I’ve had Conkers on our family bucket list for a while now and it’s somewhere I had prioritised for 2018. Luckily we visited on a beautiful day this past weekend and spent a full day out there. Conkers is located in the National Forest in Leicestershire not far from Ashby De La Zouch. In this post I will go through everything that you can expect to see and do at a day out Conkers. We visited as a 3 generation family with my Mum, myself and my 4 year old.
Our Day Out to Conkers
The directions to Conkers are very good and they have plenty of brown signs to follow. We got a little confused when we arrived at the car park though. It’s a very long car park and it wasn’t clear where the best place to park is. It’s best to find a space by the Discovery centre which is located by the entrance to the first car park. The Waterside centre is further down the car park and this is where they have evening concerts and you can visit both parts of the park with a day ticket. (the Waterside centre also has a separate car park).
You enter by the front desk where you pay to visit Conkers. We were handed a leaflet with information and a map plus a schedule of the day’s events. They had 4 pond dipping sessions for 5 years and over which you pre book with them on the day. There was 3 Punch and Judy shows, crafts, two story times, 4D cinema all day (again you need to pre book your time with the front desk). There was also paint a pot and rope courses at an additional cost.
Outdoor Adventures by the Discovery Centre
We had pre booked our slot for the 4D film at 2:30pm so we decided to visit the outdoor areas before heading indoors. Our schedule worked out well for the day with our 10am arrival. We had some delicious cake in the cafe and then headed straight out to the water play.
The waterplay is located directly outside the Discovery centre cafe. It’s quite hard going pumping the water but once it’s going there are dams and gates to play with and investigate how they work. There’s also a small play house and slide in this area. My son would have loved to have spent more time here just getting stuck in.
Playground (Twisty Towers)
If you head to the right of the water play you will come across the Twisty towers playground. This was perfect for my four year old and he had great fun climbing and sliding. Behind here is the pond dipping area which we didn’t visit as my son is under 5 and I didn’t want him to be disappointed that he couldn’t join in. You can see Vertigo Adventures in the background of the photo below. More on that later.
After twisty towers we took a right along the path towards the sensory trail walk. This is a series of boxes in the woods with covers which you can put your hands inside to feel and guess what’s in there. A few of them were shut off because of nesting birds. My son loved this trail and was excitedly going from box to box.
We cut through the woods to find the Fairy Labyrinth. I was jokingly reciting the story of the Gruffalo when who should we find?
The fairy labyrinth has signs which I believe can be activated by your smart phone. But don’t quote me. If anyone can correct me please do. My son rushed us through too quickly to find out. A labyrinth is supposed to be a place to meditate instead of being met with dead ends and frustration which you get from a maze. To be honest we perhaps didn’t appreciate it for what it was.
Coming soon…Rabbit Warren
I had failed to read that the rabbit warren isn’t yet ready for 2018 so we had gone off in search of it (wrongly). This will be a 65 metre underground adventure with tunnels and light and sound experiences. It sounds like it will be a great addition to Conkers.
We did then leave this area and took the Conkerchoo II train down to the Waterside centre. We explored the rest of this area, including the Discovery centre, after we had our lunch at the cafe there. I will continue to outline the outdoor area of the Discovery centre below.
We saved this until much later in the day. I had expected my son to get filthy but to be honest aside from his adventures off the path into a load of mud (on purpose) he didn’t even need a change of clothes. It does help to do the walk in a pair of shorts though as the water parts of the barefoot walk are quite deep. My son is around 116cm and the water came up to just below his knees. This was so much fun, slightly torturous in places but we had such a laugh. We felt like two brave explorers. My Mum took a well earned rest and looked after my bag.
You leave your shoes at the start and people that don’t want to get dirty can walk along a walkway next to you. You are then met with a series of different textured paths. There’s water (quite a few water paths!), gravel and stones (these are a bit tough on your feet but we managed all but one of them), sand (bliss), straw, wood and paving. It’s quite an assault on your senses and Jamie was desperate to go around again. He did however ask me this after we’d spent quite a long time in the water troughs at the end cleaning his muddy feet!
Sky Viewing Tower and Maze
Wow was it windy up the sky viewing tower! It’s a great view once you get to the top and it looks down on the go kart track (pedal power), lake and the new maze. The maze is fun but not especially difficult to complete. There’s a house with a small slide in the middle which although small was super fast. There is also a ranger bushcraft area near here which we ran out of time to find.
Vertigo Adventures is an add on activity and not included in the entrance price for Conkers.
This is a high ropes adventure with 15 aerial sections at 30 feet above ground level. There’s also a junior low ropes course with 10 different challenges 10 feet above the ground. Plus a climbing wall, powerfan descender and a 330 foot zip wire. There’s various pricing options please check their website for further information and prices.
13+’s Assault Course (activity trail)
“Try out the challenging eighteen stage activity trail (for visitors aged 13 and over). The stages are situated across several acres of conkers woodlands”. This looked like a fun assault course.
Land Train – Conkerchoo II
The train named the Conkerchoo II goes at regular intervals between the Discovery centre and the Waterside centre. It stated that there was a train around every 15 minutes. We noticed that it was running much quicker than this so don’t worry if you’ve just missed it. There is no additional cost to ride on the train and you can ride as many times as you want.
Outdoor Adventures by the Waterside Centre
Once you have arrived by train or foot from the Discovery centre you will come across the larger of Conkers two playgrounds.
Playground (Playdale Adventure)
This is an adventure playground with plenty for the kids to play on. There’s a smaller section for younger kids (I’d say toddlers to 6 year olds). Plus swings and a few other pieces of equipment.
The larger pieces of play equipment are suited more for older children. There were some sections my son could go on but they were clearly too old for his age. This is perfect though as often older kids are forgotten about.
Once we’d finished at the playground we headed off on the woodland walk to find the wobbly bridge. The area around here is beautiful and most of the walkways look very recently constructed. The wobbly part of the walkways was a lot smaller than we were hoping which was a bit of a shame. We did however have great fun going back and forth over the wobbly parts. It would be nice to see more wobbly sections and perhaps some trolls lurking in the grass.
Tree top walk
After being totally spoilt with signs over at the Discovery centre we were somewhat lacking in help over at the Waterside centre. We got lost a few times trying to find things and although we did eventually spot some signs they were of no use to us as we were coming from the other direction. If you want to find the tree top walk via the wobbly bridge look out for this pathway up there as pictured below. Once you’ve taken this the tree top walk can be found on the second path to the left. You will be able to see the wood for it in the distance.
There’s also a den building area around here which looked good fun. There was plenty of spare wood to try and build your own den. There is also a covered, but outdoor, arena here where they hold concerts for some evenings of the year.
At the inside of the waterside centre there is an indoor soft play area which is charged at an extra £1.50 per child. Downstairs there is a cafe which mostly sells pizza, snacks and hot and cold drinks. During our visit they were running a craft session in here.
Indoors at the Discovery Centre
There is plenty to explore indoors at the Discover centre. There was actually a lot more than we were expecting. What looks like a relatively small space is actually crammed full of interactive exhibits. Just before you enter this part of the Discovery centre you will find a cafe plus a large floor for the kids to play on with a big projected image. This is also where they had the Punch and Judy show which was on during our visit.
They have over 100 interactive exhibits in the Discovery centre and in a way I wish we’d done this first as I felt that we hadn’t left enough time to explore everything properly. But in the same breath it was lovely and quiet in there later on in the day.
As well as all the fun exhibits about our planet and everything that lives on it there was also an even more play based upper level. One side had a dark tunnel plus a mineshaft themed slide that my son just would not entertain going down. The other side is the enchanted forest play zone. The upper level of this has rope walkways and slides back down. It’s lots of fun and feels like you are up playing in the trees.
Next to this you will find the 4D cinema. Don’t forget to reserve your slot (as mentioned at the start of this review). It’s well worth going to see. You are taken on the journey of a couple of ants and there’s surprise 4D elements with blasts of air and water. It’s also a great opportunity for a 10 minute rest.
Punch & Judy – School holiday entertainment
I have noticed that most, if not all school holidays, there seems to be Punch and Judy shows at Conkers. The set and the puppets are all completely authentic and the man controlling the puppets is a fabulous entertainer. It was a really fun and professional show. As Jamie is quite shy I had to sit on the floor with him. That made me one of only 3 adults in a sea of kids but my goodness did I join in. It was infectious. It’s something I’ve been wanting Jamie to see for quite a while now and he absolutely loved it. In fact he’s been putting on his own puppet shows at home every day since. We saw all the main characters and I challenge you to watch this without smiling. It would be impossible!
Conkers National Forest Family Friendly Day Out | Things To Do
Conkers is open all year round apart from Christmas Day and Boxing Day. You can purchase your tickets online in advance or when you arrive. A standard day ticket, without gift aid, for an adult is £9.05 and £8.14 for a child. Children aged 2 and under are free. A family ticket for 2 adults and 2 children is £35.95. They also have membership options, please see website for details. Prices are current as of June 2018. Please check the prices before you leave as they are subject to change.