The last 18 months has seen us staying local on the south coast and as much as it is a beautiful place to live, we have been itching to explore further afield.
Visiting Manchester has been on our wish list for some time as we have only ever been to attend BlogOn Conference, or as a stop when travelling farther North, but last week we finally bit the bullet and took the 4.5 hour journey North to take Eliza to see Harry Potter: The Forbidden Forest Experience for her birthday.
We stayed at the Hyatt House Hotel, which is located on a peaceful square within easy access to the city centre. Travelling as a family of 5 can make finding family rooms tricky, but Hyatt House is an aparthotel, which offers studios and one-bedroom suites with fully equipped kitchens, which are perfect for a family stay.
There were three places on our wish list to visit; Blue Peter Studio Tour, I’m a Celebrity Jungle Challenge and The Forbidden Forest. Unfortunately, the Blue Peter Studio Tour was cancelled due to escalating cases of COVID19, but we do hope to return later in the year as there is so much more to see and do. We did see the Blue Peter Garden and the Gold Badge Walk in Media City though.
Some areas of Media City are still open to the public and you can pose behind the bar at the Rovers Return, with the Tardis and even with the Countdown Clock.
I’m a Celebrity Jungle Challenge
The I’m a Celebrity Jungle Challenge is an action-packed experience which can be found in Media City, just a 15 minute bus ride away from our hotel.
It is the perfect day out for kids aged 8 and over as you get to become a campmate for the day and explore all of the iconic areas, including the Main Camp, Croc Creek and Snake Rock and try a series of challenges to win stars and bid to become the King, or Queen, of the Jungle.
Even spectators can take part, by finding stars hidden around the site and taking the Dingo Dollar challenge where Kiosk Kev is on the other end of the phone to test your knowledge.
Physical challenges include an 8m vertical rock called The Ascent, a suspended Treetop trail with puzzles to solve along the way, scramble nets, balance beams and a low level Jungle run. You really challenge yourself and take a leap of faith on Get a Grip and glide above the trees on their Zipline.
There are also areas to have your photo’s done as a memory of the day, which are included within your admissions package, perfect for capturing those magic moments.
When your session is over, check your scores and walk across the famous bridge to confetti and fireworks going off around you.
It is brilliant fun and you spend a good couple of hours inside completing all the challenges. Tickets cost from £20pp and spectators are £10pp with 3 photo’s per person included in the price, including spectators.
Harry Potter: The Forbidden Forest Experience
The Forbidden Forest Experience is set in the grounds of Arley Hall, approximately a 20 minute drive from our hotel, which allows you to step into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and walk into the depths of a dark forest and discover fantastic beasts and iconic moments from the films.
The experience is full of fun interactive displays, film scenes, photo opps and hundreds of intricate design details to engage fans and make the trail as magical as possible.
It is set outside in an actual forest and although some of the pathways have rubber mats, it is muddy in places, so wear your wellies and wrap up warm!
The entry times are staggered to avoid crowds, but once you are inside the forest you can explore at your own pace. I would recommend really taking your time and using your senses as there are lights, sights and sounds all around you.
Our favourite activity was casting our very own Patronus, where we all got a different animal. Don’t worry if you forget your wand, they have ones you can borrow.
The finale is seeing dementors flying over the lake, before Harry casts his famous stag patronus to ward them off. You then exit the forest into the Harry Potter village, with an assortment of refreshments on offer as well as a gift shop.
Harry Potter: A Forbidden Forest Experience is open until 16th January 2022 and costs from £24 per person, depending on the time you visit. We went late (9.40pm) as it was slightly cheaper and much quieter than it is earlier in the day.
Our third and final visit during our short trip to Manchester was to Play Factore, the UK’s largest play centre.
Isaac,at 13, has outgrown soft play centres, however, even he was excited by the tallest indoor play frame in the world at over 15m high with an astra slide that stretches over 40 metre long.
Play Factore is the perfect place for the kids to burn of energy before a long drive home and they loved all the activities on offer, which includes a Star Wars laser tag arena, the Valojump trampoline gaming platform and a zip wire running over the top of the building.
It wasn’t just the kids that got to have fun, us adults were positively encouraged to join in too.
There is also an Italian coffee shop which serves authentic neopolitan pizzas from a wood burning oven, great salad and pasta dishes, gelato and a variety of hot and cold drinks that will leave you spoilt for choice.
Entry costs from £10.95 for kids aged 5+ and £4.50 for adults.