Finding a family-friendly day out which isn’t going to be affected by inclement weather is always a challenge, but there are plenty of options which don’t require a train journey into London.
Just a short drive up the M1 in Milton Keynes, Gulliver's Land is a theme park which isn't put off by the odd downpour, as we discovered during our recent visit in the midst of torrential rain.
Considering the horrendous weather, you would have thought we'd have been greeted by grumpy and fed-up staff, but the reality couldn't have been more different. Genuinely positive and remarkably friendly at every turn, the Gulliver's team obviously love their jobs, and that was reflected in their attitude in somewhat extenuating circumstances.
What particularly appealed to our family quartet was that there were very few rides which couldn't be enjoyed by our four-year-old and seven-year-old daughters alike, so there was none of the disappointment you might have expected when one could ride and the other couldn't.
The theme park itself is divided into different themed zones, including Western World, Lilliput Land, Adventure World and the JCB Zone, but everything is within walking distance so you don't end up traipsing for miles.
Highlights for us included the Log Flume, Runaway Train rollercoaster, Whirlwind high-flying roundabout and Buccaneer pirate ship, but they are only a selection of the 25-plus different attractions found on site. With queues obviously expected during peak season, you'll easily spend the best part of a day working your way around the extensive park site.
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With some of the rides promising a splashing time, the incorporation of walk-in hot air dryers is a masterstroke, especially if you're visiting during bad weather, as it gave us the opportunity to dry off after sitting on wet rides in near-constant rain.
The themed play areas were also well thought-out, especially Western World, where youngsters could end up behind bars in jail or preaching to a congregation in the town church. In fact, it proved so popular that our kids needed to be bribed to come away and explore somewhere else, they were having that much fun.
If you're peckish there are restaurants serving the usual burger, chicken nuggets and fries combinations, but also smaller easteries selling coffee, snacks and sweets, and nothing was prohibitively expensive, which was refreshing when you compare the prices at other venues.
The sun finally broke through the clouds when we left Gulliver's Land behind us and headed to the adjacent Dinosaur and Farm Park, one of a number of other experiences which can be enjoyed for an upgrade to your tickets, including the Splash Zone indoor water park and high-level Sfear. As with many similar resorts, it's worth searching online for deals on advanced tickets rather than paying on arrival, especially if you want to visit some of these attractions.
Lifesize animatronic dinosaurs might prove a bit scary for the little ones on first sight, so it's good to ease them into the experience with a look at fossil collecting, a slow cruise on the Jurassic River Ride or a period in the Reptile and Bug Centre. Watch out for appearances by a roaming "live" dinosaur throughout the day!
The neighbouring Farm Park includes aviaries, a hatchery, the chance to cuddle up to some of bunnies and guinea pigs, a tractor ride, and giant insects and bugs which not only move but make real-life sounds amplified thousands of times. And despite the weather we couldn't resist popping into the café for ice creams!
There's more than enough to keep even the most active family entertained for a full-day out, and unlike many other theme parks, Gulliver's Land is open throughout the year, albeit for restricted hours during the winter. There are festive activity weekends - including meeting Santa - from November 23 until December 23. Then in the run-up to New Year's Eve they have pantomimes on, which is an added incentive to visit.
For further information visit wwwgulliversfun.co.uk