I'd never taken the kids to Xscape before, so I was interested to see what it was like for young children (bearing in mind my little ones are 3 years and 1.5 years). I invited their dad along to join us for the morning. He was yet to take them to see Santa, and I thought he would appreciate the experience (and I also was thinking that I'd need a spare pair of hands to keep on top of the two kiddies in such a busy complex). He is also of the opinion that we should spend time together with the children even though we are not a couple anymore, whereas I feel the opposite - more on this later!
Anyway, on with the review! Xscape is great in terms of its location - easy to get to from the motorway and we got parked with no issues (we visited on Sunday and arrived shortly after 9.30am).
This was my first time at Gambado, and I have to admit I wasn't overly impressed. I think perhaps this may be down to the ages of my little ones, as the soft play area was so spread out that I had to keep moving around to keep track of the location of them! No sitting around to enjoy my cup of tea!! We purchased some breakfast rolls from the cafe... the service was poor, the two rolls took 20 minutes to arrive and they managed to get the order wrong too. There were a lot of ride-on machines located in the centre which you had to pay for (cue shouts from son for 'more pennies please') and I found my two spent more time climbing on these than in the actual soft play sections.
On a positive note however, the go-karts were great fun (no extra fee was needed either) and my 3 year old had a blast on the blue motorbike, and he did have a couple of shots on the massive slide which he also loved!! I particularly liked the sensory area and the role play area with dressing up clothes, kitchen etc.
I wouldn't be comfortable taking the kids there on my own, I would definitely need an extra pair of hands for assistance! I'm sure though that the soft play would be great for parents of slightly older children that are a bit more independent. My son did proclaim that it was the best soft play ever!
Trying out the arcade games!
On the go-karts!!
After Gambado, we rushed along to the Snow Factor to be met by Santa's elves. There was an area set-up in Bar Varia where we could colour pictures of Santa and write our letters to him whilst waiting for our turn. We didn't wait long before being taken then onto the slopes to Santa's grotto. We had a family photograph taken with Santa (slightly awkward!) and then I sledged with my son back down to the centre with our gift stockings in tow! I think the Santa at Eden Mill was better (less rushed) but this experience was made more special by the fact that we were on the snow (& I secretly loved the sledging part afterwards!).
Checking out the snowman on the way to the grotto.
Sledging after our Santa visit!!! (hopefully this works ok - my first video on my blog!!)
We then had half an hour or so to wait before lunch was served at the Bar Varia cafe. The staff were great though and brought us over colouring sheets and crayons to keep the kids amused. As soon as it got a bit nearer midday, our waitress came over to take our order (without me having to ask her, which was fab - very impressed with the staff) and our food arrived really promptly. I ordered a chicken burger with chorizo, and it was yum.
No relaxing lunch for me then!!
Overall, we had a lovely morning and although I may not take the kids back to Gambado until they're a bit older, I would certainly go back to the Bar Varia cafe and check out all the other activities that are available at Xscape (bowling, cinema etc).
That afternoon I was kiddie-free and I left the kids to spend the rest of their Sunday at their dad's house. Thankfully my daughter was asleep, but I had to leave my son screaming for me not to go. I'm of the opinion that by spending time with their dad I'm just confusing them and that we should be doing activities like this separately. I don't understand why he seems to think it's better for us to do things as a 'family'. Yes, when they are older and understand the situation we might be able to do things together, but for the moment I think it's a bad idea. Having to leave a screaming child has just reinforced this. When we have a swift business-like changeover there are not normally that many tears and/or tantrums.
What are your thoughts, and have you checked out the activities on offer at Xscape?