“ Address: Woodside Leisure Park / North Orbital Rd / Watford / WD25 7JZ England „
Rainy day during the school break!
Well that strikes Legoland and the park off the list. I've got to get this kid out of the house and out of my face. Even if just for an hour.
A couple years ago I'd taken my little man to an indoor play centre in a local leisure complex (Woodside Leisure). He'd had quite a good time and I had heard that it was now under new management and much bigger so we got ready, grabbed the baby stuff and headed off in that direction. Before we left I double checked the website to make sure it was open and managed under the offers tab to print a coupon for one adult and one child for £2.40 less than normal entry price (not bad).
I knew where this place was and it's quite easy to find even if you don't. The premise itself is upstairs and there are stairs, an escalator and a lift. As I had the buggy the lift was my choice. We fit easily but I think if you had a double buggy you might only just slide in.
We approached a purple haired lady at the counter who told us to get in we would have to register and there was a registration charge of £5. I didn't notice on the website anything about needing to be a member but my son was set on going and I wasn't about to upset him by making a deal about it. The lady took the printed coupon and so at least I still saved a little bit. It cost us £13 to get in (baby was free). On our next visit I can collect my membership card. As we walked in the lady handed me a couple leaflets about baby activities run through the week. They actually seem to do a lot for the babies so I might visit during the week.
Within seconds my elder son was missing in action. I wandered over to the café and filled a childrens lunch box according to the deal. There wasn't a sign up saying what or how many things you could put in a kids box ... I grabbed a sandwich, crisp pack, juice box, cheese square and a yogurt. I also ordered an adult hotdog & chips and a peppermint tea. All this came to £7.96 so not too bad as days out go. I sat down with the baby and set all the food out on the table so my son could run over, grab food and run back. The baby decided that he wanted a sandwich so off he went and started to eat his first sandwich (messy!). The older one had only been running around for about 20 minutes and was already ready for a break so came and sat down for a little bit. The hot dog & chips took about 5 minutes and was a fairly average microwave type but to be honest I quite like them and chips always go down well. Bonus I got two stamps on the loyalty card they gave me at the front desk. One side is about kids box meals: pay for 5 and get the 6th free ... The other side is about hot drinks: pay for 5 and get the 6th free.
Child madness syndrome:
Moving on from the food my son ran, climbed, jumped, slid, fell, and bumped his way through the play areas. Whilst he was busy I finished feeding the baby and walked over to the parents' area. There were a few tables, magazines, a television playing Loose Women and about 4 or 5 computers. There's no access to facebook so I checked my e-mails and Dooyoo and then walked back out again. I saw then the under 2 area so parked the buggy and got the baby out for a little play. There aren't many places that cater for the little ones but this one was actually rather good. It was all soft and was completely separate from the bigger children.
There is a wall climb and bumper cars all worked in which were good fun. My son went on one while the baby and I went on another. The baby thought it was great fun bumping his big brother!
There was one area where the kids were sending the soft balls up a shoot into a holder and when that was full it would make a noise and they would all run over and lay on the floor as the balls fell onto them. I got bored after watching them do it a few times but they continued for a while longer.
There are a few party rooms which can be made to fit your birthday party sizes and it looked like they were all having a good time. Aside form the one party there weren't that many children to begin with which made it easy to get around and calm. As the day went on it got a bit busier and in the last 30 minutes that we were there was a group of about 5 older children (maybe 10-12 years old) who were running around and quite a bit rougher so I was glad we were on our way out.
As any parent will know it wasn't long before there was a need to drag the three of us to the toilets. The older one dealt with himself and was off again. I waited for a moment outside the disabled/baby change toilet but the lady in there was taking ages so I opted for the baby change table in the ladies room. Thankfully it wasn't a busy day so I wasn't in anyone's way. As public toilets go it wasn't bad. There wasn't a waft or cloud of smell coming from it so I was glad of that. The baby change table was clean and looked as if it had been recently wiped down. Some idiot child was playing with the soap and thought it was funny to press the button and spill the soap over the counter and for some reason her mother said nothing! So after that there was a pool of blue to the side of the sink but I can't blame that on the place. Would you allow your child to do that at home? Honestly some people have no manners. As I walked out I saw the door of the disabled/baby change open and I should have waited! It was bigger and private but oh well, next time. Getting in with a buggy had been a lot easier then getting out. The doors all open inwards so I had to open the door and then try and push the buggy ahead of me. Obviously I made it out eventually but thank you for caring.
I took the baby back to the under 2 area and he had a little more play. The older one had another hour of madness before I brought the world to an end and told him it was time to go home. I had promised him an ice cream before we left so I got in line. We'd arrived at 11ish and got rather fast service but it was now about 2 and there was a lady at the front asking for her money back as she didn't expect to wait 20 minutes for a ******* burger! Eek! I was still served rather fast and we sat down to demolish a single scoop of chocolate ice cream on a cone (£1.10). After a little fight I got my son's shoes on and we made our way back to the car.
I started to notice as the day got on that it was more and more busy. I wonder if it gets too busy do they turn people away? Is there is a maximum occupancy or fire department limit that is followed!?! It looked close to it as we were trying to get through with the buggy.
Not the same as getting the teachers to look after the kids but at least it got some energy out and allowed me to relax a bit. Also it wasn't an overly expensive day out.
Normal admission prices:
CHILD (1-3YRS) £5.95
CHILD (4-12YRS) £7.95
INFANT (<1) FREE*
* When accompanied by a paying sibling, or otherwise £3.50 for 1 adult and 1 infant (<1)
On the way out I was given a handful of coupons which are good as we're planning on bringing a friend of my sons' with us next week. Buy 1 get 1 on childrens admission, childrens food box for a £1 and a couple others.
For the baby activities visit http://www.baabaababies.co.uk/ The only bad thing for me is that the baby activities aren't in Watford and are really expensive so I've crossed them off our list. Honestly if you don't mind spending the money they look like good activities.
Quick update ... Maybe it's the American in me but I found it odd that the cafe servs little bottles of beer and wine! hmmm! I guess we parents have needs to be met too! :)
© oioiyou 2009
A friend of my son's had their birthday party at a different indoor play centre and I found myself looking around at the facilities compared to those of Gambados. There was an upstair parent area that had comfy seating so the baby went up there with daddy for a sleep after a while. The upstairs bit was something that bothered me as before the baby had a snooze all he wanted to do was go up those stairs! If you have children you'll know that they get obsessed with doing things you don't want them to do! There weren't any computers or television which didn't matter to me all that much but if it hadn't been a party I would have found myself a bit bored.
There was an area with bumper cars but they charged £1 a go so the children kept running over for coins. Thankfully mine was happy in the climbing area so didn't ask me for a thing (good boy!).
© oioiyou updated 2010
We went to Gambedos Watford yesturday, Bank hol Sunday. My six year old, OH and myself. the Centre is expensive £17 plus including registration £5. We live 45 minutes away so probably won't visit again so registration annoying. However generally good value for money as includes Dodgems and Climbing wall. Staff running these great and helpful. Soft play itself nothing special.However let down by poor catering. I only had a coffee and bag of crisps. the coffee was a lattee but I drank only a few mouthfuls as too strong. No menus on wall or tables so clearly not promoting food. Food on show not appertising. If nearer would visit again but too far away.
I took my 2 children here age 6 and 7, and a friend with 2 babies. When one of the babies dribbled in the baby area I cleaned it up with a baby wipe - the baby wipe was black, as were my children's white socks when we got home. We ordered food for the kids - chicken nuggets and chips - the nuggets had been out on display since we arrived, and the chips were by no means fresh. There were tables with dirty plates and old drinks on that were never cleared - even when the manager walked past. All our children vomited within 12 hours of their visit! There was not even still water to drink to offer the kids. Toilets were not cleaned, such a shame for a new play centre.
Gambado is a chain of children's softplay and activity centres and they recently opened a brand new branch in Watford. So I took my kids, aged 6 and 2, and away we went to check it out last Friday. It was a holiday at my eldest's school, so we were banking on it being nice and quiet as it was a holiday specific only to their school.
Location and Entry
The centre is located inside Woodside Leisure Park, right next to the Vue Cinema. As anyone who has been here knows, parking is plentiful and convenient. We entered through the doors, to be greeted by a loud sound of applause as we walked in. The speakers near the door get activated and produce that sound, the kids were certainly fascinated!
We took the escalator as we did not take a buggy. I'd think a place like that would have an elevator too though, but can't say for sure as I obviously didn't think to look for one.
Just before you enter through the doors to the centre itself there's a big poster explaining the registration process. You can either pay for admission on a visit-by-visit basis, or you can have an annual family pass. We opted for the former. You fill out a form at the table outside (probably to spam you with junk mail!) and take it to the reception with the payment. Prices are, £7.95 for 1-12 year olds and £4.95 for adults, under 1s go free. As an introductory offer a family of upto 4 can go for £15 so that's how much we paid for myself and the two kids. So pretty expensive for this kind of place. They give you plastic tickets to be held on to for the duration of your visit.
The place looked LARGE, bright and attractive. Everything was well spaced out, not your usual cluttered up soft-play cum cafe experience. Since everything was spanking new it was all squeaky clean and, well, sparkly. There are lockers you can use free of charge, you only need a £1 coin if you want to lock it, many people just had theirs unlocked. It was nice being able to walk around without holding on to all your belongings, you don't even need your handbag etc. as you don't have to pay for anything unless you use the cafe.
Attractions for children
There is a massive playframe with huge wavy slides, spiral slides, rope bridges and the works. Next to it was the wall climb, a big attraction for most of the children there. Because it was very quiet as expected my daughter got to have several gos on it. The staff there were very good with the kids, helping and encouraging them on. There was also a fairly large dodgem car track, the biggest and nicest I've seen at this type of place.
There is a seperate softplay area for the under 2s, with cafe-style seating around it so that you can have a snack or drink while watching the kids. They had giant building blocks in addition to the usual ball pits, slides and so on.
There were also giant chalkboards for children to scribble on and have a bit of fun with. My kids spent ages drawing themselves.
There was an area for musical experimenting - different types of "instruments" that you could bash on and create a cacophony of sound. My 2 year old seemed a bit hesitant, as if she was telling me "Are we allowed to do THAT?"
Next to that was an area for magnetic play. On the floor were slabs of glass under which were pins, clips, magnetic shavings etc. and there were magnets outside that you could slide over the glass, creating patterns underneath.
There was also some kind of a "show" area, perhaps they use them on weekends? There was a raised, round platform and in front in a semi circle were two tiers of seating. I'm guessing they may have some kinds of acts performing on busy days or if there's a birthday party.
For adults there was a seperate lounge, with comfortable seating and computers. A sign said that it was for adults only, and it was a completely seperate room where the main activity areas couldn't be seen. I don't know how good an idea that is, too many parents these days seem to think that their kids are old enough and angelic enough to be left unsupervised while they're nowhere to be found and this seems to encourage it.
We saw some party rooms for birthday parties, they looked fantastic. Very spacious.
There didn't seem to be a maximum stay in force, though I don't know if it was simply because it was a quiet day.
We had lunch a bit late so I don't know if it was for that reason but all they seemed to have was toasties and pizza if you wanted a hot meal. Serving staff were polite and helpful. The cafe too, like the rest of the place, is bright and well spaced. The chairs are round and transparent, in different pastel colours. There is a bar running along one side of it, overlooking the whole place, so you can have or finish your meal there while still keeping an eye on the children. Meals are a little on the pricey side too.
Although the price puts me off I would still go back as the place was so enjoyable to the children and I felt that the price was a bit justified considering how well kept it was.
Children's activity centre.