Safe and Affordable Days Out For The Summer Hols

The English School holidays are just around the corner, with my boy Joe breaking up in just over a week’s time. I personally love the six weeks holiday, a chance to get to spend some real quality time with my boy, but have to admit that it can be a really expensive time. Theme parks, the cinema and general days out do not come cheaply, and has you have six weeks to fill, you may find that you bank balance looks decidedly unhealthy at the end of it. Fortunately, there are some activities and places that you can visit that won’t break the bank.

Visit your local park and playground

All kids love to spend time in a children’s playground, and if it one that has climbing frames, activity trails and outdoor exercise equipment, so much the better. A lot of money has been spent on council run, local parks, and many now have a great range of activities that you can use or free. We love to use both Cannock Park and Brunswick Park in Wednesbury which have activity panels, a great range of swings and slides, and also have soft surfaces  and fantastic playground solutions that can make those little playground accidents a little less dangerous. Another great option in the Midlands is the beautiful Baggeridge Country Park, which is full of natural beauty, with large lakes that you can fish for newts and tadpoles, great walks and a lovely playground.

Go Swimming

There are some amazing pools that have slides and lazy rivers, splash pools and larger pools for serious swimming, but these can be expensive. However, you can also use your local pools and have just as much fun. Take your rubber ring, your beach ball and your floats to a local leisure centre, many of them offer free swimming for children, and some will even have special days with inflatables, so you need to grab yourself a timetable. Leisure Centres also offer other activities including free tennis lessons. (You can find out more about the free sessions here.)

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Find a free town trail

Taking your children into town during the holidays can fill parents with dread. Expensive trips around the shops are not ideal when you are trying to stick to a budget, but there are other ways to fill your time in town centres, There are a lot of town trails going on this summer, not least the Wolves in Wolves trail, where you collect your map and search for the 30, beautifully painted wolves that will be on display around the city of Wolverhampton. (1000×751)

Dinosaurs in the Wild – a trip back in time at The NEC

Last night I traveled back 67million years in time to Time Base 67, a groundbreaking research facility that is finding out all that needs to be known about the Cretaceous period, and the dinosaurs that roamed and ruled the world. No, I haven’t gone mad, I’m talking, of course, about ‘Dinosaurs in the Wild’ a groundbreaking mixture of show, theme park and hands on experience that will open at the Birmingham NEC this weekend, and is sure to be the hit of the Summer with both adults and children alike.

Dinosaurs in the Wild is an experience that is so real you could almost believe you have traveled back in time. A mixture of CGI effects, animatronics and real life actors playing the part of scientists, lab workers and tour guides, you are taken through lots of different stages relating to dinosaurs, from a lab where you can examine dino dung for teeth and bone fragments, to a dinosaur autopsy which is funny rather than too gruesome. You meet dinosaurs who are nocturnal, farting and snoring whilst they sleep, and see dinosaur eggs being looked after prior to hatching, even meeting a newborn pterodactyl.


The whole attraction is well thought out, and there are so many things to see, which is why, even at 70 minutes long, you could still go back and keep noticing things.  The attraction works well at suspension of belief, with safety films telling you to be careful at windows (if you can see a dinosaur it can certainly see you etc, etc), and even the 3d glasses are described as radiation glasses, with a warning you must put them on immediately when told. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the piece de resistance, the viewing platform where you see the dinosaurs in their natural environment. It is very lifelike and doesn’t shy away from the true reality of nature, a rather cute baby triceratops being eaten shocked me, although the kids in attendance didn’t seem to mind so much.

I don’t want to give too much away, but Dinosaurs in the Wild is very, very good, a definite must visit for the upcoming school holidays.

With Nina Wadia from Eastenders and The Kumars

With Donna Air

Dinosaurs in the Wild, Hall 2, Birmingham NEC

24th June – 23rd August

Click here for more information and tickets.


Check out the Birmingham Hollywood Bowl – Fun for all the family

On Sunday we went to check out one of the new Hollywood Bowl, based in Rubery, Birmingham. I often visit the Hollywood Bowl at Bentley Bridge in Wolverhampton, but the Rubery branch is bigger, better and far more glamorous, with an American style Diner, an adults only Snooker/pool area, and special VIP booths from where drinks and food can be ordered and served while you enjoy a game of bowling. We had the most wonderful time, proving that when the weather is dismal, bowling is good, clean fun for the whole family.

The Hollywood Bowl, as the name would suggest, has an American Idols theme running throughout. The walls, both inside and out, are emblazoned with the faces of the Hollywood legends, Marilyn and Elvis and Audrey are all there in monochrome glory. Once you enter the bowl, you are transferred to a kid’s paradise, with arcade games, grabbing machines and photo booths instantly grabbing the attention. This works well if you turn up a little early, or are waiting for members of your party – there are no dull or boring moments at the Hollywood Bowl.

Checking in for the bowling is very simple. You simply have to give the names of your party so that they can be imputed into your lane. You can also request the barriers for younger players who may need a little help. As long as you are wearing flat shoes, there is no need to change into the dreaded bowling shoes – unless you want to of course!

We were lucky enough to enjoy using the VIP lane. This has leather sofa’s and a table for drinks, the option to order drinks and food to your lane, and the plush velvet curtains that make this feel special. This is a great idea for a birthday party or a special treat.

There are a good selection of bowling balls of different weights and finger holes for each lane. The barriers will come up immediately for individual players if they have been requested, and there are also stands to help children to bowl easier. To be perfectly honest, I needed all those things myself as I proved to be pretty awful at bowling, although being too vain to wear the shoes and bowling in a heeled boot probably didn’t help matters…

Joe and Monty with a couple of the bowling balls

I can pose nicely with the ball…shame I throw rather than roll.

Paul and Julia – naturals!

The staff are brilliant, they are attentive without getting in the way, and add to the general fun atmosphere by handing out stickers to those who got a strike, and the eventual winner (Well done Paul!). They also took our food order, although we opted to eat in the diner rather than the booth.

Paul was our winner – bit of a kingpin!

After bowling, the diner is a great place to enjoy a milkshake, a light bite or a full meal. The menu is  full of American classics, loaded nachos, all kinds of burgers and hot dogs, a range of fries and delectable deserts. We ordered a range of food, including the enormous Kingpin burger which resembles a ‘Man V Food’ style challenge. Our food was delicious, piping hot, delivered promptly, with decent sized portions and very tasty options. You can check out the full menu here.

A party area is available too.

Food Options

Loaded Nachos

Popcorn Chicken

Chicken burger

Kingpin burger

We had a fabulous time at the Hollywood Bowl, and would definitely recommend it as a way to spend a fun filled few hour.

Hollywood Bowl, Birmingham

Address: Birmingham Great Park, Park Way, Rednal, Rubery, Birmingham B45 9PL