Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Review: Christmas Carols at Mt Annan Botanic Gardens

I know, I'm not supposed to call it Mount Annan Botanic Gardens anymore. It's now the Australian Botanic Garden. Why the name change, I really don't know but anyway it's been a favourite venue of ours for many years, even before the entry fee was abolished.
However, we hadn't attended the annual Landcom Carols in the Garden event before this year due to clashes with other events. Our calendar was free last Saturday night, and the rain promised to hold off for the evening, so we packed up the picnic rug and headed down. We arrived at around 5.15 ready for the show kick-off advertised to start at 5.30. The garden was already packed - you have to get there early to get a spot in front of the stage - and people continued to arrive for the next couple of hours.
We took a picnic dinner but there were plenty of stalls available selling food and drink. The older kids took off for a game of soccer. The younger kids were entertained by dancers from Commotion , a local performing arts school, and the Smurfs Christmas Show. Following that were many talented singers supported by a 4-piece band. The night culminated in a spectacular fireworks show.
Despite the huge number of people - apparently the biggest ever, according to host Monica Trapaga - getting out at the end of the evening wasn't too big of a challenge, helped by the new entrance/exit on Narellan Road.
We'll no doubt be visiting the gardens again over these school hols and we'll definitely be making room in our calendar for the carols next year.

Wizard of Oz Funland

I first went to the Wizard of Oz Funland a few years back with our local playgroup and I found the place a bit bemusing. It seemed to be a cross between a putt-putt venue, an indoor play centre and a theatre. It had recently been converted from a pool/snooker centre and was still a bit dark and dingy.
Our second (attempted) visit was last Christmas hols when I took my older kids there to play mini-golf but was advised putt-putt wasn't open because there was a show on so we went to Mega mini-golf instead.
We visited Wizard of Oz Funland again last week, on the recommendation of a friend and I'm pleased to report the place has brightened up considerably since then. On entry we were advised it was $5 per child (adults are free) or for $8 we'd get unlimited play with free fairy bread and chips. The website states $8 entry per child during school holidays so we paid $8 for two children and were given a voucher that stated 'free fairy bread and Smiths chips'.
The 2yo headed straight for the good-sized and well-stocked toddler area. The 5yo was a bit bamboozled at first - there is a LOT of merchandise on display. There are also a number of additional pay-for amusements such as ride-ons and arcade games. Fortunately my kids don't use pester power and the 5yo was happy to play in the play maze and jumping castle.
Mini-golf / putt-putt is unlimited games but it's only available at scheduled times because a guide has to provide access. You are required to pay $2 deposit which is refunded provided you return the ball. After a game of putt-putt, we redeemed our fairy bread & chips vouchers. The kids each received half a slice of fairy bread and some chips. We adults didn't order any food or drink but there is a range of food available on the menu. As with most indoor play centres, food and drink is not permitted to be brought in from outside. Also, socks must be worn by children. All of the staff were very welcoming and friendly. There is also a good-sized party room available.
The kids were entertained mid-morning with face painting and a music session and then we went on a daily tour of Santa's workshop. This was by far the highlight with singing, a meeting with Santa, and falling 'snow' in the magic forest.
Due to all the props and displays, there are a lot of 'keep off' signs around (although you are welcome to take photos). One sign leading from the putt-putt area stated that unauthorised entry will result in a $50 fine. The notices leading to the putt-putt area would take a good few minutes to read. As most pre-schoolers are unable to read at all, it's not a venue where you can sit and relax with a cuppa because there are various areas where children can wander out of sight and therefore they have to be supervised constantly.
After two hours my two were ready to leave but at $5 per entry for kids and free for adults weekdays (according to the website), it is most definitely worthwhile doing the Santa's workshop tour. (I would advise ringing ahead to check what's on because they regularly run events.) It's also an absolute must for any fans of the Wizard of Oz movie with props and trivia throughout. At $8 entry for kids and free entry for adults, the Funland is worthwhile checking out as a venue to provide a couple of hours entertainment for pre-schoolers and younger primary school-aged kids.
The Funland is located at 2/11 Hollylea Road, Leumeah (near Campbelltown City bowl) and is open from 9:30 onwards, closed on Mondays and Tuesdays during school terms. For more information, check out the website. Wizard of Oz Show and Funland also has a Facebook page.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Reading Eggs

If you've got little ones at home going crazy with cabin fever due to all this wet weather, or even thinking of ways to entertain primary school aged kids during the school holidays, I can highly recommend the ABC Reading Eggs program.

Aimed at 3-12 year olds, the program combines fun activities with educational tools to familiarise children with reading. Sign up for a free trial here.