Thursday, 29 June 2017

Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort Orlando - A Review

We are very lucky to have stayed in many wonderful destinations, in accommodation ranging from tents to luxury hotels. One thing that we can often find to be an issue though is travelling as a family of five as most hotels will only accommodate up to four people. This has caused problems in the past in that either we cannot stay where we wanted to, or that we have had to pay for two rooms. We were therefore delighted to find a wonderful hotel in Orlando that had rooms to sleep up to six people. As soon as we had a look at the website we knew that this hotel would be perfect for us and so we arranged to stay at the fabulous Cabana Bay Beach Resort.

Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort is a retro themed hotel inspired by the 1950's and 1960's and features a huge dining hall, bowling alley, arcade, two swimming pools, water slide and lazy river ride. There is also a play area and large sand pit which Riley in particular really enjoyed. If this wasn't enough for you then the hot tubs, shop, on site Starbucks, free retro bus service to the Universal parks and character visits might just grab your attention.


On arrival we were met from our taxi and a gentleman placed all our luggage onto a trolley and transferred it into the lobby. We joined what appeared to be a large queue for check in, but there were plenty of staff on reception to make the line move very quickly. When we checked in we were greeted by a lovely lady who was very friendly and explained where everything was and provided us with directions to our room. We were pleased to find that we were located quite close to the main building so it was never too far to walk to get to the dining hall or the arcade with the kids in the evening. We could also see the pool out of our front window and had a really nice view. Everything was within easy reach and we were very happy with our room location which was in the Castaway building on the top floor.

The rooms are motel style in appearance from the outside and are spread across numerous blocks which have all been named. The name of each block is featured on the top of each building which also lights up in the evening, so it is always very easy to find your way back to your room at night. As we entered our room we were really pleased with the size of it and it was very comfortable for our family of five. As we went through the door we came straight to the small kitchenette. This offered a few cupboards for storage, a microwave, a fridge, kettle and sink area. There was also a breakfast bar with seating to the right hand side. We made use of the kitchenette and purchased some drinks, snacks and cereals from a local store to save us a bit of money on food to eat throughout the day.

The lounge area featured a double sofa bed, storage drawers and a large television which was really handy for the kids to watch cartoons on in the morning whilst Mr F and I would get ready. The bedroom area featured more storage and two large double beds. There was also a walk in wardrobe at the rear of the room which also had a safe which was useful to keep our passports and money in whilst we were out during the day. The bathroom area is cleverly designed and is split into the three sections consisting of a separate toilet, a sink and mirror area, then a further sink and mirror area with bath and shower. This meant that more than one person at a time could get ready in the morning meaning less time spent in the room and more time enjoying the pool and theme parks.

The retro theme continues throughout the rooms and our room was bright and vibrant with fabulous soft furnishing and interiors. The large window at the front of the room meant that we could look out over the pool and also enjoy the sunset over the hotel in the evening. The only addition we would have loved for this room to have, would be a balcony, but as I mentioned previously we spent more time out of our room than in it, so this wasn't a major issue.


Just in front of our building was a brilliant large sand play area which immediately caught Riley's attention. There was a large storage tub that was full to the brim of buckets, spades and shapes for children to help themselves to and play with. Riley spent many hours playing here and really enjoyed pretending he was digging for treasure. We were also impressed with the large quantity of sun loungers available. We didn't struggle to find seating on any occasion and felt that the pool area was set out really well.

In the front of the rooms were wide walkways with fencing so it was nice to be able to take in the view wherever you were in the building. It also meant that if there was some entertainment on by the pool, then you could always notice it or hear it, which was great for us as it meant that we didn't miss anything.

One of our favourite parts of Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort was the pool. This was fantastic for children and featured a large slide as well as a splash area for toddlers. The lifeguards were fantastic and constantly looking around and paying attention to everyone in the pool which made us feel really reassured and safe. There was an ample supply of life jackets available for children which you could borrow free of charge and although Emma and Ben can both swim they felt more comfortable in the life jackets as these gave them more buoyancy and made them feel very safe. We managed to get a lounger by the pool every day regardless of what time we went to the pool. Sometimes this was in the morning and on other occasions it was in the late afternoon to cool off after a busy day at the theme parks.


There was also another pool by the adjacent building where you could also find a lazy river ride. You needed to purchase your tubes to go on this but they were really reasonably priced and you could use them in the other pools too. There was a bar area where we could purchase drinks throughout the day which also had a refill machine for customers who had purchased a refill cup. We found these to be great value and bought one for each of the children to use during our stay. This saved us a small fortune on drinks.


There were numerous other bar areas located throughout the resort and the bar in the lobby was a nice cool place to relax in the evening whilst enjoying a cocktail. We enjoyed just walking around the resort in the evening and would always spot something new. Outside the main entrance towards the food court there is a lovely display of retro cars outside which you can have a look around. Each one also features a written piece of information about the car in the window so that you can learn a little more about them too.



The food court offered a wide range of dining choices. We ate here on numerous occasions for breakfast, lunch and dinner and divided our meal times between here and the restaurants on CityWalk and International Drive. We made use of the free shuttle service in the evening to get to CityWalk or we would get a taxi to International Drive which would cost around $12 each way.

The kids really enjoyed eating their breakfast in the food hall and would enjoy a bagel, fruit and some milk most mornings. They also offered cooked options so that there was plenty of choice for everyone. I found all the meals that we ate on site to be good sized portions that offered reasonable value for money. The dining area was always kept very clean and there was always someone around making sure that tables were clear and tidy. The seating was very comfortable and it was generally just a nice place to enjoy a casual family meal together. The resort also offers an evening shuttle between the other hotel restaurants so you can visit plenty of different restaurants for variation. These run every half an hour from the hotel lobby between 6pm & 10pm.


I enjoyed the on site Starbucks as it was great to have somewhere close by to grab a nice coffee in the morning. This was located just before you reached the food hall and by the stairs that took you up to the arcade and Galaxy Bowl area. My children loved the arcade area and it had a great facility where you could load your money onto a card which was then used to operate the games. This was a great idea as it meant the kids didn't get carried away in spending their money. It also meant that when they won points these were added to the card instead of having to walk around with thousands of paper tickets like you do in many UK arcades. The night before we left the kids then cashed in all their points in the arcade shop and came away with quite a few little prizes. The Galaxy Bowl area also looked great fun. This offered family bowling but also a place to enjoy a nice sit down meal. Unfortunately we didn't have the chance to try this during our stay, but if we return then we will definitely give it a try.


Another aspect of the resort that we really enjoyed was the entertainment. This wasn't as constant as it is in other resorts and instead was actually quite subtle. In the evening a projector screen would be set up and you could enjoy an outdoor poolside movie. The films would change each evening and it was a lovely idea to be able to enjoy a family film together in the evening. On a couple of days during our stay there was also a DJ set up by the pool who would organise some fun games with prizes for the kids to enjoy. In addition to this there were regular character visits from some of Universal's most popular characters and Emma and Ben were really excited to have their picture taken with Homer Simpson.


We've found that the hotels website offers some great rates on stays at the hotel and excellent value by booking direct with rates in the summer school holiday period starting at only $159.96 per night + tax for a family of four in a Poolside room. This is a great price considering all the facilities that are available and it's close proximity to the Universal Theme Parks.

One thing to consider on top of this however is the price of parking. We arranged transfers as opposed to hiring a car, but if you bring a car then there is an additional car parking charge of $12 per night, so you will need to factor this into the cost of your stay.

Check in is from 4pm and check out is 11am. You can check out via the television to save queuing in reception which we found really useful and easy to do.

Overall we had an absolutely fantastic stay at Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort and definitely hope to return next year.

If you would like further information on Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort then you can visit their website here for the most up to date information and rates: Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort


Disclaimer: Opinions and photographs are my own unless otherwise stated.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

A Wonderful Time at Wonderworks Orlando

I have noticed that a lot of my followers are planning holidays to Florida this summer and so I thought it would be a good idea to share some of my favourite attractions in Orlando. When we visited last year the blog was in it's infancy and so I realise that some of these attraction reviews may have been missed by readers over the last year, so what better time to re-share and help others with their holiday planning.

Wonderworks is located on International Drive and is very easy to spot as it is presented on the exterior as an upside down house. It is so clever and immediately attracts your attention. We couldn't wait to get inside and find out what it was all about.

The Wonderworks website describes the experience as being one of the top things to do in Orlando and they are not wrong. This indoor attraction offers 35,000 square foot of educational entertainment that keeps you mesmerised, interested and entertained from start to finish.


The exhibits are split into six wonder zones. The first zone we came to was the Natural Disasters Zone. My children were fascinated to learn about some of the natural disasters that have occurred around the world and took the time to read the information provided. It was great to see something capture their attention so well as opposed to a quick glance and carry on. Around each piece of information was also a hands on exhibit to try out. The first one that my children tried was the Earthquake Cafe which was designed to show the power of a 5.3 earthquake. I found that these kind of exhibits were a real eye opener for the children as we often hear of earthquakes on the news without any real idea as to how they actually feel or how scary they really are. Next we tried out the Hurricane Shack which allowed us to experience category one hurricane force winds, followed by the Google Earth console which allowed us zoom in on any part of the world. My children loved this and were able to find our home, their school and even our hotel. It was fascinating to see what technology is available to us and just how clever it is.

The most interesting and thought provoking part of this zone for me however was the Titanic Exhibit, which actually made me feel quite emotional. Most people will have heard the story of the Titanic and of course many of us have seen the hit film based on the tragedy. This exhibit allowed you to experience just how cold the water would have been for the tragic passengers who were plunged into the water. There is a small pool of water which you place your arm into which also has a timer that records just how long you can hold your arm in the water before you have to withdraw it. I only managed 12 seconds which just goes to show how awful it must have been for the passengers who had no choice but to wait in the water to be rescued. This really made us think and my children asked lots of questions about the Titanic whilst learning more in this exhibit.

The second zone we visited was the physical challenge zone. This zone was so much fun with plenty of activities to try out and enjoy. My husband tried out the bed of nails and my children absolutely loved the Wonderwall which allows you to create three dimensional images of your body on a giant plastic pin wall. The firm favourite in this area though was the Bubble Lab where you could create bubbles of all shapes and sizes. My husband managed to create a huge bubble that my daughter fitted in. Riley was also delighted to be able to make large bubbles of his own without any help. There really was something for everyone in this zone.


Next up was the light and sound zone. Here we learnt all about the speed of light, colours, patterns, shadows and sounds. Our favourite part of this zone was the shadow experiment. This allowed you to see your shadow in any shape you wanted. We stood in front of a wall and then there was a flash. The portion of the wall that our bodies were covering was not able to absorb the light and so this left our shadow impression on the wall. We learnt from this that our image on the wall hadn't actually become darker but instead the rest of the wall had absorbed the light and made the wall lighter. It was a really fun experiment that captured my children's attention and even with the explanation it left them intrigued as to how it worked. Isn't science interesting!

Our favourite zone was the Space Discovery Zone, this area was so informative and interesting and also offered some fantastic photo opportunities. We learnt all about space suits, what they provide to astronauts and how they help them to survive. They really are an amazing piece of equipment and you can have your photo taken inside one too which is fabulous. There is also a replica of the mercury capsule where you can experience what it is like to be inside one of these amazing vehicles. In this area is also the astronaut training challenge which seats 2 people and then spins and rotates in numerous directions to simulate the effects that spaces has on the human body. Having just eaten our lunch prior to our visit though we decided not to try this, but it did look great fun. Don't miss out on the Wonder Coaster in this zone either as this allows you to create your own dream roller coaster and then experience it in a virtual ride. Really clever!


After everything we had already experienced at Wonderworks, we were expecting the attraction to soon come to an end as it felt like we had done so much. However we were pleased to find yet another zone called the Imagination Zone. My youngest son Riley loved this area as there was so much for him to do. A gigantic version of Lite-Brite immediately caught his attention where you could rearrange coloured sticks on to a black wall which would then light up and glow. He created his own little masterpieces that looked fantastic and he was really proud of his efforts. The fun express stations also offered Riley some digital colouring activities that were similar to some of the apps he uses on the ipad. This meant that he was familiar with them and able to use them with ease. I think he could have quite happily sat here for hours. When we did get him to venture away from the Fun Express station he quickly moved on to Gear Works. As he was only 3 at the time he didn't quite understand the purpose of the activity, however he was quite happy just moving the cogs around and connecting them together. Emma and Ben enjoyed the educational part of this and began to understand how gears work.


Last up of the zones was the Far Out Art Gallery. This wasn't in a large allocated area like the others and instead it was a series of illusions and paintings that were situated on the walls on the way up to the basement. Yes that's UP to the basement (remember the house is upside down!). They really got your mind working and some were quite baffling.

The basement offers even more fun and features an amazing three storey glow in the dark climbing course. My daughter Emma tried this out and it really tested her abilities as well as improving her confidence whilst trying out a new and exciting activity that she had never tried before. My son Ben chose not to participate in this due to his fear of heights, but Emma really enjoyed it and was excited and proud of herself when she had finished.

The basement also houses the 4D XD Motion Theater experience. The film that was on show during our visit was the Canyon Coaster and this offered a simulated thrill ride that we all enjoyed. The ride can accommodate twelve persons at a time and lasts approximately five minutes so we didn't need to queue for long at all. The Wonderworks website does advertise that there are three different movies shown on a rotating schedule, so if we get the chance to return in the future it would be great to try out one of the others.

Sadly, due to a dinner reservation that we had in Citywalk we had no time to try out the laser tag. I was quite gutted about this as I haven't played laser tag since I was about 10 and had been really looking forward to it, but due to having so much fun in the other zones time had literally flown. The next time we return to Orlando we will definitely be doing this without a doubt as it looked great fun. If all of that wasn't enough then the basement also has some arcade games which were great for keeping Riley occupied whilst Emma enjoyed the ropes course and was a great little addition to have within the attraction.

Overall we absolutely loved it here. All the staff were fantastic, especially the lady who served us on the ticket desk. They all seemed very happy to help and provide information when needed. It really is a fun filled attraction from start to finish that offers excellent value for money, as well as providing a unique learning experience. Would I recommend this place to families? ABSOLUTELY

For more information on Wonderworks Orlando please visit their website here: Wonderworks Orlando

Important Information:

Address - 9067 International Drive, Orlando, Florida, FL 32819

Opening Hours - 9am til midnight 365 days a year. *Last tickets sold 90 minutes before closing.

Parking - Parking is available at the nearby Pointe Orlando Parking Garage and costs $4 for the first two hours, $2 for each additional hour, with a maximum fee of $10.

Ticket prices - Adults are $29.99 + tax with children's tickets costing $23.99 + tax.


Disclaimer: I was provided with complimentary tickets to this attraction for the purpose of providing an honest and impartial review. Opinions and photographs are my own unless otherwise stated. Information I have provided was correct at the time of writing, but would always recommend visiting the attractions own website to obtain the most up to date information as this can be subject to change.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Breathtaking Views on the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye - A Review

If you want to experience a birds eye view of Orlando then you simply have to visit the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye. It is situated on International Drive and stands at an incredible 400ft in height. The attraction offers amazing views across Orlando which are breathtaking and it really is a wonderful experience for the whole family.


The attraction is very easy to find, but to be honest it would be very hard to miss a 400ft high wheel. We caught a taxi from the Cabana Bay resort and we were dropped off at the main entrance at the front. We were very impressed with how clean and tidy the surroundings were and there were some lovely fountains and a grass area that the children enjoyed playing on.

The attraction is based within a lovely complex which is also home to Madame Tussauds and Sea Life Orlando so if you purchase a saver ticket to all three attractions it makes it a lovely full day out. The surrounding area also offered plenty of dining options and shops as well as relaxation areas where you could simply just chill out and enjoy the sunshine. The whole area around the main building was very clean and well kept and so it was lovely to just sit outside on the grass and enjoy an ice cream whilst watching the wheel go round.

Unfortunately whilst doing this, Ben decided that he was too scared to ride on the wheel and so Ben and I had a wander around whilst Mr F, Riley and Emma went to join the queue. After a very short wait their journey began with a 4D cinema experience which is included in the price. They all enjoyed the film and felt that it was a nice fun addition to enjoy before entering the capsule on the wheel.


The capsules are air conditioned, which my husband said made it much more comfortable, especially with it being so hot outside. After a short wait, the capsule began rising into the air and they were soon able to view the wonderful Orlando landscape. There was a fantastic moment once they reached half way up, when a sight seeing helicopter came in to land at its base across the road. Riley was so excited by this and it was so close that he could even see the pilot. The views were absolutely fantastic and the children really enjoyed trying to spot popular landmarks, buildings and cars.



The wheel moved at a slow speed which made the ride very comfortable and the full rotation took just under half an hour. My husband felt that this was just the right amount of time needed to enjoy the experience. In order to enhance the ride, there are also ipads within the capsules that provide information on the local area, We felt that this was a great idea and helped to provide some facts and figures to the journey.

During the day you can see for miles and this provides the opportunity for some fantastic photos. Evening flights are also available and if we have the chance to return in the future, then we would definitely try one of those so that we could see Orlando all lit up at night. I am pretty sure that if you timed it right, then you would also be able to spot the fireworks at Disney's Epcot.


There are numerous ticket options, but a basic general admission ticket will cost you $25 for an adult and $20 for a child when booking online as this saves you 10% off the on the day arrival prices. However, I feel that the best value tickets are the Orlando Eye Drive Experience Tickets which grant you entry into the Orlando Eye, Sea Life Orlando and Madame Tussauds. These have an online price of $49 per adult and $39 per child. The added bonus of this ticket is that you do not have to visit all the attractions in one day as the ticket is valid for 30 days from the date of your first visit. Free parking is also available in the onsite parking garage.

If you would like further information on the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye and to obtain the most up to date information on ticket prices and opening times, then please visit Officialorlandoeye.com

Overall, my family really enjoyed this attraction and although Ben and I did not have the opportunity to ride on the wheel (due to his fear of heights) we still really enjoyed the surroundings and atmosphere. I feel that the ticket prices offer good value for money in offering a wonderful unique experience and I would definitely recommend this attraction to others.


Disclaimer: I was provided with 2 complimentary tickets for this attraction in exchange for an honest and impartial review. I paid for the additional tickets. Ticket prices are correct at time of writing but I would always recommend visiting the attractions own website for the most up to date information.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Brean Theme Park - The Home of Sooty!

I used to love watching Sooty as a child and I'm not ashamed to admit that I still do. It is one children's programme in particular that I love watching with Riley, especially when he starts laughing uncontrollably at Sooty & Sweeps antics. Therefore, when we were in the Somerset area recently we paid a visit to Brean Theme Park which is where the most recent episodes of Sooty are filmed. There is also plenty to do for non-Sooty fans too with a great selection of fairground rides for all ages. There were numerous rides suitable for Riley who is 4, but also larger rides to keep my two other thrill seekers entertained including a loop de loop!


Brean Theme Park is advertised as the UK's Largest Free Admission Theme Park and is located on the Coast Road at Brean Sands, Somerset. When we arrived we made our way to the ticket kiosk expecting to have to pay for all of us, however we were pleased to find that admission is actually free and you only pay if you are wanting to use the rides. This can be done on an individual ride by ride basis by purchasing tokens, or you can purchase a wristband that allows you unlimited rides on the attractions. I thought that this was a really good idea as we were visiting for the children and I had no plans to go on the rides, it was just a day out for them. We also had my parents with us who are 66 and 68 and they too had no desire to go on the rides, so we thought it was great that we didn't have to pay just to supervise our children and watch them enjoy themselves like you do at many other attractions.

Once we had purchased wristbands for the children, Riley chose his first ride which was a motorized horse ride that rode around a track. He absolutely loved this, it was a very simple ride but it was perfect and he smiled all the way round, waving intermittently when he dared to take one of his hands off the bar.


No sooner had he got off this ride, we bumped into a giant Sooty mascot. Riley ran straight up to him and gave him a huge hug. We took some photos and again there was no charge for this and they were happy for us to take our own pictures.

Whilst Riley stood with a beaming smile and kept waving at Sooty, my other two children Emma and Ben went off to enjoy some of the rides. First up was the giant swing ride, which was quickly followed by the X-Factory and the Dodgems. We had arrived shortly after opening time, so it was very quiet and no queues. This meant that the children were able to go on the dodgems over and over again much to their delight.

The log flume soon caught there attention though and despite it not actually being warm during our visit, they had no hesitation in getting soaking wet as they splashed into the water. Again there was no queue so it was great to see them being able to enjoy themselves without any wait. The staff on the rides were friendly and helpful, as well as making sure they checked wristbands and height when necessary.


The highlight of the day was The Sooty Show which is on daily at 2pm. This was absolutely fantastic and we laughed so much. It was just like being in one of the shows that you see on television and we were all in hysterics, especially when Sooty got out the water pistol and soaked all the crowd! With the park being admission free, you could technically visit for the show alone and the Sooty museum free of charge, both of which I highly recommend for a good giggle.


There was plenty of seating in the form of picnic benches, which also meant that we were able to enjoy a drink and a snack whilst waiting for the show to start. You had a good view from wherever you sat, but the host did also invite all the children down to sit in front of the stage to make sure everyone could see and enjoy the entertainment.


After the show we had a good look around Sooty's TV Studio which featured sets and props that had featured in the show in last 65 years. We also enjoyed looking at the photographs of all the celebrities that have featured in episodes over the years. There was also a small shop where you could purchase Sooty Memorabilia as well. We felt that the toys here were reasonably priced and we bought Riley a Super Sweep plush toy for £12.



After the excitement of The Sooty  Show, it was time for some more rides. Riley wanted to go on a smaller version of the log flume that he had watched his siblings go on earlier and I thought it was a great idea that they had miniature versions of the bigger rides for toddlers.


Riley's favourite ride was Fantasia and he picked a different vehicle to ride in each time. Again there was no queue so he went on this about 8 times, certainly getting our value for money from the £15 wristband we had purchased for him.

 
Riley also really enjoyed the Farm Train and the Looney Tunes ride which were ideal for his age group. All the rides were quite close together, so it also meant that all the children could go on different rides if they wanted to, yet we would still be able to see where they all were and supervise them at all times.


Astro Tours was popular with my daughter Emma who really enjoyed this, Ben on the other was a little scared as it was too dark for him and he likes to see where he is going and what is happening so he chose not to ride on this again, instead opting to spend most of his time on the Dodgems or the Magic Mouse. It was great that they had so much choice.


Before we left, Emma wanted to go on her first loop de loop. She has thought about it a few times previously when we have visited other theme parks, but she decided that this would be an ideal first one due to the loop being quite small. She looked slightly nervous as she boarded the ride, but she absolutely loved it and went straight back on several more times before we left.


Overall we had a great day out at Brean Theme Park and to see the Sooty Show and all the memorabilia was fantastic. We paid for 3 wristbands with Emma and Ben opting for a Mega Wristband at £25 each and Riley had a Sooty's Tots Wristband for £15. I felt that the total cost of £65 was fantastic as they were able to go on the rides so many times that we definitely got our moneys worth. I loved the fact that admission is free and that you only pay if you plan to go on the rides. We visited during an off peak period so the park was relatively quiet, but would anticipate there being queues for the rides in the peak summer season. If you are a fan of fairground rides and the fabulous Sooty, then this is a great day out for the family.

Important Information
For the most up to date information, I would recommend visiting the Brean Theme Park Website where you can find all the details you need on opening times, prices, special events and directions. The Website can be found here: Brean Theme Park

Address:
Coast Road, Brean Sands, Somerset, TA8 2QY

Wristband Prices:
Mega Wristband £25
Sooty's Tots Wristband £15
Mega Wristband 2 Days £40
Sooty's Tots Wristband 2 Days £25


Disclaimer: Information provided was correct at time of writing, however I would always recommend visiting the attractions own website for the most up to date details before visiting. Opinions and photographs are my own unless otherwise stated.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

5 Fun Things to do in Salou

We recently visited a wonderful mobile home holiday park called Sanguli with Al Fresco Holidays. The holiday park was situated in Salou which is on the Costa Dorada coast just over an hours drive from Barcelona.

The holiday park we stayed on was jam packed full of fun activities and entertainment for families, but we also found that there were numerous attractions within the local area that also offer lots of fun for tourists.

1. The Beach

The beach in Salou is absolutely fantastic. It is spotlessly clean with long stretching golden sands which makes a lovely walk whilst paddling through the sea. There is plenty of space for towels or loungers as well as ample facilities to hire loungers, parasols or purchase drinks. Showers can be found at regular intervals along the beach front and there are also some lovely children's play areas which my children enjoyed in the evenings. If you are a watersports fan, then there are also various points along the beach where you can hire a jetski, go paragliding, enjoy a banana boat ride, or have a relaxing time on a pedalo.


2. PortAventura World

PortAventura World offers three theme parks as well as five themed hotels. Consisting of PortAventura Park, Caribe Aquatic Park and the latest addition Ferrari Land, the resort offers plenty of family fun to keep you entertained.

PortAventura Park covers 105 hectares divided into six theme areas. There are 41 attractions for all ages in the theme park and more than 40 daily performances. There are also 47 food and beverage outlets to sample the best dishes from each continent, as well as 51 shops to purchase goods ranging from photographic memories to sweets and merchandise.

PortAventura Caribe Aquatic Park is an impressive area of 50,000 m2 which features 14 attractions that guarantee fun for the whole family in a tropical setting that recreates the lush vegetation of the tropical islands. The water park has an ample selection of different slides, including the highest on the continent 'King Khajuna'.

Ferrari Land spans over 750,000 square feet and offers 11 attractions for the whole family, with a strong focus on technology and adrenaline. As well as the thrilling attractions, visitors can enjoy restaurants, shops and shows that reflect the spirit of Ferrari.


3. Salou Fountains

Salou has a lovely selection of fountains which put on some wonderful displays in the evening. There is the Cybernetic Fountain located at Jaume I Promenade (near the port) which in peak season has nightly displays at 10pm each evening from 1st July to the 10th September.

The Labyrinth Fountain can also be found nearby and this runs from 6pm til midnight on a daily basis from 1st July to 10th September.

The Illuminated Fountain is located at Francesc Germa Square and from the 1st July to 10th September this takes place at 11pm each evening.

4. Tourist Train

Our kids loved the Land Train and it was a fun way of getting around town to save little legs from getting tired. The service offers a circular journey with several stops and also offers a choice of two different itineraries so that you can learn more about Salou and it's main points of interest. The trains are now also equipped with audio guides for adults and children which are available in four different languages.

5. Go Karting

Karting Salou offer a fun adrenaline filled experience with go karts suitable for ages 4 to 13 on the junior track and adult karts for people over the age of 14 to ride on the 900m adult circuit. The site is easy to find just off the motorway and is open from 10am each day. Once you have enjoyed a race around the tracks, then there are also several other attractions there to keep you entertained including amusement arcades and a bungee rocket.

If you would like to find out more about places to visit in the area, then I would highly recommend the Visit Salou website which has plenty of up to date information to help you make the most of your stay.

Disclaimer: Attraction information is correct at time of writing but would always recommend visiting the attractions own website for the most up to date information before visiting. Photographs are my own.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Travelling Back in Time with Blists Hill Victorian Town - A Review

Blists Hill Victorian Town is a replica of a small industrial town set in the year 1900 which has been recreated by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust. It features a wide range of exhibits and demonstrations by knowledgeable members of staff who really get into character. The demonstrators all take the time to explain their roles or tell you a little bit more about the Victorian community making it not only a fun attraction, but also a learning experience too.

Some of the monuments on the site are original, others have been re-located brick by brick and some of the buildings have been copied and erected using traditional building materials.


Location

The attraction is located in Madeley, Telford. We used the postcode provided on one of their leaflets for the sat nav system, however we found it to be well signposted along the main roads. We were staying in a cottage in Coalbrookdale and it took us less than ten minutes to reach the site. When we arrived we found there to be plenty of parking, but it is important to note that it is a pay and display car park which costs £3 for the day. The machine currently accepts old pound coins only whilst waiting to be upgraded, but you can purchase a ticket from inside the shop if this is a problem. There is no charge for parking for blue badge holders.

The Attraction

We received a nice welcome from the gentleman in the visitor centre reception and we were provided with a map of the site. We made our way into a large room which was showing a film about the Victorian era, we stayed here for a short while before making our way up the staircase and to the main part of the attraction. As we made our way through the door we were taken back in time as we stepped through onto the classic 1900's street.


Our first stop was to take a look in the bank where you can also exchange some modern day currency into old money that can be used in the shops. It was interesting being able to compare an old Lloyds Bank to the modern facilities that we are used to. We were only here a short while as the bike shop next door soon caught the children's attention and they were fascinated looking at the weird and wonderful bikes that were available back then.

We took a look inside the Chemist which featured a variety of lotions and potions. In the corner was also a dental area. To say this looked a little scary would be an understatement. I definitely wouldn't have fancied a trip to the dentist in Victorian times!



Next up we visited the photography suite. This was my favourite part of the attraction which allowed you to dress up like a Victorian and have a family portrait. Sue, who was running this experience was fantastic, as well as being really kind and helpful. My youngest son Riley didn't want to take part in dressing up and she was very patient with him and tried to provide some gentle encouragement to get him to join in. Unfortunately he wouldn't give in, but Emma, Ben, Mr F & Grandad all got dressed up and played their roles really well and definitely looked the part.

To begin with they were taken to a large dressing room area where they each selected their outfits. My daughter was given a choice of several dresses to choose from and there was a wonderful selection of hats. Sue made sure that all the costumes were fastened up correctly and we were then led through to the studio where the photographs were taken.




The pictures were taken against a traditional Victorian back drop and the clever use of props helped to hide anything that would have been 'out of era' such as my daughters minion socks! Sue then took three photographs, with the first being a serious pose that we were told would have been typical of the Victorian period. The second photograph had a relaxed smile and then the third was full on cheesy grins! Once all the photo's had been taken we were shown the pictures and given the choice of which we would like to buy. The cost of the images was £15 for the first print and then £10 for any additional prints. They came in a choice of three different sizes which was a singular 10 x 8 inch print, 2 small prints on one sheet, or 4 smaller prints on one sheet. We chose to purchase two of the large 10 x 8 prints and we all felt that this was good value for money. I feel that £15 was really reasonable as the whole experience in the studio took around half an hour and it was great fun watching the children get dressed up and the print is a fantastic memento from our trip.


Directly opposite to the photographer was the sweet shop where my children purchased some lollipops to eat whilst we continued our walk through the town. Emma enjoyed reading through the list of sweets available and looking at the old prices.


After the sweet shop we made our way down the hill and past the G R Morton Ironworks. My children had spotted the Victorian Fairground on the map and so we decided to spend some time down there and then work our way back up. The fairground featured some swings and some stalls such as a coconut shy and darts game. This is seasonal so isn't open all year round and I'm not sure if there are more rides in the school holidays, but it would have been nice to have seen a nice traditional carousel here or an alternative ride suitable for younger children as unfortunately Riley was a bit too small for the two rides that were available. As you can see though, my son Ben loved this swing ride! Whilst Riley wasn't quite big enough for the rides, he did enjoy the games stalls and was lucky enough to win a prize on his very first go.


Opposite the fairground is a nice cafe area with plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. We all enjoyed a hot drink here and they also had a lovely selection of food available too. The prices were reasonable for what was on offer and it was a nice spot to have a quick break before we ventured over to the school house to take a look.

Unfortunately we didn't get the chance to see a class in action or meet the renowned Mr Stern! The school looked great though and we had a good nosey inside at the layout of the building and all the desks inside. My kids enjoyed comparing it to their own school, but said that they definitely prefer the more modern environment and technology that is on offer today.


We spent a bit more time in this part of the attraction and walked over to the nearby Squatter Cottage. This was a very small home, which the lady told us would have housed a family of 9! It certainly made my daughter think as she often complains that her bedroom is too small, yet this entire house wasn't much bigger. My children certainly weren't fans of the outside toilet and it definitely made them wonder about how different life would have been.


As we began to head back up the hill we visited the Ironworks and had a good look around. A short way up from this was a lovely cottage that was also the Doctor's surgery. It was very strange to see all the old medical instruments that were on display and we also noticed that the surgery was only open for 90 minutes in the morning and 90 minutes in the afternoon. Our doctors surgery is open 9 til 6 and we still struggle to get an appointment!


As we returned back to the main street we noticed a horse and cart ride about to set off, so my children and their nana climbed onboard and went for a lovely ride around the town. This carried an additional charge of £1 per person so it would be a good idea to take some loose change with you. It was only a short ride but my kids really enjoyed it and it definitely added to the experience.


We took a further wander around the shops before visiting the fried fish dealers where we enjoyed the most delicious portion of chips which we ate outside in the beer garden a short distance away. These were a lovely treat and at £2.40 for a cone it was a very reasonable price too.




Overall, we had a great day out. We visited as a group of 7 ranging from ages 4 to 68 and there was something for everyone. Our family really enjoyed the photo experience, as well as exploring the old shops and houses. It provided us with a great insight into how life would have been in the early 1900's and it was great fun speaking to the demonstrators who all played their roles really well. We will be visiting the area again during the school summer holidays and will definitely be making a return visit to Blists Hill Victorian Town.

Important Information

Entry prices are as follows:

Adult Entry with Gift Aid - £17.95
60+ with Gift Aid - £13.75
Child with Gift Aid - £11.85

Adult Entry Non Gift Aid - £16.25
60+ Non Gift Aid - £12.50
Child Non Gift Aid - £10.75

You can also purchase Annual Passport Tickets which includes admission to all 10 Ironbridge Gorge Museums for 12 months. For further information please visit the website here: Ticket Information

Opening times: The attraction is open 7 days a week from 10am til 4:30pm.



Disclaimer: We were provided with complimentary admission for the purpose of providing an honest review of our experience. All opinions and photographs are my own, unless otherwise stated.