Parenting is a fab job, albeit one filled with sleep deprivation, constant nagging and of course the unwitting dilemma of planning ‘a great family day out’. It should be easy, but all too often perfectly laid plans give way to tiresome journeys, claims of boredom, and the ability of children to eat an entire day’s food supply all before you’ve even left your street.
So for my latest headache – I mean ‘heralded time-together family day’ – we searched for something that would not only appease the attention span of a whirlwind toddler, but would also eliminate the boredom of a nine year old; and as if that wasn’t enough, not feel like a day out to hell for two slightly ragged parents. Easier said than done? Well actually, and relievingly, no!
The answer to my parental prayers came in the guise of a trip to Paultons Park – a true family-orientated park, offering more than 60 rides and attractions, set in 140 acres of parkland on the edge of the New Forest National Park.
Now admittedly, Paultons appeared on our horizon as it is home to Peppa Pig World, and possibly everyone with a toddler will have been bombarded with that “dun, dun, dun, dun, daaah, dun dun dun dun dun daaaaaah”, theme tune. With claims that Peppa Pig is her MOST favourite thing EVER in the WORLD, it seemed like an obvious choice, especially with the added bonus of free entry for my little Peppa enthusiast as all children under one metre are admitted free of charge.
But I was a little skeptical – would it really be an ultimate toddler-friendly place? And what about my nine year old? Is there enough for her too? Resoundingly, yes! A fact backed up (tellingly!) by the readers of Netmums, Which? and Mumsnet who have all voted Paultons Park the number one UK theme park for families.
Even visiting on the busiest day of the week, it was literally a minutes until we were through the ticket barriers and, having downloaded the Paultons Park app in advance (thoroughly recommended for day planning) heading straight to Peppa Pig World.
Ears ringing with catchy theme tunes, eyes wide in wonderment and gaping mouths giving way to full-on happy smiles (and that was just us parents), we had arrived! Our toddler was transfixed, shouts of “Peppa”, “Mummy Pig”, “George”, and “Mr Dinosaur – grrr” filled the air and even my nine year old was full of smiles as we headed off on our Peppa adventure.
We flew on Miss Rabbit’s Helicopter, drove Daddy Pig’s Car, sailed on Grandpa Pig’s Boat and went on his little train, rode on Mr Dinosaur, went up in Peppa’s Balloon, and soared to the top of Windy Castle, all of which offered complete toddler-friendly fun, with queues aided by sneak peaks of familiar characters and views of the next attraction.
Slightly worn out, it was time for a pit stop where we took full advantage of the abundance of food and drink options available to rest and refuel before taking in the rest of the park. Heading next to Critter Creek, after some mini beasts exploring in Beastie Burrow, toddler and dad headed for the calmer train journey of Professor Blast’s Expedition Express whilst mummy and nine year old stepped up to Cat-o-pillar roller coaster.
A walk around the central gardens and aviaries finally led to nap time, and with toddler in the pushchair we raced ahead to Paultons newest attraction: the Lost Kingdom – a new dinosaur theme park world that is set within four acres of Jurassic landscape and home to a host of dinosaur themed rides including world-class family roller coasters including Flight of the Pterosaur – a foot swinger, 395m suspended coaster (where cries from the nine year old of “I’m gonna dieeee” were replaced with “that was amazing can we go agaiiiinnnnnnn”); and Velociraptor – a 200m coaster that drops 20m and sweeps around bends at 40mph!
And the best bit? Paultons offers ‘Tot Swap’ at the bigger rides, whereby the majority of your party queue up and enjoy the ride, and request a ‘Tot Swap’ ticket at the exit, hand this to the rest of your group (no more than two) and they can go straight in at the exit and straight on the ride – genius!
Even now a few weeks on (which is a lifetime when you are two!) my daughter tells anyone who will listen about how great it was at Peppa Pig World – and that for me is the best recommendation of them all.