Alton Towers and a Sleepover With Santa

I still remember the first time I went to Alton Towers. I was about nine and it was shortly after the hotel first opened so I was lucky enough to stay there overnight as well as visit the theme park. I remember thinking that it seemed like a very magical kind of place. It went beyond the iconic rides set in the stunning surroundings - it was more about the attention to detail and finishing touches like the theme tune playing in the lifts and the treasure map in our pirate themed bedroom that led me to some chocolates underneath my pillow.

Now, as I visit as an adult with my own small person in tow, I still sense that same sort of magic. It's just such a cool place. So I thought I'd write a post and share some pictures of our stay there last weekend. NB: this isn't a sponsored post or anything like that (pffft, I wish!) I just wanted to write about our experience and record some precious, Christmassy memories.

We booked the Santa's Sleepover package. This is the second year that we've done this particular break and I think that it's a great deal - not only did we get an overnight stay in the Splash Landings Hotel (with access to the amazing waterpark) and our meals included, but we also got to visit CBeebies Land, meet Santa in his grotto and see a pantomime too. Jack loved it and if I'm honest, us grown ups did too!

If you've never been, Splash Landings is a kind of calypso/Caribbean themed hotel. There are beachcomber bedrooms, some sort of pirate shanty esq tune in the lifts (did I mention that I appreciate elevator music?!) and an obligatory giant deckchair. Obvs.

Best of all though, is the humongous water park at the heart of the hotel that has some amazing rides and interactive features. Jack got so emotionally attached to one particular slide that he refused to go on anything else and Carl seemed to enjoy clambering high upon the giant structures in order to pump water into buckets then dump them on some poor, unsuspecting sod below. I wasn't able to get any pictures inside the water park but I think you can see a small section here in this picture of Jack gazing wistfully at it from the hotel.

And of course no trip to Alton Towers is complete without going on some rides. The majority of the park was shut due to the time of year but all we really cared about was CBeebies Land. Jack had an amazing time in Charlie and Lola's house.

Driving Postman Pat's van.

Going on a tree-top adventure.

Going 'surprisingly fast for a kids ride' (my words, not his) on the new Octonauts rollercoaster.

And visiting some fish in the sealife centre in Mutiny Bay (genuinely never realised there was a sealife centre at Alton Towers - this place has everything!) Just before this, Carl miraculously won an Ironman soft toy in one of the grabby machines and Jack loved showing him the fish, sharks and seahorses.

We even got to meet Iggle Piggle and Upsy Daisy. I got a cuddle from Iggle Piggle but Jack wasn't too sure...they do say you should never meet your heroes.

Later that day we got to meet Santa in his woodland grotto. We've visited a few Santa's now but this one was as close to the real deal as I imagine it's possible to get. Of course Jack went all coy and would only reply to his questions in words of one syllable (except when asked what he'd like for Christmas to which he replied with "all of the presents") but I think he enjoyed it deep down - despite his wet weekend face on the picture. He was given some reindeer food and a beautiful teddy and it was just one of those lovely (slightly weepy) moments that I really hope he'll remember in years to come.

That night we had a carvery Christmas dinner which was yummy (even though Jack was getting tired and borderline feral by this point) and then it was time for his first ever panto - Cinderella! With singing, dancing and some naughtily named ugly sisters - Kendall and Kylie, lolz - it was everything we'd hoped for and also...mercifully short as we were all utterly zonked by this point. So, we retired to our bunk beds (via the bar) and I ended up with a double all to myself, huzzah!

I'd 100% recommend the Santa's Sleepover package. I know Alton Towers hasn't had good press this year (rightly so) but our experiences have always been positive and Jack loved every minute. When it came to check-out time and the lady asked if he'd had a nice time he replied with "wonderful!" which I think sums the weekend up well.

Have you visited Splash Landings or CBeebies Land before? What were your thoughts?

A Comprehensive Account of the Crap My Toddler Watches on Youtube

It's no secret that Youtube is where it's at these days. From Zoella to StampyLongHead (?!?!) and a plethora of lovely mummy Vloggers, loads people are making actual careers from the video-sharing website and several million more are watching them.

Back in my yoof, I relied on Youtube for all sorts of valuable life skills such as teaching myself Soulja Boi's Crank Dat routine and nearly blinding myself by trying to watch beauty tutorials and perfect that elusive cat's eye flick at the same time (OK, that might have happened last week).

These days, however, my toddler is the main Youtuber in our house and (**DISCLAIMER ALERT**) while I do monitor screen time, I still seem to hear the chiming of 'daddy finger daddy finger, where are you?' in my dreams most nights. These are some of the most soul destroying things that he likes to watch on Youtube. Which ones are you all too familiar with?

The opening of eggs
If you're a parent then you'll know. You'll just know. And if you don't know then you truly are blessed. Because whenever I try and explain to my childless friends about the Youtube phenomenon of kids watching the perfectly manicured hands of an American lady with a slightly robotic voice opening chocolate/plastic eggs to reveal a toy inside OVER AND OVER AGAIN, they look at me blankly as if to say...'really, this is what parenting is about?' Nobody gets it. I don't get it. But Jack is obsessed with it. Why?!

ChuChu TV is one of Jack's favourite channels. With its garish animations of children/animals singing well known songs and nursery rhymes in an otherworldy accent, it seemed innocent enough at first. But then one day he discovered Johny and his dead-eyed sisters. Jack adores singing along with the little sugar fiend and his freakish family. Personally I find them all terrifying. What do you think?

Spanish Peppa Pig
Turns out there is something more annoying that the original Peppa Pig blaring out of an iPad at 5am. Pass me a bacon butty, Manuel. 

Play Doh Reviews
I don't think many toddlers watch these videos and think 'Oh wow, that shade of magenta Play Doh will really compliment my existing set.' But the Play Doh experts (life goal right there) who demonstrate the toys on these videos really get into it and make some pretty awesome creations. So out of all the crap Jack watches on Youtube, this is the one that makes me want to claw out my own eyeballs least. 

Duke Pup
OK, so Duke Pup is technically an app rather than a Youtube star but I can't not mention him. The mischievous, animated dog repeats everything you say thus causing no end of arguments in our house. This is because Jack argues with Duke Pup. Which technically means he is arguing with himself. I've lost count of the times I've had to endure debates of 'you trumped first / you trumped first' or 'no she's MY mummy / no she's MY mummy' that can last several minutes. Pass me the gin.

Other children playing with toys
Have you met Ryan? No, neither have we but you'd think he was a close personal friend the way Jack bangs on about him. This three year old has over 670,000 subscriptions on Youtube just for reviewing toys! But how am I supposed to break it to Jack that the chances of Ryan 'coming to our house to share his toys' are slim to none?

What Youtube sensations do your little ones irritate you with regularly?