Liverpool family attraction popular with young children, closes for good

Liverpool family attraction popular with young children, closes for good

Mattel Play! will not be reopening following coronavirus closure

It was popular with youngsters who loved children’s favourites Thomas & Friends, Fireman Sam and Bob the Builder.

But now Mattel Play! on the Royal Albert Dock has closed for good.

The adventure play centre at the Albert Dock launched in 2016 and was the first of its kind in Europe.

It was split into three themed areas dedicated to the iconic characters.

The Heritage Great Britain attraction closed in March to prevent the spread of coronavirus but has now revealed that it will not reopen.

Harold the Helicopter's sits in the middle of a ball pool at Mattel Play

Harold the Helicopter’s ball pool

A spokesperson said: “Following five wonderful years at the Albert Dock, we have taken the difficult decision to close Mattel Play! Liverpool.

“As the focus of the Albert Dock continued to be more bars and restaurants, we have therefore, following a discussion with the landlord, agreed to exit our lease earlier than planned.

“We would have very much liked to have remained at the Albert Dock throughout the summer months but the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, and the consequences which are likely to be felt for many months, made this ambition untenable.”

This website reviewed Mattel Play! and thought it was great for younger children who were fans of Fireman Sam, Bob the Builder and Thomas.

Fans of Thomas & Friends would also love Drayton Manor Park, reviewed here: Thomas the Tank Engine proves just the ticket for a boy’s birthday break at Drayton Manor hotel and theme park

The best February half-term holiday destinations in the UK and abroad

The best February half-term holiday destinations in the UK and abroad

Where are the best holiday destinations to take your children in February half-term?

Half-term in February is often the toughest month to find a break – it’s cold, money is tight after Christmas but there are some good options to enjoy a fabulous holiday with your children.

Gran Canaria

Travel time from the UK: 4 hours

Temperature: 18-21C

Maspalomas in Gran Canaria

Maspalomas in Gran Canaria

This island has the most activities of any in the Canaries.

There is a wildlife sanctuary in the hills, Palmitos Park, plus watermarks, camel rides on the dunes of Maspalomas and much more.

We went in February and the weather was great.

*The other Canary Islands are also great options including Tenerife, Lanzarote (read our review here or ) and Fuerteventura (read our review of a holiday in Fuerteventura here).


Travel time from the UK: 7.5 hours

Temperature: 22-26C



Quieter and less developed than Dubai or Abu Dhabi, Oman offers an authentic glimpse into the Middle East.

There are plenty of family resorts along the coastline and the capital Muscat is worth a visit too.

*It is a good time of year for other Middle East destinations as well such as Dubai or Abu Dhabi, where the temperature will be a similar 22-26C.


Travel time from the UK: 14 hours

Temperature: 28-32C



There is loads to see in Malaysia. You can spend a couple of days in the buzzing capital Kuala Lumpur with the Petronas Towers which were once the world’s tallest building, then travel to Penang for its beaches, resorts and colonial Georgetown.

New Zealand

Travel time from the UK: 22 hours

Temperature: 22-25C

New Zealand

New Zealand

The furthest family trip but it will be worth it. February is ideal for the North and South Island. Don’t miss the beaches of the Bay of Islands, the bubbling geysers in Rotorua, whale watching in Kaikoura and adrenaline fuelled fun in Queenstown. You need two weeks minimum but this is the time of year to take it.

Liverpool, UK

Temperature: 5C



Winter is a good time to try a big city like Liverpool with plenty of indoor attractions. You can meet some dinosaurs at the World Museum Liverpool, find out about the history of the city at the Liverpool Museum, pop into the Beatles Experience, take a tour of Anfield the home of Liverpool FC and cross the Mersey on the famous ferry.

The city centre is compact and the waterfront spectacular even in bracing weather.

*Where do you like to go in February? Let us know below!


EasyJet announces new route from Liverpool to Turkey

EasyJet announces new route from Liverpool to Turkey

Families in the north west welcome the airline’s new route to Antalya

Europe’s leading airline Easyjet is launching a new route from Liverpool to Antalya in Turkey.

Flights will operate weekly on Thursdays throughout the summer, providing families from the North West with a direct route to another popular Turkish resort.

It joins Easyjet routes already available to Dalaman and Bodrum in Turkey from Liverpool.

The port of Antalya offers lots of historic attractions and is situated on what is known as the Turquoise Coast for its stunning blue waters.

Flights will take off from April 2, 2020 and the new service is expected to carry over 8,000 customers during its first season.

Seats are now on sale with fares from £60.16 return.

Ali Gayward, EasyJet’s UK Country Manager, said:We are delighted to confirm today that we will be launching a new route from Liverpool to Antalya.

“As the largest airline at Liverpool, we’re focused on strengthening our network and providing our customers in the North West with excellent services by offering great value fares, a convenient schedule and more choice when they travel.”

Antalya will become the 33rd destination on easyJet’s Liverpool network.

John Irving, CEO for Liverpool John Lennon Airport, said: “We are delighted to see easyJet add a further new route to their expanding network from Liverpool.

“We expect Antalya to prove popular with the region’s holidaymakers who can now take advantage of our award-winning Faster, Easier, Friendlier approach to the passenger experience, helping to get their holiday from here off to a great start.

“Holidays to Turkey are popular with passengers from across the North West and North Wales.”

To book and for more information visit the Easyjet website.

Picture shows John Irving, CEO of Liverpool John Lennon Airport and Ali Gayward, EasyJet’s UK Country Manager, celebrating the announcement of the new route from Liverpool to Antalya. 

Liverpool family attraction popular with young children, closes for good

Fireman Sam, Thomas the Tank Engine and Bob the Builder fans will love Mattel Play! in Liverpool

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 sits in the middle of a ball pool at Mattel Play

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.

A boy sits in Scoop the digger

Scoop the digger


Fireman Sam

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.

Jupiter and Titan in the Fireman Sam area at Mattel Play

Part of the Fireman Sam area

Character appearances

There are regular appearances by Bob the Builder, Fireman Sam and on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, the Fat Controller.

A girl meets Fireman Sam at Mattel Play

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 take our children to Imagine That! in Liverpool to discover why it is so popular with families

We take our children to Imagine That! in Liverpool to discover why it is so popular with families

Read our family review of Imagine That! for children in Liverpool

What is it?

Imagine That! is an indoor, imaginative children’s play centre in Liverpool. It opened at the start of 2017. It was previously known as Underwater Street and was based in the city centre.

Where is it?

It is in Wavertree and is easily accessible from the end of the M62.

What did we think?

Imagine That! is nondescript from the outside, in adjoining, low industrial units with minimal signing.

The outside of Imagine That! with cars parked in front and sky above

Part of the exterior

Step inside and your senses are assaulted by sights and sounds.

It’s fun, it sparks children’s imaginations and it is educational. It also feels very safe, with lots of staff about.

Our highlights

Imagination Village


A father and son pretend to read the news

Reading the news

This role play area includes a pizza restaurant, veterinary centre, hair salon, supermarket, car wash and American diner. Children can pretend to read the news on TV and practise crossing the road with a pedestrian crossing (the constant beeping of this must surely drive staff mad)!

The pedestrian crossing inside Imagine That! with the smaller cafe behind

Pedestrian crossing

There are plenty of dressing up clothes and a small stage, plus buttons to press for sound effects and stage lighting.

A girl presses buttons to control the stage lights and sounds

In charge of the stage sounds and lights

Construction Site

Entertaining for younger children with mini cranes and soft bricks, plus a popular pulley system.

Art Arena

Lots of space for children to get arty, you can even paint a car – thankfully aprons are provided!

Science Area

Our two children enjoyed an alarm tunnel where you had to jump and crawl to avoid setting off an alarm. And you can envelope yourself in a giant bubble using soap and a rope. There is also a water play area to have a splash about.

A boy makes a big bubble around him

Big bubble fun

It’s a learning environment, especially a section about electricity where you have to pedal a static bike to make power.

The overwhelming favourite activity for our youngsters involved putting silk scarves in an wind-filled hole, which then raced around see-through tubes, before being ejected at the end, floating down to be caught.

A scarf and tunnel activity at Imagine That!

Scarf fun

Workshops and shows

Science and design shows and workshops run throughout the day. We enjoyed a bubble show which ended with a bottle filled with water, lemon and baking powder shooting water over the ceiling and a slime making lesson.


A lovely, different place to take younger children, to spark their imaginations.

Our top tips

*As this is indoors, it is much quieter when the weather is good.

*Go straight to the shows and workshops you are interested in when they are announced, it is a fairly small venue so you can easily go back where you were to carry on exploring afterwards.

*It caters for school trips and birthday parties.

Imagine That! information

Food: Picnics are not allowed. There are two cafes, one with sandwiches and hot meals, the other specialising in cakes, ice creams, sundaes, waffles and crepes.

Opening hours: Open 10am to 4pm Tuesday to Friday and 10am to 5pm weekends and bank holidays. Closed Mondays except in school holidays and bank holidays.

Cost: Peak prices (weekends and bank holidays), children aged 2+ £13.95, children aged one £8.95, babies free with a paying sibling. One free adult per paying child, additional adults £5.95. Family of four would be £27.90. Off-peak (Tuesday to Friday in term time) prices are cheaper.

Best for: Ages two to seven

Time needed: At least two or three hours

Access and restrictions: This all-inclusive attraction has something for everybody regardless of ability and says individuals with a wide range of special needs are regular visitors.

Address: 26-32 Faraday Road, Wavertree Technology Park, Liverpool , L13 1EH. Parking is free.

Have you been? What did you think? Tell us below!