st December 5:30pm all tickets £15
Sat & Sun performances and Monday 1st January (excluding 31/12 5:30pm performance): Adult £19/ Concession £17/ Family £63
All other performances: Adult £18/ Concession £16/ Family £59
Limited number of £11 tickets available on all performances (except Fri 8th Dec 7pm, Tue 26th Dec 5pm and Sun 31st Dec 5:30pm).

*Subject to booking fee. All prices include a £1 per ticket venue restoration levy.

How to Book

Call 0844 888 4411, visit www.epsteinliverpool.co.uk or book in person at the theatre box office (open 2pm-6pm Mon-Thu & 12pm-6pm Fri-Sat).

Alternatively you can book via ticketquarter on 0844 8000 410 or visit www.ticketquarter.co.uk

Disclaimer: Information correct at time of writing, but can be subject to change. I would therefore always recommend visiting the venues own website to obtain the most up to date information.

Monday, 16 October 2017

My Birthday Weekend!

For the past couple of weeks, my family and I seem to have caught various sickness and cold bugs and so I was really looking forward to spending the weekend together, now that we are all back to good health. A few years ago, my ideal birthday weekend would have involved a meal out with friends, drinks in the city centre and a selection of hangover cures at the ready for the following day. However, things have definitely changed since having children and all I really wanted to do this weekend was spend some time together and also take some time away from my computer to just sit down, relax and have a lazy Sunday.

On Saturday, my son Ben went fishing. This is his new favourite thing to do at the moment and he has really been enjoying going down to the local fishing pool with his Grandad. He idolises him, so as well as doing something he enjoys, he also gets to spend time with his best friend and enjoy some fishing together. With Ben out for the day we asked Emma and Riley whether they would like to go out for breakfast. It was a silly question really, as I knew what the answer would be, and they both quickly asked whether we could go to Chock's Away Diner in Broughton.

Chock's Away is one of our favourite places to go for breakfast. The ingredients are locally sourced and really tasty, the prices are reasonable and the diner also overlooks the Hawarden Airport runway. This means that you can catch a glimpse of the planes taking off and landing, as well as the fascinating Beluga air plane, which has a very interesting design. A few miles away from the diner is Broughton Shopping Park and so after enjoying a delicious breakfast, we decided to head to the shops to buy the children some new autumn & winter clothes.

It was surprisingly quiet for a Saturday morning and we enjoyed a couple of hours shopping and treated the kids to a few things, whilst also getting some ideas together for Christmas presents. I also took the chance to check out the Christmas range in Primark, which was a massive mistake as I literally want to buy every single Christmas item they have in the store! Their selection of Christmas decorations are just gorgeous and I have already decided that I am going to pop back next week and stock up with some new festive goodies.

On our return home, Riley was pleasantly surprised to find a little parcel waiting for him on the doorstep. Inside the package was a lovely Peppa Pig plush toy along with a copy of the new DVD Peppa Pig - My First Cinema Experience. The weather was dull and dreary outside, so we enjoyed snuggling up on the sofa and watching his new DVD together with some popcorn and home made milkshakes. When Ben returned home we finished the evening together watching football, playing games and enjoying some reality TV.

On Sunday it was my birthday and my morning began with the children bringing me breakfast in bed and singing Happy Birthday at 8:30am. This may sound early, but in our house, this classes as a big lie in! Ben had a football match later that morning, so the first part of the day consisted of being a footy mum and cheering from the sidelines. The afternoon however consisted of nothing! That's right, absolutely nothing. Just my family and I chilling at home, watching movies and not moving off the sofa. We are usually so busy and out and about pretty much all of the time, so this was literally my perfect birthday, with a home cooked meal by Mr F and a nice glass of wine to finish the day.

Happy Birthday to me!

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Five Reasons Why I Love Autumn

The summer holidays now feel like a distant memory and as much as I love the sunshine, trips to the beach and al fresco dining, I can't help but feel happy when Autumn arrives. To some, Autumn can be a bore as the nights draw in and the weather gets colder, but personally I love it and here's why:

1) Colours - I love the bright sunshine and greenery that summer provides, but Autumn brings a whole host of different colours everywhere you turn. Leaves on the trees start to change and a simple walk down the street can bring such a wide selection of calming shades and tones to your eyes. Our walk to school consists of going past numerous trees, all of various sizes and shapes. Just before we reach school, there is a small grass area that is home to a beautiful large tree, which turns a stunning red and deep purple colour every October. Riley calls this his favourite tree as he just loves the colours it brings.

2) Weather - Whether it is cool and dry, or wet and windy, Autumn is great for puddle jumping, woodland walks and exploration. The heat of the summer has subsided and it makes for a much more relaxing and cool experience when venturing out of the house. My children love getting their wellies and waterproofs on and heading down to the local park, where you can be sure to find plenty of puddles, squelchy mud and woods to explore.

3) Events - October and November bring lots of events for us. Both my daughter and I have birthdays in October, my husband and I celebrate our wedding anniversary, we have October half term to look forward to spending together as a family, as well as getting dressed up for Halloween. Then of course, we have the enjoyment of bonfire night and fireworks displays, as well as it being the time of year that we start to also prepare for Christmas.

4) Cosy Nights at Home - As much as I love to travel and get out and about, there literally is no place like home. I absolutely love it when it gets dark early and you can enjoy the sunset, put the fire on and cosy up in your pyjamas with a nice glass of wine or hot chocolate. I love the feeling of being warm and comfortable at home, whilst it is cold or raining outside.

5) Clothing - I love to shop, so Autumn gives me a great excuse to hit the retail park and purchase some new clothing from the Autumn/Winter ranges. I love being able to throw on a cardigan or oversized jumper and wave goodbye to the figure hugging tops of summer. I always love the Autumn kids ranges that come out in Next and Primark, so it is nice to be able to splash out on some new clothes for the kids and purchase the compulsory Autumn/Winter coat for each of them.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Dates for your Diary - Manchester's Biggest Indoor Christmas Attraction is Back!

One of our favourite annual events on the festive calendar has to be Winter Wonderland, which is a wonderful indoor attraction, held at EventCity, next to the Intu Trafford Centre Manchester. This fabulous family event will be returning for it's fifth consecutive year and looks set to be the very best yet.

The giant 22,000sqm exhibition space at EventCity will be transformed into an unbelievable wonderland extravaganza, featuring over 50 family rides and attractions all under one roof.  As well as the rides and the bright lights, there will be a dazzling array of colourful shows and this year, Winter Wonderland is delighted to welcome the nation's favourite children's TV characters Zippy and George from Rainbow, who will no doubt bring lots of magic, mayhem and comedy capers!

The spectacular Christmas Circus will also be making a welcome return and is sure to have audiences marvelled and amazed with their daily performances.

Santa Claus and his reindeer will also be taking time out from their busy schedule for meet and greets with all the children, every day up to and including Christmas Eve. In addition to all of this, there will also be fairies and elves on hand to chat and play with the children, a host of games stalls and an array of food and drinks stalls where you can purchase hot snacks or sweet treats.

Winter Wonderland operates on a session basis to ensure that visitors can enjoy the experience without overcrowding, offering families four hours of non-stop fun and entertainment. Organisers Kingpin Events are urging families to book now to make sure that they don't miss out on this magical festive family adventure and to ensure they secure tickets for their preferred date. Last years event saw record ticket sales of 100,000, so it is sure to be popular once more for 2017!

Group, family and individual tickets are on sale now for this wonderful Winter Wonderland event, which is guaranteed to create that enchanting Christmas spirit and spread joy across the whole of Manchester.

You can book your tickets now at www.winterwonderlandmanchester.com

Listing Details

Event - Winter Wonderland Manchester
Venue - EventCity (next to Intu Trafford Centre), Phoenix Way, Off Barton Dock Road, Urmston, Manchester, M41 7TB. Free Parking Available.

Ticket Prices - 
Adult £20.50 (plus £1.50 Quaytickets booking fee)
Child (3-16) £20.50 (plus £1.50 Quaytickets booking fee)
Family of 4 (2 ad + 2 ch or 1 ad + 3ch) £70 (plus £1.50 Quaytickets booking fee per person so total fee of £6)
OAP £15.00 (plus £1.50 Quaytickets booking fee)
Under 3's are Free (Ticket not required).
Groups 10% discount (when booking 15+ tickets)
School rate: £9.50 per child (under 12's) with some teachers free from Tuesday 13th to Friday 16th December (morning session only).

All rides and attractions are included in the ticket price (excluding games and food stalls) and each session lasts for 4 hours.

Session Times - 

Sat 9th & Sun 10th: 11am-3pm and 4:30pm-8:30pm
Tue 12th, Wed 13th & Thurs 14th: 10:30am-2:30pm
Fri 15th: 10:30am-2:30pm and 5pm-9pm
Sat 16th & Sun 17th: 11am-3pm and 4:30pm-8:30pm
Mon 18th & Tue 19th: 10:30am-2:30pm
Wed 20th: 10:30am-2:30pm and 4:30pm-8:30pm
Thurs 21st, Fri 22nd & Sat 23rd: 11am-3pm and 4:30pm-8:30pm
Tue 26th: 1pm-5pm
Wed 27th, Thurs 28th, Fri 29th & Sat 30th: 11am-3pm and 4:30pm-8:30pm
Sun 31st: 11am-3pm

Mon 1st: 1pm-5pm

To book please visit www.winterwonderlandmanchester.com or alternatively you can make a booking by telephone on 0843 208 1842. For group bookings please call 0843 208 6003.

Disclaimer: Details can be subject to change, so I would always recommend visiting the events own website to obtain the most up to date information.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Dates for your Diary - Christmas at Dunham Massey

My family and I absolutely love attending Christmas events and we are always on the look out for something new and exciting to visit. Like most families, Christmas is a really magical time for us, so we try and enjoy as many festive activities as we can together, in the run up to Christmas Day.

We were therefore really excited to find out about a brand new Christmas Light trail, which will be at Dunham Massey in Cheshire, from the 1st to 30th December 2017. This magical, after-dark illuminated trail, will be brought to you by leading events producers Raymond Gubbay, in partnership with the National Trust and will see Dunham Massey transformed into a beautiful winter wonderland.

The trail has been specially designed to appeal to visitors of all ages and there is something for everyone at this festive time of year, as the one mile sparkling path winds its way through the historic Dunham Massey woodland. Greeted by the sights and sounds of Christmas, visitors will wander beneath tree canopies that will be illuminated in seasonal shards of light and larger-than-life snowflakes and baubles.

Father Christmas sees you on your way through twinkling tunnels and a swaying lawn of colour reflected in the water. Duck between sparkling hedgerows, discover the Singing Trees rising high into the night sky and experience Pealight Heaven, a canopy of over 100,000 fairy lights. Once you reach the festive finale, you can take a moment to pause and enjoy the brightly coloured water jets dancing in time to some much loved Christmas classics.

Complete your stroll under the stars with a hot drink or some mulled wine, enjoy a ride on the vintage carousel* , toast your own marshmallows at one of the fire pits, or even take the opportunity to do a spot of Christmas shopping in Dunham Massey's shop.

*Separate charges apply.

For further details please visit: National Trust - Dunham Massey

Listing Details

Event - Christmas at Dunham Massey, the magical, after-dark, illuminated trail

Location - Dunham Massey, Altrincham, Cheshire, WA14 4SJ

Dates - 1st December to 30th December


Advance - Adult £16.00, Child (5-16) £10.00, Family £48.00
On the day - Adult £18.00, Child (5-16) £12.00, Family £56.00
National Trust Member - Adults £14.50, Child (5-16) £8.50, Family £42.00

Disclaimer: Details correct at time of writing, but can be subject to change. Therefore please always check the events own website for the most up to date information.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Cat Machine Maker™ Junior Operator by Toy State - A Review

It is only 11 weeks til Christmas, I repeat 11 weeks til Christmas! Eeeek! For some people this may seem a long time away, but for others like myself, it is now the time to start preparing for another magical time with my family. I have read a few articles lately about how Christmas theming, products and advertisements seem to be in the shops earlier and earlier every year, and whilst this may be true, personally I love it!

From October onwards my children get excited about all the Christmas events we attend, the family we get to visit, the shows they get to practice and perform in school, the fact that there is stockpiled chocolates everywhere they turn, spending time together as a family, and of course writing their Christmas present gift lists.

My son Riley who is 4, loves vehicles and every day consists of building a new train track and placing his trains, cars, diggers, boats and planes anywhere he can around the track and creating a little city of his own. He loves to organise, create and build and so his Christmas lists usually consist of toys that can help him to develop his creative skills, improve his coordination and most of all, offer some fun! Therefore, when we were asked if we would like to review a product from the Toy State toddler range, it was a very easy decision to make.

Toy State are an industry leader and innovator of highly-stylized licenced "lights and sound" and radio-controlled (RC) vehicles. They have recently revealed a fantastic selection of Christmas toys which encourage co-ordination and imaginative play, as well as being designed to be tough enough to cope with toddler play. One product in particular from their range that really stood out to us, was the Cat Machine Maker™ Junior Operator, which is suitable for children aged 3+.

When the product arrived, Riley was firstly very impressed with the box. He loved the fact that he could carry it around and that it would give him somewhere to store all the pieces. The image on the front of the box was very clear, so Riley could see exactly what the toy would look like once built and he was also very excited to be getting his very own screwdriver! The front of the box stated the age recommendation, the number of pieces in the box and a picture of a screwdriver, to signify that assembly is required.

The rear of the box provides some further images that show you the individual pieces before construction, as well as another image of a partially built model.

Riley couldn't wait to get the box open and once inside, he quickly cast aside the instructions declaring he would be building it on his own and that he didn't need them. This is what my husband Mr. F still does at the age of 37, so I guess it runs in the family. We arranged all the pieces out, so he could see exactly what he needed to put together and he began picking things up bit by bit, trying to connect them all.

The pieces are a really nice hand held size. Not too big, but not too small, just quite chunky and the ideal dimensions for a toddler. Riley did take a couple of glances at the instructions, but ultimately he managed to construct the toy quite easily using the image on the back of the box.

Once he had finished building the toy, I expected him to instantly play with it constructed, however Riley had different ideas and instead decided to start using role play and pretend he was a mechanic. He asked his brother Ben to bring the vehicle to his garage, so that he could take it apart to then fix it again. It was actually quite fascinating to watch and great to see him creating his own little story about how the vehicle had broken down on a very important job, so Riley the mechanic had to fix it urgently. He continued to take it apart and rebuild it again for nearly an hour, before beginning to play with it fully constructed alongside his other toys.

The Cat Machine Maker™ Junior Operator, is part of a line of Build-It-Yourself construction sets, with a total of 5 in the range to collect. Models include an Excavator, Dump Truck, Bulldozer, Service Truck and Wheel Loader. They each come with their own chunky screwdriver, as well as a reusable carry case, which is useful for storing away all the parts neatly. The Machine operator is also included and fits nicely into the driver's seat. The clever aspect of this range is that you can also mix and match the parts as you collect each model. This means that your child can also get creative and make their own marvellous machine!

The RRP of the product is £11.99, which I think offers excellent value for money. It is a nice sized gift, that also doesn't cost a fortune, so it is the perfect price for a good quality, low cost gift idea. This product can currently be purchased from Hamley's, Morrisons, The Range, Toymaster and Smyths and I am sure, they will prove to be very popular this Christmas.

Disclaimer: We were provided with this product on a complimentary basis, for the purpose of providing an honest review of the toy. All opinions and photographs are my own unless otherwise stated.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Dates for your Diary - Slava's Snowshow Brings a Blizzard to The Lowry Auditorium

Slava's Snowshow, produced by Matthew Gale and Mark Goucher, returns to The Lowry, Salford this autumn from Tuesday 24th to Sunday 29th October. The multi-award winning show offers a combination of theatrical clowning and a stunning visual spectacle, which is sure to entertain and enchant the audience.

The world-renowned company of clowns is led by Slava Polunin, Artistic Director of the St Petersburg Circus, who recently visited the UK to launch his new book Alchemy of Snowness. The book follows Slava's artistic journey and exhilarating exploration in his creation of "a show that would bring us back to our childhood dreams; a show which would help spectators be released from the jail of adulthood and rediscover their forgotten childhood."

The show first premiered in the UK at the Edinburgh Festival in 1994, and has since toured all over the country, picking up a host of awards along the way. Slava's Snowshow is the internationally acclaimed winner of the Time Out, Olivier and Drama Desk Awards for the most unique theatrical experience.

Influenced by artists such as Chaplin, Marcel Marceau and Engibarov, Slava and his company have taken clowning out of the world of circus and brought it to theatre lovers, fellow practitioners and families worldwide. It's global popularity has seen the show perform in 80 cities including New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Rome, Hong Kong, Rio de Janeiro and Moscow, so don't miss your opportunity to watch it at The Lowry, Salford this October.

Listing Details

Slava's Snowshow
Venue - The Lyric Theatre
Box Office Address: The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays, M50 3AZ
Dates: Tuesday 24th - 29th October 2017
Times: 7pm with 2pm performances available on Wed, Thurs, Sat, Sun.
Running time: 2 hours including interval.
Tickets: £13.50 - £41.50 (including booking fee)

To book tickets please visit The Lowry website here: The Lowry or alternatively contact the box office on 0843 208 6000

Disclaimer: Information correct at time of writing but could be subject to change. I would therefore always recommend visiting the theatres own website to gain the most up to date information.

Friday, 29 September 2017

The Wizard of Oz at The Epstein Theatre Liverpool - Competition

Get ready to go on a magical adventure over the rainbow with Regal Entertainments and their enchanting pantomime production of the Wizard of Oz. Due to the success and popularity of the show, The Wizard of Oz pantomime is back on the yellow brick road and will be embarking on a mini tour this October with dates in Southport, Liverpool and Rhyl.

The critically acclaimed panto production from Regal Entertainments visits The Epstein Theatre from Friday 27th October to Sunday 29th October, making it the perfect half-term treat for all little munchkins!

To celebrate, we have a family ticket to give away to the Liverpool show at The Epstein Theatre on Friday 27th October at 6pm. Read on for more information and for details on how to enter.

Eastenders actress Cheryl Fergison will continue to lead the cast as the Wicked Witch of the West, whilst BBC Pitch Battle star and singing sensation Maddie Hope Coelho steps into the role of Dorothy. Cheryl and Maddie will be joined by X Factor star David Heath as the Scarecrow, the charismatic Philip McGuiness playing the Tinman and the hilarious Richard Hazlewood as the cowardly lion.

The Wizard of Oz is a firm family favourite which tells the story of young Dorothy Gale and her dog Toto, as they embark on a wondrous adventure over the rainbow and in the magical land of Oz. Regal Entertainments' panto version of this classic family show includes an hilariously funny script, dazzling costumes and sets, plus a wealth of brilliant songs and show-stopping choreography.

In true pantomime fashion, the show is filled with an entertaining cast who provide a wide array of songs, jokes and slapstick comedy that is suitable for the whole family. We were fortunate to attend the show during its popular Stockport Plaza run in the summer holidays, and it had us giggling from beginning to end. You can read our review here: Wizard of Oz Review

Tickets are now on sale. Book early to avoid disappointment.

*The cast is subject to change.

To learn more about Regal Entertainments Ltd, you can visit their social media pages here:

Facebook: RegalEntertainmentsLtd
Twitter: @RegalEntsLtd

Full Tour Listing Details

Southport Theatre, The Promenade, Southport, PR9 0DZ
Tuesday 24th to Thursday 26th October
1pm and 5pm
Tickets: From £11 / Groups (20+): All Seats £13 + 1 in 20 go free / Schools: £9 - 1 teacher in 10 goes free.
To book call 0844 871 3021 or visit ATG Tickets

The Epstein Theatre, Hanover House, 85 Hanover Street, Liverpool, L1 3DZ
Friday 27th to Sunday 29th October
Fri: 6pm | Sat: 10:30am, 1pm, 6pm | Sun: 12pm, 4pm.
Tickets: Adult £18/ Concession £16/ Family (2 Adults, 2 Children) £60
Groups (20+): All Seats £13 + 1 in 20 go free
To book call 0844 888 4411 or visit www.epsteinliverpool.co.uk

Rhyl Pavilion, E Parade, Rhyl, LL18 3AQ
Monday 30th to Tuesday 31st October
Monday 6pm, Tuesday 10:30am, 1pm, 5:30pm
Tickets: From £14 / Groups (20+): All Seats £12 + 1 in 20 go free
To book call 01745 330000 or visit www.rhylpavilion.co.uk


We have a fabulous competition for our readers, to give you the chance to win a family ticket for the 6pm performance on Friday 27th October at The Epstein Theatre Liverpool. Please check the terms and conditions and if you would like to enter, then please do so, using the Gleam form below. Good Luck!

Win a Family Ticket to see The Wizard of Oz at The Epstein Theatre, Liverpool

Terms and Conditions
  • There is 1 (one) prize of a family ticket to the 6pm performance on Friday 27th October 2017 at The Epstein Theatre, Hanover House, 85 Hanover Street, Liverpool, L1 3DZ.
  • A Family ticket is for 2 adults and 2 children, or alternatively 1 adult and 3 children.
  • The winner shall be required to collect their family ticket from the box office, prior to the show.
  • Tickets are non-transferable and there is no cash alternative.
  • There will be no contribution towards travel.
  • Tickets are valid for the date/time/venue specified only and cannot be used on an alternative date or time, or at a different venue.
  • Entry is open to UK residents aged 18 years or older.
  • Competition closes on 20th October 2017 at 12 noon. Winner shall be drawn at random on the same day and contacted via email.
  • Due to the time restrictive nature of the prize, the winner shall have 48 hours to reply to the email to confirm their acceptance of the prize, before another winner from the remaining eligible entrants is drawn.
  • No bulk or third party entries.
  • The winners details shall be shared with the promoter, for the purpose of prize fulfilment.
Disclaimer: This post contains an affiliate link.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

My Top Ten Tips for visiting Disneyland Paris - Walt Disney Studios Park

We recently visited Disneyland Paris - Walt Disney Studios Park and had a truly magical time. I therefore wanted to share my tips for planning a visit.

1) Check Ticket Prices - Disneyland Paris day tickets come in four different price categories which are Mini, Magic, Super Magic and Super Magic Plus. The price for each category varies depending on the date you are wanting to visit. The mini tickets are the cheapest and are generally for off-peak weekdays. However we visited on Friday 1st September 2017 which was still our school holiday period and managed to purchase a mini ticket for this date, which was only £32 each. The Magic tickets are usually for weekends and school holiday periods, with Super Magic covering special event periods such as Halloween or Christmas.

2) Prepare for all weathers - The weather at Disneyland Paris is much like the UK, in that it can be very unpredictable. During our day visit we experienced glorious sunshine, chilly winds and heavy rain, which was topped off with a thunderstorm. We wore light trousers, short sleeved tops and waterproof coats which covered us for all the weather conditions we experienced. You don't want to be queuing outside in the pouring rain without a jacket.

3) Check the show times - The shows at Walt Disney Studios Park are quite frankly amazing! I would definitely say that they are a must-see for anyone considering a visit. There are quite a few different shows available which are all on at different times. In addition to this, some of the shows have both English and French versions, so it's a good idea to check the timings when you arrive to help you plan your day and make sure you don't miss out.

4) Arrive early - We arrived for opening time, which meant that we were able to walk straight on to our favourite ride the Hollywood Hotel - Tower of Terror. Queues obviously increase quite quickly as the park gets busier, so if you have a ride that you definitely want to try, my suggestion would be to arrive early and go to your chosen ride first, to make sure there is no disappointment.

5) Take advantage of Fastpass - Fastpass is a fantastic facility that provides you with a half hour time slot to return to a ride with a minimal queue. You simply scan your entry ticket at one of the turnstiles by the ride and it will print you a ticket with your allocated return time. In Walt Disney Studios Park, you can use this facility at the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™, Les Tapis Volants - Flying Carpets over Agrabah® and The Rock n Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith.

6) Keep hydrated - All the walking, excitement, queuing and of course the weather can make you feel very thirsty. We took water bottles with us, but also made use of the water fountains that are located around the park. We came across a few of these, which also helped to save a few euros instead of needing to buy expensive refreshments.

7) Look for dining deals - Some of the restaurants are cheaper than others and we found the best dining deals to be in Disney Village. Most of the menus are available online, so you can view these beforehand and check the prices to find the restaurant which suits both your taste and budget best. If you would rather dine in the Walt Disney Studios Park, then there is also a great selection of choice available, with varying types of cuisine. If you are staying in one of the on-site hotels, then you may also be able to take advantage of the meal plans on offer which give good value for money.

8) Check ride restrictions - Check for any height or age restrictions on rides before you arrive. It can be very disappointing for a child to be so excited about a particular ride, to then find out that they are too short or too young. If you check this beforehand, then you can let your children know which rides they are big enough for, or simply know which areas to avoid so that certain rides don't get spotted by your little ones.

9) Practice your French language skills - Try and use simple words in the native language when visiting. Words such as Bonjour or Merci are very easy to learn and just as easy to use. My children love to have the opportunity to learn new words or phrases in different languages, so it is great to put them in to practice when we have the chance.

10) Set a realistic budget - Your visit to Disneyland Paris can be as low cost or expensive as you want it to be once in the park, so set a realistic budget for you and stick to it. The shops are full of beautiful merchandise and I could have easily spent a small fortune, but I gave each of the children 20 euros so that they had enough to buy one large thing each or two small things (their decision). I knew there would be temptation so we took only our cash budget to the park with us and left my card locked in the car, so that we didn't end up splashing out on any excessive purchases.

Monday, 25 September 2017

A Magical Time at Disneyland Paris - Walt Disney Studios Park

A few weeks ago we had a wonderful family holiday at La Croix du Vieux Pont in France. One of the main reasons we chose that holiday park, was because of its close proximity to Disneyland Paris, which was just 90 minutes drive away. Riley has never visited a Disneyland park before and with him being at the lovely age of 4, where everything seems so magical to him, I was adamant that we would be taking him during the summer.

We knew that we would only have one day spare to visit, so I wrote down a list of all the rides, attractions and shows available in each Disneyland Paris park and asked my three children to decide which park they would like to go to. The choice was between the Walt Disney Studios Park or the Disneyland Park where the beautiful castle is located. It is possible to get a one day ticket which allows admission to both parks, however Riley is always tired by around 6pm, so it made more sense to just focus on the one park, without feeling rushed to do both.

After much deliberation, they made a unanimous decision on the Walt Disney Studios Park. They chose this park as it had a great selection of thrill rides for Emma, shows for Ben and smaller rides for Riley to enjoy, so it ticked all the boxes. Both Mr F and I were happy with the decision, as I had heard great things about the Mickey & the Magician show which is held there, so I was excited to be able to watch this.

I checked online on various sites to try and find the best deal on tickets, but ultimately ended up buying them direct from the Disneyland Paris website. We were visiting on Friday 1st September, which happened to be classed as off peak. This meant that we could buy a mini-ticket off the Disneyland Paris website, which was part of a deal where adults pay the same price as children. This ticket was only £32.50 each, which I felt offered extremely good value for money, given the amount of attractions that were on offer. I purchased these online and printed them off the day before our visit.

The journey from La Croix du Vieux Pont to Disneyland Paris was really easy. There were a couple of toll booths along the way, but the roads were all relatively quiet and we didn't come across much traffic at all. As we got nearer to the theme park, there were also plenty of signs by the road, so it was very easy to find our way. On arrival at Disneyland Paris, we stopped at one of the entry booths to pay our parking fee. This is quite excessive at 20 euros for a car and feel that this should be much cheaper. For guests visiting on 3 day tickets, this would cost them 60 euros alone just for parking.

We arrived at 9:30 and joined a short queue that led into the car park. There were car park attendants everywhere showing you where to park, so it was very structured and not a free for all with cars driving here, there and everywhere. Within a short amount of time, we were parked up and embarked on a short ten minute walk to the entrance of Walt Disney Studios. Our tickets allowed us to go straight to the turnstile and scan them on entry, so we made our way straight to the entrance, ready to enjoy all the fun on offer.

We entered Walt Disney Studios right on the opening time of 10am. This meant that the queues were very small initially. My daughter Emma and I, walked straight on to the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™ (one of my favourite rides) with no queue at all, which got our day off to a great start. Whilst Emma and I enjoyed this ride, the boys made their way to Les Tapis Volants - Flying Carpets over Agrabah®. Riley loves rides, especially ones that go up and down, so this ride was perfect for him. Again they walked straight on to this ride, before moving over to the Cars Quatre Roues Rallye to enjoy a ride with Lightning McQueen. Emma and I then met back up with the boys over at this ride.

We all then made our way to Toy Story Playland, where we all queued for the Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop. Riley absolutely loved this ride and said it reminded him of when you drive over a bridge and your tummy goes funny. This was the longest queue we had all day, which was 40 minutes, however it did not feel that long and I am sure the line moved quite quickly.

After the Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop, we made our way over to the Slinky® Dog Zig Zag Spin. This was great fun for little ones and Riley loved going round in circles. It was great that there was so much to do for all ages, so that we could enjoy the majority of the rides all together as a family. Whilst in the small queue for this ride, we downloaded the app as suggested in the park map, so that we could plan which shows we wanted to go to. We realised that we would have time for one more ride before the Mickey and the Magician show started, so once we had finished in Toy Story Playland, we made our way over to the Studio Tram Tour®: Behind the Magic.

The queue for the tram tour looked large, however it moved really quickly as the trams can seat plenty of guests. We were seated on a tram within five minutes of joining the queue, excited to find out more about what goes on behind the scenes. We initially drove past numerous props from popular movies, before the tram took us into a huge set called Catastrophe Canyon. The tram parked up and soon after, the floor began to move, water began to flow and a large tanker began to slide down the set. It was amazing to see how these kinds of scenes in movies are created and we all enjoyed the experience. 

The tram tour continued and took us past some memorable vehicles such as a life size RC Racer and the 4 x 4 used in Con Air. Once we had travelled past these, we were taken to another huge set that replicated London city. Parts of the set were in pristene condition, simulating a lovely city area, whilst the other half of the city had been hit by disaster and you could see cars buried amongst rubble, derailed trains and lots of construction damage. Again it was very interesting to see how these kind of sets can be created and the on board commentary provided additional information on some of the production techniques that are used.

After disembarking from our tram, we stopped for a drink, before heading to the Mickey and the Magician show. I am purposely not going to go into too much detail regarding this show, in order not to spoil it for anyone thinking of attending, but I will say that this is one of the most amazing shows I have ever seen. Despite it only lasting around 20 minutes, it is crammed full of magic and music from start to finish and was absolutely incredible. I would personally pay the entrance fee twice over to simply watch this show alone. My initial thoughts prior to watching was that it would just be a magic show featuring Mickey Mouse, but wow this show was so much more. If you are planning a visit to Walt Disney Studios, then this show simply cannot be missed!

Once our incredible experience at the show at finished, we ran straight over to some more live entertainment, which was Disney Junior Live on Stage. Riley is a big fan of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, so he was very excited to get to see the clubhouse on stage. Numerous other guests were introduced throughout the show including Winnie the Pooh and friends, Handy Manny and the Little Einsteins. Emma and Ben were both familiar with all these characters as they had been on Disney Junior when they were younger, where as Riley hadn't heard of some of them before. Although Riley watches Disney Junior, his favourite shows include The Lion Guard, Miles from Tomorrow and PJ Masks, so it would have been nice if the show had included at least one of these. Riley still enjoyed the show very much though and was still delighted to be sat in, what he believed, was the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

Following on the theme of the shows, we made another mad dash over to the opposite side of the park, just in time to catch the Moteurs... Action! Stunt Show Spectacular. This show took place in the Backlot and was a fantastic insight into how stunts are directed and created. It was high energy and breathtaking from the very start and my children were absolutely captivated from beginning to end. We saw high speed motorbikes and cars, whilst also learning more from the director and production team in between stunts. The cast and stunt artists involved were incredibly talented. This show lasted about 45 minutes and I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in vehicles, or with an interest in show and stunt production.

After all the excitement of the shows, we decided that now was the ideal time to stop for a bite to eat and have a drink. My husband picked up a fast pass ticket to the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith and we sat just outside the restaurant opposite. The fast pass tickets are a great idea as they are free of charge, but also prevent you from needing to queue for an excessive amount of time. You simply scan your park ticket and the machine then issues you with a fast pass for the ride, which states a particular time for you to return. These time slots are over a half an hour period, so you simply return within the time slot and join the fast pass queue, which gets you on the ride in a short amount of time. Once it was time for my husband to go, the kids and I stayed sat outside enjoying our food, whilst Mr F went to experience the ride. The Rock n Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith, is a very fast thrill ride, which reaches speeds of up to 100 kmph in less than 3 seconds. Mr F loved it, though I think he regretted having something to eat beforehand!

Just as Mr F came out from the ride, there was a large bang and eerie music began to play. We noticed a lot of guests running to the centre walkway and so we decided to follow the crowd. Riley was fascinated to see a large group of Stormtroopers marching through the park. He has never watched Star Wars, but has heard a lot about it from his friends and has seen their costumes before. He watched open mouthed as they continued to parade through the park with guests excitedly following and photographing them.

Riley then asked to go on the Les Tapis Volants - Flying Carpets over Agrabah® ride again, since Emma and I had not been with the boys earlier. The queue was only 20 minutes, so we were more than happy to take him on this again. He enjoyed soaring through the sky and putting his arms in the air. His smile was absolutely priceless.

Time had literally flown during our day at Walt Disney Studios Park and Riley was now starting to get a little tired. It was 4:30pm and this particular park was due to close at 6pm, so we asked the kids to choose what they would like to do as our last experience. They had the choice of selecting something new, or returning to their favourite part of the park. Riley asked that we went back to Toy Story Playland to go on the Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop again, which Emma and Ben were also both happy with. So we returned back there to enjoy the last half hour of our visit before making our way out of the park at 5pm.

We didn't get the chance to try everything in the one day and so we would definitely like to return again in the future, though we would probably allocate more time and take advantage of a 2 day ticket so that we could visit both parks over the 2 days.  We thought that all the shows we saw were absolutely fantastic, as well as there being a great choice of family friendly rides. The whole family enjoyed our experience and Riley found the entire day to be magical, which was just what I had hoped for. Overall we had an amazing time and will definitely be returning soon.

For more information, or to book tickets please visit the Disneyland Paris website here.

Disclaimer: All opinions and photographs are my own unless stated otherwise. We have received no payment for writing this post and it was written of my own accord, based on my experience. Attractions and shows were correct and available on the date of our visit (01/09/17) but can be subject to chance. I would therefore always recommend visiting the attractions own website when planning a visit. Ticket prices vary depending on date of visit.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Dates for your Diary - The Snowman Flies into Manchester this November

The Snowman is flying into Opera House Manchester this Christmas to delight audiences both young and old. Based on the book by Raymond Briggs, the film directed by Diane Jackson, and produced by John Coates, The Snowman will be heading to the stage with a wonderful mix of storytelling, spectacle and magic.

The Snowman comes to Opera House Manchester, from Wednesday 8th November through to Sunday 12th November 2017. The enchanting show will take families on a journey to the wintry world of a boy and his magical snowman, and will tell the story of a young boy's adventures, when his snowman miraculously comes to life on Christmas Eve.

 Photo Credit - Tristram Kenton

The show features a dazzling array of colourful characters including dancing penguins, magical reindeer, a beautiful Snow Princess, her wicked beau Jack Frost, and of course, Father Christmas himself. The Snowman is a Christmas treat for all the family and a perfect introduction to theatre and dance for the very young. Since it's premiere at Birmingham Repertory Theatre in 1993, the live stage show of The Snowman has been seen by more than one million people worldwide, and has thrilled audiences at London's Peacock Theatre for a record-breaking 20 years.

The Birmingham Repertory Theatre production features music and lyrics by Howard Blake (performed by a live orchestra), choreography by Robert North, direction by Bill Alexander, design by Ruari Murchison, and lighting by Tim Mitchell. The iconic song Walking in the Air will feature in a new arrangement by Howard Blake and sung by Aled Jones duetting with his younger (recorded) self, as released on Aled's chart topping Classic FM album, One Voice at Christmas.

The Snowman first appeared as a beautifully illustrated picture book by Raymond Briggs in 1978. It subsequently inspired the classic Oscar-nominated and BAFTA award-winning animated film featuring Howard Blake's wonderful score. It was first transmitted by Channel 4 on Christmas Eve 35 years ago.

Photo Credit - Herbie Knott

The film's signature song Walking in the Air reached number 3 in the UK charts when sung by choirboy Aled Jones in 1985, and the song was voted number 2 in a poll conducted by Classic FM to find out children's favourite pieces of classical music - beating Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, and Tchaikovsky's Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy among others.

The Snowman is presented by arrangement with Snowman Enterprises Limited (A Penguin Company) and Chester Music Limited.

You can book now at ATG Tickets or by calling the box office on 0844 871 3018

Listing Details

The Birmingham Repertory Theatre Production of The SnowmanTM  

Venue: Opera House Manchester, 3 Quay Street, Manchester, M3 3HP

Wednesday 8th November 2017 - 7pm
Thursday 9th November 2017 - 10:30am and 2:30pm
Friday 10th November 2017 - 7pm
Saturday 11th November 2017 - 1:30pm and 5pm
Sunday 12th November 2017 - 11am and 3pm

Tickets: From £15*

To book please contact the box office on 0844 871 3018 or visit the website ATG Tickets

*Booking transaction fee applies.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Family Fun with Fuzzy-Felt by John Adams - A Review

We all have toys that we fondly remember playing with as a child and I am no exception. When I was in primary school, I used to have a childminder that would pick me up from school every day and I would go and play at her house for an hour until my mum came to collect me. My childminder had a great range of toys for us to play with, but I always remember getting the same toy out of the cupboard each day and would sit on the carpet happily playing til home time. That particular toy was Fuzzy-Felt.

My childminder had a few different sets, but I always remember my favourites being the house and farm sets. I used to love arranging all the animals on the green background and making farm scenes that would tell a story in my own mind. I was never really brilliant at drawing or art in school and so this was a way I could be creative without needing any certain skills. I could create what I considered at the time to be masterpieces by simply arranging the felt to create a beautiful picture.

This memories were brought to the forefront of my mind recently when the Royal Mail brought out a series of stamps that celebrated children's toys from the past 100 years. Clearly I was not the only one to have loved Fuzzy-Felt, as the Fuzzy-Felt farm set features on one of the new stamps. The stamps recognise the most iconic toys of the last century and so it was of course, only right, that Fuzzy-Felt be included in the collection.

Fuzzy-Felt also has quite an interesting history, in how it actually came to be created and produced as a best selling toy. During the second world war, tank gaskets were made from felt and whilst being manufactured, small pieces of off-cuts would be left over. These 'left overs' then became popular with the children of the factory workers, who would play with the felt. This then led to the creation of Fuzzy-Felt by Lois Allan in 1950.

The toy manufacturer John Adams, now produces a fantastic range of Fuzzy-Felt sets which include the following:

  • Fuzzy-Felt Busy Builders
  • Fuzzy-Felt On Safari
  • Fuzzy Felt Butterflies
  • Fuzzy-Felt Magic Garden
  • Fuzzy-Felt Pet Parlour
  • Fuzzy-Felt Little Princess
  • Fuzzy-Felt Little Ponies
  • Fuzzy-Felt My House
You can view the full range on the John Adams site here: Fuzzy-Felt Range

Being such a fan of Fuzzy-Felt from my earlier years, I was delighted to be sent the Fuzzy-Felt On Safari play set for Riley to test out, enjoy and review. This was something completely new to him and he hasn't come across it in school either, so he was firstly intrigued as to what was involved.

The front of the box immediately caught Riley's attention due to the bright orange background and the images of safari animals and vehicles that were displayed. The contents on the reverse of the box listed that there were over 100 assorted felt shapes inside, so I knew that it would definitely keep us busy for a while. The reverse of the box also lists how Fuzzy Felt can encourage co-ordination, recognition, counting, sorting and story telling, which are all big plus points to aid a childs development.

Inside the box was a green felt board along with several sheets of coloured felt. The sheets had numerous animals, scenery, vehicles and trees imprinted into them and so the first task was to push all the individual pieces of felt out. This kept Riley busy for a good fifteen minutes doing the larger pieces and I helped out with the smaller more tricky ones.

Once we had our collection of Fuzzy-Felt pieces ready, it was time to begin creating our picture. At this point Emma asked if she could help Riley, so I happily let her step in and they worked together nicely, in creating a lovely safari themed landscape. The beauty of Fuzzy-Felt is just how easy it is to do. There are no specific skill sets required and it is just a nice calm activity to do on your own, or together with others. Riley can get a little frustrated if something gets a bit tricky and he can't do something the first time he tries, but with Fuzzy-Felt, there was no chance of him having any difficulties at all.

Riley couldn't stop grinning once his picture was complete and was extremely proud of his efforts. Emma created a story for him based on his creation and they sat together for ages just creating pictures and stories over and over again.

Overall we had a fantastic time making creations with our Fuzzy-Felt set. It was initially an activity I had planned to do with just Riley, due to the guide age on the box being ages 3 to 6. However the whole family ended up getting involved and both Emma and Ben also really enjoyed getting creative and producing their own fuzzy felt masterpieces. We all loved the fact that the pieces can be used over and over again, as well as being able to combine them with the other sets that are available. Emma was fantastic in creating funny stories for Riley based on the pictures he had made and it was lovely to see them laughing and joking together about what the safari animals were up to. He has already added the Farm Fuzzy-Felt play set to his Christmas list too, so he is already keen to start building up his collection.

You can find out more about the Fuzzy-Felt sets that are available by visiting the John Adams website, or their social media channels which can be found here:

Website: John Adams Fuzzy-Felt
Twitter: @JohnAdams_Toys
YouTube: John Adams YouTube Channel

Disclaimer: We were provided with this product on a complimentary basis, for the purpose of providing an honest and impartial review of the product. All opinions and photographs are my own unless stated otherwise.