A Day Out in London With Kids: Guest Post by Emma – Wanderlust & Wet Wipes

I love London. I loved living there when I lived there (even though I was always ready to leave for our next adventure). Now that we live away, I especially love going back there to visit. It really is a city with something for everyone with millions of outdoor and indoor options for every eventuality.

There are museums and parks, soft plays and cafes, buzzing restaurants and historic sights, shopping galore and sniff new buildings…. Not to mention the ever popular riding public transport (true story – we actually did this one afternoon)! You could spend a couple of crazy busy weeks there and still not do everything! If you’ve only got the one day, here’s what I would do for a day out in London with kids…

A Day Out in London With Kids - a guest post by Wanderlust and Wet Wipes title with faded image of London background

Early morning
We’re usually pretty jet lagged when we arrive so the kids wake up crazy early. A cup of tea on the sofa while they watch CBeebies makes me feel right at home! Since we stay in Putney, I usually try to go for a walk or a run along the river. The views are stunning across the water and you can usually watch rowers skimming along as you run.

Breakfast
Back home and we are ready to go pretty early having been up with the birds. Living the Middle East, we always go for big breakfasts with lots of pork products! My current favourite places are Muriel’s Kitchen and Carluccio’s.

Morning
There’s so much to do in London with kids, it’s ridiculous. I’m a huge fan of the museums partly because they are free but mostly because they are such amazing resources for parents. Our favourites are the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum which are conveniently right next to each other and down the road from Muriel’s Kitchen! I really want to try out the Transport Museum next time we are home as I think the kids will be the right ages for it by now.

Lunch
If the weather is nice, I say you can’t beat a pub lunch in a place with a really nice beer garden. Sitting in the sun with a proper pub grub type of meal is one of my ideas of heaven!

Afternoon
In the afternoon heading to the Tower of London is always a winner. You can download their app and complete a digital mission or you can do one of their activity trails. Alternatively head over to the London Eye for spectacular views of the capital. If the weather is nice and you want to make the most of being outside, take advantage of one of the many hundreds of parks (1700 apparently!) and let the kids run off some energy.

Dinner
There are literally so many options if you’re just coming off the Eye. The South Bank is packed with family friendly restaurants like Wagamama, Giraffe and Ping Pong. My kids can be quite fussy eaters so it’s great to have a place where I know there’s somewhere that we can all eat something!

Head home via public transport (to keep the kids happy) for a well earned, good night’s sleep.

Aerial image of London river Thames

About Emma
Emma’s a pushing 40, travel-mad mum to 2 young kids (aged 6 and 4) and a crazy dog. Originally from the UK she’s lived in 10 cities across 5 continents all over the world. She currently lives in Doha, Qatar. Emma started blogging about her family travels in 2017 when she had an epiphany about how to have successful adventurous family holidays.

You can follow Emma at:

Blog: wanderlustandwetwipes.com
Twitter: @wanderwetwipes
Facebook: facebook.com/wanderlustandwetwipes
Instagram: instagram.com/wanderlustandwetwipes
Pinterest: pinterest.co.uk/wanderlustandwetwipes

Days Out in Newcastle Upon Tyne

Are you planning a trip to Newcastle? If it is your first time visiting (or even if it’s not!) here are my ideas for a fun packed, family- friendly day out in Newcastle…

Days Out in Newcastle title with image of Tyne below

(Please note I have not yet been to all of these places myself, some are still on my travel bucket list for next time we visit Newcastle!)

Life Science Centre

This science museum is situated in Times Square right next to the train stations and is also close to a large carpark, so it makes a good starting or finishing point for your day if you are based outside of town (Toon!) It looks like an absolute must if you have kids; it is full of hands-on activities. Be warned though, I hear it gets busy!

Quayside Walk/ Open Top Bus Tour of Gateshead Quays

From the Life Science Centre, take a walk along the Quayside to enjoy the scenic views. Once you arrive at Guildhall and Merchants Court, jump on an open top bus to cross the Swing Bridge then continue your sightseeing along Gateshead Quays.

Quayside walk with views across the Tyne river.

Baltic Centre For Contemporary Art

Jump off the bus tour at Baltic Art Centre to take in the sights of River Tyne from new heights via their viewing platform. You can also grab a bite to eat for lunch while you are here. If you have time, check out their current exhibits too of course!

Open Top Bus Tour (Continued)

After lunch, hop back onto the open top bus tour to travel past the impressive Sage building and across the famous Tyne Bridge. I am not a fan of heights myself, but despite that I still recommend it! End the tour at Market Street.

Sage Gateshead

Sightseeing or Shopping?

Depending on how late in the day it is, you could fit in a quick visit to Laing Art Gallery. It also has a recently refurbished play space for younger children, so good if you have little ones. You could also see Greys Monument or check out Blue Carpet Square. Another option would be to take in a theatre show at Theatre Royal.

If shopping is more your thing, there are plenty of shops around to choose from and a large shopping centre or three. Whilst the huge intu Metrocentre is further away, you could grab a bus or cab there. Or just head to nearby Eldon Square intu instead. If you prefer boutiques and specialist shops, then definitely pop to Eldon Garden Shopping Centre. Alternatively, visit Grainger Market for something abit different.

Eating Out

After all that, finish off the day enjoying a delicious dinner at one of Newcastle’s many restaurants. There are loads to choose from! If you are looking for discounts on food, as well as activities and attractions, then check out Groupon to see what deals they currently have on things to do in Newcastle. Enjoy!

A photo of Newcastle at night. Colourful lights illuminate the river Tyne

Have you been to Newcastle? Where would you recommend? Tell me in comments!

*Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.

Beautiful Accessible Reservoir Walks in Yorkshire – #RediscoverReservoirs

Yorkshire is a beautiful county filled with many stunning scenic sights and lovely walks. As the second largest landowner in Yorkshire, Yorkshire Water is currently striving to
enhance access across it’s reservoirs. These are some of the most gorgeous walking spots in the entire UK, and their aim is to ensure more wheelchair and mobility aid users are able to enjoy them too. They are therefore developing routes that are accessible to those with mobility needs by improving the paths around reservoirs, by making them flatter and addressing surfacing issues, allowing all visitors to fully experience these amazing, tranquil countryside spots.

Swinsty Reservoir.Image credit: Busy Mum Lifestyle

These routes may be of particular interest to disability rambler groups, inclusive outdoor groups who wish to ensure all members can participate, and those individuals and families with mobility needs who enjoy seeking out the countryside. Here is a map of the accessible reservoir routes for reference…

A map of accessible reservoir routes

This project is close to my heart because, although the nature of Squiggle’s disabilities are largely invisible, she does also have some mobility issues. But mainly it is important to me personally because, as an SEND parent, I am very aware of the various barriers that can prevent even a simple activity from being accessible. Whether it is because it is physically inaccessible for a wheelchair user, or for one of the many other less obvious reasons, it can be difficult for those with SEND to participate in things that others may well take for granted. Inclusion matters.

I also think the benefits of being able to access these routes should not underestimated. After all, there is far more to being outdoors than just getting some fresh air and exercise. It is just as essential to our mental health to be able to enjoy spending time outside in pretty, natural surroundings. And water in particular is very therapeutic. As Dr Nichols, who coined the term Blue Mind explains, there is science behind how being near water helps people to be “happier, healthier, more connected, and better at what you do”. I firmly agree that being around water, such as these lovely reservoir walks, is very relaxing and supports our health and wellbeing in far more ways than we might realise. So of course it is crucial that everyone can benefit from this!

Map of Swinsty Reservoir route and facilities

One example of these accessible reservoirs is Swinsty. It offers stunning views and has picnic areas, a disabled carpark and facilities. It is a fabulous way to spend the day, as Rosemary at Busy Mum Lifestyle agrees: “I stayed just outside Harrogate on a girls’ weekend last year. We spent one day walking around Swinsty Resevoir and it was absolutely beautiful. It was a gorgeous May Day and the bluebells had just come up.”

A photo of the bluebells in the woodland at Swinsty reservoir

Swinsty Reservoir (above and below)

Image credits: Busy Mum Lifestyle

A photo of the reservoir - Swinsty

I think it is fantastic that Yorkshire Water are ensuring that these lovely surroundings are accessible to all. A wonderful, relaxing day out that can be enjoyed by everyone!

Have you visited any of these Yorkshire reservoirs? Join in the conversation on social media using the hashtag #RediscoverReservoirs and/ or let me know in comments!

*Disclosure: This post is written in collaboration with Yorkshire Water.

Car Safety Checklist: How To Prepare For Long Journeys #CarSafetyChecklist

How often do you check your car? They should really be given a quick once over regularly, every few weeks ideally. This is true of all cars, but especially older models. And it is even more important to do some essential safety checks before a long journey. That is why kwik-fit.com have set up a #CarSafetyChecklist campaign.

A picture of a white landrover with the caption Car Safety Checklist: Things To Check Before Long Journeys #CarSafetyChecklist Kwik Fit campaign image designed by Living Life Our Way.

Since it became part of the practical driving test to be able to demonstrate a basic understanding of vehicle safety a decade ago, most people should feel confident giving their car a basic check themselves. However it can also be helpful to take it in for a service periodically, to proactively avoid any potential issues before they become more costly – or dangerous.

Whilst researching, I came across a handy acronym to remember 6 key areas to check: FLOWER.

Fuel

Don’t let your fuel run too low. Make sure you top up before a long journey, or at the very least when you pass the first petrol station along the start of journey. Too many people make the mistake of trusting a faulty fuel guage or simply underestimating how long it will take to get to the next services!

Lights

Make sure your lights are working. Give them a clean too if needed so they aren’t dimmed by dirt!

Leaks

Ok, so flower does not have two ‘L’s. But I would also like to add that you need to check for leaks too. Condensation from the air con is normal but anything else needs investigating.

Oil

Don’t wait for the red oil warning light to come on – check it regularly!

Water

Check your coolant level and screen wash.

Windscreen Wipers

Again, there might not be a double ‘W’ in flower but I am going to add another one regardless! Check your wipers too, especially in winter/ wetter months.

Warning Lights!

Ok, I am going for a triple W infact. This one should definitely go without saying, but incase it doesn’t; always make sure there are no warning lights on before any journey!

Electrics

Ensure that the radiator’s electric cooling fan starts running when the engine gets hot by running the engine with the car stationary. Also make sure your battery isn’t too old and worn out, especially baring in mind that battery problems are the most common cause of roadside callouts.

Rubber (Tyres)

Last but certainly not least; Check your tyres – pressure, tread and spare!

Essential Items

As well as doing the above safety checks, it is also helpful to have some essentials in your car too, especially for long journeys. Here is a list of handy items to keep in your vehicle…

  • Manual
  • Recovery details
  • Jump cables
  • Tools
  • Warning triangle
  • Water
  • Blanket
  • Phone charger
  • Light/ torch
  • Ice scraper

Do you have any other car safety tips? Let me know in comments!

*Disclosure: This post is written in collaboration with Kwik Fit.

Cassiobury Park, Watford: Paddling Pools and Splash Park

Cassiobury Park in Watford, Hertfordshire has been undergoing a huge restoration project over the last year, thanks to a £6.5 million investment with help from the Big Lottery and Heritage Lottery Fund. The transformation includes brand new paddling pools and splash park, which we were keen to check out soon after it opened!

Cassiobury Park, paddling pool, splash park, water play, Blue Mind, places to visit, Watford, Hertfordshire, summer, families, days out

There is a main paddling pool and a smaller one, as well as a splash park and various water play features too. It has push button controls suitable for all abilities and seems to be mostly accessible (although we didn’t have any wheelchair users with us). Users can enjoy a variety of sprays and fountains of differing heights and styles, plus paddle in the pools themselves too of course! There is plenty of space both in and out of the water, and a (very) small amount of shaded areas.

Cassiobury Park, paddling pool, splash park, water play, Blue Mind, places to visit, Watford, Hertfordshire, summer, families, days out

Cassiobury Park, paddling pool, splash park, water play, Blue Mind, places to visit, Watford, Hertfordshire, summer, families, days out

Cassiobury Park, paddling pool, splash park, water play, Blue Mind, places to visit, Watford, Hertfordshire, summer, families, days out

Cassiobury Park, paddling pool, splash park, water play, Blue Mind, places to visit, Watford, Hertfordshire, summer, families, days out

There is a sustainable park hub building that includes toilets and changing facilities, as well as a café. The hub also has a community and exhibition room, plus education facilities. For more information about the wonderful transformations that have taken shape at Cassiobury Park, see Watford Borough Council website.

Cycling Adventures: Exploring St Albans 

Now, I am the first to admit that I am not a regular cyclist. However, I do love being outdoors and I also like a challenge! So when Inntravel set a cycling adventure challenge; to explore our local area by bike, creating a cycle route, then share what we discovered, I was more than happy to take this on!

Inntravel are a holiday company that have been offering cycling holidays in Europe since the late 1980s. They arrange the hire of a high-quality bike and you cycle self-guided from one welcoming hotel to the next, following detailed maps and route notes while your luggage is transported ahead. Inntravel plan all their biking holidays carefully, making sure that each route is tried and tested, preferably using quiet roads and country lanes. They try to ensure the routes are enjoyable and interesting, giving you the chance to take in the beautiful scenery and gorgeous views.

#cyclingadventures, InnTravel, slow holidays, cycling, cycle route, St Albans, Hertfordshire, active lifestyle, wellbeing, outdoors, get outside, selfie

Our cycle route went from London Colney (Hertfordshire) across St Albans to Verulamium Park, via Highfield Park then onto the Alban Way. This is a fairly short linear route that covers approximately 5.5 miles each way, so only about an hour or so of cycling in total, but with ample opportunity to pause and take in some of the nearby attractions, or stop for food and/ or refreshments.

#cyclingadventures, InnTravel, slow holidays, cycling, cycle route, St Albans, Hertfordshire, active lifestyle, wellbeing, outdoors, get outside

Heading from London Colney high street, the route takes us over a fly-over, which cyclists need to dismount for, onto Nightingale Lane then into Highfield park. The park is a lovely place to explore or have a picnic. There is a tree trail and history trail, as well as a maze.

#cyclingadventures, InnTravel, slow holidays, cycling, cycle route, Highfield Park, St Albans, Hertfordshire, active lifestyle, wellbeing, outdoors, get outside
Highfield Park
#cyclingadventures, InnTravel, slow holidays, cycling, cycle route, Highfield Park, maze, St Albans, Hertfordshire, active lifestyle, wellbeing, outdoors, get outside
Highfield Park (with maze to the left)

#cyclingadventures, InnTravel, slow holidays, cycling, cycle route, Highfield Park, St Albans, Hertfordshire, active lifestyle, wellbeing, outdoors, get outside

Leaving the park, the next step of the route takes us down bike lanes until we reach the Hill End Garden of Rest that leads onto Alban Way. Alban Way is a cycle path that has been created from an old railway line that joins Hatfield to St Albans.

#cyclingadventures, InnTravel, slow holidays, cycling, cycle route, Alban Way, St Albans, Hertfordshire, active lifestyle, wellbeing, outdoors, get outside
Alban Way cycle path

The Alban Way disjoints briefly at Orient Close where we cycle down a quiet street. There is generally very little traffic though so it is a peaceful ride back onto the Alban Way again.

#cyclingadventures, InnTravel, slow holidays, cycling, cycle route, Alban Way, graffiti art, St Albans, Hertfordshire, active lifestyle, wellbeing, outdoors, get outside
Alban Way by Orient Close

Just past here is an opportunity to dismount if you wish to and follow the footpath along a small section of the River Ver Trail to discover the wildlife and explore Sopwell Nunnery. We loved doing this! Alternatively you can stay on the cycle path until you get to Cottonmill Lane.

#cyclingadventures, InnTravel, slow holidays, cycling, cycle route, Sopwell Nunnery, green space, St Albans, Hertfordshire, active lifestyle, wellbeing, outdoors, get outside

At this point there is some road cycling including crossing a fairly busy intersection (there are traffic lights though). On the other side of the road, is Westminster Lodge and the entrance to Verulamium Park using the cycle path that runs from the athletics track, through the park – where we take in the beautiful views of the Abbey Cathedral in the distance, as well as the scenic views and historical attractions across the rest of the park – onto the Roman Verulamium museum at the other end.

#cyclingadventures, InnTravel, slow holidays, cycling, cycle route, Verulamium Park, St Albans, Hertfordshire, scenic, views, active lifestyle, wellbeing, outdoors, get outside
Views of Verulamium Park (from Roman Hypocaust)
#cyclingadventures, InnTravel, slow holidays, cycling, cycle route, Verulamium Park, St Albans, Hertfordshire, historical, Romans, history, The London Gate, active lifestyle, wellbeing, outdoors, get outside
Cycle path near The London Gate

 Verulamium park has a wealth of Roman history to enjoy, including the mosaics/ hypocaust, remains of the Roman wall, theatre and the museum. If history is not your thing, you might enjoy a walk around the lake or visit the Wildlife Trust centre instead.

#cyclingadventures, InnTravel, slow holidays, cycling, cycle route, Verulamium Park, St Albans, Hertfordshire, active lifestyle, wellbeing, outdoors, get outside

Before heading back home along the same route, you can also stop for refreshments at the Inn on the Park, nip into Ye Olde Fighting Cocks (rumoured to be the oldest pub in Britain) at the other end of the lake, head down past the museum to pretty St Michaels Village that has a selection of delightful pubs, or grab a bite at the well-known Waffle House.

#cyclingadventures, InnTravel, slow holidays, cycling, cycle route, Waffle House, St Michaels Village, St Albans, Hertfordshire, active lifestyle, wellbeing, outdoors, get outside

After our local cycling adventure, I really the idea of a cycling holiday. Slow paced and relaxing, yet active, with plenty of time to be outdoors and a chance to enjoy exploring new places; that all sounds ideal to me! Plus I like the fact that with a cycling holiday, you don’t need to stick to circular routes or have to turn around and head back to your original destination because your luggage is forwarded onto your next destination. Also as they are not groups cycles, they can be personalised with your choice of selected routes for the day and travel at your individual pace. It sounds great for any level of cyclist, including very occasional complete amateurs like myself!

Disclosure: This post is in collaboration with Inntravel.

An Early Start (In More Ways Than One!) #30DaysWild 

We woke up super early last Sunday morning and watched the sunrise out of an upstairs window. It was really relaxing and a lovely feel – good way to start the day! Here is a speeded up video clip of it. (Note to self: window cleaner needed 😉 Ignore the dirty marks!) 

We then went to Southend-on-Sea for a day out at the beach. It was so empty and peaceful early Sunday morning. Squiggle had fun playing on the beach, paddling in the sea and looking for crabs.

Southend-on-Sea, Essex, Living Life Our Way, 30 Days Wild, #30dayswild, #LivingLifeWild, Blue Mind, days out, places to visit, beach, kids need nature, get outside

Southend-on-Sea, Essex, Living Life Our Way, 30 Days Wild, #30dayswild, #LivingLifeWild, Blue Mind, wildlife, sea creatures, days out, places to visit, beach, kids need nature, get outside

We then walked along the seafront, past Adventure Island funfair and the pier, to Three Shells Lagoon. Squiggle enjoyed a lovely morning paddle/ swim in the lagoon. Unsurprisingly it was very cold apparently!

We also spotted bird footprints in the sand and we spent a few minutes doing a quick beach clean too, as there was alot of litter around sadly.

Southend-on-Sea, Essex, Living Life Our Way, 30 Days Wild, #30dayswild, #LivingLifeWild, Blue Mind, wildlife, days out, places to visit, beach, kids need nature, get outside

Southend-on-Sea, Essex, Living Life Our Way, 30 Days Wild, #30dayswild, #LivingLifeWild, Blue Mind, beach clean up, litter, environment, days out, places to visit, beach, kids need nature, get outside

Here are some other photos I took from the visit too….

Southend-on-Sea, Essex, Living Life Our Way, 30 Days Wild, #30dayswild, #LivingLifeWild, Blue Mind, days out, places to visit, beach, kids need nature, get outside

Southend-on-Sea, Essex, Living Life Our Way, 30 Days Wild, #30dayswild, #LivingLifeWild, Blue Mind, days out, places to visit, beach, kids need nature, get outside

Southend-on-Sea, Essex, Living Life Our Way, 30 Days Wild, #30dayswild, #LivingLifeWild, Blue Mind, days out, places to visit, beach, kids need nature, get outside

Southend-on-Sea, Essex, Living Life Our Way, 30 Days Wild, #30dayswild, #LivingLifeWild, Blue Mind, days out, places to visit, beach, kids need nature, get outside

Southend-on-Sea, Essex, Living Life Our Way, 30 Days Wild, #30dayswild, #LivingLifeWild, Blue Mind, days out, places to visit, beach, kids need nature, get outside

It was such a lovely and relaxing day!

Click for photos and a blog post I wrote from a previous visit. 

#LivingLifeWild #30DaysWild

National Pet Show: A Fantastic Day Out For Pet/ Animal Lovers!

This past weekend saw the return of the National Pet Show to Excel, London. For those who have never heard of it, this event hosts tonnes of pet-related stands with information, advice and products, as well as lots of talks, activities, shows and demonstrations. Of course, there are lots of animals too! 

National Pet Show, Excel, London, days out, events, pets, family fun, animal lovers, freedom to learn

We went to this event once previously, when Squiggle was much younger, back when it was held at Earls Court. (Blog post here). We had a lovely time and Squiggle remembered it well so we were excited to return!

National Pet Show, Excel, London, days out, events, pets, family fun, animal lovers, freedom to learn

We have only been to Excel once with Squiggle before, to watch the Paralympics in 2012, and I don’t think she recognised it. I personally really like this venue because it is spacious and has good facilities. Events can be very crowded and overstimulating for a child with autism, so it is good that the venue is big enough that it is possible to find a space in a quiet corner if needed. Plus, as it is located by the docklands, there is also somewhere calm outdoors to go for some fresh air if it does get too much. 

National Pet Show, Excel, London, days out, events, pets, family fun, animal lovers, freedom to learn

The pet show itself has a huge range of animals to see. I didn’t get a photo because s/he was attracting quite a crowd but Squiggle adored seeing the hairless cat, as well as many other rare breeds. I loved this funky dreadlock looking dog, a bergamasco, which is certainly not a breed I had come across before. So gorgeous though!

Perhaps a slightly unusual highlight but, for me personally, one of my favourite parts was getting inspiration for our new bunny housing. We have already got the actual enclosure itself, but we spotted some great ideas of what else we could include for enrichment!

National Pet Show, Excel, London, days out, events, pets, family fun, animal lovers, freedom to learn

Squiggle also loved the opportunity to meet some more exotic pets in the reptile section, such as Terry the tegu, a python (I think?!) and a very giant tortoise. It was lovely to experience these magnificent creatures close up and hands on! 

National Pet Show, Excel, London, days out, events, pets, family fun, animal lovers, freedom to learn

Over at the More Than stand, there was a little display going on by this cute little poodle pair. I gather there were other appearances spotted here too! I also liked the park theme with children’s games, such as Connect 4 and Jenga. A nice little chilled out spot in the midst of the hustle and bustle!

National Pet Show, More Than, Excel, London, days out, events, pets, family fun, animal lovers, freedom to learn

As I already mentioned, there were lots of demonstrations and shows. For example, we saw this golden retriever display and got to meet them afterwards too.

National Pet Show, Excel, London, days out, events, pets, family fun, animal lovers, freedom to learn

There were lots of stalls with useful information too, such as various animal charities. We enjoyed meeting the therapy pets, including this beauty. I think a therapy dog would be amazing. But I also feel that any pets are great for autism, anxiety etc… They are so therapeutic! 

National Pet Show, Excel, London, days out, events, pets, family fun, animal lovers, freedom to learn

There were loads of children’s activities too. Stories, colouring, meeting animals, talks, games and even an exciting future vet activity with Noel Fitzpatrick. There was also a weaving activity; Squiggle was most excited about the huge rabbit that had been created!

National Pet Show, Excel, London, days out, events, pets, family fun, animal lovers, freedom to learn

Tickets cost from £13.91 for a child ticket. However, Littlebird often have deals available, so it is well worth checking if there are any discounted tickets. Also, carers get free entry to assist those with disabilities so if this applies to you then do get in touch with them.

As well as the London dates, the show is also held at NEC in Birmingham each November too (next dates are 4th and 5th November 2017). It is open all day from 9.30am to 5pm, with a schedule of different shows, talks, demonstrations and appearances throughout the weekend.

It is a really fun day out. A fantastic event for those with their own furbabies, wannabe pet owners or general animal enthusiasts! 

*Thank you to More Than for the complimentary pair of tickets we received. All thoughts are opinions are my own.

Willows Activity Farm Easter Eggstravaganza 

Willows Activity Farm Easter Eggstravaganza event is a fun day out that we have been to every year for a number of years and yet it still works just as well as it is suitable for a range of ages. This year we were lucky enough to get a free family ticket through Herts Big Weekend but we did wonder whether this might affect the size of the crowd. Luckily, although it was busy, it didn’t seem particularly packed. And there is plenty of space and lots to do which helps it feel less crowded too.

Willows Activity Farm, Easter Eggstravaganza, Hertfordshire, Easter, events, days out, places to visit, family fun, Living Life Our Way

The schedule of events is carefully timed so that you can still do the majority of activities and shows even if you are only there for half a day, like we were, but there is certainly more than enough to do for a whole day out too. We were able to do everything we wanted without feeling rushed from one thing to the next but without much spare time to fill either! 

Willows Activity Farm, Easter Eggstravaganza, Hertfordshire, Easter, events, Lilly Bobtail, meet and greet, days out, places to visit, family fun, Living Life Our Way
Squiggle meeting Lilly Bobtail

Some of the highlights of this particular event include the Bunny Hop show, Easter Garden egg hunt, meet and greets with Peter Rabbit, Lilly Bobtail, Benjamin Bunny and Easter Bunny, and various shows by Peter Rabbit and friends – including a brand new show featuring all three characters on stage together. We didn’t see this particular show but we did watch the Bunny Hop show with the Easter Bunny.

Squiggle loved this show and got really into it. One song in particular about chocolate really made her laugh and it was really catchy; she has remembered alot of it to sing to herself after just hearing it that once! 

Willows Activity Farm, Easter Eggstravaganza, Hertfordshire, Easter, events, Bunny Hop Show, days out, places to visit, family fun, Living Life Our Way
Bunny Hop Show

The Easter Garden is open for most of the day, daily throughout the Easter Eggstravaganza event. Here you are given a basket on entry and then search the garden to find five different coloured eggs. Once you have completed the hunt you can exchange the five eggs you found for yummy chocolate prizes. 

Willows Activity Farm, Easter Eggstravaganza, Hertfordshire, Easter, events, days out, places to visit, family fun, Living Life Our Way
Easter Garden

This is also where the Easter Bunny makes an appearance for meet and greet sessions, so be sure to check the schedule if you want to time your visit right! (Entry to Easter Garden is only permitted once). 

Willows Activity Farm, Easter Eggstravaganza, Hertfordshire, Easter, Easter Bunny, meet and greet, events, days out, places to visit, family fun, Living Life Our Way
Squiggle meeting Easter Bunny

Other activities also available at Willows include Peter Rabbit playground, agility course, sand pit, funfair rides, bouncy castle and slide, animal encounters, tractor ride, indoor role-play village, tractors, soft play, and arts and crafts. Plus of course lots of animals! There is also a large cafe and gift shop. For further information see Willows Activity Farm website.

Willows Farm Santa Spectacular (St Albans, Herts)

Santa Spectacular Willows Activity Farm is a great day out at any time of year. But Squiggle particularly loves their festive event Santa Spectacular, which runs daily from the last week of November until Christmas eve. There are a variety of seasonal activities on offer, such as ice skating, writing a letter to Santa, Festive Wood Ride, shows, making a cuddly toy, and of course an opportunity to meet the man himself! In addition, there are also some new activities for this year, including elf school, snowball shoot-out and a 3D film sleigh ride. We didn’t do anywhere near everything, but that is what is so nice about having so many options, families can pick and choose what they most want to do! 

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit

We visited on a weekday in November so it was fairly quiet. At the entrance we were greeted by an elf, which I’m sure many children would be delighted by! For a minority of children it might be slightly daunting to be approached on arrival, but the other elf and the lovely lady at the ticket kiosk were aware of this and discreetly addressed it by calling her over to give us some space. I must say I was really grateful for their help and support in starting our day off on the right foot! For most though, I’m sure it is a great welcome that adds to the festive atmosphere and magic of Christmas. 

Once in the farm, we headed to the magical ice rink first because this is one of Squiggle’s favourite activities to do there. When we arrived, it had just opened and was still empty so we had it to ourselves! Squiggle can no longer fit into over-the-shoe style skates so she wore proper ice skates for the first time, which she was very excited about. The rink is synthetic, which makes it less slippery than real ice, but the polar bear and penguin supports are handy for less experienced skaters of any age! 

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit

Squiggle was keen to meet Santa so we made sure to fit that into our day next. We got very lucky and found it completely empty! This meant we were able to browse the cute Christmas scenes and displays on the way through to the grotto at our leisure then go straight in to see Father Christmas as soon as we were ready, with no queuing. 

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit

We had a quick chat with Santa in his wonderful homely grotto, then he presented Squiggle with a key to his magic toy shop (where they can choose any toy they want!) and the photographer took some photos. Squiggle then hurried excitedly to the toy shop, which is filled with a good selection of toys to suit a variety of interests and ages, where she promptly found a cuddly toy seal – that she had just told Santa was on her wish list! (What luck!!!) We also purchased a couple of the professional photos taken because own cameras are not allowed in the grotto. They certainly weren’t cheap but they are lovely photos!

Back outside, there was a meet and greet with a gorgeous real husky dog. This seemed like a good cue to go and make our own cuddly toy version, which included in the entrance price. This is also where you can write and post a letter to Father Christmas, but Squiggle opted to do this at home instead when she was less distracted!

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit

Dotted around Willows, both inside and out, are lots of festive displays that really add to the atmosphere. For example, this one is next to the ice rink by the entrance to the grotto.

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit

Aside from the festive fun, there are plenty of regular Willows Farm facilities available too. Squiggle let off some steam in the indoor soft play and outdoors too, including the fab new Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground that opened earlier this year. We also popped into the animal barn quickly to see the animals, including the reindeer.

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit

It was a fantastic day out that we all really enjoyed. For more information, and to save money by booking tickets online, check out the Willows Activity Farm website. We are feeling very festive after our visit, Merry Christmas everyone! 

Willows Activity Farm, Santa Spectacular, festive event, Christmas, santas grotto, Father Christmas, days out, places to visit