Play-and-Stay Blog

The Blackpool Big Ticket

October 15th, 2013
by Lora Webb

There’s loads to discover in Blackpool this half-term and if you’re after the town’s best attractions, make the most of your trip and invest in the Blackpool Big Ticket. Located on the Lancashire coast, Blackpool is one of the country’s most popular seaside towns — and it’s easy to see why.

Whether you’re after a terrifying wander through the Blackpool Tower Dungeon or a spin in the Blackpool Tower Ballroom, there’s loads for all the family to enjoy. The Big Ticket offers entry to the 7 biggest attractions in the area; so here we give you all the information you need to know about them.



The Blackpool Tower Eye & 4D Cinema

Experience an exciting 4D movie about a little boy’s adventures at the seaside, and then have one of your own! Step into the lift and rise towards the skies as you climb to the top of the Blackpool Tower. You’ll need a head for heights for the attraction which reaches over 500 feet high, but the views from the top are utterly spectacular. Plus, take the walk of faith across the newly refurbished Skywalk — its glass floor and walls will leave even the bravest of thrillseekers scared to look down.


The Blackpool Tower Dungeon

If you’re after a historical visit to Blackpool with a terrifying twist, head to the Blackpool Tower Dungeon. Pulling together actors, special effects and an exhilarating drop ride, it’s a walkthrough attraction with a very unique twist. As an added bonus, throughout October the Blackpool Tower Dungeon is adding a whole host of Halloween-themed surprises to its repertoire so you’ll have an experience you’ll never forget.


The Blackpool Tower Circus

Watch the Blackpool Tower’s world famous clowns Mooky and Mr Boo as they take you on their fabulous journey Around the World. With jaw-dropping stunts, astonishing acrobatics and comedy capers aplenty, a great time is guaranteed. When you step into the Circus Arena, you’re really stepping into history — the Blackpool Tower Circus is the oldest surviving permanent circus arena in the world!


Madame Tussauds Blackpool

Step inside this waxy paradise and marvel at the world famous waxwork models. These life-size models are almost too lifelike, so strike a pose and pretend you’re standing on the red carpet with the likes of Simon Cowell, Britney Spears and David Beckham. There’s loads of great interactive features for all the family to enjoy; where else can you walk down Coronation Street and climb walls with Spiderman?


SEA LIFE Blackpool

With 2,000 animals housed in over 50 breathtaking displays, Blackpool’s SEA LIFE centre is the perfect way to explore the deep without venturing from dry land. This October, the Octonauts are descending on SEA LIFE Blackpool, so little ones can learn about creatures of the deep with Captain Barnacles and Peso. For an extra-special treat, why not splash out and go on a behind the scenes tour, or if you’re feeling daring there’s always the opportunity to go Snorkelling with Sharks!


The Blackpool Tower Ballroom

Dating back to 1894, the Blackpool Tower Ballroom is packed with elegant and refined decoration and architecture. Whether you want to glide your way across the famous dance floor, watch professionals and amateurs take the stage or simply listen to the sounds of the Wurlitzer organ as you enjoy afternoon tea, there’s something for everyone. The Ballroom is also home to a whole host of world-class events, including a special Halloween disco, so make sure you get lost in this sensational world.


The Blackpool Tower Jungle Jim’s

Experience the UK’s ultimate indoor adventure playground with the Blackpool Tower Jungle Jim’s. Expertly themed around a lost Inca city, there’s loads for children of all ages to enjoy. Run, jump, swing, climb — it’s all possible at Jungle Jim’s! With giant slides for older kids and a ballpool and softplay area for little ones, there’s also an amazing interactive quest to find the hidden Inca treasure.

Decided to venture North and visit Blackpool this half-term? Armed with your Blackpool Big Ticket, you’ll have buckets of fun! Make sure you also get your thrills at Blackpool Pleasure Beach and check out the amazing Blackpool Illuminations.

Blackpool Illuminations

Have you already experience everything that Blackpool has to offer? Got a review, memory, or handy tip to share with us? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

Smoke & Mirrors: The Haunted House of Alton Towers

October 10th, 2013
by Lora Webb

Interview with the author

Ever an anorak about all things theme park-y, when I heard through the grapevine that a new book about Alton Towers was being written, I knew that I wanted to read it.

A fascinating insight into one of Alton Towers’ attractions, Smoke & Mirrors captures the journey from construction to retirement of The Haunted House. Nowadays, the haunted house has been transformed into a dark ride with a twist — board Duel and prepare to race around the track and shoot the ghoulish inhabitants with laser guns to get the most points.

Not content with letting the memory of the haunted house fade away, Michael Eley embarked on a voyage of discovery which culminated in the writing of Smoke & Mirrors: The Haunted House of Alton Towers.

I talk to Michael about haunted houses, scare mazes and the future of theme parks.

Haunted House

The book is of course about the history of The Haunted House at Alton Towers; what’s your history and connection to the ride?

I have been a regular visitor to Alton Towers since 1975 and have seen some amazing changes over the years. The Haunted House was quite unlike anything else that the park had ever created; it had great theatricality and really captured my interest. Since that first ride, I was hooked. Like most people I expected it to remain the same forever — it wasn’t until the Duel changeover that I became obsessed with the old attraction.

What’s your best memory of the ride as it was?

My most vivid memory of The Haunted House as it was is of the amazing internal queue area. The room had so much atmosphere, its own musty aroma and the mixture of music and sound effects as well as the singing ghostly apparitions of Emily Alton and Sir Henry Alton. It really sucked me into the whole ambience.

What made it so special?

I have been a fan of dark rides for years, but most dark rides are based upon old ghost trains or re-invented rides with little or no attention to detail. The Haunted House blew everything out of the water and was something to challenge Disney rides.

Haunted HouseDid you have a favourite part of the ride?

The part that I miss the most is the ghost corridor now known as the skeleton corridor. It was fantastic but it was ahead of its time. I really would like to see that scene reinstated but it does need some work.

A lot of people don’t even realise that there’s any history behind Duel and the building that the ride is in. There’s one big question — do you think the changes were for better or for worse?

Unfortunately due to restricted budgets the haunted house began to fail and the Duel makeover probably saved it from being closed down altogether. Although I would prefer it to go back to a haunted house dark ride without guns, I do appreciate how it saved the ride.

What do you think is the future of haunted houses and dark rides in general?

The future of dark rides for me is uncertain as a lot of them seem to be changing and not necessarily for the better. I think that there is a big gap in the market at the moment and I can’t see UK theme parks spending vast amounts of money on introducing new dark rides.

Here’s a tricky question — what’s your favourite ride?

Primarily I like things with good theming. I think Nemesis, TH13TEEN, and The Smiler are amazing because they suck you into this unreal world and this help with the escapism.

My favourites are pretty varied. Of course The Haunted House, but I also liked Toyland Tours and The Black Hole at Alton Towers. Other than that The Roller Coaster at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, and newer rides like Nemesis and TH13TEEN.

I would have to say my all time favourite ride is The Haunted House at Alton Towers; predictable but hey, it’s the truth.

Taking their inspiration from haunted house rides, do you enjoy the mazes at Halloween events?

My problem with the scaremazes is that they do not last long enough; I’d love to see them being run all year round. I would also like to see scaremazes being built with proper sets. With an increased budget and amazing mind-bending effects, they can run constantly.

The Sanctuary is my favourite; Alton Towers has put a lot of thought into the music and smells and the actors within the attraction really pull out the stops to give people a scare.Haunted House

The foreword of your book was written by John Wardley, the award-winning ride designer of rides such as Nemesis, Air and THE SWARM; what was it like having him on board?

He’s an amazing guy who is so friendly, caring and extremely supportive. As well as helping me give the most accurate reflection of the ride, he also kindly met with me and asked me to help with the restoration of the haunted house. Him writing the foreword was like him giving his seal of approval to the book, so that’s really great too.

John has created a great legacy — he has an amazing ability to predict what people want before they want it, developing attractions that give people memorable experiences. I hope that there is someone like him in the future who has the same drive and commitment to create themed rides with huge marketability.

What was your favourite thing about writing Smoke & Mirrors?

My favourite part was definitely unearthing photos of the ride that I had never seen before. I have hundreds of photos that I could have used within the book but unfortunately I was unable to gain the appropriate copyright approval to do so and this prevented me using them.

Do you have any other books in the pipeline?

I think it would be nice to do one on Hex but someone mentioned to me to look at scare mazes so that could be a possibility too.

Do you have any top secret themepark facts for our readers?

I may have some top-secret theme park facts but if I told you I’d have to kill you…

To finish off, can you summarise Smoke & Mirrors in 5 words?

An exhilarating dark ride exploration.

Smoke & Mirrors Cover

Enjoy our interview with Michael? Make sure you check out his website and Facebook page and get your orders in for Smoke & Mirrors: The Haunted House of Alton Towers — it’s perfect Halloween reading!

Have you got an affinity with a certain roller coaster or theme park? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

Top London Attractions — 14 Years of the London Eye

October 10th, 2013
by Louisa Guise

Today — on the 10th of the 10th — iconic London landmark the London Eye is 14 years old. This giant ferris wheel has become part of the Capital’s skyline and has lifted passengers to new heights since the turn of the century. To celebrate we’re counting down our top 13 London attractions — check them out when you’re in the neighbourhood.

London Eye by night. Photo courtesy of Adriano Aurelio Araujo

The London Eye by night

1. Camden Town

Camden Market is a massive collection of stalls selling everything from clothes and trinkets to fine foods and artwork. You’ll also pick up one of the cheapest meals in London, with everything from Indian and Chinese to burgers and chips. It’s a feast for all the senses and you might just pick up a bargain.

2. Lee Valley White Water Centre

This indoor water centre, just north of London, is one example of 2012′s Olympic legacy. Experience white-knuckle thrills in the same venue where Team GB won gold and silver. try your hand at hydrospeeding, canoeing, inflatable hot dogs and of course white water rafting. Don’t forget to bring a change of clothes.


3. Borough Market

Fancy kangaroo burgers and local cheddar? Head to this traditional food market nestled under London Bridge, right in the city centre centre. Borough market sells all kinds of delicious produce from fruit and veg to breads, sausages, spices and more. The produce is an eclectic mixture of the best of British, as well as delicious grub from around the world. Borough Market is open Wednesdays to Saturdays, but you can grab some lunch from the many food stalls on Monday and Tuesday too.


4. Tower of London

Built by order of William the Conqueror in 1066 and used as a prison right up until 1952, the Tower of London is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. Behold tales of days gone by, of royalty, siege, battles and beheadings at this impressive 11th century fortress. There are impressive views to be had from the walkway and the Crown Jewels are definitely something to be admired.

 Ducktours vehicle in the water. Photo courtesy of Martin Pettitt

5. Ducktours

Can’t decide whether to bus-it or boat-it around the Capital? Do both with Ducktours. This unique vehicle, used in the 1944 D-Day landings, takes you on a 30 minute tour through London, before taking to the Thames for a whole new view of this expansive city. Learn about top sights such as the London Eye, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and more from a fully-trained guide.

6. Tate Modern

This modern art gallery, located right next to the Thames, houses a large collection of alternative works of art, as well as the contenders for the famous Turner Prize. The gift shop is just as outrageous as the gallery — no kitchen is complete without a glass that measures your every gulp and sip.


7. Harry Potter Studios Tour

Harry Potter fans will not want to miss the chance to discover the magic behind the scenes on the Warner Bros. Studio Tour. In the very studios where all eight Harry Potter films were made, you can see real props, costumes and even entire sets. There’s also the chance to ride on a broomstick, just like Harry, Ron and Hermione. Children under 4 go free.


8. Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace isn’t only a tourist attraction, it’s also the official working headquarters of the Queen of England and a royal residence. Explore the pinnacle of British history with tours of State Rooms and elaborate gardens. The famous changing the guard ceremony also takes place daily at 11:30 May to July, and every other day throughout the rest of the year.

Peppa Pig World

Peppa Pig and her family!

9. V&A Museum of Childhood

This traditional Victorian exhibition hall dates back to 1872 and houses an elaborate collection of toys and games from days gone by to the present day.  Entry is free, and there’s many a delicious morsel to be devoured in the award-winning Benugo cafe. The museum also holds annual exhibitions, arts and crafts events and more. Check their site for details.


10. St. Paul’s Cathedral

Climb to the top of St. Paul’s for a great view and unique acoustics – it’s said that even a whisper can be heard from 100 feet. The cathedral is also home to one of the best preserved 18th century libraries and an interesting display of models, displays and archaeological stones in the St. Paul’s Object Collection.


11. Chinatown

No big city is complete without its Chinatown. Located a stone’s throw from the famous West End, it’s a vibrant area full of East Asian shops, bakeries and restaurants — everything from all-you-can-eat buffets to gourmet restaurants. If you can’t decide where to eat, look out for the crowds. China Town is still buzzing after dark, making it a great place to dine at the end of the day. Special events are also held throughout the year by London’s Chinese community.


12. Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

A Shakespeare play is always a treat, but watching a play in Shakespeare’s Globe is a unique experience. The theatre stands a few hundred yards from the original Globe theatre where Shakespeare’s plays were performed for Elizabethan audiences all those years ago. This modern Globe theatre is the third (the first burnt down, the second was destroyed under Puritan rule) and based on the timber-framed designs of the 1600s. As well as Shakespeare plays, a whole host of other events are held here including concerts and talks.

 Kobra at Chessington. Photo courtesy of Roller Coaster Philosophy

13. Chessington World of Adventures

Chessington World of Adventures is a theme park and Zoo located just south of London in Surrey, but it’s easily reachable by overground train from Waterloo Station and, because it’s located in Zone 6, you can even travel there on an Oyster Card. Chessington is a fantastic day out. Children young and old will love Chessington’s mix of exotic animals and exciting rides ranging from the terrifying KOBRA, a ride which spins you to great heights, to the gentler Bubbleworks. You might even meet some familiar characters. For more details, check out Play and Stay’s Chessington family breaks.

Where are your favourite places in London? Tell us by commenting below. Alternatively you can share your hotspots via our Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

The Best Spooky Halloween Foods

October 8th, 2013
by Lora Webb

Halloween is creeping closer and we’re already looking forward to stocking up on sweets and chocolate. We love traipsing through nearby streets and ‘trick or treat’-ing our neighbours into handing over their precious wares. There’s so much more to Halloween than pre-packaged sweet treats, and these awesome recipes can turn your Halloween parties from boring and bland to utterly spooktacular.

Witches Fingers

Witches Fingers

These curious biscuits will confuse even the bravest of partygoers. Will you bite into the finger of a newly departed witch?

If you dare to take the plunge, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Not skin and bone, but vanilla, sugar and almonds. Make a batch of these simple almond biscuits, and you’ll be left wanting to nibble your fingernails all day long.

Check out the full recipe here.


Stuffed Roaches

Stuffed Roaches

Ever fancied tucking into a crunchy cockroach? Now’s your chance.

Stuffing dates with cream cheese and walnuts makes them look just like the scary pests, and is a sophisticated addition to a Halloween party. Plus, you don’t have to worry about the crunch that comes with eating real insects!

Check out the full recipe here.


Zombie-fied Gingerbread Men

Zombie Gingerbread Men

Gingerbread men are delicious all year round, but can easily be made into a clever Halloween recipe.

Follow a normal gingerbread recipe but take time to ensure some of them are missing limbs, then bake as normal. The real magic comes in the decoration, where red icing sugar becomes blood and is dripped down the chins of hungry zombies.

Check out the full recipe here.


Edible Eyeballs

Edible Eyeballs

Put the ‘devil’ into deviled eggs with this horrifying recipe. Fearless foodies will be put to the test with these eggs which have been transformed into edible eyeballs.

An excellent treat for all of the family to enjoy, this eye of newt-esque creation will be the centre of attention at your halloween party.

 Check out the full recipe here.


Creepy Pumpkin Cookies

Pumpkin Cookies

Add a hint of pumpkin to a basic cookie recipe to create a party food with a Halloween twist.

Decorate the cookies with icing sugar and other decorations to complete the look — can you stomach biting into an eyeball? These delicious biscuits go down a treat with children and adults alike, and the taste of pumpkin is a quirky relief from all things sweet.

Check out the full recipe here.


Pizza Mummies

Pizza Mummies

One of the easiest ways to create party food with a Halloween twist is to transform scrummy mini pizzas into a mummified delight.

Whatever toppings you choose to create the illusion of eyes poking out beneath the layers, this delicious treat will leave your taste buds screaming for more.

Check out the full recipe here.


Rats Baked in Blood

Baked Rats

Although the name sounds less than appetising, this tasty meal is actually a simple adaptation of a classic family favourite.

Shape minced beef into the rats’ bodies and bake with tomato sauce, then add spaghetti — a totally terrifying twist on a traditional spaghetti bolognese! For added scares, make sure you add ‘faces’ to your rats using peppercorns and slices of carrot.

Check out the full recipe here.

Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie is one of the most traditional Halloween foods out there, and is relatively simple to make — if you can remember to keep the flesh of the pumpkin as you carve it into a Jack-o’-lantern!

Whether you add spooky additions or bake your pie in a skull-shaped dish, a pumpkin pie is a must-have addition to any Halloween party.

 Check out the full recipe here.

It doesn’t end there, though! Chicken wings can become bat wings, bright green pea soup takes the guise of a witches potion and blackcurrant squash is transformed into dragons’ blood.

What scary delights have you dreamed up this Halloween? Let us know in the comments section below or on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+, and don’t forget to share your pictures with us!

Top 10 Ways to Avoid Half Term Stress

October 4th, 2013
by Louisa Guise


The week’s just starting and the lack of routine is already bringing out the monster in your little angels. Sound familiar? We’ve got the antidote to avoiding the stress this half term. You never know — the week might be over sooner than you think?


1. Let the kids pick an activity


Entertaining the Kids this Summer

Photo by D Sharon Pruitt

To avoid squabbles, let the children pick at least one activity each that they would like to do. It helps to plan a routine so that there’s little time for boredom. Check out some of the halloween events happening this October half term such as Halloween Hocus Pocus  at Chessington or Halloween at the Haunted Castle at Warwick Castle.


2. Share the child care


Make a pact with other mums and dads to spread out the child care. Your children will enjoy playing with their friends, and you’ll be guaranteed some alone time. This deal will also save everyone money on babysitters.


3. Chores


Look on the bright side, more people at home means that the workload can be shared. Getting the young’uns to do a spot of hoovering or dish washing gives them a sense of responsibility, but don’t overload them — they are still children after all.


4. Cookery


Cooking is a great way to bond with your children. Let them help you choose the dish and just get stuck in. Becoming accustomed to different types of food will also sort out those fussy eaters. Don’t worry about the mess, it’s all part of the fun.


5. Wrap up warm


Don’t forget that October half term occurs just before the clocks go back, so there’s no guarantee of good weather. Make sure that you’ve got a good stock of warm and waterproof clothes. If you’re going to the park, take a couple of fleecy blankets and snuggle up as you enjoy a picnic — whatever the weather.


6. Prepare for crowds


Half term means big crowds. If possible, try and go to attractions during off peak times. If this isn’t possible, arrive early to maximise your day. It might also be worth packing favourite toys, games consoles and tablets so that your little ones don’t get too restless in the queue.


7. Don’t give in to temptation


Carrying around sweets and crisps might seem like an easy way to keep them quiet, but too many sugary and salty snacks is not good for their health. Instead of chocolatey offerings, stock up on nuts and dried fruit — it’s just as delicious.


8. Wet Wipes


Wet wipes are a parent’s best friend no matter how old your children are. Whether it’s mucky fingers or muddy jeans, these little tissues might just save their clothes from being thrown away.


9. Book Early


If you’re planning on taking public transport or a holiday, it’s best to book early in order to get the best possible deals. Prices tend to rise nearer the time, and popular events such as LEGOLAND’s Brick or Treat fill up quickly. Book early and you’ll have a hassle-free time.


10. Enjoy the moment


Children grow up faster than you think, and they’ll soon be back at school. Enjoy the chaos of a noisy household whilst it lasts.

Do you have any top tips for avoiding stress over half term? Share them with us by commenting below, or tell us via Twitter, Facebook or Google+.