29 November 2012

Trip Review: Wookey Ho Ho Hole

Those with young children know that picking a good place to visit Santa is crucial.....you want magic, fun, plenty of artificial snow and a huge helping of stuffed animated animals to help make that meeting with the big red man himself all that more special and memorable.
So if like me you do the usual internet trawl for suitable venues....then go have a gander at the MoneySupermarket website. They now have their very own MoneySupermarket Days Out Discounts and it was there where we found Wookey Hole Santaland.
Wookey Hole is one of those places we have passed multiple times but have just never ventured into. Wookey Hole is based just a couple of miles away from Wells in Somerset and is a series of caves based in the tiny little village of Wookey Hole
(yes it is an actual place!!).
Santaland is billed as one of the largest and best in the West plus the tickets are only £12 per person which includes entry to Santaland, a present for each child and full access to all other attractions and caves......absolute bargain!!!

Tickets arrived fairly quickly and included a nice little touch in the shape of a personal invitation letter for each child from Santa....making the trip that little bit more special.

Wookey Hole santa lettter
The Journey
 The journey to Wookey Hole can only be best described as a magical mystery tour...it wasn't that easy to find...and wasn't helped by our sat nav directing us into the middle of a housing estate...'you have reached your destination'......er no i don't think we have. Anyway we finally got back on track...and after several very dodgy country lanes in the back of beyond we arrived in the lovely little village of Wookey Hole. The village itself has shops, a pub, restaurants and right next door to the attraction itself is Wookey's very own hotel....perfect for making a weekend of it!!

Arrival to the Park
 Wookey Hole santaland visit

 Entry was quick and easy with the plus point of nice warm cafe opposite...(yep it was raining already). Its the perfect pitstop to check out the park map and plan your day plus it had the added bonus of lockers which were great for storing bags/lunches/toys etc  allowing you walk the park with less baggage and pop back as and when you needed them.

Visit to Santa 
Wookey Hole santaland visit

 So after a quick warm up we were off to our first port of call which was our visit to Santa. When you book your tickets you pick a time slot which helps combat the 'endless queueing hell'. Entry is through a courtyard where you are greeted by real reindeer and their best mate ...a rather random goat!!

You are then met by a series of elf helpers that guide you on your way as you enter through the magic xmas walkway. The area is choc full of animals, polar bears, huskies, snow scenes and lights and is the perfect start to your Santa trip.

Wookey Hole Santaland

Wookey Hole Santaland
 So on through a curtain and there he is.....sleeping santa snoring loudly...the boys just stood there for a while unsure if to wake him....so with a helpful 'nudge' from mummy, santa awoke from his slumber. He then proceeded to chat with the boys for quite some time and with the aid of his very large pen compiled a xmas list with both of them. A photo is then taken (of which you can purchase outside, but you can take your own) and then Santa waved us goodbye..........'er hold on a moment' i thought, weren't the boys meant to get a present!!!  A quick chat with the staff and a revisit to Santa ('he's getting old don't you know' was the excuse) the boys were finally given their gifts and sent happily on their way.....phew... tears thankfully avoided!!

The rest of the Park
 Now we couldn't really come all this way without a visit to its famous caves. The caves are situated just a short walk from the main park....and tours are scheduled throughout the day (just check times to get on one). The tour was made all that more amusing by the fact that Mr Bean's was leading it (well sounded like him that's for sure)

Wookey Hole caves

He told us mysterious tales about the witch of Wookey Hole, caves dwellers, bones of ice age animals, the many chambers and the cave wildlife. There's also the creepy story of the remains of an old woman and her crystal ball being found...believed to be the so called witch.......with those very same bones being displayed in the parks own museum. In addition to all the spooky history the caves are also used to mature Wookey's very own cheese of which you can buy in the park shop (which may i add tastes amazing)

The caves as you can imagine are pretty dark in some places but its mainly on the bits that you walk through....the chambers themselves are lit by dramatic coloured lighting which makes them look stunning and alot less spooky for the younger ones on the tour. The only negative for me down there is your told not to use flash photography....(but i did sneak the odd few in...(I won't tell if you won't!!)

After the cave tour you exit right into the dinosaur park which is both pretty and dramatic with the fast flowing water from the caves and the enormous dinosaurs dotted around the park.....this area provides multiple photo opportunities which stunning backdrops and fun areas for the kids to interact with.

Wookey Hole Dinosaur park

Wookey Hole dinosaur park

Wookey Hole cat
Meet the Wookey Hole Cat

So finally after getting pretty wet and cold outdoors it was onto the indoor attractions.....the majority are a nod to the olden days with penny arcades, old merry go rounds, a clown museum (which if your freaked out by clowns you should perhaps avoid....there's loads of them in there), various indoor play areas, a handmade paper mill, circus curiosities and the rather fabulous and ridiculously confusing mirror maze which the boys loved and in turn provided us with some amazing photos.

Wookey Hole Circus curiosities
Wookey Hole Circus curiosities
Wookey Hole mirror maze

Wookey Hole mirror maze
 And if all that wasn't enough for you, you can also take your kids to watch Wookey's own Circus show. The show is mostly performed by the children who attend the Wookey Hole Circus skills school. Now i had to hold my hands up and admit when i saw that the majority of the show was made up of children i did think that it was going to be a little bit crap......well how wrong was i....these kids did tricks, flips, juggling, aerobics and from start to finish my 2 boys absolutely loved it..plus Lewis even got a picture with
the famous Wookey Witch herself!!

Wookey Hole Circus show

On better weather days the park has plenty of outdoor seating which is perfect for a packed lunch..for those that prefer to eat in they have 2 food places on site....a large Restaurant and also a more casual food place which is based right next door to the indoor play areas.( and the one we ate in). Food is fine, fairly sizable portions plus there is plenty of choice on offer for the kids. Both of these are also centrally located to all attractions.

Tips for the Trip
Now as we went end of November, you can imagine the weather was pretty awful.Wookey Hole is a mix of both indoor and outdoor attractions including the caves. If your thinking of taking a visit to Wookey i would suggest the following:
Decent shoes/boots/wellies with good grips as the caves can be very wet
Warm and waterproof coats and plenty of layers.
Hoods or hats as the caves drip quite a bit.

And the verdict is.......
We loved Wookey Hole, bad weather and everything. Its what id class as a simple family fun attraction....no huge rides, video games or high tech stuff.....Wookey Hole takes you back to basics..steeped with history, yet full of stuff that will keep your kids amused all day. I had both a 6 year old and 12 old year in tow and i must admit was a bit aprehensive that the eldest would get bored quickly....but he didn't...he loved it all...the circus show, mirror maze, penny arcade.......who needs an Xbox!!

The £12 entrance fee is fantastic value for what you get plus if you look on the Family Days Out section on the Moneysupermarket website there's several vouchers currently available that include free kids tickets and reductions on hotel stays.

Another great thing about Wookey is its not one of those attractions where you end up having to fork out loads of money for additional things once inside...id say only the Penny arcade, shops and restaurant.....apart from that everything else is included.

So there you have it...Wookey Hole & Santaland is a great pick for a festive day out, and with all other attractions included its unbeatable value as well!!
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