15 August 2020

Honest review of the Legoland Windsor in 2020 experience

I was glad to see Legoland Windsor back in action after the 2020 lockdown period, and we decided to visit. I was quite interested to see how the experience would differ this year with all the coronavirus measures and social distancing in place, and now that I've been there, I wanted to share a review, and some thoughts and tips with others too! So here is a review of Legoland Windsor in 2020 and the coronavirus measures and social distancing at Legoland. There were some issues definitely, even if overall we had a nice day. 

I have previously written about how to do Legoland Windsor on the cheap and where to get cheap tickets - be sure to check that out for good tips! 


mum and daughter at legoland gate

legoland windsor entry

legoland than you nhs sculpture

family photo at legoland mini village



Entry and exit

Parking was strange, as they ask you to leave a space of one car between cars due to social distancing. We arrived late morning, so after a while of driving about looking for a free and not a very faraway spot, we just parked in one of those empty spots...  I suspect leaving a space between cars is expected in the early morning, so people keep their distance. By the time we were parking there was hardly anyone there. 

On entry our temperature was taken, and bags cursorily checked. Tickets were scanned off our phones. As we arrived around 11.30AM there were no queues and we got straight in, very quick process. I have seen some reviews stating that morning queues can get very long due to these checks.  

As we arrived late, we were very late leaving, and again walked out and drove out with no waiting around. 

Coronavirus measures inside the park

If you are over 11 years old, you have to wear a mask on some of the rides. Anything that is indoors, and some of the bigger rides are ones where mask is compulsory. Do bring a reusable one, or buy one from the shops, but the ride attendants also give out disposable ones for people that have forgotten theirs. 

On the rides, there will be empty rows or seats between different family groups. The rides are also regularly cleaned - some appear to be sprayed after each run like Mia's Riding Adventure, and some periodically cleaned with wipes, like Fairytale Brook. On the Monster House Party there were also additional air filterers inside, and family groups were asked to stand and sit spaced apart - I suspect similar measures are in place in other inside rides/attractions too. 

Few rides were closed due to social distancing measures or scheduled maintenance, but overall I felt there was plenty of rides and attractions left. 

Plenty of hand sanitisers are dotted around the park, and on entry and exit for all the rides. People did seem to use them quite frequently. 

There was a one way system for all the shops, and masks had to be worn. We didn't go to any of the inside Lego exhibitions, and actually don't even know if they are open. If they are open, a one way system and a mask would certainly be in place in those too. 

There are markers on the ground with arrows pointing that people should walk on the left hand side - most people ignored this to be honest, and the signs were quite easy to miss anyway. 



legoland windsor road markings

legoland main stage

duplo playground at legoland

legoland monster house inside

legoland windsor mini village

legoland egypt lego sculptures



Social distancing

Sorry to say this, but if you are concerned with social distancing, an amusement park is not for you and Legoland will not be a good experience for you. People are walking all over the place, not paying a blind bit of attention to social distancing, practically bumping into each other.  

It does appear that the intake of people is lower, but due to the coronavirus measures the rides take less people in and additional cleaning creates pauses in the service. This means that the queues are as long as ever. While there are social distancing reminders on the ground people just don't pay attention to them. And even if people did, the way the queues snake around you would be standing very close to the people on your left and right anyway. 

I personally was not too happy with this aspect of the visit, but at the same time, it being outdoors and us being relatively young and healthy (and we have probably had it already anyway!) I was not overly concerned. I would have preferred good social distancing, but I did not let it ruin my day. People are out there having a good time, they forget, and it just unfortunately happens. 


Food and drink

We brought our own picnic, but if you want to buy food at Legoland, be mindful that there may be long queues for food and only limited food places are open. 

For drink and ice creams there were plenty of stalls around. Additionally for drinks there are a few (not many) drink dispensers around the park - I saw one at Heartlake City and around the driving rides. You can buy a cup (deals from £8-£12 per cup), which you can then fill as often as you like with a variety of soft drinks. You can also fill your own water bottles for free, but sorry to say, only water is free! The all you can drink soft drinks won't work without the special cup.   




two kids at drench towers legoland

splash park legoland empty

legoland windsor drench towers


Drench Towers / Splash Park

You will need a pre-booked ticket to the Drench Towers / Splash Park. Check the link for the tickets - the Everbrite booking link will be released there two days before the date. So, if you are going on Sunday, you will need to check the site on Friday. The tickets go VERY fast. I had heard the link comes on the site at 9AM, so I kept refreshing it every five minutes at the beginning. It didn't appear until 1PM (by that point I refreshed the page every half an hour or so) - and I quickly booked tickets! One ticket is for one family, of up to 6 people. 

You get a one hour slot, with 20 minutes to change clothes, 20 minutes to splash about and 20 minutes to get dressed again while staff cleans the Splash Park for the next guests. 

However! If you queue up a bit before your entry starts, and either ensure you are dressed before, or get dressed very quick, you might get up to 40 minutes splash time! They allow people to get in splashing as soon as they have cleaned the area and it is usually ready on the dot. 

Keep hold of your confirmation email and tickets for the Drench Towers. My name was not on the list (or rather, they couldn't find it) so I had to show the confirmation email. If you do lose the email, you should also be able to find the tickets on the Everbrite account you used to book. 

If you don't manage to get tickets keep checking the link on the day in case people have cancelled. Don't get your hopes up though. 

I thought it was overall very clean. Splash Park was very quiet, hardly anyone, but Drench Towers super busy. Social distancing was definitely not possible, especially with so many kids running about, but it was fun nonetheless. Best part of the day for us. 

Shows and character meets

Disappointingly the awesome pirate show Return to Skeleton Bay, the one with explosions and speed jets, has been cancelled this year due to social distancing concerns. Instead, there are a couple runs of Lego Friends girls dancing on the same stage, presumably as they won't appeal to as many visitors. The app didn't seem to update on the show timings though, so we missed out on that and on the day we were there it was not sure if the shows would go on. 

Some Lego Friends girls are also doing meets at Heartlake City, every hour. App shows these times. There were other character meets available too around the park. There was a cordon in front of the characters, and a social distancing spot marker, so children can stand for a photo opportunity but won't be able to go close. 


meeting nijago character

meeting lego friends girls

lego friends girl sculpture

kids with lego friends sculptures

petting mias horse legoland


Our experience and feelings about the day

Overall, despite everything, we had a nice day out. My seven year old sighed at one point: "I am happy", bless her. She is a big Lego fan. 

If we had health concerns, or were very anxious about social distancing, it would have been very uncomfortable experience, but I was already prepared for it to be busier than I'd like so it didn't come as a surprise. That said, the park has done probably as much as it can with the cleaning schedules and social distancing on rides and one-way systems. It is an unfortunate effect of the design of the park and human nature that social distancing is nigh on impossible at Legoland. 

We went during the heatwave so it was pretty unbearable at times, and our slot at the Drench Towers was probably the best part of the day. While the queues were long for some rides, we use the Legoland app to estimate where queues would be shortest - these were fairly accurate expect when a cleaning schedule put a stop to the ride. I knew there would be some closures, but I felt there was plenty of rides and things to see anyway. 

The only thing that left a sour taste in our mouth was when we queued to Monster House Party, and the ride broke down. Instead of telling people straight away, it took a long time for the staff to say what was the hold-up, and people were waiting in sweltering heat up to an hour in the end, when the wait time in the app was 20 minutes. The staff should communicate straight way ride breakages so people can choose to either wait or leave the queue. 

One amusement park visit a year is enough for me, so next time we will visit will be in 2021! If you are interested in visiting, why not have a look at my tips on how to get cheap tickets and do Legoland trip on a budget


Have you got any questions about Legoland this year? Or if you have already been, how did you find it 2020?


You might also like: How to do Legoland Windsor on a budget





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12 August 2020

Drive-in theatre: Reviewing the Dinosaur World Live 2020 experience

So this year social distancing is in, and theatre adapts - a drive-in theatre is one of these adaptations. I was invited to the press viewing of Dinosaur World Live this year and was intrigued to find out it was at the Drive-In London, a drive-in cinema but which now doubles up as a theatre stage. I was slightly concerned that the magic of live theatre could not be translated into a massive car parking lot with a screen but figured it would be worth a try. 

the drive in london entrance

the drive in london entry system

family selfie in the car


What was The Drive In theatre experience like?

So this year Dinosaur world Live is a drive-in experience - that means you drive up to the location, show your ticket and get directed to a parking slot. There are two levels to the tickets, premium (the first three rows) and standard (all the rest). 

The show is live, with puppetry. Depending on how far away you are from the stage, you will watch it either mostly on the screen or possibly at the stage. We arrived fairly late and had standard tickets, so were parked in the last rows. The parking lot was about half full, so we were in the middle of the parking lot. From here we could see the biggest dinosaur puppets live on stage, but the smaller puppets we had to watch on the screen. 

The sound come through on your car FM radio - you get a certain radio frequency to tune to to hear the live show. Worked well, and the sound was clear, even if our kids managed to annoyingly un-tune it mid-way through the show. 

You can order food, drinks and snacks to your car - you order these online and the attendant brings it to your car. There are toilets available too. 

Interestingly - you can attend The Drive In without a car! Buy the car-free bay ticket, and ride, bike or walk to the location. Either bring your own FM radio and seating, or you can hire a radio and camping chairs. 

Overall, the venue worked really well, and I'd quite like to go back for a cinema too!



dinosaur world live theatre on stage

dinosaur world live theatre stage in drive in london



What was the show like as a drive-in version?

I've previously reviewed the show last year, and overall enjoyed it. This year the show was the same as last years, with some updates to make it fit the drive-in theatre experience and watching it (mostly) on the screen and in your cars. 

As last year, I think the show is best for young kids, probably under nine years of age. Older than that will likely find the humour and the interaction a bit babyish. The show is not scary so it is suitable for young kids, and our two year old loved it. 

The puppets are amazing but this time you may have to rely a lot on the screen, rather than seeing them "in flesh" so to speak. The bigger dinosaurs are easily viewable from a distance, but the little ones not so if you are parked further away from the stage. This show is filmed and uses the screen very well, and there are added small facts about the dinosaurs on screen. 

The show is very interactive. Last year in theatre the actors encouraged kids to shout out - this time to honk car horns. It is good fun, even if very noisy and a bit chaotic with kids!

I do find that the show may have missed a bit of a trick by not having some of the smaller one-man dinosaurs "run" through the parked cars. You could easily leave a good path through the cars (as you are directed to bays rather than left to find your own) and then people at the back could see the puppetry at close too. And you could make it a fun part of the show, of an escapee dinosaur and announce that people must stay in their cars for safety. Well, who knows, maybe it was discounted for safety or practical reasons, but I do think it would add some extra to the show. 

Overall though, a fun show and kids loved it, and especially the last little surprise at the exit gates... 


dinosaur world live baby dinosaur

dinosaur world live actors

watching a baby dinosaur

dinosaur world live baby dinosaur


Tips for attending

  • Arrive early for best bays - up to 45 minutes earlier, and there is entertainment such as car karaoke and quizzes to keep you entertained until then.
  • When leaving, check which exits have a baby dinosaur! It may take a bit of time for them to make their appearance, but they provide good distraction while queueing to get out of the venue.
  • There are toilets available
  • There is also food, drinks and snacks available, and very easy as they are brought to your car!

So if you fancy a drive-in theatre experience, Dinosaur World Live is on at:

7-30August in London, The Drive In at Troubadour Meridian Water
20-21 August in Newcastle, Virgin Money Unity Arena

Costs £40 (standard) / £60 (premium) per car. 


Would you go to a drive in theatre yourself?


You might also like: Our day with the dinosaurs: Dinosaur World Live!


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7 August 2020

What was Kew Gardens like with corona restrictions?

Kew Gardens is a fantastic outdoors location to visit and right now, outdoors locations are probably the most appealing places to visit in London. After they opened I was keen to visit with my family but was wondering how it might be with all the coronavirus closures and restrictions. If you are planning to visit I hope this helps!

Last time I was at Kew Gardens was a few years back, when I took my then three year old daughter. I thought it was a fantastic place to take kids to and wrote a few tips on how to make the most of Kew Gardens with the young ones. 

This time we visited at the beginning of August when pretty much all attractions for kids were closed, and the only things outside the (of course stunning) green spaces were few of the eateries and the glass houses. That said, it was still a fun experience for the kids so I would not be worried about this aspect. Things do change, so before you go check the What's closed page, and also note that the Children's Garden (fantastic for kids) is due to reopen on 8th August, but you have to book a time slot (separate to your entry time slot) to enter the Children's Garden. 



rose garden at kew gardes

girl smelling roses


Tickets

You have to book a time slot to enter - this time slot is 45 minutes so 9AM to 9.45AM for example. My personal observations are that the morning time slots 9AM, and 10AM are the most popular, so if you need to arrive early, book well ahead of time. I haven't seen any discount tickets for Kew at this time, so unless you are a member or a corporate member expect to pay full prices for all tickets - a family ticket is £40. 

I heard quite a few people get concerned they might miss their slot as there was lots of queuing involved, but as long as you are queueing before your slot runs out you are fine, or so I was told by staff. 


Getting there / parking

You can get the public transport quite easily. That said, you might not want to currently. You can also drive and park at Kew Gardens, which is probably the more popular option right now with the concerns about public transport and corona. The parking costs £7 for the whole day.

If you are driving, and visiting Kew on the weekend note that the parking space gets filled up very quickly if it is a nice sunny summer day. We had the 11AM slot and arrived 11.20. By this time most of the Ferry Lane car park (post code TW9 3AF) was full and I doubt there were much if any spots left for 12M slots. At this point the Herbarium car park should act as an overflow car park. 

It took ages to park, and then to queue for parking tickets and then to queue to enter the park. I, and quite a few people were concerned we might miss our slot, but as long as you are queueing before your slot runs out you are fine. Try not to make it too fine though. 

What was there

We visited in the beginning of August and unfortunately quite a few exhibitions were closed. Glass houses were open, and of course all the major outdoors areas were open. Hive was open but the Tree Top Walkway was closed. I also saw a note somewhere saying that due to closures earlier in the year some of the flowers and greenery were not looking their best, but to be honest, they were still gorgeous. 

We spent many hours and there was plenty to see so the visit was still worth it. 

Two shops were open although I didn't fancy queuing for either of them. There were also two outdoors restaurants - burger / hot dog stand at Orangery and pizza at Victoria Plaza. Both locations also had a cafe and outdoor vans, for sandwiches and drinks, coffee and ice cream. 


Kew palace

kew palace queens garden

kew palace pagoda

kew palace garden

kew palace garden corridor



Social distancing at Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens is massive so it is fairly easy to socially distance. The difficult points were the usual - in the queues to get the parking and to enter social distancing no one seemed to socially distance and it was quite annoying. 

Inside the park, in some pinch points it was a bit tricky and some people often forgot to socially distance - namely on some narrower paths and roads, in glass houses, and in shops/cafes. Mostly though I felt there was plenty of space to socially distance, and if you are very concerned, try to stay away from the most populous areas which I call the "high street" of Kew Gardens - the strip between Orangery and Victoria Plaza. As you can see from my images, there were a lot of people around - we visited on a sunny and warm Sunday. 

Coronavirus measures

There were plenty of hand sanitiser stations around - at the entrance and exit at all glass houses and bathrooms, near restaurants and cafes and if I remember correctly, at the entry and exit gates too. 

Bathrooms had an attendant outside enforcing that not too many people would enter the building at once. Bathrooms were tidy and clean, and it was a very busy day. I wish that in the bathrooms the hand blowers would be disabled and only hand towels would be provided. 

There were marking on the floor reminding people to keep their 2 meter distance when queuing, for food or to enter shops, and also to wear a mask where needed. Picnic tables were well spaced apart. 

There were one way systems in place too in all indoor locations and glass houses. 

Glass houses also had an attendant ensuring not too many people would enter the glass house at one time. This led to queues outside. Unfortunately inside at times it was difficult to socially distance as some might walk faster than others, and others would stop for photo opportunities, and there was only one route to take. 

mum and kids at great board walk

family walking at kew gardens

little girl at the hive

Looking at the Hive at Kew Gardens

the hive opening at kew gardens





Suitability for kids

Unfortunately every exhibition aimed at kids was closed when we visited. Thankfully the Children's Garden is now reopening on 8th August but you have to book a time slot to visit the area

That said, I think it was still a great time for the kids. Mine are two and seven. The two year old doesn't really care too much where it is, as long as she can run around, and the seven year old found some of the plants and glass houses very interesting, and enjoyed climbing trees. Both also very much enjoyed The Hive. They also enjoyed Kew Palace grounds and pretending to be princesses even if the palace was still closed. 

So all in all, a very nice day out as long as you appreciate that many of the indoors exhibitions are still closed, and most things dedicated for kids are also closed. Coronavirus measures were very reassuring and well done, and social distancing certainly feasible, although people didn't do it very well in queues and in glass houses and on some paths. 


Have you visited Kew Gardens in 2020 and what did you think?

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