To the Edinburgh Festival (hence radio silence on the blog front for the last few weeks),...read more
Peppa Pig rules the roost at this Southampton attraction but there’s plenty more for the whole family
It’s all about the letter P at Paultons – Peppa Pig, pterodactyls and Pampers.
For any working dad who wants to share parenting equally taking the kids for a day out in the summer holidays is important. But they don’t want to face stereotype threat when they get there – being made to feel like they are odd or out of place. That’s why the mark of a proper family attraction is not just the rides, food and all that sort of thing, it’s providing sufficient facilities where a dad can change his child’s nappy.
And Paultons passed with flying colours.
I’ve no idea if there’s changing tables in the ladies toilets (I didn’t go in there to check) but there was lots of separate and gender neutral changing areas. Which, apart from the message it sends about whose job it is to look after the children’s needs, is just nicer than hanging out in the loos for longer than necessary.
Oh and there’s lots of far more fun and interesting stuff there too!
I have actually been to Paultons, near Southampton, before. In my past journalistic life I was invited to the opening of Peppa Pig World which makes up part of the park. On the press day a few years ago we spotted newsreader Natasha Kaplinsky and Sonia off Eastenders enjoying the freebie.
This time round the only star in town was Peppa Pig herself. A giant statue of her atop one of the rides in her gentle theme park drew toddlers towards her like something out of a science fiction movie or an Aztec cult.
Peppa Pig World is the most popular part of the park. Like any theme park, when it’s busy it’s a bit of pain having to queue up for the rides. But it’s worth it. The rides such as Miss Rabbit’s Helicopter Flight and George’s Dinosaur Adventure are gentle but not boring for small children.
I’ve published my thoughts on Daddy Pig elsewhere – suffice to say I don’t think he’s a model working dad. But of course if you take your kids to Peppa Pig World it’s an opportunity to talk to them about what he represents and perhaps point out that just because he can’t work a washing machine doesn’t mean that’s true of all fathers.
For bigger kids there’s more exciting rides to suit all levels of adventurousness.
My children were very keen on the Caterpillar rollercoaster. It was exciting, but by no means terrifying. Ideal for children too old for the Peppa Pig World rides but not quite ready for the more grown up attractions.
The log flume felt a bit old school. But we still had smiles on our faces (and broadly dry clothes) as we disembarked.
The big hit of the day with my 11-year-old was the Flight of the Pterosaur (they were called pterodactyls in my day, turns out there’s a lively debate about exactly what the difference is). This is one of those rollercoasters where your feet dangle free and it really does feel like you’re flying and swooping over the park. Well worth queuing up for.
On the topic of queues there’s a Paulton’s app that updates wait times for each ride that would be invaluable to any dad looking to keep the kids from getting fractious during a visit.
The only ride we had to queue for was the Dinosaur Tour Company, a gentle jeep ride past some models of dinosaurs with the occasional one squirting water at you. Fine for little kids, boring for grown ups.
Much more fun was the 4D cinema. The film about a fish learning to look after the oceans was almost unbearable cheesy. But it got its message across to a willing audience of children who are engaged in the Blue Planet agenda. And the surprises – it’s 4D so be prepared for water, bubbles and, er, octopuses under the seats – were fun without being scary for small kids.
Key to a good family day out as any dad knows is making sure the kids don’t get hungry. The food at Paulton’s is overpriced of course, but not extortionate. And the main cafe that we visited was very well set up – some thought had gone into managing the flow of customers and food and that makes a huge difference. There’s also no shortage of nice spots for a picnic if you want to bring your own which would be my recommendation. Save your pennies for the waffles and doughnuts at the snack bars which are not just tasty by theme park standards but by any standard.
Of course you exit through the gift shop. We got out without buying anything. Which says something about how satisfied the kids were by then or by the lack of choice in the shop – it was mainly larger soft toys and science sets or the standard pencils, rubbers, etc – or by how hardcore my parenting is.
Paulton’s ain’t cheap. An advance ticket for a family of three is £89, for a family of four it’s £118. And it’s more if you pay on the day. (Full disclosure: I went courtesy of the park’s PR operation). Plus of course there’s likely to be the cost of petrol to get there.
But, much like the food in the cafe, while it seems expensive, it’s not outlandish when compared to similar such places. There’s easily a very full day’s worth of entertainment and a good range of rides from high adrenaline to very gentle to suit all tastes and allow for variation of pace across the day.
It’s the first summer attraction reviewed for workingdads.co.uk. We’ll try to fit in some more over the next few weeks. But it’ll take some beating.