So here’s the second part of our Staycation – Legoland. It’s almost a rite of passage for parents of toddlers! Our daughter has recently discovered duplo and was seriously excited at the thought of going to what she called ‘duplo land’.
We felt it would be over-ambitious to travel to and from Legoland in one day (from Alcester) so we booked a hotel (besides it was a holiday!!). I grew up near Windsor so I was fairly familiar with the options when it came to hotels. Ideally, I would have stayed in Windsor – within walking distance of restaurants etc but our trip coincided with Royal Ascot so this was a financial no go! Lots of people stay in the nearby Holiday Inn (in Slough) but there’s really nothing around it and it’s not the prettiest area. There is of course the Legoland hotel but this was ridiculously over priced. Friends have also stayed at Oakley Court and this is reported to be pretty child friendly (with children’s menus, child-sized dressing gowns and cookie and milk delivered to rooms before bed time). Again though, this was out of our price range on this occasion. After some deliberation we settled on the Crowne Plaza in Marlow. I went to school in Marlow and had grown up seeing the hotel being built etc. It’s a modern hotel with plenty of parking and easily assesible without being noisy. We were attracted by the swimming pool….we knew that after a day at Legoland this would be a welcome change.
The downside was that it’s not in walking distance of any restaurants. That said, nearby Marlow is delightful (I went to school there!). There’s a lovely selection of restaurants, cafes, and shops. There’s also a Waitrose and an M and S simply food (may be useful for picnic supplies!). Anyway, we decided to meet my sister for dinner in nearby Maidenhead….
Now, we’d not stayed in a hotel since having our daughter, so we were slightly worried about the sleeping arrangements (we were going to have to be in one room!). We opted for meeting up with my sister for an early dinner and then a family bedtime (which suited me at the tail end of my pregnancy!). It worked ok…she settled eventually once the excitement had past and we all slept well.
The hotel was incredibly welcoming to us all. I have to admit to being surprised by this….I haven’t come to expect it in the UK. Our daughter was left some chocolates in the room and there was ample room for us all (and her travel bed). The swimming pool had set family-friendly swimming times (although you could swim with children out of these times – or at least we did!). There was a lovely pool for the little ones as well as a larger pool suitable for everyone. If visiting on a warmer day there was a fab garden area accessible from the pool side. Breakfast was a complete delight. The staff were so friendly and won brownie points when they went out of their way to cook pancakes for our daughter! High chairs were available in the breakfast room – I didn’t expect this so was very pleasantly surprised! A great selection – something for everyone.
As for the reason for our trip – we left Alcester at 8.30 and arrived at the park just after 10.30am (in time for a morning snack). It’s worth booking the tickets online before you leave. Book 7 days (or more) before you go for the cheapest online rates. Its also worth looking out for the various offers that crop up (cadburys chocolate button packets! What better excuse do you need for eating a bag?!?). Given that I was 8 months pregnant we paid the extra for the priority parking (£12 vs. £6). It is literally on the door step of the park entrance – so worth it if you plan to pop back to the car during the day or if your little ones will struggle with the walk. We went during the school term so we didn’t pay for the queue jump (and we didn’t have to queue) but I guess it could be worth it on busier days (nothing worse than queuing with a little one!). We took our pram system but you could also hire wagons/trailers for children (for an additional cost – £12 for a double and £10 for a single ).
The restaurants are over-priced and pretty poor (or so we’ve heard from a number of friends). We packed a picnic and took this with us. There was a shortage of picnic benches but we eventually found a nice spot in Duplo Valley in the children’s play area.
During the summer months there is an incredible splash area in Duplo Valley – don’t do what we did and forget your child’s swim stuff….we ended up paying a fortune for a swim nappy and a towel! There were changing rooms availiable but you may have to wait.
There’s plenty to keep a toddler busy (as you’d expect!) – our favourites were – the model village, Duplo valley, the Atlantis submarine, the fire engines, balloon school…to name just a few. It’s worth noting that if you’re going when you’re pregnant you are slightly limited on which rides you can go on – there are restrictions in place (cue lots of time sitting on a bench whilst my husband and toddler were off exploring!).
At the end of an action-packed and fun-filled day I would recommend taking the train back up the hill to the obligatory shop!
We barely scratched the surface of what Legoland had to offer. We didn’t manage all the rides so a return trip is definitely needed. It’s definitely worth downloading the Legoland map before you leave. We also planned which rides we wanted to go on etc. It saved time on arrival.
Great day out enjoyed by all. We’ll certainly be back.