On Saturday the 6th June Monkey, his Nannie and I set off for the 70 odd mile drive to Paulton’s Park near Southampton. I had been wanting to visit for a while ever since writing my Family Days out in Hampshire post. Also the lovely Aby at YouBabyMeMummy and Katy at WhatKatySaid have written posts on their visits recently with great photos, making it look like a wonderful family day out. We were not disappointed…
Despite it being a Saturday and understandably busy, car parking was a breeze, we had booked our tickets online so avoided the ticket queue. We did need to wait to go through the gate but we had turned up right on opening time, so I wasn’t surprised and it moved quickly. Children under 1m are free, they will check all children on entrance. A friend of mine recommended to do the other half of the park first – if we were to go again then I think we would do Peppa Pig World first as we really did just run out of time! The rides stop at 5.30pm during peak times which did mean that we missed several of the rides. However we had such a lovely day we are already planning on going back – maybe with an overnight stay locally this time!
I thought it best to give you a review ride by ride so you can plan your visit effectively. As we drove in the first ride which Monkey saw was the River Ride and he would not even entertain the look of anything else until we had visited it so I will start with that…
River Ride – a small(ish) by adult standards log flume with two drops and a photo opportunity. In my mind not really suitable for an almost three year old, I was hoping he would be too short but alas he was right on the 95cm height restriction and he really wanted to go. There was no queue so he ran in and started trying to get in without me – eek! I should say he’s not been on anything like this before to date his ‘ride’ experience has been Professor Burps Bubble Works. When we got off he did confess to being a ‘bit scared mummy‘ at what age is it appropriate to say I told you so? We did get a little bit wet but there are dryers nearby so it was only temporary.
Seal Falls – a much more appropriate ride for Monkey, it doesn’t have a minimum height and each seal will take two children. It has a small tunnel (igloo) and hump and is much more sedate.
Digger Ride – kids get the opportunity to drive a digger around a little track (automated) each seat has a steering wheel so there shouldn’t be any arguments! Plenty of seating for the adults and we had the opportunity to take another ride if we wanted. We didn’t have to queue for either this or seal falls.
From the digger ride we had a wander around and found the larger kids rides as well as a bouncy castle known as Percy’s Bouncer and some Trampolines – both of which are undercover so you are protected from the sun and the rain! While jumping Monkey spotted the Go Karts and wanted to take a ride but he was too short, to be a passenger you need to be 110cm. Thankfully his disappointment was short lived as we quickly found..
The Flying Frog – there is no minimum height and we went on this ride four times.. he loved it so much. Its the first time he has been on rollacoster so we brought a photo. They cost £8 each and offer five for £25. There are lots of opportunities for photos in Peppa Pig World too, since we were with Nannie we opted for one of the cards as she wanted to have some memories too. Monkey wanted to sit in the front after his first ride and because there were very few people queuing we had free rein. Its a great introduction for younger children, just make sure you hold on to them towards the end as it does stop a little abruptly and I saw one little boy (travelling alone) hit his head on the back!
We stopped in Percy’s Play Park for lunch, its well situated to entertain with lots of tables for brought food or picnics, there is also Water Kingdom next door, Monkey was desperate to have a play so remember your swimsuits. The weather wasn’t really good enough so we managed to distract him with ice cream instead. We also tried out the Magic Carpet ride:
We walked through the park area where there are lots of aviaries to the the 4D Cinema which was showing a 20 minute animation of Sherlock Holmes. Surprisingly Monkey coped well with the glasses and kept them on throughout the film. At one point there was bubbles coming from the ceiling (queue excited giggles) and water sprayed in your face, as Sherlock ran through a puddle. There was a also a few bangs, seat shakes and pigeons round your feet – Monkey’s legs were too short for this, which is just as well as Nannie and I jumped through the roof!
I must say the toilets are very clean and they have little training seats attached to them all. We spotted some ‘lost’ stickers where you can write your mobile on and then attach to your child, its the first time I have seen them – they are a great idea. Along the side of the theatre there are several painted on doors and shop fronts, Monkey thought they were real and kept running up to try and open them.
Next we went over the Critter Creak which opened at Easter and it still looks brand new. There are some great characters amongst the flower beds! It is also home to the Beastie Burrow which is an inside collection of sealife, amphibian and small rodent tanks. Most of them are low down and perfect for little eyes. There is a new rollacoster called Cat-O-Pillar, Monkey and Nannie queued up for several minutes but once he was sitting on the carriage he changed his mind (or rather Nannie did). It did have quite a big drop so I don’t blame him.
Professor Blast’s Expedition Express – is a little train ride right next door, Monkey was insistent that he sat in the front so we waited for the next train. The staff were quite okay with this as if it happens a lot! There was a button on the front which made the train noise so he was quite happy pressing it going round and round, forgetting all about the rollacoster experience.
Next we opted for The Victoria Carousel because it reminds Nannie of her childhood, once again there is no minimum ride height and adults can stand next to the children on the horses, belts are provided and there are also little carriages for very wee ones. Again surprisingly we didn’t have to wait long getting on the next ride.
Viking Boats – great little ride you can easily fit 6 in a boat and they go round and round and up and down. What I like about Paulton’s Park is that they seem to either by accident or on purpose to group rides together so that where there is an older kids ride there is a younger kids ride right next door generally along similar lines. For example near the Viking Boats there was the Pirate Ship and Kontiki which is a rather scary looking boat that throws its riders back and forth! Another example is Jumping Bean and Jumping Jack which is right next door. Great if you have kids that span different age groups and heights.
Wave Runner – I saw this ride and honestly didn’t think Monkey would entertain the idea – but it ended up being his favourite of the day. To ride you need to be 90cm. Basically its a huge waterslide and you sit in a dingy and ride it down to the bottom. There are also strict criteria as to how you sit in the dingy. When you go down you do feel as though you are not going to stop but because the end is elevated you do with plenty of time. We went on it twice, we would have gone on it more but it was dawning on us at this point we wouldn’t make any Peppa rides if we continued in the other part of the park.
Peppa Pig World was right next door to the Wave Runner and it was packed… However the rest of the park had been easily accessible so if we go again we will do it the other way round. I estimate that we missed about six rides simply because the park closed at 5.30 and we didn’t make it round everything.
Our first point of call was Madame Gazelles School House, where you get the opportunity to meet a life sized Pepper and George before having your photo taken in the school house. Although its designed for a photo purchase opportunity they don’t mind you taking your own which is great and we have a lovely picture of Monkey holding hands with plastic versions. Then we made our only mistake… we let Monkey choose the next ride.
Miss Rabbits Helicopter Flight – which is right next door to the penguins if the queue is long I would recommend leaving one adult in the queue while the other and child(ren) go and meet the penguins, who are fed at 3.30pm. Due to the way the ride works – it takes a fair amount of time to get people in and out of the helicopters individually so much so we ended up queuing for 45 minutes for a 5 minute ride. Next time we will head here first! Monkey loved it so it was worth it but we missed others because of it. Plus keeping a three year old entertained in the queue is not easy!
Peppa’s Magic Photo Studio was our next stop, Monkey had his photo taken and then superimposed onto a background of Peppa and George jumping in muddy puddles. You also had an option of a spaceship, bath tub and bedall scenes from the TV show. He’s made up with his photo so it was well worth the ten minutes or so it took.
My favourite ride has got to be George’s Dinosaur Adventure, Monkey and I sat on a little dinosaur which rocked back and forth around a track, there were handles to hold onto which went either side of Monkey. The scenery was great including vegetable gardens and smoking volcanos. It was genuinely something different for a kids ride with photo opportunity (obviously) which I think is why it became my favourite.
As the park was starting to clear out we managed two more rides before home time Peppa’s Big Ballon Ride which was really good and the queue goes quickly on this one, it gives you the view of the whole of Peppa’s world although the baskets have quite high sides. Then finally while I sneaked a look in the Peppa Toy Shop, which is immense I had no idea there was so many different Peppa toys, clothes and books, Nannie and Monkey had one last ride on the Windy Castle. The only way I can describe it is like the tea cup ride but high up, not only do you go up and down but you also go round and round. Its not really my thing, and there is an additional steering wheel in the cloud which allows you to go round even faster. Nannie was not sold… Monkey loved it.
It was a truly fantastic day and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a theme park for younger kids. We will definitely be visiting again as there are lots of rides we didn’t get to. Plus Monkey wanted to play in the water areas which we didn’t get round to. We hadn’t even got out of the carpark before Monkey entered the land of nod, he slept all the way home, only briefly waking for PJs and a wee before sleeping through to morning. He’s been talking about it ever since. I would love to hear about your experiences if you have visited or if not your favourite family day out.