Way back at the start of August, we met with some friends from swimming classes, they have a daughter who is a year older than middle child and a son the same age as smallest child.
We decided that if the weather was good we would visit an indoor play centre in Garston called Gambados, we figured if the weather was good it wouldn't be too crowded, and we were spot on.
At first I thought the entrance cost was ridiculously high. To start with you have to pay a £5 registration per family, this is a one off cost though. Then each child has to be paid for and adults are charged at £2.50. This took the total of the visit for me and the 2 smaller children to around the £25 mark!
As you walk through the front door you are greeted by a loud noise - this could be a hen clucking or a baby laughing! Then you are taking up to the main entrance on an escalator with the sweet scent (some could say sickly) of bubblegum! at the top there is another gadget with noise making buttons for the children to press.
once the paperwork and payments are sorted the children (and adults) are released into a fasmantagical (OK its not a word, but don't you think it should be?!) world of wonder. Inside there are bumper cars (children under a certain height can not go on alone, what a shame I had to ride with the demon smallest child!), stationery bicycles which, when cycled fast enough, light up a string of lights on the ceiling. There is a climbing wall (supervised) a soft play area with wavy slide. A soft ball shooting range, a musical area. Giant chalk boards, a sensory room and a dance stage.
A separate room has been supplied for adults, with glass walls so you can see your lovely offspring having fun, inside is a TV, comfy chairs, WiFi for your laptop, or Internet enabled PC's for you to use and magazines and newspapers to keep you occupied.
and on a hot day we were grateful for the air conditioning.
However not very grateful for the completely ruined socks, children have to wear socks but as there are folks walking around in shoes the floor is 'invisibly filthy' and as a result the socks were black by the end of the day.
I have to admit the one thing letting them down is their coffee shop - 'yum yums' - the tea was insipid, the coffee tasted like the kettle needed descaling and, at 12.30, the children's lunch box section was not filled. But we did have lovely jacket potatoes, but again we were lucky we got the last 2. A strange thing to happen at lunchtime!
so was it VFM? My experience was yes, although buying lunch there bumped the price up by another £15! the cost of entry is 'supposed' to be for 2.5 hours, but we were in there for 6 hours! and the children still did not want to leave. It was quiet when we went, but if it had been busy and we were on a timed entry I would have smarted a bit at £25 for 2.5 hours, but I guess its relative to your expectations. The children did not have to queue too long for the climbing wall or the bumper cars, which is always a good thing!
Would we go again? yes but only using one of the many offers available (check their website) or by buying an annual ticket which works out at around £2 per visit if you go weekly. Something we may well think of investing in when my bursary comes through, alongside the annual Whipsnade passes we already have.
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