Away with the Kids visited Leicester February 2017, during our half term school holiday, and enjoyed a short break staying at the Hilton Leicester with a Stay Play and Explore ticket.
The combination of days out activities with a stay at a 4-star hotel complete with indoor swimming pool meant that the kids never had a dull moment.
As a family we do love spending time together, yet it is sometimes a difficult task keeping our three kids, whose ages vary between 9 and 16, amused on a UK family break. However, we were delighted with the Stay, Play and Explore ticket - even when the weather decided to throw Storm Doris at us, it did not dampen the fun as we could switch plans easily to an indoor activity.
Our aim was to mix getting up close with nature with some educational activities and a big dollop of fun and thrill-seeking. A tick list perhaps normally hard to achieve, but with a choice of 3 out of 10 attractions and days out places on offer our short deliberating resulted in an itinerary with planned visits to the National Space Museum, Twycross Zoo and Swadlincote Ski Centre.
So, on a very blustery day, we were glad of an afternoon spent indoors at our first stop, The National Space Museum. When we arrived at 1.30 we were booked in to see the UK’s largest 360° planetarium for the last show at 3.30, not realising that during the week the attraction shuts at 4pm. For the next two hours, we crammed as much as possible in - from broadcasting our own weather forecast in the Weather Pod, performing tasks as trainee astronauts, climbing up the iconic Rocket Tower and crawling in the cramped confines of a launch pod to successfully launch off into space! The highlight of the trip was certainly Sir Patrick Moore’s Planetarium which can induce travel sickness if you’re prone to it. Immersed in a full dome cinema experience, it had us completely fascinated and hooked on how we are all made from the stars. The narration of how the universe began, how stars are formed, die and re-born, was for us a brilliant explanation of this complex and fascinating subject.
The hotel we were booked into was the 4 star Hilton Leicester. Easy to find it is just 3 miles from the city centre close to the M1. Ashley on reception soon checked us in and engaged with all three kids in comical conversation. He was fabulous as was all the staff who looked after us. Our room was a spacious family room with 2 double beds and a futon, which meant all 5 of us could sleep comfortably. We quickly dumped our bags and dashed off to have a swim before tea in the 18m indoor pool. Kids were happy to splash around and hubby was happy to pelt up and down in the marked off lanes for the keen swimmers. I was more than happy to dip my toe in and have a sauna. The gymnasium looked well equipped but I had forgotten my trainers. Afterwards we decided to venture out and happily discovered Fosse Park, a large shopping centre was almost next door and the Meridian Leisure Centre a nearby complex with a bowling alley, cinema and many restaurants to choose from. For an alternative stay we would be happy to suggest the The Hinckley Island Hotel.
Following a restful night’s sleep the kids were keen to sample the wares on offer for breakfast and were not disappointed. Between us we managed to try the full cooked English breakfast, with delicious thick cut bacon and scrumptious scrambled egg, a healthier granola option with Greek-style yoghurt mixed with a tasty cherry sauce and finally my youngest kids went loopy for a freshly made waffle topped off with all the things that you know are loaded in calories but taste so good. With a hearty breakfast inside we were ready for our next day’s adventures.
On the second day of our family break we visited Twycross Zoo with blue skies and a spring in our step. On the way in we noticed the large indoor play centre housed in the same building as the restaurant - if the weather did decide to change there was always a back-up for little ones (an extra cost is charged).
The Zoo is across 80 acres, so not so large that you get overwhelmed by everything. Known primarily for its large variety of primates, there are also giraffes, elephants, leopards, meerkats, giant turtles and penguins. We were a bit disappointed with the lemur walk through, a secure enclosure where you are be able to get up close to the animals - except there was not one in sight. We loved the Gibbon enclosure where you could watch the personalities of the monkeys all day. The children also enjoyed the informative penguin feed time which was very informative though the staff member had microphone troubles as it kept cutting out.
We enjoyed a light bite in the Himalaya Centre that overlooks the snow leopard enclosure, very private animals and clearly avoiding the crowds that day. It was busy in the restaurant but there was a lot of staff and our food did not take too long to be served. We were amazed by the leaf cutter ants located behind the sinks at the toilets. The sizes of the leaves they carry compared to their body weight just shows what a power house they are. For an alternative restaurant, there is a fish and chip shop within the zoo’s grounds.
Our final part of our family mini break involved a visit to Swadlincote Ski Centre. This part we had to pre-book as it involved an instructor. We arrived early but luckily could go straight on to the toboggan rides. On our ticket, we were allowed two rides per person. You sit on the toboggan and get pulled to the top of the hill where you get released and go hurtling along a 500m circuit down the hill. There is a hand brake but it felt more thrilling to see how fast we could go around the circuit. I was slightly concerned that we were not strapped in but apparently gravity keeps you in place. Of course, it is all over too fast and two gos just doesn’t feel enough, however we still had the sno-tubing to come.
Sno-tubing involves large inflatable rings that you sit in before being hurled down the hill by the instructor. It was great fun. The only downside for me is once at the bottom you must drag yourself and your tube back up again without any help of a ski lift or similar aid. After about 5 trips I was exhausted and our half hour was up. Our favourite slide was one where all 5 of us were hooked together in a big circle and careered down the hill with speed.
The Stay Play Explore Family short break was an enjoyable 2 days away and we all gave it a big thumbs up. For £149 a ticket for a family of 2 adults and 2 children we thought it was very reasonable. The price of the ticket means families can visit any 3 of 10 listed attractions and enjoy overnight accommodation including breakfast at a choice of 4-star family friendly hotels.
If you are a family of 5 you can buy one additional child ticket for £20. Please note overnight car parking at our hotel was charged at £6 a night. For further information on a fun family break with a Stay Play Explore ticket please click here - http://www.stayplayexplore.co.uk/home.aspx
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