A visit to Sundown Adventureland was one of the kids summer ‘bucket list’ activities. We’ve been once before but a few years ago, and I promised that we’d go there this year. At Retford in Nottinghamshire, its a bit of a drive for us, but loaded up with snacks and ideas for in-car games (such as spot the green or yellow cars, hold your breath every time you go under a bridge etc) we set off mid morning and arrived lunchtime.
There is loads of free parking and entry is £13.50 (under 2’s are free) for both children and adults. Might seem a bit pricey, but we are talking pretty much a full day of adventure for the family so not bad value for money. There was a bit of a posse of us, 6 kids in total with ages from 2yrs to 8yrs.
I am starting to think our days out are cursed – just as we arrived the heavens opened and the rain descended. Thankfully I’d thought to pack wellies and raincoats just in case.. but it did mean I had bit of grump on.
It didn’t last long though (my grump included!), the clouds remained a while, but the rain stopped and the kids (well Natalie mostly) took full advantage of jumping in a few of the puddles on the way round.
Sundown is a Themepark specifically for the under 10’s – what I liked is that everything there is accessible for all children. The rides have no age restrictions – so yes, it means they are very tame and probably most suited to the younger end of the age range, but at no point are you trying to explain to a 2yr old they can’t go on something as they aren’t big enough yet.
We started off in the Monkey Mischief as this was undercover and the rain was coming down. Its an interactive walk though with lots of buttons to press and monkey themed music. Kids loved spotting what was moving, jumping up and disappearing.
As it was lunchtime we thought we could wait the rain out and have a bite to eat – we headed to the covered picnic area which was as expected – totally packed out. There is loads of lovely outside green space for picnics, but if the weather is not so great, the covered area is pretty small.
The kids were happy enough to play in the drizzle (I wasn’t quite as keen on the idea!) so we made use of the Angry Birds play park – which was deserted (other peoples kids are obviously more sensible than mine!)
The park is made up of lots of ‘villages’ to explore. One of the favourites of the day was the Story Book Village. A collection of miniature houses depicting various fairy tales such as Hansel and Gretel, Jack and the Beanstalk, Three Little Pigs and Goldilocks. Again, lots of buttons to press, things to touch – really fired the kids imagination.
The rain had stopped by this point, so we perched ourselves at Goldilocks and the Three Bears cottage to grab a sandwich – I don’t think this is really meant to be a picnic spot lol.. but kids (and grown ups) were starving! We did get a few strange looks, but I’m used to that given my antics at the weekly Mini Me Time Sing & Socials!
The pirate area is lots of fun. There are bridges to explore, which lead over to the pirate ship. The bridges go over the top of the Jolly Pirate Boat Ride, where you sit in barrels and go round a water-course, unfortunately this was closed due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’.
We stopped off at Captain Sandys Play Cove (simply the hugest sandpit!) for icecreams before moving on to Toy Town.
Toy Town is a village area with different shops – butcher, fire station, post office are a few. I love this bit – watching the kids explore the different houses, ring the bell in the fire station, up and down the stairs in the post office – really is make believe at its best
It was definitely time for a cuppa and sit down. Sundown has a indoor play centre too.. Crash Landings – perfect to escape the rain (although, we were by now enjoying blue skies and sunshine). You can grab a bite to eat there, not too badly priced and the kids can enjoy the slides, soft play, climbing frames, whilst you have a few minutes with a brew
Time to move on – Lollipoppet Castle was very popular with the children. There’s not a whole lot to do, but loads to look at, and everything in there smells of sweeties. Natalie particularly enjoyed the giant microphone and singing along to the Hokey Cokey
And Lucasz & Isaac were made to feel miniature climbing on the giant size cake ingredients and plant pots.
Probably by far the best part of the park (at least in my opinion, but there again, I’m not 8yrs old!) is Shotgun City
A whole street lined with wild west themed shops including a saloon, a bank with an exploding vault, shooting gallery (pretend of course), jail, Rocky Mountain Train Ride where you spot the bandits. There are also animatronics sing-along shows throughout the day – this is probably the place we spent the most time
The Apache Play area at the end of Shot Gun City was closed for refurbishment which again was a shame. I often wonder why these things aren’t done during off season – but I suppose it’s not always possible. I remember from when we came previously it was a brilliant play area with loads to climb on, zip wire, slides – and benches for the grown ups – which by the time you get here, a sit down is very much needed and welcome, so was a little disappointed the area was closed off. Hopefully it will be finished and re-opened soon.
We finished off with the Christmas themed ride – very surreal to do in July!
And a bit of a play in the animal play park (specifically a play park for under 5’s, but it was practically deserted by this time, so didn’t see a problem with the older kids playing there too)
We headed home around 5pm or after and to be honest there was so much that we hadn’t done – Sunnydown Farm with tractor ride, Robin Hood ride, Smugglers Cove play area, pedal carts, Honeybear Cottage and areas we had spent little time such as the market place.
I do think its good value. For the under 10’s its much better than some of the bigger parks like Alton towers where you can often spend more time queuing, walking and explaining to little ones why they can’t go on rides that are too big for them. Also, once in the park, the only extras you pay for are refreshments, so if you take your own (as we did with the exception of a cuppa in Crash Landings), there is nothing else to pay (saying that, we did give the gift shop a wide birth at the end)
I’ve seen some reviews criticising Sundown for being a bit tired, not having as many facilities as bigger theme parks, and perhaps some of that is true. A little updating here and there wouldn’t go a miss. But it has charm, it feels informal, you are comfortable letting the kids explore, play, make their own fun. If offers the opportunity for kids to use their imagination, make believe rather than just thrill seeking rides for entertainment. You can leave the park at any time to return for extra essentials you need from the car, they just stamp your hand so you can get re-entry.
Overall, we had a brilliant day and would recommend it for any family that has children under 10yrs old.
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