All the world is made of Faith and Trust and Pixie Dust
When was the last time you roared with laughter till your cheeks hurt or were transported back to a time when you spent hours creating, playing and having fun in a scene plucked straight from your wildest imagination? When did you last set yourself loose in the great outdoors, free to roam and explore perhaps a rugged and wild countryside with child-like wonder?
Is it too early to start talking about Christmas holidays ❄️ 🌲 ✨ ?
Ahhh, the art of family travel over Christmas – coordinating family visits and Festive traditions while balancing activities to suit everyones’ age, interests and patience levels. There really is no shortage of educational, unique and fun adventures to enjoy in the UK, the trick, we have learnt, is not to try to do it all in one visit!
Here are 3 experiences which our whole family enjoyed (including my Mum) and our children still reminisce about today. Boy, were our suitcases relieved when the Grandparents embraced our ‘Less Stuff/More Experiences’ ethos and organised e-tickets to these family friendly activities.
If there was ever any inklings of doubt that giving the gift of an ‘experience’ rather than ‘stuff’ was perhaps the wrong choice, they were squashed within approximately 10 minutes of The Stage coming to life with this year’s Pantomime, complete with it’s colourful Cinderella characters. For a novice Pantomime guest, it is understandable to assume a seven year old boy would not be so wrapped to be handed a ticket to see a Cinderella stage show. However, those in-the-know, appreciate a Pantomime isn’t just any performance. He was hooked somewhere between the two ugly step sisters (who were of course men dressed as ladies), the first audience interaction of “OH NO HE DIDN’T!”, or Gok Wan gracing the stage as The Fairy ‘Gok’ Mother.
Long term Pantomime devotees are also aware the Plymouth Theatre Royal isn’t just a regular venue for producing long standing Christmas productions. The Theatre Royal in Plymouth was opened in 1982 and entertains over 350,000 guests every year. Lovers of the popular drama ‘Neighbours’ will recognise Aussie actors who have graced it’s stage such as Jason Donovan in the Rocky Horror Show and Craig McLachlan in White Christmas.
Pantomime website It’s Behind You writes:-
“The Theatre Royal has become one of the largest and best attended regional producing theatres in Britain and the leading promoter of theatre in the South West of England.”
Being entertained by Dames and attending annual Pantomime’s during the Festive season, is a strong tradition in our family. One which began for my Mum as a child growing up in England, has continued for my Sister and I when we lived in the UK and now firmly loved by the third generation – my children.
Need a second opinion on just how much fun an English ‘Panto’ is – read here about how an expectant Mother, not only roared with laughter till her checks hurt during ‘Cinderella’, she went into labour that very same day.
If you have any energy left after the show, wander across the road and have a look at the Christmas Lights in and around the Plymouth City Centre. Enjoy a ride or two, grab some dinner at one of the food stalls or enjoy a warm mulled wine – you and the children will love it!
As you head out of Plymouth, on the A386 towards Tavistock, you will drive through the Dartmoor National Park. It is here we were reminded how the best experiences are often the ones which do not come with a price tag…
The gorgeously fluffy and ever so cute Dartmoor ponies were waiting for us, eagerly searching for treats I expect, as we pulled into the parking lot. So even before we managed to get out of our car, it happened that our fun adventure roaming the Moors of Dartmoor had already begun. The children arrived buzzing, filled with the anticipation of exploring the rugged open spaces. Their imagination was instantly running on overload as they discovered badger tunnels, fox poo and secret holes disappearing into the overgrown hedges, filled with mystery and intrigue. It was as though we had been transported into the pages of our very own Enid Blyton novel, in fact, you almost felt as though Brer Rabbit was going to pop out from behind the gorse bush at any minute and whisk us off on an adventure.
Archaeology digs have traced that ponies have lived on Dartmoor for 3,500 years. These iconic ponies are not truly wild, in fact they are owned by farmers in the area who have the rights to graze their animals on the commons. They are not only part of the cultural heritage of Dartmoor, but also play an important role in conservation grazing. It is estimated that back in 1950 up to 30,000 ponies wandered the Moor whereas today, there are fewer than 1,500.
We certainly had no trouble finding small herds during our visit and, as we aimlessly roamed the countryside, we came across an abandoned ‘Leat’ (a man-made water channel), which was used to transport and distribute water from it’s natural course. This provided the perfect ‘path’ to follow and, as we snaked through the moors, we were spoilt with magnificent view across the valley, holly trees (yes trees) ladened with berries, grand oak trees and many other details I would’ve missed if it wasn’t for my Mum being there reminiscing of her English childhood. We were even caught in the rain, which was a highlight not a hinderance, for this desert dwelling expat family.
The unique feature of a world dedicated to Lego, is the ability to close generation gaps the second a family enters through the front gate. You are welcomed into a world where possibilities are endless and imagination is given permission to soar. Lego – loved by children the world over, often cursed by Parents regularly tripping over and stepping on pieces left scattered all over the house. No chance of that happening at Legoland Windsor as everything is made big, bold and with brilliant attention to detail.
Start your Legoland Windsor visit onboard the Bricksmas Express Train and set off to the heart of all the Christmas action. December at Legoland is ‘Bricktacular’. Paths are lined with pine trees which are sprinkled with ‘snow’ and sparkling with lights. Christmas trees feature on every corner and the Legoland Team are over flowing with Festive cheer. Your ticket includes a complimentary beverage and a visit with Father Christmas who has a special gift for all the children. We didn’t get to meet Father Christmas during our visit however, the vouchers were honoured at the ticket office and our children left with their free gift of a generous sized box of Lego.
While there are many activities based around traditional building, role playing and creating, there are also fun rides for all age groups, playground, interactive performances, life-size figures galore, food outlets and let’s not forget Lego Gift Shops which stock absolutely everything Lego that you could possibly imagine. Then there is the Legoland Star Wars Miniland Model Display where we lost our biggest-of-all-kids for hours…
Fun Fact thanks to the Legoland Website:
It took almost 8,000 man hours and over 1.5 million bricks to create the 1,500 models in the LEGO® Star Wars™ Miniland Model Display.
Legoland might not have every ride opened during the Christmas period and, to be honest, we were so grateful they weren’t. The rides and entertainment which were operational were more than enough to entertain our three and seven year old during our day trip and left us contented and happily exhausted.
A great way to finish your day is by heading up the road to Royal Windsor. Here you can enjoy wandering the markets in the main street, admire the towns Festive decorations and enjoy the warm atmosphere and hospitality of a Traditional English Pub. You might even be lucky enough to see the light show on the Castle walls. Ahhh…
By introducing our children to the concept of ‘experiences’ over ‘stuff’ we hope to instil a lifetime of inner happiness and contentment, while encouraging them to consider the environmental impact of their choices. In return they are reminding us of the value of fun, inspiring us with their imagination and working on increasing our laughing lines as a method of exercise and positive wellbeing practices – Keeping It Real 😃!
Now, time to take a look at that bucket list for this year’s Christmas holiday…anyone planning to set off anywhere special?