Ok, lets just get this over with.... I'm going to mention the 'C' word on my blog today. Yep, it's mid October and I want to talk about CHRISTMAS already. I'm one of those people who can't get enough of the festive period though so it's never ever too early in my book!
We are certainly a family who like to create lasting memories together and Christmas time is such a special time to seek out some unique experiences for children that will keep them smiling over the colder months. Whether it's a pantomime, a festive market or a visit to see Santa.... there are so many options for things to do in the run up to Christmas!
But have you ever thought about a festive day out with your children at a theme park? Nope? Well, please read on as this is exactly what I am going to be writing about today!
Last weekend we spent an amazing day out at Gulliver's Kingdom in Matlock Bath finding out everything there is to know about their festive offer. There were more decorations and fairy lights than I could shake a stick at, gifts galore and plenty of dancing animals and do you know what? We blummin' loved it!
Gulliver's Kingdom is a unique theme park in that it is specially designed for families with children aged between the years of 2 and 13. It really does have one of the best offers in the UK for children with a huge range of rides, play areas, attractions and shows that are suitable for even the youngest of guests. It's absolutely brilliant!
Gulliver's run a number of theme parks across the UK in addition to a dinosaur and farm park in Milton Keynes. You can even turn your fun-filled day out into a trip away with their range of accommodation including the unique Gulliver's Hotel in Warrington (which is now on my list of places I want to go!).
Matlock Bath is the Gulliver's that I remember so fondly from my childhood though. Set on a stunning hillside with the most incredible views. It's unique and quirky and so different from other theme parks that we visit often. I was so thrilled to be asked to come back to the park, to see how much it has changed and I couldn't wait to share the experience with my little girl!
Here's what we got up to during our day....
We arrived around 11am and was pleasantly surprised by the car park which was not only free but had parking attendants directing you to the nearest space. A nice touch! After a friendly welcome from the characters and staff at the entrance, we were soon inside the park.
As the main point of our visit was the Christmas preview, this was our first point of call. We were welcomed into Gulliver's Kingdom with some hot drinks and after a super interesting welcome talk, we were led to Santa's grotto which is situated in the 'Western World' at the top of the park.
As soon as you pass through the door you enter a real winter wonderland. Thousands of sparkling lights illuminate a magical festive path that guides you all the way through the forest to Santa's grotto. There are moving animals, decorations and countless Christmassy things to spot!
This whole area is a delightful scene setter and is sure to charm children of all ages. It has a super traditional feel and whilst decorations are in abundance here, it all feels very nostalgic and very much assembled with the intention of creating those precious childhood memories.
As we walked through this area, Miss E loved stroking all the 'animals', particularly the reindeer and the husky!
Once you reach the end of the path, you'll find the entrance to Santa's Grotto. Here, guests will have the chance to meet the big man himself and you'll be able to have a photograph taken if you wish. These photos can be purchased from a range of goods that you can take home including a Christmas tree decoration... such a cute idea!
The one thing we discovered during our day at Gulliver's is that you won't be pushed into making a purchase.... it's all very much about the experience rather than them trying to take money from you at every available opportunity. This idea gets a big thumbs up from me!
Obviously Santa is still getting ready for the festive period so we had the opportunity to meet a super cute polar bear who was keeping his place warm instead! We took a photograph so you get the idea.... just imagine Santa instead of the bear!
Once you have met Santa you'll enter Santa's Workshop which looks very much like a gift shop. Except this is no ordinary shop. Nope! Every child that has made the journey through the enchanted wonderland to meet Santa will be given the opportunity to pick out a present for themselves from Santa's Workshop to take home. This is such a delightful idea, your child is guaranteed to like their gift as they will have picked it out themselves. And the gifts on offer are really good too.... there's everything from soft toys to wooden puzzles and everything in between! No tat or gender specific gifts which I very much liked.
We really loved the grotto experience and thought that it offered something really unique and special compared to others that we have experienced before. Not only do Gulliver's offer this experience but there are a whole range of packages available to suit all different requirements.... you'll be sure to find one that suits you! I have my eye on the 'extravaganza' package which is available on select dates in December and is complete with crackers & hats and a turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Amazing!
Once we had finished in the grotto, we had the rest of the day to explore the park in our own time. We decided to explore the rest of the 'Western World' first as we were already at the top of the park. Here you'll find a range of attractions including the log flume, a junior sized cowboy town and Old Macdonald's Farm which kiddo thought was hilarious with all the singing animals!
We were soon feeling quite peckish so we headed over to Canyon Grill to grab some lunch. There are a range of food options available in the park (and yes, picnics are allowed!) but we had a bit of a fast food craving so a burger meal it was! Honestly, it was all so good.... I spoke to a few guests during the day and they also commented on how good the food was in the park, especially at the Canyon Grill. Yum!
After lunch we headed down the hill to explore the rest of the park. The park is layered and attractions are set out on terraces. Everything is close by and you won't find yourself walking for ages to get to the next ride. Even though some of the hills are blummin' steep, we all managed perfectly fine throughout the day.... this goes for kiddo too who usually can get very tired in theme parks. On the steepest hill there's also a travelator which will help you up the hill... a nice touch for tired legs!
We found one of many soft play areas..... and had a fair bit of trouble extracting kiddo from all the fun!
We found ourselves spending quite a bit of time in the 'Party House' which is just the best area for young children! Inside here you'll find many interactive features, some small rides (kiddo loves a ladybird ride!), a small cinema showing cartoons with tiny chairs for little people, a ball pool, a huge sand pit, refreshments, merchandise and much more!
I just wanted to mention here that one thing we particularly loved about Gulliver's is that there are absolutely no coin operated machines or rides.... everything is included in your entry price. Those little roundabouts that cost 50p or £1 everywhere else? At Gulliver's they all operate at the touch of a button and don't leave your purse empty. Amazing!
We also loved the quirky touches around the park that incorporated the natural landscape and the area that the park is built on...
Another favourite area of ours was the JCB zone in Lilliput Land. This is one of the more recent additions to the park and it's such a fun area! There are small ride on diggers, building blocks and you even get the chance to operate one of the actual iconic diggers. I'm tempted to say that I might have had more fun than kiddo trying out the full sized ones!
After that we headed over to the 'Lost Kingdom' and 'Adventure Land' to explore some of the rides and attractions in the top half of the park. Kiddo enjoyed her first ride on the dodgems (laser dodgems, no less!).... at other theme parks and fairgrounds she has always been too small to ride. She really enjoyed it and I think it was worth the wait!
We took the chair lift down the hillside (possibly my most terrifying moment of the day.... I have a strange fear of chair lifts and cable cars, etc!) and pottered around 'Smugglers Wharf' in the lower half of the park where we soon found kiddo's new favourite ride, the Pirate Ship. We rode it a fair few times. She never fails to surprise me.... I didn't think she would like this one!
We also had a few goes on the double decker carousel (those miniature ponies for small children.... too cute!) and after a good workout on the cycle monorail, we stopped by the doughnut hut for freshly made warm doughnuts and a hot drink. I couldn't pass that opportunity, no way!
There is so much to see at Gulliver's Kingdom in Matlock Bath and there really is something for everyone to enjoy. From traditional roller coasters to playgrounds and soft play areas. There's even a talking apple. It's all delightfully bonkers and will be sure to spark the imaginations of every child who visits. I have distinct memories of these quirky little parts of the park from when I was young and I am so happy to see that they are still there!
We had such a wonderful day out in Gulliver's Kingdom in Matlock Bath and we are already planning on coming back at Christmas to see the rest of their festive offering and explore the park a bit further.
Thank you so much Gulliver's Kingdom for inviting us to be your guests, kiddo had a marvellous day out (we all did!) and hasn't stopped talking about it since we got home. We'll certainly be back again real soon!
Do you visit theme parks with your little one? And have you visited Gulliver's Kingdom before? Let me know in a comment below!