Is Mattel Play! in Liverpool as perfect for young children as it sounds – we review it.
Mattel Play! has closed since this review was written. It closed in March 2020 along with other businesses due to the coronavirus pandemic but the decision was made not to reopen, full story here.
What is it?
An indoor children’s adventure play centre split into three themed areas, Thomas & Friends, Bob the Builder and Fireman Sam.
Where is it?
It is located at the iconic Albert Dock in Liverpool near to where This Morning used to be filmed.
What did we think?
It was done very well, it is not huge but all of a high standard and staff work hard to keep it tidy and clean and fresh so that nobody finds a section in a mess. Fans of Fireman Sam, Bob the Builder or Thomas the Tank Engine will be thrilled to visit. Our two children love Fireman Sam so this final section was their favourite.
Thomas & Friends
Start at Knapford Station and meet characters including Thomas, Rosie and Percy. My children’s favourite was Harold the Helicopter’s ball pool, where they could climb aboard Harold on a sea of balls. And my daughter enjoyed a ride on a miniature locomotive.
Harold the Helicopter’s ball pool
Bob the Builder
The children donned safety gear from Bob’s mobile office, before getting to work in this section of Mattel Play! The four of us spent quite a lot of time building a wall of bricks. There is also a creative part where you can do light box sketching.
Scoop the digger
This is the smallest section but has lots to entertain children who like Fireman Sam. They can climb aboard Jupiter, go to sea on Titan and Juno and put out pretend fires. There is even a Dilys’ grocery store.
Part of the Fireman Sam area
There are regular appearances by Bob the Builder, Fireman Sam and on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, the Fat Controller.
Meeting Fireman Sam
Interactive photo experience
Next to the shop is a camera with a screen that you can operate. You pose for a photograph and are then shown pictures of yourself amid four different backdrops related to the characters at Mattel Play! You can buy the pictures if you like them. There was no queue when we were there so my daughter, who loved this, posed a few times to see the results!
Some seven-year-olds might be too old for this, but ours still likes Fireman Sam so got quite a lot out of it. And our four-year-old daughter loved it, especially meeting the characters.
Our top tips
*Those who like it quieter should visit at 9.20am when it opens.
*Book in advance to guarantee entry.
*It normally operates timed entry slots.
*It is an autism-friendly venue and offers special autism sessions on the last Wednesday of each month between 4.30pm and 6.30pm.
Mattel Play! information
Food: There is a cafe, picnics are not allowed.
Opening hours: 9.20am until the last pre-booked admission, which varies each day.
Cost: £12 per child (aged one to 12), £3 per accompanying adult. Babies (0-12 months) £6 when accompanied by a paying adult and free when with a paying child and paying adult.
Best for: Younger children, aged two to six.
Time needed: Two hours
Access and restrictions: There is full access for disabled visitors.
Address: If you’re using sat nav, use the postcode L3 4AA. It has not got its own car park, use one of the nearby car parks.
We review The Quiet Site at Ullswater in Cumbria.
I have a real soft spot for the Lake District. We lived here for two blissful years and it was on the shores of one of its more remote and beautiful lakes where my husband proposed.
It is the quieter spots which fill me most with joy. Like Ullswater, which despite being the area’s second biggest lake, attracts nowhere near the hordes which flock to its largest, Windermere.
As well as being more peaceful, it’s arguably more breathtaking – framed by peaks which include Helvellyn.
And at only 10 minutes from the M6, it couldn’t be easier to reach.
The Quiet Site
Our accommodation in this part of Cumbria reflects our tranquil surroundings – The Quiet Site is a campsite half way up the western side of Ullswater.
Various levels of luxury are catered for from bring-your-own tent to a luxury cottage.
Their latest option are intriguing hobbit holes – underground spaces four times bigger than their insulated wooden camping pods – built into the side of a hill.
A hobbit hole
Camping pods at The Quiet Site
But we are firmly above ground – our home for three nights is a spacious three-bedroom cottage.
This former smithy is full of character, with high ceilings, exposed beams and equipped with everything we could need. Plus extras like a playhouse, toys, books and shelves groaning with children’s DVDs.
And I don’t know who was happiest about the giant trampoline in the garden – but it started the holiday on a high for us all.
Enjoying the trampoline in the garden of our cottage
The site also has a playground and an indoor soft play area, conveniently adjoined to the bar in a cosy barn.
I can see why The Quiet Site was recently the top-rated holiday and glamping park on Tripadviser out of 190 listed in the Lake District.
We crammed lots into this summer break – around the lake and on it.
Ullswater Steamers, which sail between Glenridding in the south and Pooley Bridge in the north, are the popular mode of transport in these parts.
We caught one to Howtown, in the middle, where we climbed part of Hallin Fell and enjoyed a memorable picnic with the lake glistening in the sunshine below.
Ullswater Steamers are a familiar site on the lake
You don’t need to be an expert map reader to find a rewarding spot by the lake but tackling the directions on the nature trail at Askham Hall Gardens, east of Pooley Bridge, tested and thrilled our son and daughter.
The trail winds through gorgeous gardens, with farm animals at the end. Completion brings you to a play area, plus a cafe with a pizza oven and delicious cakes. All the ingredients for a perfect few hours for us.
Other family-friendly trips include the wonderful waterfall Aira Force.
I kept a firm hold of our children by some steep drops on the woodland walk up but they were both suitably impressed by the spectacular sights and sounds.
We were lucky with the weather but if you need undercover fun, head to Rheged. Sadly, the fabulous Lego exhibition we enjoyed was only temporary but there is plenty of permanent entertainment here for little ones. Choose from pottery painting, soft play and an outdoor playground.
Throughout our stay at Ullswater, we found plenty of quiet coves with flat water ready to be disturbed by children’s stones. They were also the perfect settings for picnics, making up adventures and taking in the glorious views.
William Wordsworth was inspired to write the poem Daffodils after seeing the flowers growing on the shores of Ullswater.
“It is the happiest combination of beauty and grandeur, which any of the lakes affords,” he said.
And I may just agree.
For a more detailed review on The Quiet Site, see here.
*For more ideas, see Cumbria’s official tourist board website.
Accommodation: We stayed as guests of The Quiet Site, Ullswater, for the purposes of this review. All opinions are our own.