Place: Adventure Valley
Address: Adventure Valley (Next to Union Hall Farm), Brasside, Durham DH1 5SG
Entry Fee: £7.45 per adult or child
Opening Hours: 10.00 am – 5.00 pm every day in peak season
Suitable For: Families
My Visit: We live really near to Adventure Valley, so I often take my kids during the week when older children are at school. We started going when my son was almost two; he's play on the soft play, have a run around outside and be ready to go home after 90 minutes. Now that he's nearly 3, he begs to stay all day and hates it when we have to go home!
We recently decided to take a trip there on a Saturday, so that my husband could finally see this place that our son had been talking about all year! We did the usual playing and animals, but I was also pleased to see some of the activities that don't run so frequently off-peak. We absolutely loved the goat racing: four tiny goats in different coloured t-shirts, chasing an exuberant lady brandishing a bucket of goat feed as she raced down the track, while the crowd cheered them on - hilarious and brilliant!
The only downside was that when it rained there was a mass-exodus to the indoor soft play, as everyone hurried to get out of the downpour.
Pros: There are lots to do, especially as new features have been added in recent months. There's a wide range of farm animals (including cute 'micro' breeds of pigs and goats), birds of prey, ponies and fluffy rabbits. The indoor barn also has a gigantic sandpit and a 'shooting range', which uses air powered guns and soft, spongy balls. My kids love this - even the one-year-old can toddle around and deposit foam balls in the tubes. There's also a lot of outdoor play space: a toddler play area and one for bigger kids, inflatable 'bouncing pillows', lots of swings and other activities. Bigger kids love the go-carts and giant tyre slide.
As Adventure Valley is quite new (it recently celebrated its first birthday) everything is in great condition, and generally it seems very clean.
The staff is generally friendly and helpful, and they pay close attention to health and safety.
When the weather is good, this really does make a brilliant day out, as you can mix activity and play with more relaxed animal watching, and there's always something going on to entertain the kids.
Cons: It's quite expensive, especially if your children are little and won't last a full day. Also, some of the rides (such as go-carts) cost extra once you're inside.
The food isn't great - burgers, sandwiches, chips and not a lot else. When I pay £4 for a panini I expect it to come on a decent sized plate with a little bit of salad on the side, not look like something I could have made for myself in two minutes. The picnic areas are at the far end of the site - to me it's a clear sign that they want you to buy the overpriced food rather than bring your own.
There's no real educational element to the farm area - there are a few posters on the wall, but they look homemade and feel very much like an afterthought.
Value for Money? I think if you stay for the full day and bring a packed lunch then you can make Adventure Valley value for money. For me, it would be too expensive to pop in for a couple of hours with the kids if I hadn’t invested in annual passes.
Overall Reaction: Although I've listed a few cons, my kids do love Adventure Valley and we go around once a week during term time (it gets far too busy for us over the holidays). It's perfect when the weather is good, but even when it isn't they can burn off lots of energy in the soft play area and the shooting range.
Put it this way: I'm planning to renew my annual pass when it expires. I just try to make sure we've eaten well before we go.