Our trip to Prezzo

Although pubs with softplays attached do have their place in life (when mammy and daddy want a drink in peace!) I always make the effort to take the kids to proper restaurants to teach them how to enjoy the experience of eating out, each others company and to try foods they might not normally eat at home.

Our town has been crying out for a decent Italian restaurant so when prezzo opened, I knew it was somewhere I wanted to take the children. Kids eat free throughout the school holidays (sign up to their website as they have different promotions every week or so) so we decided to give it a go as this month's pay day treat.

The atmosphere in prezzo is sophisticated yet relaxed. We dined at 5pm and there were a few other families there so we certainly did not feel out of place. The children were welcomed and each given an activity sheet and pot of crayons which entertained them throughout the meal (I also enjoyed helping Jack with the 'design your own pizza' activity)

The children's menu contains 3 courses and a drink and is usually priced at either £3.50 for under 5's or £6.50 for aged 5-11. Our waiter explained however that these age limits weren't strict and we should just go off the appetite of our child and could order from either menu regardless of age.

The under 5's menu is limited, but it is absolutely fantastic value at only £3.50 for 3 courses and a drink. Plus, to be honest when you take under 5's to an Italian restaurant it is rare that you would order anything other than pizza or pasta! 

The older children's menu had a lot more variation and the size of their pizza was practically full size! So when you compare this to the price of an adult portion, 3 courses and a drink at £6.50 is also fantastic value for children with a bigger appetite.

The food at prezzo is absolutely delicious and the portions are huge. I opted for a baked carbonara which is honestly the nicest pasta dish I have tasted in a while. It was so nice being able to eat decent food with a glass of wine in a nice restaurant knowing the kids were well catered for too!

Our total bill for a shared garlic bread, 2 adult main courses, 2 drinks plus 3x3 course children's meals inc drinks was £35 (using kids go free). A meal out for us normally costs anything between £30-£55 so Prezzo worked out to be fantastic value.

The service at Prezzo is what really sets it apart. The staff are knowledgable, take the time to chat, are efficient and polite and seem like they genuinely enjoy their job.

We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Prezzo and have a feeling we will be back time and time again!


Rising Sun Country Park

The Rising Sun country park is the sort of place you might miss if you didn't know it was there. The entrance is between the Stonebrook pub and Asda Benton on Whitley Road.

There is a large free car park and as soon as you step out of your car you feel as if you are in the middle of the countryside and not just 2 minutes away from a large supermarket!

At the visitor centre there is lots going on with a woodland play park for children, plenty of space for a picnic, BBQ's, a cafe selling homemade goods and doddington dairy ice cream to take away and an artificial mini stream where children can paddle.

The park also offers many fantastic walks - you can get maps from the visitor centre or follow the well labelled signposts.

We followed the trail to the farm which is just over a mile. Looking out for the elusive rising sun stag on our way! (We didn't see him today - but did spot plenty of horses)

The farm is free to have a look around, there is a section with small animals such as chickens and rabbits.

Then a small bridge leads to larger farm animals such as horses, donkeys and pigs.

We were lucky that the pigs came really close today and we counted 7 teeny piglets which were very cute.

The farm also has a farm shop which sells products from the farm. You can't get more locally sourced than from here.

What I can't get over is that Farm parks are now charging as much as £10 per person to enter yet this place is FREE! 

The rising sun country park hosts many fantastic events throughout the year from late night bat walks to hog roasts and teddy bears picnics. Check out their website to keep up to date with events. It is a fantastic place to get away from it all for free.


10 places to visit for free (or the cost of a cuppa) in the North East- Part 2

Part 2:- 10 free places (or cost of a cuppa) to visit in the North East

1. Wheelbirks ice cream parlour
Wheelbirks is a lovely place to take the children. They have a small indoor play area complete with dolls house and a lovely orchard outside with slides, swings and a real tractor! My children love just running around and it is a great place to play hide and seek. They have chickens outside and you can say hello to the actual cows responsible for producing the delicious ice cream on sale.
(Closed Mondays)

2. South Shields ferry trip 
Kids love the excitement of going on a boat trip. The South Shields ferry departs every 30 minutes and costs just £2.50 per day for an adult and under 5's are free

3. Stephenson railway
The Stephenson railway museum is a small museum dedicated to trains - it is free to enter. Kids will enjoy playing with the train tables, climbing on board one of the trains and listening using the interactive computers to learn. There are also craft tables, a gift shop and a small cafe. 

4. Metro centre
The metro centre has lots to offer children and is a good place to visit when it rains! There is always something going on on stage (currently the metrognomes show), there is a maths trail with 14 questions dotted around the centre that children can take part in and a lovely free outdoor play area outside the Qube. Don't forget to take your 2p's and enjoy the slot machines in namco funscape arcade. You can also pop to ikea and make use of the free indoor soft play area while you sit in the cafe with a cuppa.

5. Angel of north
The huge  Angel of the North is free to visit. Take your camera and get the kids to take their own pics.

6. Northumberlandia
Northumberlandia is free to visit and a very different walk to enjoy as a family. There is a visitor centre and cafe due to open Nov 2013. My little ones love climbing to he top and watching the diggers at work in the nearby quarry. 

7. Moorhouse farm shop
Moorhouse farm shop is a lovely place to visit for a coffee with the kids. There is a play park outside as well as a newly refurbished sandpit and playshed containing toy tractors, giant Lego and chalkboards. You can say hello to some of the animals on farm (the pigs are our favourite) and if you are lucky the friendly farmer might take you to collect some chicken eggs. The coffee shop is lovely and serves home cooked food and the farm shop sells lots of delicious treats. Keep an eye on their website for special events.

8. Druridge bay Country Park
The walk around Druridge bay lake is about 1.3 miles making it a very child friendly length! You can spot various wildlife on your walk and may even spot an otter if you're lucky! There are 2 play areas, picnic tables, a cafe and visitor centre on site and lots of open space to run around.

9. Carlisle park 
Carlisle park in Morpeth has something for everybody. Visit the tranquil William Turner garden and aviary, play in the 2 play parks on offer which include a sandpit and swimming pool. Enjoy a game of tennis or take your skateboard to the skate park and  enjoy a riverside walk and feed the ducks.  You could even hire a rowing boat. 

10. Souter lighthouse
You do need to pay to enter Souter lighthouse however the grounds and tearoom are free to enter. The play park is excellent for children and contains a giant wooden pirate ship and wooden train along with huge outdoor games. You can also enjoy a coastal walk and take your nets to dip in the rock pools. Definitely a firm favourite with children.


Lightwater valley:- A review

Normally I won't even take my 3 to a soft play centre in the school holidays for fear of it being too busy! The thought of taking a 2 year old, 4 year old and 6 year old to a theme park in August just filled me with dread! I had visions of queuing for hours, crowds of people and miles of walking/whining children. However, I really could not have been more wrong! When we were invited to visit lightwater valley and check out their new angry birds play zone, I was very pleasantly surprised!

Lightwater valley is closer than you think. From our house in South East Northumberland it only took 1hr 20 mins in the car. Car parking is free and there were no queues at the ticket booths and we were greeted by an angry bird! A great start!

The kids wanted to try out the angry birds zone first of all and conveniently it is located right by the entrance. I was very impressed with this area - lots going on for all ages. Giant touch screen computer games on the walls, counting games on the floor compete with talking angry birds, TNT climbing frames and every type of play equipment you can imagine with fantastic theming throughout (even the bins were angry bird themed). The kids had an absolute whale of a time and could have spent hours here. If they hadn't have spotted the indoor angry birds play zone, I would have had trouble dragging them away!

The indoor part of the angry birds zone is space themed, in darkness and lit up with UV lights. My 2 year old was screaming and jumping with excitement. I think it's the happiest I've ever seen him! There is a small cafe inside too to grab a cuppa while the kids play.

After we spent about an hour in Angry bird land it was time to try out some rides. My daughter was disappointed she was just too little to ride the carousel however soon cheered up when we found some more suitable rides next door. I was amazed that this was August and there was absolutely no queuing for anything! I liked the fact that little ones could go on rides either with or without a grown up.

After trying out some rides we decided to take the train around the park. This is a good way to get your bearings. The park is really compact (which is why I didn't once hear the kids moan they were tired) and the train ride took about 15 mins. There were places to leave pushchairs at the station and it was lovely to be able to all enjoy some rides together.

We had spied the big wheel from our train ride so that was our next stop - again I was really pleased that we could all get on the ride together. The views over the park were spectacular.

We would normally take a picnic on a day trip like today however I just hadn't got round to making one! (Plus our cupboards were bare after bank holiday weekend). Plenty of people had took a picnic though and there were lots of picnic areas around the park. It is definitely what I would recommend. We decided to try the conservatory restaurant. Prices were what you would expect from a theme park. There were long queues to be served though :-( Very strange that there were no queues for rides but there were for food I thought! Anyway, when our food arrived it was delicious and £25 for 5 meals including drinks certainly wasn't as bad as it could have been!

After our re-fuel we enjoyed more rides (especially in the pirate themed area). I was really pleased with the selection of rides available for younger guests to enjoy.

The kids were eager to try out a roller coaster so we headed over to the caterpillar which can be enjoyed by all ages. Everybody loved it, especially daddy! 

Then in was nice to chill out for 10 minutes while the kids played in the sandpit.

My 2 year old LOVES tractors so we were really pleased to find that you could drive your own tractor around a real life farm. 

I was really keen for us to get as much value out of our day as possible so we decided to watch the birds of prey show at 4pm. You can walk around and admire the many birds at anytime and the shows are on twice a day. The bird handler was very knowledgable and engaging however the birds were the star of the show. They were spectacular!

We couldn't leave lightwater valley without visiting the angry birds gift shop. It was very expensive and we ended up spending £20 on a cuddly toy, a ball and some stationery. The kids deserved a treat though! There were lots of reasonably priced gift shops throughout the park if you are on a budget including an 'everything's £1' cart and overall I didn't find prices too high (eg candy floss was £1, coffee and a muffin £2.95)

I am so pleased we paid lightwater valley a visit. It was a fantastic stress-free way to end the summer holidays and nothing at all what I expected visiting a theme park with young children to be like. On the way out we were offered vouchers to visit again in September/October/November for only £12 each which is something we definitely plan on doing. We all can't wait to visit again.


Review:- The Walls End preview night

We were invited to attend a preview evening for the much anticipated new Hungry horse pub aptly named 'The Walls End' tonight, ahead of it's full opening on Wednesday 28th August. We jumped at the chance as it is near where some of our family live and close to our workplace. Plus the play area looked fab. 

From the outset it is clear that this is a very family friendly pub - my children were given balloons and activity packs straight away and we were told about the brand new play area outside. That kept them happy! 

The interior is original and very much linked to the local area and our history  - we spied local heroes from Sting to Shearer all being included in the decor. You don't feel like you are in a chain pub at all - the decor is very unique.

Part of the pub that will particularly appeal to sports fans is the booth's towards the rear of the pub which all have their own private tv screen showing the footy. These booth's are likely to be very popular with the locals and are an inspired addition!

Back to the menu! My husband ordered the steak and ribs combo, I ordered smothered chicken and the kids all ordered chicken nuggets, chips and corn on the cob. (I love it when you can choose a veg as a side at no extra cost). Service was very friendly and efficient and our food arrived in no time. 

My hubby's  steak and ribs combo was HUGE and his steak was not overcooked which happens all too often. 

My smothered chicken was also huge. I liked how you got peas, onion rings and tomato all included. No trying to charge you for extras here!

The children's meals were sent out in a basket. The chicken nuggets were good quality and my children all enjoyed their meal. (Small children's meal pictured) In fact none if us had any complaints at all.

Hungry horse pub's offer a variety of different meal deals. I particularly think the kids eat for £1 on a Mon or Tues or £3.50 to include a dessert and drink (with any adult main course purchased) is fantastic value. Will definitely keep this offer in mind for a mid week after school treat. 

After our meal, we decided to check out the play area. There were lots if seats outside organised in different areas which were lovely and the kids thoroughly enjoyed playing on the new play equipment. My 2 year old, 4 year old and  6 year old all enjoyed it. The play area is fully enclosed and very safe 

Pubs with decent play areas that also serve good value meals are few and far between. For us, The Walls End ticks all of the boxes and we will be back!

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