Places To Go, Things To Do

February Half Term 2019 – Castles

I’m never quite sure if it’s totally worth my while to pull together these lists of stuff to do and if anyone actually reads them but I’ve started so I’ll finish.

February half term doesn’t have the relentless Halloween theme of October. This collection isn’t everything you can do but just a few ideas. I’ve not been paid by any of these places to promote them. Some are in the Vale, some are a short drive or a public transport trip away. First up, castles.

CASTLES

One of my kids had to do a picture of a castle for his school Eisteddfod entry this year. (First year in a while that a homemade papier mache dragon wasn’t added to the collection on atop our bookcase.) So many to chose from! Did you know that there are more castles per square mile in Wales than anywhere else in Europe?! Here are a few for February exploring:

Castell Coch

It’s a Victorian folly that you might recognise from the old telly version of The Worst Witch. If you download the Cadw app and the Digital Trails section you can use it to hunt fairies with augmented reality tech.

Adult £6.90, family £20, kids £4.10

Caerphilly

Head a bit further down the A470 and get yourself to Caerphilly to check out the biggest castle in Wales. This medieval castle is a great day out with impressive dragons.

Adult £8.50, family £24.60, kids £5.10

Cardiff Castle

Bang in the capita city, the castle gives you the chance to explore 2000 years of history. From the Roman fort to the tunnels that Cardiffians used for shelter during World War II.

Adult £13, family £38, kids £9.25, under 5s free. Costs extra for the house tour. If you live or work in Cardiff, apply for the Castle Key for free entry.

A large dragon's head with Caerphilly Castle in the background
Caerphilly Castle’s dragons
Tim Peake's spacesuit and helmet on display at National Museum Cardiff. the light bounces off the top of the glass helmet and the dark background make it look like it's in space.
Places To Go, Things To Do

Tim Peake’s Spacecraft lands in Cardiff

I don’t think I’ve ever felt such a buzz in National Museum Cardiff as we experienced at  Tim Peake’s Spacecraft Family Day last weekend and we go there pretty frequently. It was alive with people of all ages getting excited about space.

Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama held a lunchtime concert featuring the Star Wars theme. Live music accompanied visitors journeying through the Evolution of Wales. Dizzy Pineapple glittered the faces of children at their stall. Cardiff Astronomic Society helped children and grown-ups to use their telescopes and share their passion. Did you know their observatory is in the Vale of Glamorgan’s very own National Trust site Dyffryn Gardens?

The most thrilling part of our whistle stop tour was seeing Tim Peake’s actual real life capsule that he hurtled back to Earth in FROM ACTUAL SPACE complete with genuine scorch marks. Looking like the result of a giant conker, a submarine and a bell merging in a mad science experiment,  the Soyuz capsule is accompanied by its colossal draped parachute.  Tim Peake’s spacesuit is on display too and the whole thing totally grabbed our imaginations. It’s free! You can see this for no pennies. There are space themed activities you can have a go at and you can step into a spacesuit for those essential selfies and boomerangs.

The Soyuz space capsule in whichTim Peake hurtled back to Earth from the ISS. Looking like a cubmarine crossed with a conker, this bell shaped capsule has a small circular window and scorch marks.
Tim Peake’s Soyuz Capsule

We zoomed through on the opening weekend partly because we were going to the Wales v Tonga match that day at the Principality Stadium but also because we have every intention of heading back another time or two to delve deeper into the exhibition and mooch more slowly on a quieter day.

There’s a Virtual Reality experience for teens and up as part of the exhibition which costs £6 per person and is narrated by the main man himself, Tim Peake. This VR adventure takes you on a 250 mile journey from the International Space Station back to Earth in a Soyuz capsule just like the one on display.

The exhibition is in Cardiff until 10th February 2019. It’s part of a national tour presented by Samsung and the Science Museum Group so make space in your diary to see it before it launches elsewhere.

For full details, head to the museum’s website: https://museum.wales/cardiff/whatson/10260/Tim-Peakes-Spacecraft/

Places To Go, Things To Do

Cardiff’s Winter Wonderland 2018

We haven’t been to Cardiff’s Winter Wonderland for a few years, partly because my husband is Buzz Killington when it comes to ice skating, partly because of the cost and partly because it’s one of those things I mean to do but just don’t get around to and then all of a sudden it’s February and I’ve missed it. Full disclosure, we had food, drink and ride tokens in return for a review. #ad and all that.

A few things have changed since we last went. The bar is two storeys high so not as rammed as I remember, the biggest ride has changed and the ice skating is now undercover, probably for the best in the rainiest city* in the UK.

winter wonderland sur la piste

It did drizzle while we were there but it didn’t dampen our spirits. You can take food bought at the stands into the bar so we ate and drank in the dry. Sur La Piste (see what they did there?!) was going for that après ski, wooden chalet vibe complete with stag antler paraphernalia and a rainbow of faux furs on the roomy booths. Word to the wise: if you want a mulled wine or mulled cider you’ve got to use the downstairs bar.  We were at the upstairs bar so I panic ordered a Rekorderlig.

Unsurprisingly, the food isn’t super cheap at £5 for a bratwurst in a hot dog bun and £3.50 for chips but it’s filling and cheaper than buying the family a meal in a pub or restaurant. Kids meals (chicken nuggets, chips and a fruity drink) were also a fiver each. The sauces were squeezed from an udder contraption which tickled my stepdaughter. Make sure you use the right condiment though, unlike the poor little kid we saw who made the school boy error of dousing his chippies in chilli ketchup. Service was a little slow but it was the first night so I’m sure they’ll get into a rhythm.

winter wonderland bratwurst

As we first approached Winter Wonderland (we parked on road near the museum but it’s easy to reach on public transport from the Vale, just get off the train at Cathays or Queen Street and walk) we were greeted by the screams of grown men calling for their mothers. Festive. We had the heebie jeebies just watching the source of the squeals, the 90M Tower, a new attraction this year that replaces the Big Wheel**. I damn near wet myself with terror on ferris wheels so this 90 meter high thriller was not for me. We hit a few of the tamer rides instead. I say “we” but I watched and waved whilst sipping my mulled wine.

The Ice Skater ride was one of those spinning ones that I vowed never to go on again after being forced onto a similar one at Barry Island. The kids (ages 12, 10 and 6) loved it. It’s exciting, fast and covered in bright lights. The Fun House is awesome. It’s massive, took ages to get around and is only 2 tokens per person. Think classic fairground cake walks and Danny and Sandy at the end of Grease. For smaller children, the reindeer ride was gloriously Christmassy, blasting passengers with fake snow.

winter wonderland ride

We didn’t ice skate last night, saving that for another time with friends while Buzz Killington holds the bags. As I told the kids, we can’t do everything every time. Winter Wonderland has the potential to be one of those experiences with kids where they turn into brats asking for all the treats, more rides, more drinks, those maddening flashy light things. It works best for us to tell them exactly what we’re doing and not doing. So “we’re only ice skating tonight, don’t ask about the rides” or “you can have a drink, pick one ride each and we’ll share some churros”. Ah yes, the churros. Big hit and good for sharing. £6 for 6 churros and dipping sauce.

Skating sessions on the Admiral Ice Rink are 1 hour including time to put on your skates so get there 15 minutes before your slot. No under 3s on the ice, kids under 7 need an adult. The penguin things are £5 to hire per session. Group bookings give you a bit of a discount (buy 10, get 1 free etc). It’s cheaper if you pre book and the off peak prices start at £7 for kids or £27 for a family of 4 (Christmas Eve and NYE are the most expensive. Obvs). This year they’re also holding several Relaxed Access Sessions with lowered lighting, sound and number of skaters which is worth looking into if someone in your family has an autism spectrum condition or sensory sensitivity. Full details on cardiffswinterwonderland.com, call 029 2009 9087 or email info@ice-skate.co.uk.

winter wonderland skating

If Cardiff’s Winter Wonderland is the kind of thing you’d usually put off until the Christmas holidays, give it a go on a random November midweek night. It’ll be less crowded, you’ll get a better deal on skating and it means you’re spreading out the treats. Cardiff’s Winter Wonderland and Admiral Ice Rink are there in front of City Hall and the museum*** until 6th January 2019.

* true story. http://www.freeflush.co.uk says so and they’re rainwater harvesting experts using Met Office data

** It is tradition while watching the biggest scariest ride for Buzz to retell his tale of his mate Simon who had one too many purple ciders before being spun meters in the air above Winter Wonderland and sprayed the crowd with his purple vomit.

*** Tim Peake’s actual spacecraft is at the National Museum until 10th February. We’re mega excited. The exhibition launch day is this Saturday 17th November 11am-4pm and is free. Not connected with Winter Wonderland but it’s right next door so you could combine the two in one visit to Cardiff. Be warned: the 17th November will be very busy in Cardiff, especially on public transport as it’s Wales v Tonga at the Principality Stadium.

Places To Go, Things To Do

Mwah Ha Halloween Half Term

October half term is here and no doubt there’ll be a glut of Halloween related activities on offer. I’m not a massive Halloween fan. There, I’ve said it. Why can’t we just carve a pumpkin, dunk some apples and wear a sheet to be a ghost? What’s all this decorating the house faff about?

What’s jumping out at me so far:

Memo Arts Centre, Barry

One Man Shoe Monday 29th October (2pm) £7 / £24 for 4

A family show with puppetry, slapstick and magic. My youngest currently wants to be a ventriloquist when he grows up so it sounds right up his street.

The Little Mix Experience Thursday 1st November (6.30pm) £13.50

This Little Mix tribute act were incredibly popular last time they were in town.

Dyffryn Gardens

Lots of activities on offer here and it is a lovely day out.

Autumn Apprentice Trail Saturday 27th October – 4th November (10am-3pm) entrance fee but event is free

Whack on your wellies and join in with five tasks like raking up piles of autumn leaves.

Pumpkin Carving Saturday 27th October – 31st October (11am-3pm) £4 per pumpkin plus the entrance fee

If you don’t fancy tackling this in your own kitchen, make the most of the stencils, carving sets and helpers at this event.

Make It Mondays Monday 29th October (12-3pm) entrance fee but event is free

Craft activities.

Cook on a Campfire Friday 2nd November (12-3pm) £2 plus entrance fee

As the name suggests, you get to cook on a campfire.

Amelia Trust Farm

Pumpkin Patch Trail Saturday 27th October – Sunday 4th November

Kids Crazy Headwear Monday 29th & Tuesday 30th October £5.50 per child, pre book on website

Mini Beasts & Pond Dipping at the Farm Saturday 3rd November £5.50 per child, pre book on website

Penarth Pier Pavilion

Snowcat Cinema: The Curse of the Wererabbit – scratch ‘n’ sniff experience. Wednesday 31st October (2pm-3.30pm) £7.50 / £6 concessions (50p extra if you buy on the door)

Watch this family film from the makers of Wallace and Gromit with a special scratch ‘n’ sniff card. Fancy dress is encouraged. No adverts so arrive for a 2pm start.

Mountain View Ranch

Halloween Daily Events Saturday 27th October – Sunday 4th November (11am & 1pm)

Room on the Broom read by the Ranch Witch (11am & 1pm)

Marshmallow Toasting at Creepy Creak (2pm-3.30pm)

Spooky Pumpkin Trail (all day)

All activities are included in the entrance fee of £23 for a family of 4 and £28 for a family of 5. Wrap up warm, take a flask and a picnic and have a lovely time. Dressing up is optional. Last time we went we bought delicious pizzas and hot chocolates in their café which I’d thoroughly recommend.

St Fagans National Museum of History

Halloween Nights Monday 29th – Wednesday 31st October (6pm-9pm) £15 adults, £8 children, under 2s free but recommended for ages 4+

I really want to go to his. Expect Halloween special effects display across the outdoor Museum, Creepy Craft workshops, wand making, ghost stories for children and adults, Halloween character walkabouts, live music, lantern parade (no naked flames), Burning of the Wickerman (!) and a Scare Zone for bigger frights with a 12+ age advisory! The timing makes this perfect for those of us working over half term with older kids.

 

Sadly, they’re not running their usual Halloween event at Hendrewennol Fruit Garden this year. No pumpkin picking for us.

Let me know what you think of any of these goings on if you get a chance to try them out.

Places To Go, Things To Do

A dozen eggs-ellent things to do in the Easter hols 2018 (part 2: the stuff that is Easter themed)

Easter trails, Easter egg hunts and Easter crafts are plentiful. Here are some egg-cellent places hosting their own Easter themed stuff:

  1. National Museum Cardiff
  2. Bute Park and Arboretum
  3. Dyffryn Gardens
  4. St Fagans Museum of Welsh Life
  5. Cardiff Castle
  6. Mountain View Ranch
  7. Amelia Trust Farm
  8. Cosmeston Lakes
  9. Porthkerry Park
  10. Techniquest
  11. Victoria Park, Cadoxton
  12. Barry Tourist Railway

 

1. St Fagans National Museum of History

 

St Fagans Easter Hunt 30th March – 2nd April (10am-3pm) £3.50 (age 4+)

Easter Holidays: Family Craft Activities 3rd – 6th and 9th – 13th April (12-4pm)

Always a favourite with us. If you’ve not checked out their new playground, go have a peak. Free to get in but £5 for parking and you have to pay for some of the extra activities. There’s so much to explore there. They’ve got some special Easter things going on. Animal Mask Making is £2 per child and Pop up wildlife scene making is free.

 

2. National Museum Cardiff

 

National Museum Cardiff Easter Hunt – 30th March – 2nd April (10am-3pm) £3.50 (age 4+)

Or as we call it “The Museum” is a go to free day out for us and my 6 year old’s favourite place in the world. He wants to be an archaeologist when he grows up so he might be biased. He’s also oddly obsessed with a guy who works in the gift shop who shares his name.

Wriggle! The wonderful world of worms – now – 3rd June – free

We’ve been to this a fair few times and it’s well worth checking out. As you’d expect there are lots of worm related things to do, see and explore. Perfect for curious kids.

Who decides? Now – 2nd September – free

This exhibition isn’t designed specifically for kids but it’s really family friendly. Expect weird and wonderful paintings, sculptures etc curated by people who have experienced homelessness in Wales. We filled out some bits of paper asking who picks what art we see and what art can do for the world. Big questions but great conversation starter with my kids. Plus it’s free.

 

3. Cardiff Castle

 

Easter Trail 30th March – 15th April £1 (on top of admission price)

http://www.cardiffcastle.com/whats-on/2018/03/30/easter-trail/

Easter Fun 31st March – 2nd April (included in admission price)

A weekend of traditional Easter japes including storytelling with Dylan Adams, egg rolling, The Warwick Warriors with their witty bants and dramatic fight sequences and egg and spoon races. http://www.cardiffcastle.com/whats-on/2018/03/31/easter-fun/

 

4. Bute Park and Arboretum           

Easter Egg Hunt 1st April (1pm-3pm) £2 age 3+

Egg-citing art and craft activities and an Easter egg hunt. Meet at the Bute Park Education Centre. http://bute-park.com/tribe_events/helfa-wyau-pasgeaster-egg-hunt-2/

Spring Stories 5th & 10th April (10.30am-12pm) free

http://bute-park.com/tribe_events/storiaur-gwanwynspring-stories/

If you don’t drive, this is a nice one to get to on the train or bus.

 

5. Dyffryn Gardens

 

Cadbury Easter Egg Hunt 30th March – 2nd April (11am-3.30pm) £3 and normal admission

Lovely National Trust place in the Vale with a massive mansion and 55 acres of gardens to explore. You have to pay to get in at £4.95 for children and £9.90 for adults (or slightly more with gift aid) and from £25 for a family. Or you could join the National Trust and really get your money’s worth by returning regularly and heading to other sites like Tredegar House in Newport. We had a really special day at Dyffryn Gardens in the Christmas holidays on the 12 Days of Christmas trail so I’m sure the Easter activities will be great. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/dyffryn-gardens

Plant Hunter Expedition 24th March – 15th April (during opening hours) free but normal admission price applies

 

6. Mountain View Ranch

Easter Fun at The Ranch Friday 30th March – Sunday 15th April (9.30am-5pm) last entry & café closes at 4pm.

Under 2s free, family of 4 £23, family of 5 £28 or £6 per person.

A fresh air fuelled family fun day out. On top of all the usual things to do at Mountain View Ranch there will also be a an Easter Egg Trail, Funny Goat Walks, Campfire & Marshmallows, Archery and the Gruffalo Trail. The High Ropes course will also be open but you’re advised to book in advance.

We’ve had some really lovely days out here.

 

7. Amelia Trust Farm

30th March- 15th April (10am-4pm) Entrance free for under 2s, children £1.50, £3 adults, £5 family. Tractor Rides £1, Lamb Feeding £5 per person, Easter Egg Eggstraveganza Hunt £2.50 each with pencil and prize)

Have a go at feeding the farm’s adorable baby lambs, take a ride on a tractor and cart and have a go at their Easter Egg Eggstraveganza Hunt with a prize at the end!

Lamb feeding is very popular so book ahead.

https://www.ameliatrust.org.uk/

 

8. Cosmeston Lakes

Easter Egg Trail 30th March-1st April (10am-3.30pm) £3 per person

Collect your map from reception, find the Easter egg posts and answer the 10 questions. Once you’ve completed the Easter egg trail return to check your answers and claim your bag of goodies. All kids need an adult with them. Obvs.

 

9. Porthkerry Park

Easter Egg Trail 30th March-1st April (10am-3.30pm) £3 per person

Pretty much the same as above but at Porthkerry!

Collect your map from the Golf Hut, find the Easter egg posts and answer the 10 questions. Once you’ve completed the Easter egg trail return to check your answers and claim your bag of goodies. All kids need an adult with them. Obvs.

 

10. Techniquest

Amazing Eggsperiments 28th March-15th April (10am-5pm)

Families £28, under 4s free, child £6.50, adult £8. (did you know there’s a special £3.30 price if you go in after 3pm?)

Who doesn’t love a bit of Techniquest? This Easter hols one of their Science Theatre Shows is dedicated to the egg.

How strong is an egg? Why do they turn solid when heated? Go and check out this eggsciting show created especially for Easter, full of science and bad yolks!

https://www.techniquest.org/events/amazing-eggsperiments-2-2018-03-28/

 

11. Victoria Park, Barry

Free Easter Family Fun Day Friday 30th March (11am-2pm)

There’ll be a colouring competition, cake decorating, face painting and lots more. Free Easter Egg for each child who takes part.

Children under 16 must be with an adult. Raffle tickets with a draw at 2pm and proceeds going to charity.

 

12. Barry Tourist Railway

Vintage Train Rides 30th March-2nd April (11.35am, 1.10pm, 2.10pm and 3.10pm)

£25 family of 2 adults & up to 3 children, under 3s are free. Adult £9.50, child £5.50.

Vintage Train Rides at Barry Island over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend. Friday 30th March-Monday 2nd April. Every child travelling on the vintage train gets a free Lindt chocolate Easter bunny or a soft toy. The military museum and café will be open too.

Barry Tourist Railway will be running a 40 minute out-and-back journey from Barry Island Station at 11.35am, 1.10pm, 2.10pm and 3.10pm each day including a guided tour of the railway depot where the vintage trains live. They’re dog friendly. No steam over Easter, but the diesel railcar’s lovely.

https://www.facebook.com/Barry-Tourist-Railway-196540117115590/?hc_ref=ARROoB-d8X0yET3RBFTGk9EntzbdBq6H6c-_jVJvUpQ2fsKkjVY1na9OV547IBjV8Lg&fref=nf

 

I know, I know it’s a lot to take in. It’s been a tad overwhelming just typing it all up.