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Club Tropicana - kiddy winks are free!
Tropical Butterfly House, Wildlife & Falconry Centre (Sheffield)
Member Name: yabbadabbadoo
Tropical Butterfly House, Wildlife & Falconry Centre (Sheffield)
Date: 10/02/11, updated on 10/02/11 (285 review reads)
Advantages: Variety of activities - indoor and out, educational and fun, getting close to animals
Disadvantages: Parking is limited
Back again on the kids party discovery trail. My 5 year old little boy's slightly older female cousin being the source of this latest invite, but huge sighs of relief all round that it won't be a girlie girl occasion.
It's all new territory once again, so off we all set on a brand new Saturday morning adventure to the Tropical Butterfly House and Falconry Centre.
All that's missing is parking......
With the aid of sat nav, its a relative doddle to get there. Nestled away down a quiet country lane in North Anston on the outskirts of Sheffield, according to the website its only 5 minutes away from M1 J31. We came up via the A1 and A57 past Worksop, and it was a nice easy journey.
That is until we needed to get parked.
Clearly with more than a couple of children's parties on the go they are struggling for parking capacity. All of the 30 or so parking spaces near the front were occupied, so we ended up parking on a grass verge aligning the way in. Maybe there's an overflow on the grass in the summertime, otherwise I can't imagine how they cope!
Moving swiftly onwards, we headed through the courtyard to reception. Seemed reasonable pricing to me, at £7.50 an adult and £6.50 a child with family tickets, other concessions and the under 3's going free. As party guests, we got one adult and child in free, so just deja vu muggins paying up again. To be fair, with so many other guests arriving at the time, the lady was honest enough to say that she loses track, and thanked us for asking to pay. The reception also doubles as the shop, seemed quite a decent selection of cuddly toys and games in there. No time for browsing for us though, as our party was ushered into the adjacent building.
Fun and sunshine, there's enough for everyone
Our destination - the Fun room. Now I'm always a bit sceptical of such leading titles, but in this case, it pretty much fitted the bill. Sort of a combo between a junior youth club and a nursery class, there was something here to keep a variety of age-groups occupied. The sportier kids (and the competitive 40 something Dads -i.e basically me) were naturally drawn to the paddle ball, the table football and the pool table. Bonus ball that neither the table football or even the pool table required any cash to play - what a rare result! Naturally my little fella was most keen on the paddle ball, but at 50p a throw it wasn't going to break the bank.
In the middle was a set of four steering wheels and coloured lights constituting the rainbow race. Each player spins their wheel as fast as they can, hoping against hope that their colour will make it to the end first - high octane action! A face painting lady was on hand, so we swiftly side-stepped that, there were a couple of tables full of drawing materials and brass rubbings so we ducked out of those, and before you knew it the lunch time line up was finally upon us
Back downstairs in a mini-cafe area, being the ever diligent parent, I made sure it was me that took our little one to his seat. Whilst there he just happen to hand me the unwanted spares from his platter, a pizza slice, a ham sandwich and a sausage roll - how could any Father refuse to help out! For the remaining slower to react grown up helpers, there were hot and cold drinks available plus a selection of snacks. The main cafe is elsewhere in the complex (near the main butterfly enclosure) but we didn't get to sample it on this trip.
Once the birthday girl had blown out those candles, we assembled outside, and had a quick toilet stop. Bit confusing with Girls and Boys pointing to one area, but as its all cubicles, my inner genius eventually cottoned on to the fact that they were unisex facilities. Whilst we were waiting for the last few, we discovered some great little air blowing machines. There's just something undisputedly magical about getting a large inflatable ball and watching and some tiny little ball pool ones and watching them float effortlessly in the air or be launched into the stratosphere. Or maybe that's just me! Also spied a signpost advertising tractor and trailor rides - probably another seasonal attraction.
Let's take a Walk on the wild side!
Now I can sense the question forming out there. Hang on a minute Paul, when are you going to get to the furry funsters? Fear not, for at this very point, a taller and thinner but just as softly spoken Sarah Mulligan a like lined all the kids up ready for their special guided tour round the centre.
As they were all full of e numbers and mid sugar rush, it was never going to be plain sailing, but she went about her business with professional aplomb. First stop a little wooden shelter, and she brought out a brown owl to show the kids. Apart from the minor bird in the cage wolf whistling the adults as we looked on, it was all going swimmingly until she asked a question about where the birds ears are located. When they got it wrong initially, she made the fatal mistake of asking them to try something different. Moments later a chorus of river dance erupted , courtesy of 20 pairs of wellies smacking against the wooden boards and the poor birdie tried to make a dash for it! Luckily it all calmed down, and some of the group were moved on to take a look at the guinea pigs and gerbils in the next room.
Onwards and upwards our next stop was the farmyard animals enclosure. We followed a trail round past the parrots (where a talk was in progress , repeated 10 minutes later by the pretty pollies no doubt), and unwittingly marched into the path of the skunk surprise. An intermittent jet of water caused no end of panic and consternation amongst the little ones which was reasonably out of proportion given the fact it was already bucketing it down with rain, but nonetheless a source of adult amusement.
There was a chance to feed the goats, which my son took one look at and oh so predictably handed over to me to dish out, plus a few other mini beasties to say hello to.
Definitely time to get in the warm...
No high-5s please Denzil!
In case anyone needs an explanation of the section title, I'd highly recommend watching the Fools and Horses classic where they try and capture a rare butterfly - never fails to make me smile.
In the tropical butterfly enclosure, and certainly no shortage of the winged wonders , ranging from tiny little transluscent ones through to big blue flappers (not sure if that's the correct latin name). Plenty of information and signage to help educate along the way. Our little troupers were then gathered up just outside the nocturnal room.
To our left, a tank containing a mini Crocodile. Overhead we spotted that lizard of the Bud-weis-er adverts from a couple of years back. Was this about to go into full on I'm a celebrity mode?! Fear was rising , especially as soon as the idea of holding a snake was suggested. A tiny little python - called Monty - go figure? was the brave volunteer and was passed around the circle of wonder. Little man volunteered his mummy to assist, and they both agreed he wasn't a bit slimy. The parents started to wonder if the next creature in line was a spider - one or two were checking for the exit signs. But no, second time around it was a mighty - Hedgehog - cute!!
All done in terms of the tour, a quick look through the bats and the other residents in the black out room, and a few pennies spent on feeding the coy carp and other tropical fish and our tour was done.
Have a break, have a Meerkat!
The good thing is that party guests are free to spend the rest of the day touring around. Further around we could see sign posts to the falconry area, but unfortunately we only had another half hour or so before we needed to head home. Naturally, top of the list, due to that never getting out of your head style advertising campaign was a visit to the Meerkat enclosure. Now, I have to say that I didn't expect to see a smoking jacket, or here a Russian accent in the process, but I do admit to being a little disappointed that there was only one little fella braving the elements. What on earth could we compare it to? But round the back , you can watch the rest of the sensible creatures, sleeping through the glass windows. No doubt they were roller skating around the minute we walked away - but such is the Simples life we lead.
All-in-all, had we had better weather and more than the 2 and a half hours we spent here to really explore, I could certainly see the attraction of the place as a family day out. Will definitely make a return trip in the summer months, and in terms of finding something a bit different for a party venue, I can testify that all the kids and most of us grown ups really enjoyed themselves.
The final word must go to the website
"Home to animals from South America, Australia, Africa , the Phillipines...and South Yorkshire!"
Summary: Life is like a butterfly.....