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Saturday, 27 December 2014

A Coastal Walk with Fish n Chips

It seems like we have been cooped up inside generally eating, drinking and being merry forever now and some fresh air was long overdue. The children received new scooters for Christmas and were dying to try them out so decided to wrap up and head to the coast with our family dog this morning.


My favourite walk with the kids when they have their bikes or scooters is along the seafront from Whitley Bay, past the Rendezvous cafe and towards St Marys Lighthouse. The path is smooth and wide for the children to ride on. There are plenty of places to stop for a sit down (or to tie shoelaces) and you can grab a coffee from Links Art Gallery or Rendezvous Cafe. Our family Springer Spaniel loves that he can walk along on the sand beside us too.


There were plenty of families and dog walkers along the coast today and it was lovely to bump into an old friend as we scooted along. We were out for about 40 minutes before everyone started moaning they were too cold so headed back to the car.



I love this walk and every time we do it I say we should make an effort and do it more often.

After our walk we headed to one of our favourite local pubs - The Hastings Arms where we all ordered fish n chips (or cod bites and chips) to warm us up. You can use your tastecard if you pre-book and the prices are very reasonable anyway. All food is homemade and freshly cooked to order so we didn't mind when there was a little bit of a wait. It was delicious as always.



I think a walk along the beach followed by fish n chips could definitely become a new Christmas holiday tradition - we had a lovely time and despite the cold, it was good to get out.



Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall
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My New Years resolutions

The end of December is always a time for reflection and setting new goals for the year ahead. I've been thinking about the new year quite a bit and have decided on three resolutions:-

1 - Teach myself to take better photographs

I am already a much better photographer than I was a year or so ago but I still have a LONG way to go. Most of my photographs are taken on an automatic setting - I would love to learn more about these settings, about lighting and to start and get to grips with using my camera in manual mode. With this is mind I have ordered a copy of Nikon D3200 for Dummies and a lovely new camera bag so I can take my camera out and about more often than I do now. I'll try and document my progress on my blog so look out for future photography posts.


2 - Lead a healthier lifestyle

I don't need anyone to tell me I drink too much and eat too much of the wrong sort of foods. I am also about 4 stone heavier than what I was before I fell pregnant with Jack in 2009 and would love to lose some of this. Weight loss won't be my main focus though, we will be focusing on being healthier and weight loss will hopefully follow.

2015 WILL be the year we get healthier. We have done it before so know we can do it. No gimmicks or quick-fixes. The only thing that has ever worked for us and lasts is eating more of the right sorts of food and being more active. I probably won't write too much about my progress on my blog but you can watch my progress over on twitter and facebook.

This pic is when I was probably at my healthiest in my adult life - it's Heidi's 1st birthday and I was in the early stages of pregnancy with Jack (April 2010)


3. Work on 3pm-6pm being less stressful

Both myself and hubby struggle with 3pm-6pm and I'm not sure why. This is the point in the day our tiredness probably peaks and there is just so much to squeeze in - pick up kids from school, read with them all individually, practice spellings, complete homework, make tea, baths, bedtime routine......

It is definitely the most stressful part of our day and we are both guilty of being snappier than we should which then leads me to feel terrible as it is the only 3 hours we get with our children together! 

The plan is to turn off all social media and tv between 3-6pm. Set up and follow a proper homework, spellings and reading schedule, get the kids involved with cooking tea more often than we do (and maybe allow them to start helping with the dishes!), let them play on their computer's only after 5pm and continue with our Friday night fun nights where all homework is barred. We usually watch movies or go out for dinner on a Friday but the kids received lots of craft and science kits for Christmas that we will use this time to use some of them.


So, they are our resolutions for 2015. What do you think? I'd love to hear yours.





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Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Our Christmas Eve 2014

I blogged about Christmas Eve 2013 last year so thought it would be nice to keep up the tradition and blog about this year too (plus I have to do something whilst I'm waiting for the kiddies to fall asleep!). Christmas Eve is without doubt one of my favourite times of the year. It's just so magical! In some ways, I think it's even more magical than Christmas day itself.


An early morning trip to Marks and Spencer

We are hosting Christmas dinner for the first time this year and the last thing I wanted was for hubby to be stuck in the kitchen all day. We decided to pre-order everything from M&S - they do all of the prep for you and I know it will taste delicious. I booked a 7:30am pick up slot as I did not fancy fighting for a car park space if I left it any later. We had ordered rib of beef as part of our order however there was a mix up and it hadn't been delivered to store :-( However full credit to M&S as I was given two large topside of beef joints and only charged £55 for my order instead of £120. Bargain! So our M&S Festive menu is as follows:-

*Roast Turkey
*Topside of Beef
*Stuffing and Pigs in Blankets
*Honey Roast Parsnips
*Sprouts with Crispy Bacon
*Carrots
*Roast Potatoes
*Turkey Gravy
*Cranberry Sauce

We've bought enough to serve 10 people - such a bargain for £55!

Food Glorious Food

Our children didn't wake up until after 9am, we started the day with coffee and bacon sandwiches for the grown ups and juice and cereal for the children. For lunch, I made some of my homemade sausage rolls and then just before bed we made some pretty special hot chocolates. Yum! Steve always cooks us a special evening meal on Christmas Eve at about 9pm - tonight we are having rack of lamb with homemade roasties. Absolutely cannot wait! We always have a nice bottle of champagne on Christmas Eve too and it is chilling in the fridge now as I type.


Film-fest

Steve has worked the last few Christmas Eve's so when we found out he would be at home this year we decided to just stay at home and chill together for the day. We've watched a total of three movies today - Horrid Henry the movie, Wallace and Gromit the curse of the were-rabbit and Santa Claus the movie. I think Wallace and Gromit was probably our favourite and we now can't wait to watch the new Shaun the Sheep movie next year.


Christmas Eve traditions

Elf on the shelf left the children some new PJ's, some chocolate sprouts (much to their amusement) and a Christmas bathbomb from Lush! After their bath's we read 'T'was the night before Christmas' and went outside to scatter our reindeer food along our path. We timed it perfectly and spotted Santa's Sleigh (also known as the international space station) shooting across the sky. This was a truly magical moment. All of our children were jumping up and down and pointing saying they could see Santa's sleigh. Such a special moment - especially as our semi-believer Harry got carried away with it all too. Before the children went to bed we left a slice of homemade Christmas cake and a glass of milk by the fire for Santa Claus and a carrot for Rudolph.




Christmas Eve for grown ups

I suspect tonight may be a looooooong night. Our children are very late sleepers and sometimes don't fall asleep until after 10pm (and that's on a normal night). Santa Claus may be visiting our house in the early hours of the morning!

To keep us entertained we have bought the new Frank Skinner DVD and I have been busying myself laying the table for tomorrow. 




Happy Christmas Eve everyone! I hope your children fall asleep at a reasonable hour and you all manage a good night's sleep before the big day tomorrow.








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Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Beauty and the Beast at the Whitley Bay Playhouse

I have always loved the idea of going to see the panto in a big group with friends and family. My youngest son's birthday falls a few days before Christmas and this year he would be turning four so it seemed like the perfect time to try and start the tradition. I chose Whitley Bay playhouse as our venue because it is easy to get to and has plentiful free parking. In the end, I managed to get a group of 26 together and we pre-booked our tickets months in advance. Booking in advance enabled us to get really good seats just a few rows from the front. Booking in a group of 20+ also allowed us to secure tickets at just £14.50 each and we didn't have to pay any booking fees.


The cast is filled with stars and includes former Emmerdale star Roxanne Pallett, Jeremy Edwards of Hollyoaks and Holby City fame and the welcome return of pantomime favourite Steve Walls. We all took our seats and couldn't wait for curtain up.

Jack's Aunty and Cousin waiting for the show to start

The first 20 minutes of the show was more like a stand up routine which was used to introduce the variety of characters to the audience - I have to say I was starting to worry a little at this point as some of the jokes did fall a little flat........


However once the tale of Beauty and the Beast started to be told, we relaxed into our seats and had an absolutely fantastic evening. The show had something for everyone. The music was modern and the older children in our group loved singing along to their favourite songs and watching the fantastic dance moves on stage. My 5 year old daughter (and the mums in the group) were swept away by the romance of the story and we all enjoyed singing along to old favourites from the film such as 'Be our Guest' and 'Beauty and the Beast'. We were pleased that the candlestick and teapot were included too and it was magical watching them being brought to life on stage.


Jeremy Edwards was superb playing the part of a pompous and arrogant Gaston who is followed around the stage by a group of adoring ladies. He cannot understand why Belle would not fall for his obviously handsome looks and takes every opportunity to flash his guns and try to impress. His character allows for a lot of innuendo which for me, I would expect from a panto and most of it goes over the children's head. Good fun for the grown ups but it may not be to everybody's taste. Gaston definitely reminded me of a certain type of man who can be found frequenting the bars of Newcastle and trying his luck with the ladies and I found him highly amusing.


Our younger children's favourite part of the show was definitely the classic 'he's behind you' moment. Watching them all on their feet screaming at the top of their voices really made my night - it is just lovely watching them all having so much fun.

What was a surprise during this show was the quality of the singing voices. Roxanne Pallett sang beautifully as Belle (I forgot that she'd previously won Celebrity Stars in their eyes and appeared on Soapstar Superstar). She sang an impressive number from Frozen which was a stand out scene for me.


The Beast also had a fantastic voice and his performance of 'Stay with me' by Sam Smith was also one of my favourite scenes - the performance really made me feel sad for the beast and it reminded me a little of The Phantom of the Opera. It has to be said the beast was a little scary when he first appeared on stage surrounded by smoke as he was disturbed by Belle's father. He did tone his scariness down quite a bit after his initial appearance and it wasn't too scary for little ones.


The show ended with the wedding of Beauty and the beast and everybody was up on their feet dancing. We left with some very excited children who continued singing and dancing all of the way home. Everybody commented how much they enjoyed their evening and we are already looking at booking up again for next year.


Beauty and the Beast continues at the Whitley Bay Playhouse until Sunday 4th January and Blue Genie will be returning in 2015 with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Thank you to Whitley Bay Playhouse who kindly provided images from the show.

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Saturday, 20 December 2014

Blog Maintenence

Hi everyone,

Please excuse the random posting/layout of my blog over the next few days - I am working on a new layout, should be finished by Christmas!
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Places to stay in the North East



















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Day's Out in the North East

Free Days Out

Castles


Outdoor Fun


Perfect for a rainy day

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Our guide to eating out with kids in the North East


If you are looking for a specific recommendation for somewhere to dine out in the North East, please join our North East Food Lovers group on Facebook where our members will happily advise. 




Recommended North East Pubs/Cafes with Outdoor Play Areas










Children's Menu Reviews

The Botanist, Newcastle

Red's True BBQ, Newcastle

Byron Burgers

Fat Hippo Underground, Newcastle

Zapatista Burrito Bar, Newcastle

The Little Fishy, Tynemouth Market

Pizza Making at Babucho, Newcastle Quayside

Cafe 32 - Linkskill Centre, North Shields

Yo Sushi, Newcastle

Thaikhun, intu Metrocentre

Carluccio's, intu Metrocentre

Derwent Crossing Brewers Fayre, near Metrocentre

Family Dining Guide - intu Metrocentre

Fratello's Jesmond

Gusto Children's menu review, Newcastle Quayside

Mantra Thai, Newcastle Quayside

St Mary's Inn, Morpeth

Northumberland Arms, Felton

Wagamama, Eldon Square

Scalini's Gosforth

Tyneside Bar Cafe

Jamie's Italian, Newcastle

Lane 7, Newcastle



 Sunday Lunch Recommendations

The Cherry Tree, Jesmond

The Broad Chare, Newcastle

Roots Farm Shop & Cafe

Whitworth Hall

Sunday lunch at Liberty Brown, Sunderland

The Fox Hole, Piercebridge

The Cook and Barker, Northumberland

The Botanist, Newcastle

Jesmond Dene House, Newcastle



Child Free Reviews/Date Night Ideas

Elder and Wolf, Whitley Bay

Omni - Asian Tapas in Monkseaton

Oktoberfest at The Broad Chare

The Brasserie at The Grand Hotel, Tynemouth

Autumn Menu at Gusto, Newcastle

Kingslodge Inn, Durham

The Grazer, Ouseburn

Turtle Bay, Newcastle

Hinnie's,  Whitley Bay

Hawthorns, Newcastle

Fuego, Newcastle

Ko Sai

Vermont Hotel, Newcastle



Breakfast Reviews

The Parlour, Blagdon

The Running Fox, Felton

Sunnyhills Farm Shop, Belford



Afternoon Tea Reviews

Afternoon Tea at Wynyard Hall

Afternoon Tea at Tyneside Bar Cafe

Afternoon Tea at St Mary's Inn

Afternoon Tea at Jesmond Dene House

Afternoon Tea at The Running Fox


Our guide to eating out with kids and Children's menus in the North East




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Place's to visit beyond the North East

UK Family Attractions

London Attractions


UK Breaks


North East Accommodation

Beyond the UK


Travel Advice, Tips and Articles









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About us

We are a family of 5 living in Northumberland. Myself, my husband and our children Harry (2006), Heidi (2009) and Jack (2010) are all passionate about the North East and we started this blog as a way to document our adventures and recommend places to other families.


We are huge foodies and we love eating out in restaurants. We also have a keen interest in travel and have tried everything from camping on the Northumbrian coast to 5* luxury in Marrakech.

We are all very proud of our award winning blog which we would say we predominantly feature a mix of food, travel and lifestyle posts. You can find out more about our blog on our contact page.


Please email samantharickelton@googlemail.com if you'd like to get in touch.


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Get in touch


Hello! We are an award winning blogging/vlogging family based in Northumberland, UK. We are open to working with brands who fit the nature of our blogs and are relevant to our audience.

The best way to contact us is via email:- samantharickelton@googlemail.com





North East Family Fun (family blog) features our busy lives and adventures in Northumberland, across the UK and beyond. Expect restaurant reviews, days out, holidays, travel & family life.

80% of our audience is female and 70% are aged between 25 and 44 years old. Our audience is interested in family life, travel, entertainment, movies, TV, cooking and shopping. 

Life As Mrs R  (mum's blog) is a grown up lifestyle blog where Sam writes about relationships, personal development, social media & blogging tips, weight loss, health, fitness, current affairs and life as a self employed 30-something.

Big Stevie Cool (dad's blog) is about life from a dad's perspective alongside TV & movie reviews, weight loss journey and random musings from your average geek on the street. 


Awards

  • NETwitterati 2015 - Listed in the top 100 most influential people on twitter in the North East
  • MAD blog awards 2015 - Finalist (best UK family fun blog)
  • BiB awards 2015 - Shortlisted (best UK travel blog)
  • MAD blog awards 2014 - Finalist (best UK family fun blog)
  • North East Blogger Awards 2014 - Winner (North East Blogger of the year)
  • North East Blogger Awards 2014 - Finalist (best North East Travel Blog)

I also sat on the judging panel of the North East Blogger Awards 2015.


May 2016 Rankings


North East Family Fun 
#44 UK Parenting blog as per Tots 100
#13 Parenting blog as per Rise
DA 32

Life As Mrs R
#77 UK Lifestyle blog as per Hibs 100
DA 16

Big Stevie Cool
DA 15


 Social Media


Twitter :- 8700+ followers with an average reach of 310k across 28 days

Facebook :- 6500+ followers 

Instagram :- 2400+ followers

Youtube 500+ subscribers


Klout


Our Klout score is 71 meaning we are ranked in the top 10 % of all social media users worldwide. We are classed as experts in the following fields:-
  • Blogging
  • Camping
  • Children
  • Durham
  • Families
  • Lifestyle
  • Newcastle Upon Tyne
  • Northumberland
  • Travelling with kids

Blogger Outreach


Samantha runs the North East Network of Brilliant Bloggers with Karen English. The network is home to have 400+ members who blog about a wide range of interests from music to food, lifestyle, parenting and interiors. If you would like to reach out to bloggers in the North East, please get in touch and I'll do my best to help.


Ways we work with Brands

  • Collaborative Posts
  • Restaurant Reviews
  • Product Reviews
  • Hosting Competitions
  • Holiday and Days Out Reviews
  • Producing Video Reviews
  • Social Media Promotion and Campaigns

Brands we have worked with


Examples of brands I have worked with in the past

Disclosure Policy - updated June 2016


Every post will now be labelled in the following ways:-

Just Us:-  A post that hasn't been paid for/gifted in any form. We have self-funded everything you read about in this post. 

Collaborative Post:- We have been paid (either in cash or kind) to write about this brand. All thoughts, words and opinions will always be our own. 

Complimentary Tickets:- We have been provided with complimentary tickets/accommodation in return for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions will always be our own.

 Complimentary Meal:- We have been provided with a complimentary meal in return for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are our own.

Review:- We have been sent an item at no cost to ourselves in return for an honest review.

Affliliate Links: - If you click through an affiliate link and then go on to purchase an item from that website, I will receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to yourself.

I value my readers and the trust I have built up. The fact that an item/post has been gifted or paid for will not influence my words or opinion. I only accept items that fit in with the nature of our blog. Please Email:- SamanthaRickelton@googlemail.com if you have any questions. 



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#LoveNorthEast December Round up

Thank you to everybody who linked up to #LoveNorthEast in December. This monthly linky is open during the first week of every month to add your blogpost links that feature the North East in some way.

I loved this post from Dragons and Fairy Dust featuring The Boilershop steamer which is one of my favourite events in Newcastle. If you've never been before, you really should give it a go. Check out Longhorn's BBQ stand.

Photograph from Dragons and Fairy Dust

There were some lovely ideas for North East days out including Gibside by Three Boys and a Cat and The Causey Arch by Rock and Roll Pussycat. I've been to both of these places many times and certainly agree they are fantastic places to let off steam and take in the countryside.

Cakes featured heavily in December with the best of the North East being showcased. New Girl in Toon told us about The Great British Cupcakery and North East Nerd paid Pet Lamb Pattisserie a visit. Both of these places serve simply the best cakes and are certainly recommended.

Photograph from New Girl in Toon

On the opposite end of the spectrum, health and wellness in the North East were explored with A Nutritional Cleanse from Aloe World and Why Good Posture is Important by Vitality-Pilates. Two posts that I'm sure I will be referring back to in January when I am planning to give more consideration and thought to my health.

Our final post featured Conceptual Portrait Photography from RJM Photography.  Conceptual photography is when photography and fine art are blended together. I have to say, the final result is beautiful, make sure you pop over and take a look.

Thank you to everyone who took part in December - I have added all posts to our #LoveNorthEast Pinterest board. I hope you can all link up again in January - link will go live at the start of the month. Remember, you can link up posts that are old or new.

Follow North East Family Fun on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram and Pinterest






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Friday, 19 December 2014

A late lunch at Lola Jeans

We first stumbled upon Lola Jeans a year or so ago when we were out having a few drinks in Tynemouth. I instantly fell in love with the place with acoustic live singers in the corner and comfy tub chairs to sink into whilst sampling a few of their cocktails (cherry drop is my favourite). It is the sort of bar where everyone is just genuinely there to relax and have a good time. They aren't all about the cocktails though and ever since I read Paul from a Taste in the North's review of Lola Jeans, I knew I had to return during kitchen hours to sample some of their food for myself.

During my birthday celebrations in Tynemouth earlier this month, as soon as we had checked into our accommodation and dropped off our bags we headed straight for Lola Jeans. We bagged ourself a snug little corner and browsed the menu. Sally from Martineau Guest House where we were staying recommended either the steak platter, seafood platter or chicken wings. So of course we ordered all three. Lola Jeans offers a selection of real ales too and hubby opted for one of those (I couldn't tell you which one) where as I ordered a glass of champagne - well it was my birthday after all!

Steak platter £11.95

The steak platter was just amazing. The prime rump steak was cooked to our liking (medium-rare) and served with homemade chunky chips, a well dressed salad, pitta breads and dips. There was a lot of steak for your money and it was tender as it should be and well seasoned. Simply delicious. I will definitely be ordering this again when I visit next.

Seafood platter £9.95

£9.95 is an absolute bargain for this platter which is packed with tiger prawns, crayfish, smoked salmon and mackerel. The seafood was served with a dressed salad, pitta breads, red onion chutney and olives. Everything was lovely and fresh and it is the perfect platter to match a glass of champagne.

Chicken Wings £5.95 for 5

These chicken wings are really something special. They are supersized, crispy and smothered in a deliciously tangy secret recipe sauce. They are very moreish and next time we will probably order 10 for £8.95 as I was left wanting more this time.

Lola Jeans was a perfect choice for a late lunch. The food is spot on, the service attentive and friendly and the atmosphere was nice and chilled. Our bill came to just over £30 including drinks which considering steak and champagne was involved is very reasonable.

Lola Jeans has recently expanded and has now opened on Market Street in Newcastle making it a good place to visit post or pre-theatre or to stop for lunch whilst shopping. You can find out more by liking their facebook page here





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Monday, 15 December 2014

Get Santa at Northern Stage

The Northern Stage is starting to have a very special place in our heart. I absolutely adored watching The Christmas Grump (review here) with my 4 year old so could not wait to return to see Get Santa* with Harry (8) and Heidi (5). Get Santa is a family show designed with children aged 7 and over in mind. Heidi adored it and sat perfectly throughout so as long as your child can sit for 2 hours and 30 minutes, I would say it was suitable for children over the age of 5.


Meet Holly. A slightly annoying child who you can't help but have a soft spot for. She is part of a rather unusual family - her gran wears sparkly gold trainers and loves to dance and her mum married a loveable dog who likes to decorate the Christmas tree with sausages. Despite how odd this may seem, I smiled to myself on more than one occasion as I watched a scene being played out on stage that could have just as easily have been filmed in our house.


The scene is set in Holly's front room on Christmas eve. Holly is tired of being ignored by Santa - she doesn't want a new ipad or doll to play with this Christmas and has no desire for a new bike or scooter - all Holly wants for Christmas is to find her real dad. 

Holly hatches an elaborate plan to hide out in her living room on Christmas Eve so she can catch Santa herself and can ask him to make her Christmas wish come true. Obviously though, things do not go to plan and complete chaos ensues. It is up to Holly to try and find a way out of this mess and with the help of Santa's son Bumblehole she tries to figure out what to do for the best.


Get Santa is wonderfully performed by the whole cast, however the standout performance for us was Holly's evil Russian teddybear performed by Scott Turnbull. The teddybear is brought to life when a spell goes horribly wrong and from that point he really does take centre stage. Turnbull does a magnificent job and we were completely sucked in by his performance.  Although I knew I should hate Teddy (he was being very mean to Holly after all), he certainly had a special charm and I couldn't help but fall in love with him. In fact I wanted to take him home! 


Get Santa contains lots of laughs with just the right amount of music and audience participation. As you would expect from a Northern Stage production, the staging is wonderful and the clever advent calendar set allows the stage to be used to it's best advantage. Your eyes will always have somewhere new to look.


We left Get Santa feeling very Christmassy indeed. We all sang the final song of the show together as we walked down the street to our car with a smile on all of our faces. Get Santa really is a lovely alternative to a traditional pantomime. 

Get Santa continues at The Northern Stage until December 27th. Tickets are priced from £9.50 - £24. Family tickets are priced at £60 on selected performances. If you sign up to The Family Explorers Newsletter, you will receive a promotion code to buy a family ticket to see Get Santa for only £50, saving £10.






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