24 November 2019

What did we think of the Stranger Things Secret Cinema?

Firstly, I have to say that it was fantastic. We have been to the Secret Cinema editions of Blade Runner and Casino Royale, and hands down this beat them both. This Stranger Things Secret Cinema is running until February 2020, so if you have a chance to go I definitely recommend it.

Secondly, just as a reminder or an introduction to those new to Secret Cinema, the best way to describe it is as an immersive theatrical experience based on a film (or in this case, a TV series). You dress up, wander about a giant set and interact with actors before watching the film. 

secret cinema stranger things outside

couple dressed as 80s rockers at secret cinema

And now, we can get to this spoiler-free review and tips!

The big difference this Secret Cinema edition has with previous runs is that it is based on a TV series and not a film, so the grand finale is not the usual film with live action recreation. 

This time the grand finale is more of a live action than a film. While some highlights of the series are shown on screens, there is a heavy use of actors and live action and the whole grand finale is more theatrical and immersive. It feels much more like entering a theatre show than watching a film, and dare I say it, I actually preferred this format. You certainly got more bang for your buck. 

As for the whole experience and the "world", this too was better than the previous Secret Cinema events we have been to. This time it was more immersive and you actually found the actors and could interact with the whole storyline. Previously, I've felt it was difficult to follow the storyline, if there even was any. This time, we had a mission and we very nearly completed it but unfortunately ran out of time before we got to the secret area. 

Outside the mission there were booths to explore, games to play, shops to buy stuff from, food to eat and drinks to have. There was a lot of interactive things to do, not just watching the occasional live action scenes. And the actors... I had to do a double take on a couple of them as they looked so much like the original actors - Dusty and Aleksei were like exact copies! 

And also, can we talk about how much fun it was to dress up 1980s style! Both me and my husband went as 80s rockers. We didn't need to buy anything for these costumes, except OK, I did get myself some hair chalks to colour my hair with and my husband did buy himself a mullet wig. But other than that, we could adapt old clothes for this. It was great fun!

starcourt mall entrance

wearing a 80s rocker outfit

Now obviously, because this is a spoiler-free review I can't give too much away but if you are going to the event you will be dressed up as an 80s character - such as a rocker, a pop kid, hip hopper and so on. Dress up - people were going really full-on! 

When you enter, you will get given an orientation by your assigned character group. Do not miss this, this will set you on your mission path. Follow closely what you've been told to do, and look for the person you've been told to locate, and they will give you more instructions. I found that it could get a bit busy and you had to queue a bit when waiting to get to do your mission, and how amusing and oh how very British it was as people formed orderly queues everywhere. It got busier towards the end, so if you can, do the mission as your first thing. 

Division of people in different character groups was a great idea - different character groups had slightly different storylines and points of meetings organised for them, and this helped in making it run smoother. While the storylines are slightly different between groups, they all lead to the same thing and in the end, converge to the grand finale at the central area. 

And here are a few of my top tips, spoiler-free too of course. 

Top tips:
  • Bring a pen and a piece of paper. It makes it easier to complete the missions and the actors won't look at you like you are stupid or stoned when you come ask them the same information for the third time after getting an ice cream from Scoops Ahoy and forgetting who said what and where... *This may or may not be based on personal experience*
  • If you complete your mission you get a password for a secret area! We missed this as time ran out, so I'd recommend completing the mission first and after that exploring the area. 
  • Bring sensible shoes, there is going to be a lot of walking back and forth and the final show is 30 minutes of standing. 
  • There were a few shops, which was interesting. There was the usual Secret Cinema shop where you can get Hawkins merchandise, but there was also Coach and MAC. They were doing make-up demos at MAC (so you now know where to go if you didn't have time to do your make-up before the event), and apparently they sell character-specific special edition lipsticks too. 
  • The food is the usual burger, pasta, pizza, fried chicken type, all nice and quite standard - and I hope I don't spoil it too much by saying that the cherry ice cream from Scoops Ahoy was fab. 
  • The final show - it starts in the central area. If you stick close to the dancing stage you get best spots. When you get ushered into the new area, if you can work your way to the middle you get the best views. 
  • If you have mobility issues or are pregnant there is a special area to the right of the performance room. 
  • I'm pretty sure you can't get in once the final performance starts, so don't dillydally anywhere if you want to see it. 
  • I didn't find the final show scary or frightening, but it was exciting for sure. You do get more out of it if you have seen all three seasons of Stranger Things, but you can follow it even if you haven't. 

starcourt mall entrance neon lights

couple wearing 80s rocker outfits for secret cinema

In my opinion, this has been the best Secret Cinema we've been to. The immersive experience was fab - you really felt immersed in the world, and you got to do missions and follow storylines, and it all worked a lot better and smoother than previous events. The final immersive experience was also fantastic. 

And if you want to see what happened in some of the previous events, have a look at my previous reviews of Blade Runner and Casino Royale Secret Cinema events!

Have you been to Secret Cinema?

17 November 2019

20 easy ideas for a creative autumn treasure hunt

Fresh air and outdoor play does wonders for kids. After a good fun play session outdoors they seem to behave better, learn better and sleep better. Personally, I do find it occasionally a bit difficult to motivate my six year old move away from cosy indoors and the screens. Once we are out she is happy to stay out and won't want to come back inside anymore, but it is the getting her out which can be a bit tricky sometimes. That said, I have finally found a way to get her excited about going outdoors, and it is an outdoors treasure hunt!

A treasure hunt, or a scavenger hunt if you wish, is a great way to get kids out and about with something to do, and even better if there is a little prize at the end of ticking all the boxes. All you need ahead of going is to grab a piece of paper, a pen and write down some things they have to find on your adventures outdoors. And off you go!

I've shared some of my ideas for a fun scavenger hunt here, with things to find and do while outdoors. There are some fairly simple ones and also more challenging ones where you have to use your imagination and skills. Thanks for the inspiring this post goes to the Wild about Autumn Blogger Challenge created by AliKats Mountain Holidays and Going Wild authors Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield

So here are my 20 easy ideas for an autumnal scavenger hunt!

1. Find a puddle or a pond.
2. Spot a squirrel or another furry animal.
3. Find a stick that looks like a man.
4. Collect five different colour leaves.
5. Poke at a mushroom.
6. Collect a pinecone family.
7. Find an especially shiny conker or an acorn.
8. Discover a bug of some sort.
9. Dig a hole with a stick.
10. Find wild berries.

11. Spot a flock of birds.
12. Find a feather or something a bird would eat.
13. Build a tower with three small rocks.
14. Make a leaf rain (tip: throw them in the air).
15. Kick leaves up, as high as your head.
16. Collects sticks and make a pyramid out of them.
17. Find a face on a tree.
18. Make a face on the ground with leaves, sticks and pinecones.
19. Find a place that would be a perfect home for a fairy.
20. Find a piece of litter and take it to the bin.

I particularly like these nature treasure hunts as they are so easy for the parents. Just a few of these ideas will keep your kid entertained for a while and all you, as a parent, have to do is follow them along and let them blow steam. I noticed that about 5-6 ideas were enough for 30 minutes of outdoor time, and of course once you are out there kids will find lots of other fun things to do and see too. 

I hope there are a few fun ideas to get your kids excited about going outdoors!

Easy imagination-filled ideas for an autumn scavenger hunt - 20 things to do and things to see in autumn, including creative ideas too!

Easy imagination-filled ideas for an autumn scavenger hunt - 20 things to do and things to see in autumn, including creative ideas too!

What would you put on an autumn scavenger hunt list?

You might also like: Autumn walks and muddy bottoms

11 November 2019

Delicious recipe for a pork and apple burger from HelloFresh

When HelloFresh got in touch with me and asked me to check the HelloFresh recipe archive and try cooking one of the recipes for my blog, little did I know how difficult the choice would be... Because there is so much to choose from!

Please note that this post is sponsored by HelloFresh. 

I knew what HelloFresh is all about - they make cooking easy by sending you packages of pre-measured ingredients and a recipe card, so all you need to do for a freshly made dinner is to chop and cook. All the mental load taken away, and just the act of cooking is left to you. But what I didn't know is that HelloFresh also share all their recipes on their site. You you can see exactly what you might get in your boxes, or just use the recipes for inspiration.

I chose to do the Pork and Apple Burger with Rosemary Wedges and Rocket Salad as our Sunday dinner. And seriously tasty dinner it was!

And if you want to try this home, you can either check their recipe on their site, or for added ease, I've added it here too.

Ingredients (for four):

Few twigs of rosemary
12 small to medium sized potatoes

2 apples
500g pork mince
20 grams of bread crumbs
2 blocks of cheddar cheese (c. 100g)
4 burger buns
Apple and sage jelly (I used apple and cider sauce this time)

2 tbs honey
Half a lemon
Bag of rocket (c. 150g)

Olive oil
Salt and pepper


1. Preheat your oven to 220 Celcius. Pick the rosemary leaves from stalks and chop the leaves finely. Chop the potatoes into wedges, roughly your index finger size. Spread on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and the chopped rosemary. Roast in oven 30-35 minutes until golden - turn midway through cooking.

2. Make burger patties next. Peel and grate the apples. Use a tea towel and squeeze out as much of the water out from the apple as you can. Mix the grated apple, pork mince and breadcrumbs in a large bowl, season well with salt and pepper. Make four patties, flatten them out to be a bit bigger than the bun.

3. Heat up olive oil on a medium hot pan. Once the pan is hot, on the patties go. Fry about 5-6 min on both sides, until no longer pink in the middle. I found my burgers took a few extra minutes on both sides, as the quantity of the mince made for quite big patties.

4. As burger patties are cooking, grate the cheese. When burgers are cooked, turn off the heat, gather up cheddar on top of the burgers and cover the pan with a lid. Let cheese melt about 4-5 min.

5. While the cheese is melting, slice up the burger buns and put in the over for about 2-3 minutes. Make the salad. Mix honey, olive oil and the lemon juice, season with salt and pepper. Add your rocket.

6. Make the burger! Spread the apple sage jelly / apple sauce on each side of the burger bun. Serve the patties in the bun with the wedges and the salad. I also added some of the salad in the burger, very tasty and the sweetness added nicely to the flavour!

So there we go, pork and apple burgers, a very yummy dinner.

It is well worth checking the HelloFresh recipe archive. I was impressed by the many (oh so many) mouth-watering ideas over there, and thought it was fantastic I could search for all kinds of different types of meal - quick meals, family friendly meals, world cuisines and so on. And as for me, I've already got my heart set for Gnocchi Primavera for a quick mid-week dinner for us all, and I'm sure it'll be just as well received as the burgers we had yesterday!

If you want to test HelloFresh deliveries, HelloFresh has provided a link through which my readers will get £10 off their first box! Check them out here!
A very tasty pork and apple burger served with rosemary wedges and a salad - an easy and delicious recipe from HelloFresh.

A very tasty pork and apple burger served with rosemary wedges and a salad - an easy and delicious recipe from HelloFresh.

What type of burgers do you like the best?

You might also like: The tastiest pie I've had in a long time - easy Kiwi pie

26 October 2019

What the London Aquarium Halloween is like?

If you've read my blog a while you will know that we love to visit London attractions - and one of our favourite family ones is the SEA LIFE London. We've been a fair few times already, and always love visiting it. This time we were invited to review the Halloween trail at the London Aquarium, or, as it is otherwise known in October, the Ascarium...

I've previously written a mega-post about what SEA LIFE London is like with kids and my top tips for visiting it (including the behind the scenes tour!). I've also shared more photos of the funky jellyfish area, one of my favourite bits. I'm not going to repeat all that here, so check the post out for more detailed tips. What I will say is that 11AM to 3PM gets very busy and there can be a bit of waiting to get good views of the fish. So if you can, it is worth trying to time your entrance outside this peak time.

But now, back to the Ascarium...

At Halloween time the Aquarium turns into Ascarium between 18th October and 3rd November. Expect to see more pumpkins, in and around the tanks, and hear lots of ghouly whispers and cackles over the intercom instead of the usual instrumental elevator music. There are also two competitions running during the Ascarium - a colouring competition and a social media photo sharing comp.

The Aquarium has over the last few years increased additional activities for kids, so there are small play areas for kids and LEGO building activities. These are surprisingly beneficial - it allowed me to stop and enjoy watching the fish and other animals longer as my kid was preoccupied with building a Lego model.

Now with the Ascarium there was also spooky play-do modelling with a friendly witch, and chance to pet some creepy crawlies (although the bugs do need their rest, so may not be around all the time).

ascarium trail

ascarium london

aquarium and letter

smiling at pufferfish

letter at aquarium

with pufferfish


witch london aquarium

In addition to the extra decor and activities, there was a spooky trail for the kids, at the completion of which they can choose between a trick or a treat at the refreshment cafe right after the Penguin enclosure. You grab the trail card at the beginning of the aquarium tour, and try spot large orange letters within the fish tanks. And if you are wondering what you'll get... Well, let's just say that if you are feeling parched after all this work, both the trick and the treat will be very welcome!

While the main attraction and the reason to visit is always the fish, it is quite nice to have a bit of added seasonal flavour too, and this hits the spot. It is a great little seasonal addition to the big old favourite London attraction, and I'd love to see next what they have in mind for Christmas or Easter! Until next time...

Have you been to the London Aquarium yet?

london aquarium shark tank

penguin tank and baby

jellyfish tank

london aquarium crocodile tank

jellyfish and baby

Please note, we got free entrance to the SEALife London Aquarium to be able to review it.

Reviewing the London Aquarium Halloween activities - spooky trail, trick or treat, activities and decor. The Ascarium is back...

Reviewing the London Aquarium Halloween activities - spooky trail, trick or treat, activities and decor. The Ascarium is back...

9 October 2019

How to do Legoland Windsor on a budget

After we visited Legoland Windsor, I asked on social media what people would like to find out about our day. Legoland Windsor is known for being a fun but expensive day out, so perhaps unsurprisingly most of the votes went for the "How to do Legoland Windsor on a budget" topic. 

So here we are - my tips on how to have a fun day out at Legoland Windsor on a budget. Some of these tips may be useful to you if you visit other Legoland attractions as well, but ticket details are specific to Windsor. 

A word of warning before we get started though. Despite any hacks or cheap tickets, Legoland Windsor is NOT a cheap day out. So while you can minimise the damage to your wallet, I'm afraid it will still probably be a bit painful ha ha. 

My tips are around cheap(er) tickets, tips for hotel breaks, how to get on riders without paying for a fast pass, parking costs, lunch options, and shopping for souvenirs. If you have any extra tips I'd love to hear them in the comments!

family at legoland

How to get cheap tickets?

There are a few options for avoiding paying the full ticket price - currently £60 on the day per person. Remember, under threes are for free, so don't buy a ticket for them!

My favourite: If you have store loyalty cards, then Tesco Clubcard do a fantastic deal where every pound of points you spend equals £3 for Legoland tickets. If you book the tickets at least one day before going you also get a discount from the full price. For example, I spent £36 of Tesco Clubcard points to get three tickets for us and I booked a day or two before we went. Had I waited for the day of going the price would have been about £55.

The full process is a bit faffy, but fairly quick. You log on to Tesco, go via their link to check the price for the day you want to book, go back to Tesco and buy the amount of vouchers you need. You then get emailed the code and the booking link, on which you log on and use the code to buy the tickets which are sent to you electronically.  Hey presto, cheap tickets.

Cheap ticket sites: Book early to get cheaper prices. AttractionTix and 365 Tickets both sell cheaper tickets for Legoland Windsor. It is also worth checking Legoland Windsor website for deals, and the dates are likely to be more flexible than on external sites. Deals vary so it's worth checking all three for the best prices.

Cheap on the day tickets: Every spring and summer cereal packets in UK have these two for the price of one vouchers for various amusement parks, including Legoland Windsor. Handy tip especially for people visiting UK - just go to your local supermarket and look for Kellogg's packets with the voucher! McDonald's Happy Meals do 50% discount vouchers too, keep an eye out for those as well.

The "cheapest" will probably be the Tesco Clubcard points, but if you don't have enough points or don't have the loyalty card, then the other alternatives can save you considerable money too. As an example, had our family of four (with one under three year old) bought tickets on the day, with no vouchers, it would have been £180. Instead, we spent £36 in voucher points. Bargain!

lego family models

legoland views

legoland london models

buckingham palace legoland model town

How to get a cheap hotel break?

Staying in a Legoland hotel - ain't that the dream... Definitely is for my six year old! There is a Lego pool area, character meets, Lego gifts, a Lego themed room and all kinds of Lego-mazing things, and normally this costs hundreds of pounds.

We haven't done this but there are a couple of things I've spotted during my bargain-hunting. At different times of the year there are different deals on Legoland website. One popular one is a Splash-and-Play. The resort is closed during these stays but you can stay in the hotel for a reduced price.

What you can do is, with pre-planning and cross-referencing and a bit of luck, is to check-in a day before the resort opens. You check in, have fun at the hotel, sleep, have breakfast, check out and go have fun in the resort (obviously after buying cheap day tickets via the links I've provided earlier!). Theoretically, we could have a night at a Legoland hotel for £89 and the next day tickets to the resort for £36, so a fantastic family break for £125 (plus lunch costs).

Another bargain-hunting trick would be to use the Kids go free deal, and book a check in on a day the resort is closed and check-out when it opens again. Theoretically, our family could have a break for £183, plus lunch costs.

Possibly, one day the stars are so aligned this is available to book on a school holiday, fingers crossed...

legoland windsor star wars darth vader

lego millennium falcon from star wars

star wars lego models

How to get on the rides I want without paying for a Q-bot?

One of the complaints I've heard about Legoland is that you are just queuing and queuing all day, when people with Q-Bots (these are fast passes) whizz past you. Well, yes, and they pay for the privilege.

What you can do on a budget though is download the Legoland app, and check the queue times for various rides, and jump in where they are at their lowest. The app also gives you start times for character meets and shows.

Another handy trick is to get to the resort really early and go to your most-wanted popular ride first, or alternatively, leave it very late and join the queue about five minutes before closing time as they let you wait until everyone has done the ride. You won't then have to spend loads of time waiting during the day if the ride you are after is one of the most popular ones.

If you've got a baby or a toddler with you who can't go on the rides, remember to ask for the Parent Swap once you have queued. The parent with the baby waits at the priority entrance, and after the ride you swap so the other parent gets in too without waiting. And bonus, you can take your big kid twice, yay!

carousel legoland windsor

monster house party ride legoland windsor

legoland windsor ride

Do you have to pay for parking?

Sorry, yes, you do. You can save £1 if you pay online or via the app though. There was no-one manning the gates when we left (very late) on the day, so not sure how often these are checked.

What to do for food if you are on a budget?

This one is easy - take a picnic! There are plenty of places to sit down and have a packed lunch, and indoor locations too if the weather looks poorly. You could also, if you buy a ticket via AttractionTix365 Tickets or Legoland Windsor website, go for a combined ticket and meal option, where you pay £7-8 for a lunch (burgers usually). There is also a McDonald's a short drive away in Slough, which may be a cheaper option if you can wait until after the day.

For drinks, there are plenty of spaces to fill your water bottle so bring a reusable one! Alternatively, there was a deal where you can buy a cup for £8 and re-fill it with soft drinks as much as you want. You could probably share one for the parents anyway ha ha. We drank water, and the kids had a carton of juice with their packed lunch.

wild side legoland character meet

lego friends girls character meet legoland windsor

legoland windsor pirate show

What about shopping at the resort?

Let's face it - kids always want to buy something. I wanted to do our day on a budget and it to act as a bit of a learning experience, so we asked our daughter to bring her weekly allowance money. She had £10. With that she bought herself a small Lego Friends model, and she really loves it.

Most of the items are quite expensive, and if you want to give kids spending money I'd give minimum £5. That would buy them a key ring, or a small lego bag. £10 would buy you a small Lego model or maybe a tiny soft toy. The cheapest Legoland exclusive model I saw was £17, so if you want an exclusive item, budget about £20.

And if your kids are into those Lego minifigure surprise bags with characters, bring the extras as you can swap them in the stores, for free!

What else to bring with you?

Don't forget your swimming costumes and towels - if you want to go to the splash play areas and don't want to spend extra money in the shop! Sunscreen is handy too on a sunny day. There are apparently free sunscreen dispensers, although I didn't spot them, and they may also run out on sunny summer days.

lego character biscuit

What a mega-post but I hope that was helpful to you!

While it is not a cheap day out, Legoland Windsor is fun and you don't have to spend hundreds on the day. We spent about £36 in Tesco vouchers for the tickets, £9 for coffee and biscuits at Costa, £7 for parking and then of course petrol, the packed lunch costs, £9 for a toy (which our daughter paid from her weekly allowance anyway), and £25 for McDonald's on our way back home, so all in all our day at Legoland Windsor cost less than £100. Not the cheapest day out but something you can certainly do as a treat!
Tips and tricks on how to get cheap tickets to Legoland Windsor, and how have a great day out in Legoland Windsor on a budget.

Tips and tricks on how to get cheap tickets to Legoland Windsor, and how have a great day out in Legoland Windsor on a budget.

Tips and tricks on how to get cheap tickets to Legoland Windsor, and how have a great day out in Legoland Windsor on a budget.

What are your tips for doing Legoland Windsor on a budget?

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