13 December 2019

How to survive Winter Wonderland with kids

The last time I've been to Hyde Park Winter Wonderland was in 2017 and my, it seems to grow bigger and bigger each year! This year we were invited to attend Winter Wonderland press day to review the experience and got some free tickets to shows and rides to be able to do this. We went as a family - mum, dad, a six year old and a toddler - and on this post I wanted to share a few tips on what to expect and how to make the most out of Winter Wonderland if you have kids. 

Overall, Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is a great family day out. It is big, and hectic, and truth be told, rather expensive, but the kids loved it. Us parents, well, we had fun too.

winter wonderland big wheel

We spent the whole day at Winter Wonderland, from around 10.30AM to 5-6PM.  I'd recommend starting your day early, especially if you are bringing a pram! There were hardly any queues in the morning and early afternoon. Late afternoon and especially after sunset it started to get extremely busy and you could hardly walk around without bumping into lots of people. By 5PM the kids were knackered so it was time to go. 

What attractions are there?

There were plenty of things to see. My personal favourites were the Magical Ice Kingdom and the Giant Wheel.

Magical Ice Kingdom is an incredible collection of ice sculptures, this year in the theme of A Christmas Carol by Dickens. It is just amazing. Beautiful, mesmerising and filled with great photo opportunities. There was an ice slide, which was great fun, and ice thrones to take photos on. It was -10C inside, so wrap up extra warm and bring a hat so you won't have to rush through.

Giant Wheel is the big ferris wheel right in the middle of Winter Wonderland. Great views, and in the morning  and midday you didn't have to queue long longer than five minutes, got your own booth, and the wheel went round four times. In the evening, while the lights are truly mesmerising, it gets so busy you will be waiting forever and I hear it goes round just twice. So, earlier you go the better it is with kids.

view from feeris wheel

ferris wheel cabin

view from the giant wheel

family selfie

Other than that there is ice skating, rides and Christmas Grotto and a Christmas market. Grotto has a long queue, so if you want to do it, it might be worth going there as early in the day as possible. We didn't do this as I didn't want to queue. The Christmas market is fun to walk through, lots of traditional looking booths and crafts, and other products too.

We also went into the Upside Down House - don't take your babies or toddlers though as it is awkward to walk around on tilted floors. It was quite uncomfortable for us with a one year old, and while we got some fun photos, it was difficult to wrangle a toddler there.

In addition to these attractions, there are also shows...

ice door

ice sculptures

woman ice sculpture

ice fox

ice sulctures and ice bridge

shops made of ice

icy shop front

ice thrones

What shows to see?

This year (2019) there are several shows too see - Mr Men & Little Miss, Zippos Circus, Paddington on Ice, Cirque Berserk and Comedy Club. The first three are suitable for young children, and are during the morning or day time. 

We went to see Mr Men & Little Miss show as it seemed to be perfect for the age bracket our kids are in. While the kids were mesmerised at first, the show did go so long the younger one became restless. I know I'm not the target audience at 36 years of age, but there didn't seem to be much of a story and it was difficult to hear what was going on as the circus tent could be a bit noisy. I'd have preferred a shorter show, with a bit more volume.

As the kids (and the third big kid...) were so restless after the show and wanted to explore the Winter Wonderland area, we skipped the next show from Zippos Circus. That said, this show was well received by other reviewers on the day so do keep it in mind when you visit. I feel confident in recommending Zippos Circus as well - we had a fantastic time at their show earlier this year. 

two girls watching the show

mr men show

zippos circus performers

What were the best rides for kids?

Lots of variety depending on the ages of the kids - big scary ones for the teens and your traditional merry-go-rounds for the little ones for example. As for my personal favourite... I would recommend Ice Slide as long as your kids are tall enough. My six year old was just tall enough. So much fun sliding down a 45m ice slide on a rubber ring - strangely scary too! You get two goes, and there can be a bit of a queue, but it is worth it.

The cost for the rides is usually from £2-5, although you will have to exchange your cash for tokens. Slightly annoyingly, there were several rides where you can't let the little little ones go on their own, but you still have to pay for the privilege of accompanying them. Some rides (Teacup, Bumper cars) on the other hand parents could accompany kids for free.

Near the rides there are plenty of games too - keep an eye out for the ones where everyone will win if you've got kids that want to try get a prize!

ice slide ride

tea cup ride

bumper cars

merry go around

merry go around

Where to eat?

With kids the Street Food area is probably the easiest, as you can grab and go, and there is plenty of variety for all kids of tastes. Lots of good booths to eat from - burgers, chicken, fish and chips, hot dogs, toasted sandwiches, pizza, and so on, but with a very upmarket quality to them. The prices were upmarket too of course. You can expect to pay £7 for a kids fish and chips for example. We got two burgers, chips, fish and chips, and some drinks, and our lunch cost around £40.

For dessert, try some churros or fresh donuts! My older child is always going on about these how amazing they are, and they are very nice Imust admit!

If you have a packed lunch, or prefer to eat at a calmer place, go to Kakao Kids Family Chill Area close to the Christmas Grotto. Relaxed place for families to sit down.

upside down house posing

upside down house

decorating upside down christmas tree


Top tips for families with kids:

  • Go early - morning there were no queues for anything. From midday there starts to be more people, and by dark it is getting so busy it stops being much fun with the kids. 
  • Try something unusual and wintery - Magical Ice Kingdom and the Ice Slide ride for example. Both great fun! Ice-skating might be fun with older kids too. 
  • Giant Wheel gives you amazing views over London, but do visit it in the morning or midday to avoid long queues. 
  • If you need to chill out with the kids a bit, or eat a packed lunch, Kakao Kids has a nice Family Chill Area at Santaland area. You can also warm up bottles and food for the little ones there. 
  • If you buy food at location, Street Food area has many booths located right next to each other so you can have a good variety. 
  • Santas Grotto is free, but queues can be long. Best go early. 
  • If you see shows, you will have to contend with leaving the buggies outside, and wrangling bags and kids and jackets inside. Not the easiest prospect, and you can make it easier for yourself by bringing as small a bag as possible. 
  • It is an outdoor location, so dress sensibly and bring warm clothes especially if you are going to the Magical Ice Kingdom. 
  • It is quite hectic, so beware and prepare I guess ha ha! It can be overwhelming for kids (I know it was a bit for me) so just try have a relaxed approach to the day. 
  • Family entrance is the Red Gate - this is closest to all the favourite family activities of Winter Wonderland, like Santaland, the kids rides, circus tent, Magical Ice Kingdom and so on. Closest tube station is the Marble Arch Station. Gold Gate is a convenient entry point too. 

winter wonderland at night

nighlights at winter wonderland

All in all, a fun hectic day. You can easily spend all day at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, seeing shows and going on rides, but you also need deep pockets for all the entertainment!

Have you ever been to Hyde Park Winter Wonderland? 

Top tips on how to have fun and survive a hectic day out with kids at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland.

Top tips on how to have fun and survive a hectic day out with kids at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland. Ideas for food, shows, attractions and rides.

Top tips on how to have fun and survive a hectic day out with kids at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland. Ideas for food and fun activities.

You might also like: Our amazingly fun first visit to Zippos Circus and Strolling through Winter Wonderland

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

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