Sundown Adventureland located in Rampton, Nr Retford, Nottinghamshire
Phone: +44 (0)1777 248274 „
Sundown adventure land is quite a unique attraction. It is a children's theme park aimed at children under ten years of age. It is a place that has been going for some years. I have fond memories of visiting myself as a small child, so it is only natural to want my own children to visit the place. While in some ways it is the same place I remember, every time we visit there also appears to be something new to appeal to the more modern child.
The theme park is located in the village of Rampton, near Retford, in Nottinghamshire. It is quite well sign posted off the A1 so we have never felt the need to use anything other than brown tourist signs to get there, though the post code for anyone wanting to use sat nav, is DN22 0HX.
The best way to visit this site in my opinion is to plan your visit in advance. Tickets can be pre-booked online. We went on bank holiday Monday for my sons birthday, and a few minutes of buying tickets online meant we could save about half an hour of queueing time to get into the attraction by joining the special queue which had one family in front of us. Anyone with small kids will know how they hate being made to stand still when something mega fun is just meters away the other side of the ticket booth. www.sundownadventureland.co.uk is fab for planning your visit as you can see a map of the site, see photos of others enjoying the attractions, and find all the details you need such as prices and site opening times.
Arriving at the site, there is a huge free car park. We arrived at about 10:20 am when the site had opened at ten, and there were staff directing people where to park, and then another couple of staff helping the customers through the best way to queue to get in. Entry is free for under twos - for adulys and children, there is a charge of £11.95 per head. This is not cheap - our family of four paid £47.80, but I think for a whole day out with what you can do on site, it is worth it. It's not something you would do every week, so we were happy to pay.
Knowing how busy the site is, one of the first things that we did was try to get on some of the rides that you have to queue for before the wait time got too silly. Favourite ride of the day was the Boozy Barrel ride, which involves you sitting in a little barrel shaped boat going along a lazy river with a pirate theme. Prepare to get wet along the way. This was my eldest sons favourite ride of the day and we did queue a second time for this one.
Other rides are the Robin Hood themed ride which takes you past Robin Hood's merry men, a wild west train ride going past bandits, and a tractor themed ride where you pretend to drive the tractor along a track past farm animals.
The areas that I have always liked best feature small miniature houses that children can explore. Adults can fit in at a push, but it is not very comfy, and kids love to run around exploring these areas. The first one of thes is the Smugglers Cove. Here there are little shops and school houses arranged in a square. It can be a parents worst nightmare as the children can crawl around betweeen these houses, and you don't see them again till they pop up somewhere else. We were quite relaxed with this as we set the boundaries of how far they could go, but other parents were worried to death by losing site of their kids. Highlights here were a house with a slide to the outside, and a life boat that children can pretend to steer.
Other areas featuring mini-houses are: the very traditional storybook village - my favourite here is the house belonging to the seven dwarves with little beds and a dining table complete with dinner set for 7. I also quite like the witches house from Hansel and Grettle, and the cottage Jack and the Beanstalk lives in. Secondly, Toy Town. Here you can go inside the post office, or the fire house, or the dentists, or the butchers shop, or the garage. Some of the houses here are much better than others for the younger visitor. The fire station features a model engine children can sit in and pretend to ride. The garage has a car you can jack up to fix. The dentists shop was a little factual with questions on the wall to get you thinking like what foods are good for your teeth.
Another favourite of my childrens was the Shotgun City. Here there is a whole street of wild west themed shops. We liked going inside these buildings like the jail, sticking our heads through wanted posters, shooting up the groceries in the general store, and best of all, seeing how much the children were shocked by the dynamite blasting to rob the bank.
We also enjoyed our time in the fairytale inspired Lollipoppet castle. Here we could explore the sweetie themed castle and learn all about the tooth fairy, and see large giant vegetables growing. Personally I found this area a little hard going as it was very heavily scented of mint based sweets, and it was a crowded venue on a hot day, so we didn't stay overly long.
While we did explore all the little houses, my children were a lot more impressed by all the play parks that were there. Although repeating an idea, albeit with a different theme, they were happy to move between the different parks to see what they could find. Each area of the site does provide plenty of benches for parents to take a rest, so we were happy to let our children play where they wanted for as long as they wanted. The only negative, the day we visited was really boiling hot, and there was not much shade to be found in the play parks, and it did get a little bit too much in the hottest part of the day.
New this year is the Angry Birds themed park. All of the play equipment, even down to the benches for parents, had images of pig et al emblazoned on them. There is a lot of play equipment to climb and swing on in this area, and we went here a few times. Although new, the flooring was a bit uneven in places as though it has been water damaged or something, and parents beware here of the kiosk selling angry birds memorabilia.
We also really enjoyed a wild west themed play area, that featured lots of wooden play equipment within a walled fortress. There was an upper area to run around the outskirts of the park, and then plenty to play on, like a zip wire, and slides. We would have spent longer here if it hadn't been such a sun trap. There is also an excellent sand pit area, featuring a nautical theme where children of any age can have a lot of fun. It might be an idea to take your own bucket and spade for here. For parents of under 5s, there is a special play park for them near the entrance, with nice swings shaped like gorillas for even the youngest of kids to be able to sit in comfortably.
Another new feature since our last visit about 3 years ago is a huge indoor play area. It is one of the biggest I have ever seen and we have frequented a few over the years. Even on such a hot day, we did go in here to escape the searing heat for a little while during the hottest part of the day. My kids would have stayed here a lot longer as it was hugely enjoyable for them, but we kind of felt it wasn't really what we had gone there for, though on a wet day, I can imagine we would wlecome it. It is a great addition to the smaller indoor play area in the Shotgun City cafe.
There are large and clean toilet blocks located at a few strategic points through the park, such as near the entrance and within the two cafes. These can get a bit busy, but were always well stocked. The site is not that big that you ever felt too far from the nearest one.
There are also cafes and kiosks throughout the park, though not all are open all year, only in high season. We made full use of the cafe near the entrance to buy an ice cream, though we took our own packed lunch to eat. however, prices are quite reasonable - you are looking at less than £3 for a meal like burger and chips. We have eaten at the cafe on a previous visit and found that it was tasty enough, just very busy and hard to find seats to sit at within the cafes. However, there are plenty of benches and grassy areas to sit at to have a picnic if you wish.
Previously we have made a special effort to visit the site in the run up to Christmas when they have a special Santas Sleigh Ride and a chance for seeing Santa or the White Snow Queen. It can be quite good fun to go at this time of year as there are lots of decorations up everywhere, and carols playing, though it is the sort of site that can be bitter cold at this time of year.
I still find this quite a magical site for kids. Ours loved the freedom when we could let them explore all these special little houses. I think the attention to detail is amazing. On a nice day, it can get really busy, but we never had to wait too long to get on anything other than the rides. I find the staff to be really helpful, and I was super impressed by the low prices within the cafes and kiosks. Most places choose to make these really high to make their money, but here it was very affordable. I love how every time we go back there is something new to see, keeping it feeling fresh, but still retaining some of that magic that has kept it going for so many years. I also think there is a good mix of themes throughout the park to appeal to both boys and girls. My kids were not tempted by the cinderalla pumpkin carriage or the yellow brick road from Wizard of Oz, but they loved the Angry Birds park, and the pirates and cowboys.
It might seem pricey, but we were on the go for a whole 6 hours while we were there, and our children absolutely loved it. I think it says something when the kids ask if they can go back again within days of their last visit.
This is a great day out while your kids are young enough to be awed by it. Ten is definitely a good upper limit, and we wouldn't take our kids there past this age limit.
We took our three grandchildren to the Sundown Adventureland on Sunday 19th June 2011 and they loved every minute of the five hours. The children aged 2, 3 and 4 were all smiles for the full five hours and we didn't get to see all that the place offers. The two older children couldn't get enough of the tractor ride and soft play areas. We took a picnic and sat undercover to eat it as rain threatened, but there are some nice grassed areas to use in better weather. Overall a lovely day out for children and their parents or grandparents. Remember you should judge the facilities based on the childrens feed-back which in our case was summed up by the four year old boy when he pronounced that it was "The best holiday I have ever had".We will returnMartin
.DO NOT GO! DO NOT GO! DO NOT GO to Sundown Adventure Land EVER! This is without doubt the strangest dirtiest and out and out waste of time and money you will ever experience. I took my four year old today for his birthday and will never go again even though I live only 15 minutes away. After desperately trying to have a good time for 2 hours we decided to complain and got to see the owner. She not only refused to acknowledge any of our complaint or give us a refund but when I said I would right a bad review she merely said 'well at least we will get publicity'!!!!
The rides are rubbish the mannequins are peeling and dirty and the other attractions are outdated and grubby. You would be better off taking your family to a free park than wasting your petrol even driving to this place.
DO NOT GO!!!!!
We took our 4y/o here last weekend. We loved it. I initially agreed that charging the same price for adults as children was possibly unfair since the park is aimed mainly at the kids. I've changed my mind now as considering how much there is to do here we would have spent a hell of a lot more at the seaside e.g. in the same time period as we did in Sundown. It was a special treat for our little girl so the fact there's not a lot for adults is irrellevant as it was Jessica's day and we were happy she was so happy. That said, there's a suprising amount of work and imagination gone into this place and the novelty interest factor alone justifies the entrance fee. We'd all love to get into places for a quid and an old chip but places like this can't be cheap to build and maintain. It cost us just over £28 for the three of us (about the same as a family micowave pub meal?) and being as tight as I am I'd gladly pay it again. Yeah the map makes it look bigger than it is but don't they all? We knew that before we even got there. It was about 28degrees the day we went so I didn't expect anyone to be wandering around in huge animal costumes risking a gruesome death from heat exhaustion for our enjoyment. It could perhaps have had the odd spinning teacup ride or carousel but we were there for the full 7 hour opening times and didn't get quite through everything. The site appeared to be expanding so there may be plans for the future.
There was a worrying moment we thought we were lost in finding the place from the A1 as there are brown poi road signs but not quite enough of them. They're there when it matters though and as usual unless otherwise directed just keep going straight on.
There were some long queues for the train rides etc but the staff kept things moving very efficiently and with relentless friendliness which can never be underestimated with the poor customer service standards you get almost everywhere else now. Let's face it it can't be easy listening to the same cartoon voice narrative over and over day in day out and still keep a smile on your face. The staff here do. We opted to do the rides after 3.30 when they had quietened down and went round and without getting off until we got fed up.
The only word of warning I would give is to pay attention to the "mind your head" signs on the doorways to the little houses. I didn't and got a quality bump on my head for forgetting to stay low quite long enough. My fault though and it gave Jessica something to poke for amusement to give a little extra value for money.
The food in the cafes is the usual burgers, spuds etc but seemed good quality and averagely priced. £2.80 for a cheeseburger. I was expecting that being a captive and hungry audience we might get totally ripped off but it was better than anticipated on a hand in pocket day out. There's acres of picnic space though, open and covered, so you can always just take your own.
The three of us have no complaints at all about Sundown with the weather on our side. We travelled a 200 mile round trip and it was well worth it. I think the attitude to take when considering if there's enough for the adults or not is to think back what you would have made of it all when you were under ten. It's a living story book for kids. Under 10's don't need to be spun upside down at 180mph till they vomit just for fun, an animated polar bear strumming guiitar and singing is ten minutes high entertainment for some! We all saw and did enough to make us smile all day and got home tired but very happy. We will be going again as Jessica won't let us forget we forgot to go in the pirate ship and on the monkey swings.
With the half term holiday upon us a few of the mum's at my oldest son's school decided we should organise a visit out somewhere. Someone suggested Sundown Adventure Park, as none of us had been before we decided to take picnics and make a day of it.
Where is it?
Situated in Rampton, Nottinghamshire it's not the easiest of places to find, neither is it particularly hard. Directions are on the website and my sat nav found it no problem which is unusual for my sat nav (I really do believe my sat nav has a personal vendetta against me!).
Prices and opening times?
(correct as of June 2010)
Adults and all children over the age of 2 are charged at £9.50 each (children under 2 are free). If you book as a group of 20 or more then you can get in for £8.00 each.
At certain times of the year when all outside parts are closed the charges are £6 per child and £2.50 per adult, you can have the use of crash landings (indoor soft play area).
You can purchase a season ticket for £50 per person which gives you year round access to the park.
Open daily 10am to 5pm (seasonal variations mean earlier or later closing times). Only Crash landings open during certain seasons.
Check www.sundownadventureland.co.uk to check opening times.
What is it?
Sundown Adventureland market themselves as a children's theme park, aiming at the under 10's. They have a large car park with decent sized parking bays, which is a great start.
When you first enter the park you are given a map so you can find your way around. I feel that the map is perhaps a little misleading as it makes it look a bit bigger than it actually is by showing more space between the areas than there actually is.
The park is split into sections such as Smugglers cove, which has lots of pirate/boat based play equipment and a water ride. Wild west area with a run away train ride. A farm area with a tractor ride. There are a few other areas but I won't spoil it for you in case you decide to visit.
There are actually only 5 rides, the rest of the park is made up of various play equipment and little houses that you can go and explore. I actually liked the idea of not having to queue up for the whole day waiting for ride after ride, however for £9.50 I was expecting a few more rides to keep the kids excited. I can see why it's aimed at under 10's, I think any children over the age of 10 would be bored very quickly here. However the three 5 year olds, 3 year old and 8 month old really enjoyed themselves.
There is a lovely big picnic area that is covered, and a big open grassed area that you can also use for picnics, and plenty of picnic tables dotted around the play equipment so you can have your lunch almost anywhere. You are able to get out into the car park to collect your picnic, they stamp your hand on the way out so you can come back in. There are also 3 main café areas in case you don't want to take your own lunch, the prices seemed about average for places like this at £1.20 for a bottle of coke, around £3 for a jacket potato and around £2 for a portion of chips. Not over the top prices but not cheap either!
The toilet facilities were clean and they were placed in a few areas in the park, they were large enough to not have queues and even had lower sinks for the children to wash their hands. There were disabled toilets and baby change areas, but no areas for preparing baby food, although the café's will warm food and bottles if asked.
There was no entertainment laid on compared to other theme parks that we have been to, no people walking around in animal costumes etc, although the staff were friendly and happy to help the children on and off the rides.
Of course there was a gift shop, I wasn't very keen on the selection of things on offer, not much in the way of merchandise that related to the park except pencils, lots of generic swords and cuddly toys though!
My favourite place was lollipoppet castle where the different rooms in the castle and surrounding area smelt of different sweets. There was a mint room, a sherbert room and a few others, it was quite odd and something I've never seen anywhere before.
Would you recommend it?
I find this quite hard, as although we had a great day out I just can't justify £9.50 per head for what is on offer. If the price was £9.50 per child and maybe only £5 per adult then I would probably tell everyone to go. If they charged £5 for adults and kids then I would say it's one of the best places I have been aimed at under 10's.
I really loved the idea of the children just being able to play on slides and swings and climbing frames, I could see them making up games and using their imagination more than they would at a normal theme park, but to me this wasn't really a theme park, it was an adventure park with a few extra rides.
If you have money to spare then I would recommend this as a great day out for the little ones. However, if you are a bit of a penny pincher I believe that there are other theme parks that don't charge a whole lot more but have a lot more rides, and things for the adults to enjoy.
My 5 year old asked if we could go again, when faced with the choice of here or Gullivers Kingdom (another theme park aimed at younger children, and only £3 per head more), he chose Gullivers Kingdom because they have so many rides to choose from, and he can go on ride after ride all day long.
I give it 3 out of 5 stars, because it is a good day out but the price lets it down.
==Sundown Adventure Land==
"A Magical Place Which Brings Adventures To Life"
Sundown Adventure Land is an adventure park uniquely designed to cater for the under 10's.
==Location and Openings/Price==
Sundown Adventure Land is situated just 6 miles from the A1 Markham Moor and is Sign posted 3 miles from Dunham on the A57. We were staying with family up in Lincolnshire and from their house it took around an hour to drive to and we found the place without any trouble at all. It is in Rampton which is near Retford and this is in the county of Nottinghamshire.
The opening times when we went last month were 10 am till 4 pm which is pretty much standard throughout the year, unless you head there in the middle of the summer where it stays open a little longer till 6 pm to enjoy the lighter evenings. The park is closed throughout January and the first two weeks of February. There are special events happening around Christmas time but I would suggest checking their website, which is really very good, to get the information nearer the time.
The prices are fairly reasonable and because the park is aimed at the under 10's, you would still have to pay full price for anyone over the age of 2. Under 2's go free and disabled people are charged at £7 and everyone else must pay £9.50p. There is the option to buy a season ticket which costs £50 but I wouldn't think that would be particularly worth it unless you lived close by.
The park does take special Coach Bookings which gives a slight discount per person when a coach of 20 or more people is planning to go. The price then falls to £8 per person and with one free place for the group organiser.
==Parking and Entrance==
Once we had found the Sundown Adventure Park, we drive through a well signed drive way which led us to the very good sized car park which has plenty of space for both coaches and a whole fleet of cars. The particular time we went, it was not an overly nice day weather wise which meant that there were literally our two cars and a handful others. This made the car park look decidedly derelict but you could imagine that one a warm and sunny day that the place would be bustling but there would still be ample parking.
The entrance to the park did leave a lot to be desired and I felt that it slightly let the park down, as in my opinion it should be the thing that gives a good impression. You literally had to walk up a shed/hut type where you paid your money and received your map of the park. The teller was not particularly friendly or welcoming which again was a bit of a let down for the park.
==The Park Facilities==
Sundown Adventure Park is more or less like a Blackgang Chine which is near to where I live on the Isle of Wight. This park however is far bigger with many more attractions to look round and it really has got to be a full day's activity choice. There are so many different sections that make up the park and it is a good idea to have both sensible clothes and sensible foot wear. Throughout each area of the park you will find plenty of places to eat or drink and most of these places offer somewhere to sit down and take a break and have a good choice of hot/cold food or snack type food.
There are plenty of toilet facilities too dotted around in easy to find places and the ones that we went in (nearly all of them with an excited 2 ½ year old) were all kept of a clean and well maintained standard. All of the blocks of toilets catered for the disabled and also for baby changing.
There are special places throughout the park which are designed for smoking. These are outside areas which have both seats and a smoking bucket which contains sand to extinguish the cigarettes fully. There are lots of no smoking signs scattered around the park and these make sure that smokers stick to using the designated areas which keep everyone happy and safe.
The map which each party is given is easy to understand and points out everything you would really need on your visit to the Sundown Adventure Park. It clearly shows all the facilities listed above along with others such as the First Aid section and Lost children section of the park. These are things that thankfully we didn't need to use. I would say it is really important that you keep hold of the map which they hand out as otherwise it would be rather tricky to know which areas that you had been to or hadn't been to as some are fairly more tucked out the way than others.
There were a good few different types of outdoor play areas which we didn't really spend much time enjoying seeing as the weather wasn't overly nice and the fact that there did seem a lot of other things to get round which we felt were a little more special. The outdoor play areas included:
Noah's Ark Under Five's Play Area - This had sand to play in and various types of large plastic animals which would involve a lot of climbing for any youngster but not ideal in the rain.
Fort Apache - This is a wooden play area which contains lots of bridges and things to climb over, under or on which did look really well made and like one of the newer items in the whole park.
There were plenty of other smaller areas that have not been given a special name but they are still pictured on the map as a small outdoor play area. Listed on the map as "Go Carts" is another couple of sections within the park which I would still class as a play area as the "Go Carts" that wee actually there were peddle type carts which Jack was too small for and everyone else in the group were too big for. Plus the fact that none of the tyres were pumped up on the carts meant that even trying to use them was hopeless. I think this could be a good idea but on the whole does need to be kitted out with new Go Carts to make the areas better.
There are a good number of small rides throughout the park and a few of these do have height restrictions but Jack seemed to be okay on all of them and considering the park is really aimed at younger children I feel most would be able to get onto the rides especially if accompanied.
Some of the rides did appear to be far newer than others and I felt the better rides were in general the ones that appeared newer.
==Rocky Mountain Train Ride==
Just from the name you can pretty much guess what this ride entails. This ride is set just slightly away from the cowboy village and the ride entails getting on a small wooden train which takes you round in a big circle through Indian camps and having to shoot at various cowboys and villains that jump out on you. Luckily we had bought Jack's cowboy gun and he was able to get the feel of being a real cowboy. They do sell guns (toy ones) on site but as expected these are priced rather high. The train ride doesn't have any height restrictions and on the whole is a nice little ride.
==Robin Hood Ride==
The Robin Hood ride is basically just another small train which this time takes you in a figure of eight past lots of mannequins dressed in the attire that would have been worn in Robin Hood. A lot of these men will jump out from barrels or the like but not at all in a scary way. The ride is okay but nothing overly special or exciting. Jack wasn't particularly impressed and I was thankful that because we were there on a quite day that it wasn't something that we had to queue for.
The Tractor Ride was one that Jack did really like and had lots of laughs on. The idea is that you can sit in the driver's seat of a tractor and pretend that you are diving it through the farmyard. Again different animals and things pop out on you and say different things. This ride seemed well maintained and was overall a good one.
==Boozy Barrel Boat Ride==
This was the first ride we went on when entering the park and we got wet! Not overly wet but it was somewhat of a shock as the guys who were getting us on and off the small barrel type ring seat told us we wouldn't get wet! I think they were winding us up. However the ride takes you down a little stream and past a lot of pirates and crocodiles and the like. It is not the stream that splashes up and gets you wet but different mannequins have been fitted with water pistols that will pop out at random times and squirt you one. Of course this was not something that either me or Himself found particularly amusing but we had to seem like we thought it was a great laugh for the sake of Jack! The ride itself was good even though I literally got squirted in the eye and had mascara down my face for half the day (no one told me!).
Even though it was May we couldn't not go through this ride! Yet again the ride is made up of a little train driving through an area which has been made up to look like a Christmas scene. There are lots of things to look at and yet again things move and jump out at you as your carriage passes by. It wasn't one of my favourites especially seeing as it wasn't near Christmas but I would think it would be lovely to go on near the end of the year.
There are lots of different sections which the park is made up of and they all run along a different theme. Most of these area would have had one of the rides listed above in or near it. They would also have one of each of the facilities I mentioned before such as toilets, eating areas and so on. We visited all the areas as we were there for the whole day and we didn't go near any of the outdoor play areas so we had time. I felt like if we had of gone there on a nicer day and taken a picnic to eat in the outdoor area which is designed for people to eat their picnics we could have been there from opening till closing time and still no seen it all.
This was Jack favourite area of the whole Adventure Park and that is because he is totally cowboy crazy at the moment. The area was jammed with lots of different things to look at buttons to press which make things move or make things sing
This area was again running along the same lines as the cowboy town but this time with the Pirate theme as it was situated next door to the Pirate Adventure area of the park. These areas both worked really well together and the Smugglers Cove has so many little houses that are designed perfectly for little ones to fit in and run in and out of. There are different slides to go down and different shops and things to look into and it really is a little adventure to everyone!
I do feel that the Smugglers Cove and the Pirate Adventure should be one name together as they were next to each other in the park and they ran along the same theme of Pirates and Smugglers. The little houses of the Smugglers cove could be reached by climbing through the large wooden Pirate ship which has many different buttons to push and knobs to pull which all do something different and exciting.
==Story Book Village==
This small little section of the park contained another area of small houses where you could go upstairs and do different things in each house depending on what name the house had. There was Dr Fosters House, A small Fire Station and Police Station and so on. This area I felt was rather old looking and could have done with a slight re-vamp.
This is exactly like the one at Blackgang Chine where all the animals of the pet shop sing a song together when their buttons are pushed.
==Sunny Down Farm==
A farmyard where when the buttons of the animals are pushed the all come to life. A well thought out and clean looking area.
A small castle which looked slightly run down but Jack loved exploring it up and down and in all the little doors. It told of how sweets were made and how that you must brush your teeth or they will end up bad! Quite good morals to it I suppose.
==Yellow Brick Road==
You too can be like Dorothy and trot along the yellow brick road. See the tin man and the lion and find the pathway to the wizard. A small yet enchanting section of the park.
This area was a glassed section of the park where lots of toy monkeys were fooling around when you pushed all the various buttons. Unfortunately a lot of the buttons didn't work so this section I found to be rather a let down.
==Night Before Christmas Ride==
This ride has already been posted on the map which we were given but as anyone could clearly see the ride had not even been built yet and wasn't due to open until next year or possible the end of this year (2010) so I thought it a real shame that they had even included it on the map yet.
I have to say that we all really enjoyed our time at Sundown Adventure Park and it was certainly well worth the money. Jack was totally tired out from his day of running around and generally getting over excited.
There were parts of the park that I perhaps felt needed a slight bit of work on or indeed a re-vamp but on the whole the place was clean and family friendly. I think most people with young children would enjoy it and really if Jack were writing this review I am sure he would give it top marks.
Only because of the slight areas that could have a bit of a tidy up I am marking it down one star and giving the park a score of 4 out of 5 stars. We had a lot of fun there and for the price you really cannot go wrong.
Telephone: 01777 248274
Sundown Adventure Land
Many Thanks for taking the time to read.
I do hope that this has been of some help/interest to you.
Me and my daughter have been here for the last two summers and had a great time. The park is split up into small sections such as Robin Hood land where you take a train ride. Story book village where there are lots of little houses for children (and brave adults) to go in and explore. We have always had a great time and the price is really good. For £9.50 each (both adults and children) it really is a value day out. There is plenty for children to do such as the sand areas, playgrounds which have different themes one is a jungle book theme and has monkey swings. I enjoy it as much as my daughter (but maybe because I'm a big kid). I really enjoyed it when we got to see the sundown bears they put on a really good show and did a bit of slap stick they were great. There are plenty of places to eat as well as a picnic area which is under cover. I'm a bit disappointed as my daughter is eight next year so a bit old to go again next year so will miss going back. I absolutely wholehearted recommend it for a day out.
If you're looking for a fab day out and have kids under 5 or 6, I'd wholeheartedly recommend Sundown Adventure Land, Nr Retford, Notts.
I have memories of coming here myself as a child when it was named Pets' Corner but since then it's been revamped and re-named. Set out in little zones, such as Nursery Rhyme Land, Market Square and Sunny Down Farm, which are all interactive, kids and adults alike won't fail to be amazed. Pull the bull's nose ring to hear it sing, push to food on the market stall to hear a nursery rhyme and push various buttons at the Singalong Show to get various animals joining in with the Jungle Book song!
On a sunny day, this is the perfect place to visit with vast grassy areas to take a picnic however if the weather turns, the new Crash Landings is a great place to wait for the rain to stop. A big 4 storey indoor soft play area with cafeteria. No expense has been spared here, lots of attention to detail such as the chairs and tables which are all carved into trees and animals! Entrance to Crash Landings is included in the park entrance fee.
There are a variety of mini rides which have no minimum age or height restricitions. Little toddlers can just sit on your knee. We like the Boozy Barrel ride but beware, you may get a little wet as you travel around the river in a circular boat. Other rides include the Rocky Mountain Ride, Tractor Ride and the Robin Hood Ride. All quite gentle but with lots to look at, my son loves them all!
Another feature here is the HUGE sandpit with various climbing frames, slides and attractions. Cleverly situated close by is a refreshment hut selling ice creams! In terms of pricing for snacks, I was pleasantly surprised, pretty average prices for your typical sandwich boxes, drinks, crisps etc.
Entrance charges are as follows;
Adults & Children - £8.50
Under 2s - FREE
It's unusual to have to pay for a 3 year old but I think it's fair given that this theme park is aimed at this age range. It's not like going to other places where younger children are restricted in what they can join in on.
Sundown Adventure Land also host birthday parties which I imagine would be fantastic but a little too far away for us to consider.
I don't have anything bad to say about the park. We've been three times now and will continue to do so until my son grows out of it. The have a Christmas Spectacular which I'd like to try, I'd imagine it looks amazing all decorated up with pretty lights.
I have three young boys aged 5, 3 and 1, and with the start of the big summer holidays was looking for somewhere to take them for a day trip. I looked online for the perfect place to entertain them and came accross Sundown Adventureland. It was relatively close to where we live and I had heard good things about it before as I think it's somewhere nursey schools go for a day trip. Looking reasonably priced we decided to give it a go.
Sundown Adventureland is located in Rampton, near Retford, Nottinghamshire. It is six miles from the A1 Markham Moor and is also signposted three miles from Dunham on the A57. It is about 40 miles from where we live and we had no difficulties finding it but we did use satnav.
Sundown describes itself as a themepark designed uniquely for the under 10's, which is exactly what it is. I think when you have young children it is hard to find theme parks that are appropriate and many are aimed specifically at older children.
The prices do not reflect usual theme park prices and the admission fee is very reasonable. Under 2's are free and everyone over 2 pays £8.50. So it cost us £34 for the five of us which I thought was great and as the day went on we realised it was worth every penny.
There are four rides that are suitable for all members of the family:-
Rocky mountain railroad
Robin Hood ride
Boozy barrell boat ride
The boys really enjoyed these rides and even our 1 year old went on them. You can go on them as many times as you like and don't have to wait that long. Four rides might not seem much for a theme park but there is so much else to do.
Storybook village, the mouse's tale and santa's winterwonderland are all places for the children to explore. There is sundown's market square, a musical pet shop and an animated farm, all are settings with fun things to do and discover.
The part which my boys enjoyed the most was Crash Landings, which is new for 2009. This is a jungle themed indoor play area and it is one of the biggest soft play area's I have seen.
When the main park is closed you can still go to Crash Landings paying £6.50 for kids and £2 for adults.
You could spend hours just in this part and my boys did not want to leave.
There is also another, slightly smaller soft play area, called The Indoor Rodeo Corral Play Area. We also spent some time in here and this was empty compared to the bigger one, I suppose being new it was much more popular.
Outdoors there are several parks, one as you enter which is specifically for the under 5's and others for older children, again they were so big with so many things to do. There is even a large outdoor sand play area, I didn't know this was here as I would have taken buckets and spades. This was called Captain Sandy's Playcove.
If you are looking to buy food there are several fast food cafes selling the usual burgers, chips, chicken nuggets etc... but as I find this is usually overpriced and not very tasty we took a picnic. There are many picnic areas for you to eat.
There are also shops where you can buy drinks and ice creams. There is a gift shop but we didn't find time to visit this.
It was open 10am to 6pm, these times vary slightly depending on the season and it is open all year round, with special christmas festivities starting in november.
We got there just after 10 and stayed until 5.30, for just £34 I think that is good value for money. There was so much to see and do and the children simply loved it. I have never found somewhere that is so appropiate for children under 5 and we will definetely be returning again.
It you live within a suitable distance and you have young children then you really must give it a try, a fun day for all.
I have just had one of the best days out ever! Today I went with my husband and 21 month old son to Sundown Adventureland, in Rampton, Nottinghamshire.
Sundown Adventureland advertises itself as 'the theme park uniquely designed for the under 10s'. This instantly appealed to us as an alternative to the big theme parks like Alton Towers. As much as we love those places, now we have our son we don't want to pay the big entrance prices for the big rides that we won't be going on. It seems to me that Sundown has been designed specifically for people like us. It's like they got inside my head to see exactly what I wanted, then built it all for me!
From Yorkshire, getting there was very easy. The website http://www.sundownadventureland.co.uk has a directions page which helpfully gives you the postcode for satnavs. It also has a map, train details and the numbers of buses that go close by.
We pulled into a big car park and were shown where to park by one of the parking attendants. Parking is free here which was nice to find out!
We walk for less than 2 minutes to get to the ticket desk and buy our tickets in a very hassle-free manner. We had to queue for 3-4 minutes at the most to buy our ticket.
Tickets cost £8.50 for adults and children, but under 2s are free. There are also discounts available for the disabled and for group bookings. I was very happy with the price, as Sundown really is a full day out.
Despite it being a sunny Saturday in the school holidays, the park wasn't that busy. There were enough people that it didn't seem like a ghost town, but it wasn't full at all. In fact it was just the right amount of busy. There were enough people to give it a nice atmosphere but we barely had to queue. Our biggest queue was 15-20 minutes for the tractor ride (to be described later).
Toilets are helpfully located just off from the entrance, perfect for anyone who has had a long drive. The toilets were very clean and I was pleased to see that there were a lot of cubicles which meant no waiting to use the facilities. They also had something I've never seen before; 2 toilets labelled specifially for girls - these were lower down than the others so would be much easier for younger children to use. There were also 2 sinks that were lower down, as well as hand dryers. It seems that Sundown really are thinking of the children in every aspect of their park!
The baby changing facilities were in the same building as the toilets but in a separate room rather than inside the ladies toilets. This was essential as we saw a few men alone with their young children. It also meant that my husband could help change our son. Inside the baby changing room was one long changing unit against the wall, it would probably be big enough for 3-4 babies to be changed at the same time.
We first walk into Market Square. Instantly my son is mesmorised - In the middle is a small fenced enclosure with various mechanical farm animals that move and sing when they are touched. The animals are all peering over or through the fence so children can touch them. My son was captivated by the moving pigs and kept stroking him.
Around the edge of the market square are various little buildings, all exciting looking!
The buildings are:
Santa's sleigh ride - Magical! This is an 'all year round' Christmas ride. We loved this and went on it 3 times. You get on a little sleigh and it takes you on a tour around lots of Christmassy scenes, such as Snowmen, Father Christmas and animals playing. All the way round there is Christmas music playing. It really is a lovely ride and fascinating for young children with all the bright lights and moving scenes. I think this would be especially magical during the Christmas season.
Witches Cauldron - we enter a very dark little room. In front is a spooky witch scene. Low done (child height) are lots of buttons to press. Each button activates something different in the scene. We didn't stay in long because my son wasn't too fond of the dark, but from what I saw it did look good.
Pet shop - Great fun! Inside it is set out like a real, albeit rather magical, pet shop. One side is a big shop front design with big windows and a huge talking/singing dog. There are also many pet hutches with a variety of animals in. Most of these have buttons to press to activate them.
The buttons are sensibly placed so that even small children can reach most of them.
Gift shop - The gift shop is mainly taken over with toys and books, as you'd expect with it being a child centred place. They also stock souveigneers like pencils, wallets and keyrings with the Sundown name on, as well as lots of sweets and edible treats. I was very pleasently surprised by the prices. My experience with gift shops in the past has been they charge around double the 'normal' price. Sundown gift shop is nothing like that. Everything was very reasonably priced, for example I looked at a board book for my son that was just over £1, a price I doubt I would find in most high street shops.
After Market Square we moved on to the Boozy Barrel Boat Ride. There are some warnings that we might get wet! For this, we get into a little barrel shaped boat and travel along on the water. It doesn't go very quickly which is good as there are plenty of things to look at as we travel along. Along the ride we are occassionally sprayed by a little water cannon. Unlike other theme parks, this doesn't soak us through. Instead it is rather like a light mist. I thought this was ideal as I think little children could get quite upset by a sudden shot of cold water. My son noticed the water spray but it didn't bother him at all.
I will briefly describe some of the other areas and attractions, but to describe them all fully would take far too long as there is so much to see and do!
Shotgun City -
A Wild West themed area. Buildings along both sides look like they have come from a Wild West film set. There are quite a few horse statues that children can sit on - a nice photo opportunity. We can go in all the buildings, including upstairs. There is a lot to see and do here, including the Rodeo Corral indoor play area.
Rocky Mountain Train Ride -
Similar to the runaway train rides in other theme parks, but much slower. Plenty to look at along the ride. We queued for around 5 minutes.
Smuggler's Cove -
A huge outside playground with a big wooden pirate ship, slides, climbing things etc.
Yellow Brick Road -
I loved this! A real yellow brick road to follow though a little wooded area. Along the road we meet lifesize statues of Dorothy, Toto, Tin man, Cowardly lion, Scarecrow and the Wizard. There is a little castle with music playing for children to explore.
Storybook Village -
Probably my favourite area. It features around 8 little houses from Fairytales such as Goldilocks, 3 little pigs, Hansel and Gretel and Snow White. Each house can be fully explored and has many interactive things for children to do inside. Inside the 3 little pigs house the children can pretend to play the piano, sit on the pig's furniture and hear the story of the little pigs. Each house is so detailed inside and out, they really are magically beautiful.
Robin Hood Ride -
A lovely little ride. We queued for around 10 minutes, but the queueing didn't matter as there were lots of little scenes to look at around the queues, ideal for keeping frustrated children happy before the ride. The ride itself is like a big open train. The driver's carriage has 2 statue horses making it appear like a horse drawn carriage.
During the ride we travel through King John's castle, Sherwood Forest and finally into the Major Oak - the hideout of Robin Hood. Throughout the ride there are many scenes played out that really take us back to Robin Hood's time. There is plenty to see and hear during the ride. It was good fun and just the right length of time - not too long for a young child to get bored, but long enough to be worth queueing for.
Tractor Ride -
This seemed to be the highlight for a lot of young children and as a result was our biggest queue at around 15-20 minutes. Throughout the queue there is plenty to look at, such as pictures on the walls or little scenes with cuddly creatures.
The tractors can fit 4 people - 2 adults and 2 children (or 1 adult and 3 children). Children have to be accompanied by an adult, as with all the rides here.
Our tractor arrives and my son is very pleased to see we have a red one. My husband and I get in the back and put our son in the front seat. Each of the front seats has a steering wheel in front of it, which means no fighting between children over who is driving! The tractor sets off along the track and we are taken around a lovely farmyard where lots of mechanical animals are living. We hear lots of farmyard noises, my son is thoroughly captivated!
Sunnydown Farm -
Here there are lots of mechanical animals in many different scenes. There are lots of low down buttons for children to press that activate the animals and cause them to move, sing and dance.
Captain Sandy's play cove -
A lovely play area, and one of the many play areas here at Sundown. The floor is covered in a lot of sand so it seems like we're at the beach. It also means it hurts less when the children fall over in their excitement to get to the equipment! In this play area there is a big wooden beach hut with slides coming out of it. There is also a lot of climbing equipment and things to sit on, like some cute plastic dinosaurs.
Although there is a place you can buy food and drink most people, including us, seemed to be taking picnics. Sundown promotes this by having a huge picnic lawn in the middle of the attractions. The lawn was in a lovely condition with the added bonus of knowing there would be no dog poo! There is plenty of space for everyone and it has a lovely family feel to it, having a picnic surrounded by dozens of other families having their picnics.
I haven't covered all the areas at Sundown as it simply wouldn't be possible, there is so much more to see and explore!
To sum up, I don't hesitate to recommend Sundown Adventureland to anyone looking for a fun day out with their children. The entrance fee is very reasonably as it really is a full day out. Young children have been thought of constantly when this place was designed, everything is accessible to them. We plan to go back in December when they have special Christmas celebrations with Father Christmas!
All I can say is that we travelled 150 miles to Sundown Adventureland and was not disappointed in any way. Our kids of 5 and 2 went on every ride and loved all the attractions. The toilets were very clean and well maintained, which is always a plus, and the staff were all great. There were a few wasps flying about but they didn't bother us. All in all Sundowns is a fantastic day out for the kids and we will definitely be recommending the place to our friends and family.Visited 21st August 2009.
Nice rides for the under 5s, and plenty for the little ones to look at and play with, *but* a rampant wasp problem which they do little to try and control (and I mean thousands of the things flying around the park).
Open top or open sided bins everywhere (each with about 20 wasps flying in and out), 12 wasps flying round the indoor cafe. I was told they dump their rotting tree fruit at the boundary to try and keep the wasps away (a strategy that seemed really nuts to me). I was also told this is the case all through the summer. Four wasp nests exterminated that week alone. It doesn't sound like this was a one off issue.
Everyone was complaining about it. If your little ones are bothered by stings, don't risk it. Such a shame. The place would be great if they could solve this one issue.
I loved this place so much!!!
Sundown Adventureland is a 'theme park' with a difference. It's designed for children under 10.
We recently went with my DS (3), baby DD and nephews and nieces (aged between 3 and 9). I wasn't sure what to expect, but I had read good reviews so was hopeful.
The first thing I will say is it isn't well signposted and it took us aaaaagggges to find it. We went on a rainy day, which did have some drawbacks as we had to keep running for cover. However, because of the rain, it wasn't very busy even though it was a Saturday in May, so we didn't have to queue for anything.
It costs around £8.50 each. Adults and children over 2 pay the fee, so it's not that cheap for a whole family but I guess that's quite reasonable for a 'theme park'.
There is so much to see and do in Sundown. It really is like an adventureland and I can't remember all of the things we saw.
There are a number of nice 'playground' areas, designed for different ages, and there's loads for the kids to play on in these alone.
However, the real delight for me was in the 'themed' areas:
Nursery rhyme land - Here, you can pop into each of the little houses which has displays and stories from different nursery rhymes, including 'Hansel and Gretel', 'The Three Little Pigs', 'Golidilocks' and many more. In the houses, there are lovely little interactive bits for the kids, such as pretending to play the piano, etc.
Pirate area (Smugglers cove)- This includes a gentle boat ride for all the family, where you get a bit wet. It's nice as it was even suitable for my baby DD to come on with us. In the main area, there is a 'square', with shops. a boat and other buildings. I was so impressed with the detail of this area. You can explore and play in the various buildings, some have little soft play areas in them, others have ladders to climb, rope ladders, bridges, slides, etc. You can walk over the top floors of all the buildings and come out at a totally different place. Making the whole set of buildings into one massive area to explore and play in is such a great idea and so well-designed that all the kids we went with could get something out of it, despite their different ages.
The cowboy/Indian area (Shotgun city) - Here again, there is a giant playground area, a great Wild West street, with shops and other display areas down it. There is a great little train ride for all the family, a soft play area / cafe, horses to climb on, buildings to play in and explore, shooting games and a 'Wild West' Singalong show (which was frankly a little strange).
Ok, there are loads of other things. A huge soft-play area, a farm (with no real animals though, just plastic ones), a castle to explore, a Robin Hood ride, a tractor ride, a Santa Sleigh ride....... The list goes on and on.
We ran out of time. We were there for about 5 hours and it was definitely not long enough. We had to miss out quite a few things, so we will have to go back.
The things I particularly loved about this place were:
1) There was so much variety in all the things to see and do
2) It appealed to all the children we went with (from age 3 to 9)
3) It was great fun for adults. I have to say I loved exploring all the areas, running around the buildings, etc. just as much as the kids........ Ok, then, much much more than the kids
4) It doesn't get spoiled if it's raining, as there is a mix of indoor and outdoor activities
5) The price you pay to enter really does cover everything (apart from drinks and food). There is an indoor and outdoor picnic area too, so you can take your own food. There aren't any hidden extras, so you don't fall into the trap of having to pay alot more once you're in
6) It was great exercise for the kids so it wore them all out - hooray!
The only negative was:
1) It really wasn't well signposted at all
I would really, really recommend this to families. I would have loved this place as a child and I really had a second childhood in here. It's not like anywhere else I've ever visited, so I don't know if there is anything similar elsewhere in the country, but you really have to visit to understand what it's like in reality.
We will definitely be going back.
Sundown Adventure Park, just south of Doncaster, is a theme park aimed completely at the under 10s. However, having just taken my 2 year old daughter there on Sunday, I would have to say that a 6 or 7 year old is possibly getting a little too old for the vast majority of the attractions.
The park is very easy to get to from anywhere in the country as it is just 4 miles off of the A1 motorway. Turn off from there to the A57 and it is signposted all the way.
The first thing you notice is the extremely reasonable admission prices. These are set at £8.50 per person over 2 years of age. When you consider that a normal theme park is almost double that then the value for money is clear. You could argue that the fee is cheap as there is nothing there for adults, but I can tell you that seeing my daughter name all the animals while pretend driving a tractor round the course is much better than any rollercoaster for me.
Sundown is split into lots of tiny themed villages featuring famous story book houses from classics like Snow White, 3 little pigs and Little red riding hood, areas based on the wild west with shooting saloons and lots of farm areas. There are no real animals there but that is not a problem as there is so much else for them.
In between all these villages are lots of little play areas including jungle themed parks and sand areas that will be brilliant for the kids in the summer. The park was a little quiet when we went a couple of days ago but still was a hive of activity.
Each area has its fair share of rides, usually based upon a train concept but kids love trains don't they. There is also a water barrel ride but that was closed when we went.
For the adults there are lots of places to sit and watch your little charges while you have a cuppa and something to eat.
New for 2009 and only opened last weekend is the 'Crash Landings' area. This is a huge indoor play area for the children in which they can explore supervised by an adult all the way round. My husband loved going round the courses with Lilly May. Its the one time I regret being pregnant. The food there is so well priced that you could have a full family dinner for just £10. If the rest of the park was closed or it was wet and windy, you could easily spend the day in here and still get value for your £8.50 admission fee.
I recommend this theme park to all parents of the under 6s.
****Our family Christmas adventure****
Having heard and read so many good things about Sundown since we moved to the East Midlands in the summer we had been looking forward to making our first trip for a while now.
Originally we'd planned to go the first weekend in December for my birthday but at the last minute my good lady fell ill with a tummy bug, and as it was a chilly sort of a day anyway we decided to wait for another opportunity.
Having broken up for Christmas, and being lucky enough to have completed our Chrimbo shopping in good time, we decided to make it a first day out of the holidays Monday treat, for me, my wife, little man and his granny. I'm very happy to report it didn't disappoint, and three generations all went home with huge smiles on faces.
****All about Sundown****
Sundown adventureland has been running for over 40 years now and the first thing to note is that it's specifically designed for the under 10s.
Finding it is pretty straightforward, it's signposted all the way, not far from Retford off the A1, take the A57 to Lincoln, and then look for the brown signs. There's a very straightforward entrance fee, with the exception of free entry for the under 2's, it's basically £8.50 per person.
Understandably it's actually closed in January and early February, and during the pre-xmas season, the park opens at 10am and closes at 5pm (7pm on weekends in December). Even in the peak summer holiday season it's only open till 6pm but then again as its all for young kids you can almost guarantee they'll be completely flaked out by late afternoon, with so many exciting things to explore. With such a lot to pack into a day its well worth getting there first thing - plus you get parked by the attendants nearest to the exit so that's always a bonus.
Having been operating for a few decades, it has to be said that one or two of the attractions could perhaps do with more than a lick of paint, but from the looks of it, they are still moving with the times and in the process of building new stuff.
Once you are in, all the main rides, shows and attractions are included in the entrance price, and you'll find the park has been split into a number of different themed areas.
Everything is very clearly signposted, there are leaflets available with a helpful map of the site when you go in. The majority of the site is both wheelchair and push chair friendly, and surprisingly easy to get around.
****Special Christmas features****
As we visited only 3 days before Christmas, as you would expect at this time of year, every effort has been made to capture the magic and excitement of it all. Included in the entrance fee for each child is a ticket to Santa's Grotto, which includes a special present from the big man himself. As his log cabin is just by the entrance, and we figured that the queue would just get bigger through the day, we decided to pay a visit there first. There is also a snow queen and Mother Xmas available to give out presents elsewhere on the site if the queues get too much, but let's face it there's no substitute for the 'real thing'.
Now it has to be said Santa has really done his place up nicely - it's very colourful and cosy, with a lovely fireplace and a comfy sofa for the little ones to sit and admire their very special host. Santa clearly wasn't in the mood to be put off his stride by this talk of credit crunch, his beautifully wrapped present for our little one turned out to be a very nice quality pop-up book "little fire engine" which he was absolutely over the moon with. Gleefully we headed out of the back door and looked back for one last peep back at the big man through the window and then on to our next adventure.
Especially for this time of year, the indoor woodland creatures ride is magically transformed into santa's sleigh ride. All aboard, and straight from the first corner you see a jolly big snowman lighting the way towards a magical kingdom.
There's all kinds of funny animatronic festive characters, with my personal favourite being the crafty turkey chef in the kitchen who's managed to land the job of cooking the Xmas dinner
****Market square and cafe****
As I can't take too much excitement these days before needing a tea break, next stop the café, but first a word or two on the market square which is right opposite the main entrance. There are a number of proper gift shops, plus some pretend ones like a funny little pet shop, and right in the middle there are a number of stalls with some farm animal characters popping up behind them.
It's great fun for the little ones to touch and press things and watch everything come to life with popular old rhymes and songs. Diagonally across the way is the café with quite a nice little traditional style playground again with an animal theme. In the middle there's Noah's ark with slide added for good measure, and there's all sorts of monkeys and crocodiles and other jungle creatures for them to swing and see-saw to their hearts content.
Once we'd finally persuaded fella to head inside, the café is nicely laid out with mostly 4 or 6 seater red plastic seats and tables. It has to be said it serves up mostly burger and chips type fair, but there's also jacket potatoes with a variety of fillings, salads and veggie burgers to balance things up. Best of all there's a great little area at the back, with a miniature street of 3 or 4 play houses, equipped with kitchens and garages and various mini cars to tootle around in while they wait for the grub to arrive.
****Adventure Fort Apache****
Next up for us, back through the market square and out into a kind of cowboy western land , walk off to the side and you come to a humongous adventure playground, with wooden battlements and walkways running all the way round and loads of slides, climbing frames and even a rope slide to keep them amused.
It's at this point, it started to dawn on me just how good value this is for a day out, this was only one of a whole bunch of different play areas, let alone all the rides and shows still to be discovered. And most important of all, Daddy to the rescue in the fort let me get back to doing what I do best - being the biggest kid on the block!
****Cowboy street and railroad****
Would imagine this place is great for live action stuff in the summer months, as it was a few carts and horses on a frosty old December day were exciting enough for little man to explore. Tucked away at the far end of the street, the other main restaurant area, and in that complex you'll find a fantastic all weather indoor soft play area called Jungle Mania.
We weren't hanging around though, it was high time we sampled a wild ride. All aboard the Rocky Mountain train, accompanied by a goofball Hicksville commentary as we whistled stop toured round bandit country
****Fairy tale castle and the Hood****
Just a short walk on from there - you quickly realise despite the multitude of themed areas marked on the map this is 10 year old explorational territory so it's pretty easy to get from one place to the next - we found ourselves at the magical Lillipoppet castle. Very pink and properly palatial, there's lots of enchanting treats to discover inside its walls, musical sing-a-longs and all sorts. Mind your heads tall folks!!
Then just further along the way there's another courtyard that leads you to the favourite 'local' boy - Robin Hood's ride. From an adult's perspective this was probably the most enjoyable ride - lots going on all the way round and plenty of time to take it in. Let's face it none of these rides are going to give anyone nightmares, they are all very tame affairs, well thought out with something for young and old.
But if you want to know, the one ride the younger kids will want to go on again and again - head for the Sunny Down Farm area nearby. Once you've discovered the various push button interactive farm animals suggest you get in the queue sharpish.
There are 4 or 5 different coloured tractors doing a farmyard circuit, parents are 100% banned from the front seats which are equipped with dual state of the art steering wheels. My little fella could not stop chuckling with glee all the way round. He was in his element driving the big red tractor watching various old Mcdonald creatures doing there little jigs
Now yet again they've hit the nail on the head with this place. You enter a mini village, with a range of different cottages and houses all laid out. Each one based on a classic fairytale - there's The Three Pigs, Snow White, Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
Perfect for when the little mites are starting to flag in the afternoon. They can press the story button, sit in comfy chairs and hear it all come to life. Three Bears being a regular bedtime favourite meant that we were hard pushed to get him out of there. They can even sit down at the table and sample the three different bowls of porridge -its just like you are there in the actual story - imagine how exciting that is for the wee ones!
Just round the corner, another playground extravaganza, with a giant sandpit populated with some more slides and swings, again perfect for summer days, and still a good lark even when the frost is glistening on the surfaces. But we only had time for a quick roll about before we were heading off to the big 3pm show of the day which we'll come to shortly.
Also in this area, the perilous, Boozy Barrel boat ride, again perhaps not the perfect choice for a winters afternoon, but we were coated up and feeling brave. Once we'd squeezed our way into the barrel, notably listing to the Daddy starboard side under my additional pre-xmas ballast, I gleefully reaped the benefits, my side so low in the water I missed all the tyrannical attempts to get us soaked as babba and mamma bore the brunt of those wheezy jets.
I suppose there is that extra risk factor of picking up last minute bugs and snuffles when you visit just before xmas, in fact one of my enduring images of our day was the site of the lady with the mop and bucket announcing to her pal that a poor little munchkin had just chucked up his guts in santa's grotto, but somehow we escaped the clutches of the novovirus and any other undesirables.
****Sunny, Hunny how you thrill me****
And after 5 hours of frenetic toddling fun, the crowning glory of the day...A Xmas sing along special with the resident cuddly wuddly funster hosts, Hunny and Sunny Bear all decked out head to toe in santa costumes. So to recap, my little fella and I were heading out of the sandpits, at five to three, about to walk down the animatronic jungle alley which takes you back to the entrance and stage area where the good lady wife was already waiting.
But then we spotted the stars of the show being driven round in their little red buggy car. Instantly my little sunshine boy was on a mission, follow that car....Fine I thought to myself, they'll just be driving round the corner and then it's showtime, so I play along - come on then let's chase them. Big mistake!!
Turns out they'd only just begun the grand tour round to drum up the punters, so as those toddler legs quickly faded off the pace, Daddy carry had to kick in, all the way round through two circuits of story ville, up and down cowboy street, a pair of increasingly desparate bear stalkers hoping they'd eventually lead us back to base camp.
At last we made it, hardly time to draw breath before the partying kicked off in fine style - all those seasonal favourites for a dance and sing along right there in the courtyard - these bears not afraid to mix it with their fan base , particularly the dedicated groupies like us.
The DJ played out those seasonal classics, Merry Xmas everyone, Jingle Bells, Santa Claus is coming to town, Agadoo, the Macarena?....well who's to be picky about the seasons when the Hokey Cokey is in full swing and there's fake snow spraying down on top of everyone in the place - happy days in deed!
Didn't even have time to mention the Big Bear show in Cowboy street, Toy Town, or the mini Go-Karts - ok I admit it we missed them on the day, but hey the Christmas stuff was always going to be top of our list.
And so there you have it, in my book an infinitely more enjoyable way to spend the last days before Xmas than tearing your hair out trying to get a space outside Morrisons at 8am.
Would imagine on a weekend it might get a lot busier, and definitely could be interesting at peak summer holiday time, but I for one am looking forward to making the most of the next 5 or 6 years of our little man's childhood as a ticket to get back here once in a while and enjoy plenty more imagination packed, family fantastic days out for less than a tenner a head.