I have lacked a little blog-motivation of late, life of being a full time working mum has got in the way and I just haven’t had an urge to write about anything in particular. Not even my fabulous Cohorted box was enough to get me blog spirit up but we are in a new month and I have set myself a 30 – day Blog Challenge where I will write a blog every day for the month on November.
As we have just had the October half term I thought I would fill you guys in on what we have been up to.
Way back in August, as I turned the big 3-0 my hubby took me to Alton Towers which was a nostalgic trip for us as we had one of our first dates there. He is a cutey like that. Whilst we were there we took advantage of purchasing some discounted Merlin Annual Passes for us and the children. It can seem like a costly outlay, but with the amount of school holidays to plan for and the rising cost of days out as a family of four we decided the initial outlay was more than worth it and we would easily get the value out of it.
We are in Greater Manchester and we are lucky enough to have several of the Merlin attractions within an hours drive away. We have two attractions more or less on our door step at the INTU Trafford Centre with LegoLand Discovery Centre and the Sealife Centre.
My littlest boy turned 3 during the half term as so we decided to make use of the Trafford Centre attractions for the first time.
The LegoLand Discovery Centre is great for ages 3 upwards I would say. I think a day could easily be made of it but realistically it is more of a half day attraction. I believe it is quite different to the main LegoLand Windsor Resort which is a child focused theme park.
The great thing about the Discovery Centre, Manchester is that any one entering MUST have an under 18 with them otherwise they are not permitted, making it the perfect choice to take the children and know everyone is there for the same thing.
Inside there are three rides – a ‘Rescue The Princess’ ride , a car ride where the child goes on on their own and rides the car (minimum age 4) and then the merlin pedal cart ride. Despite the place being really busy and queuing out of the door to get in, the queues for the ride was not bad at all.
To compliment the rides, there is also a 4D Cinema which has a showing of a Lego feature movie. I should imagine this changes from time to time. The children really enjoyed the rides and the Cinema.
As well as those, there is a Master Builder session where you can get involved in learning how to build a lego model. My boys (3 & 5) particular enjoyed building lego cars and rolling them down the ramps.
There is also a soft play area for the little ones, as well as a larger soft play for the older children I would say age 3-4 upwards.
There is also a princess zone which my boys did not go near!
The other great thing is that you can take your own food and drink and sit down and eat that in the main play zone, parent’s can ‘relax’ with a drink whilst the children go off and play dependent on their age.
We spent around two and a half hours at the Discovery Centre, before venturing to the Sealife Centre next door.
It is really handy having the two right next to each other, which means you can really spend the day there. There are deals on paying for entrance to both places as a package rather than separately. I will come on to the price after.
The Sealife Centre at Trafford is much smaller than it’s counter part at Blackpool and my 6 ft 5 hubby said he felt really cramped in there. The walk ways were very narrow and it was so busy. It was hard to let the boys truly enjoy what they were seeing with it being so busy.
For me, there’s only so much fish one can see but the children never get bored of it. They did have a shark tunnel which was nice. Again, there is a (very small) soft-play frame towards the end which the children enjoyed but very cramped for parents that are watching and waiting!
With regards to pricing, I think we worked out that if we paid on the day and did not have Merlin passes or any coupons, it would have cost us over £120 for a family of 4 to visit both attractions! Which on the grand scheme of things is rather ridiculous! I am not sure I, nor the kids enjoyed it enough to justify those prices to be honest.
Later in the week, we had friends from Hertfordshire come to stay who also have Merlin Annual Passes. We decided to venture up the motorway and take our boys to Blackpool Tower Circus. It was a shambles really, because even though we had the passes, if we wanted to pre-book we had to pay £5 each – which we clearly did not want to do! We decided to chance it, to get there with over an hour to spare to find it was full and we could not get in on that day. I am not sure there is a way around this other than paying the £5 per person, which is quite disappointing when you are looking at a 80 mile round trip.
That being said, we could still access other attractions within the Tower including Jungle Jims play area (45 minute time slots!) and also the 4d cinema and tower eye.
We particularly enjoyed the 4d cinema, with my 4 year old saying it was his favourite thing he had ever seen! We then ventured up the glass life and on to the tower eye which have to say was quite terrifying although the children were not phased one bit!
The great thing about the Merlin passes is that there are several attraction in London also, which we as a family can also use when we visit our friends in Hertfordshire including the London Eye, the Shrek Adventure and LegoLand Resort.
I do believe we will get good value out of the passes and we feel proud that we work hard to give our boys these experiences and memories to cherish.
Have you used any of the Merlin Attractions, and if so what do you think?