Tyranosauraus Rex and triceratops egg at Jurassic Kingdom Osterley Park

Review: Jurassic Kingdom dinosaur exhibition, Osterley Park

Tyranosauraus Rex and triceratops egg at Jurassic Kingdom Osterley Park

“Wow, that’s amazing!” A huge roaring Tyrannosaurus rex greeted us as we arrived at Jurassic Kingdom and the three year old was clearly impressed from the start. The Jurassic Kingdom dinosaur trail is an outdoor exhibition of animatronic and static dinosaurs. There are huge ones towering over you, baby ones hatching out of eggs and hungry-looking ones clawing and fighting each other all along a woodland trail.

Jurassic Kingdom is a touring touring exhibition and we visited it in the first few days at its launch location at the National Trust property of Osterley Park, West London. It will be there until 17th April before touring around the country (see tour locations and dates below).

Osterley House, location of Jurassic Kingdom dinosaur exhibition

They dinosaur models are fairly good; quite realistic and the ones that move usually also have an impressive roar. Our son was a bit frightened by some of the louder roars but he just asked to move away to look at them from a bit of a distance, and he can be a bit overly sensitive. Plenty of children younger then him seemed to be loving it and roaring loudly back! Most of the dinosaurs are roped off and you’re asked not to touch them but there are some smaller ones that you can climb on along the route or dinsaur eggs that you can pose inside for photos. The majority of them – mostly the larger dinosaurs – have signs with details of their names and some information about where they lived and what they ate etc. Personally I think it would have been good if all of them had labels, or at least names, as our son kept asking what they were all called and I’m a bit rubbish at remembering! We were impressed by the amount of dinosaurs he did recognise though and it never ceases to amaze me how little kids, including ours, can remember the really complicated dinosaur names that I can barely pronounce.

There was also an area that I thought was just a sandpit – I steered our son past it quite quickly as I knew he’d want to take his socks and shoes off and I was reluctant as it was a cold day. However, I’ve since read online that it was actually supposed to be a T-Rex excavation pit but it really wasn’t very clear and they could have had some better signage. We probably would have had a go if we had realised.

Pterodactyl or pterosaurs dinosaurs at Jurassic Kingdom, Osterley Park

Along the trail there are woodlands and a den building area as well as some swings to play on, so lots of natural attractions to amuse the kids apart from the dinosaurs. The bluebells are also starting to make an appearance in the woodland and there’s even a nesting swan very close to the path that the children were all intrigued by.

There’s a small marquee labelled as an education area which has a few chairs in and shows a film about dinosaurs if you need a sit down and a rest on the way. There are also a few toilets dotted along the route.

Diplodocus dinosaur at Jurassic Kingdom, Osterley Park

At the way in and out of the trail, along with a virtual reality ride (an extra £5), a merchandise stall and toilets, there are some food vans. Although these were advertised as “mouth-watering street food vans” online it seemed to be fairly standard van food like chips, coffee and sweets so nothing that was very appealing and I was glad we had brought a picnic. Tickets are not cheap when there is a whole family visiting, so we weren’t alone in bringing our own lunch. And unlike some short-sighted attractions, there are no restrictions on bringing your own food which is great. There are a few logs and picnic tables dotted along the trail but it’s probably a good idea to bring a blanket as they were all busy – they could definitely do with a few more. Half way along the trail there were a few more vans selling drinks and churros and, as we love churros, we shelled out an extortionate £6 for a large portion which turned out to be cold and tastelesss so I’d definitely give those a miss. (I know, we’re mugs!)

Dinosaurs fighting, Jurassic Kingdom at Osterley Park

You are asked to specify an hourly entrance time when you purchase tickets and when we arrived at about 11am the trail was very busy. However, it never felt overly crowded and it seemed like there was a steady stream of people arriving throughout the day. Also, nobody seemed to be actively checking our time slot so I think this is more to help stagger visitors rather than something they are really strict about. The trail seemed to appeal to both girls and boys alike with kids of both sexes running around excitedly. (This made me happy as far too often dinosaurs seem to be marketed mostly at boys for some reason.)

Animatronic dinosaurs at Jurassic Kingdom Osterley Park

We spent about three hours doing the trail at a very leisurely pace and with a long stop for our picnic lunch. So you could obviously do it a lot quicker if you needed to or you can stay longer as there is no time limit once you are inside. You could also spend some time looking around Osterly House itself, there’s a National Trust cafe outside the trail if you want something other than the food from vans and the Cadbury Easter egg hunt is taking place in the gardens at the other side of the house. However, our Little One was pretty exhausted by the long walk and the excitement so he was happy to head home full of chat about his favourite dinosaurs.

I’d definitely recommend a visit for any little ones who like dinosaurs and, even for children with only a passing interest, it’s a great way to get the kids out and about in the fresh air enjoying the gardens and woodland.

Diplodocus at Jurassic Kingdom Osterley Park

Parking is provided in fields next to Osterley Park and it is worth noting that the walk to the entrance of Jurassic Kingdom at the side of the house is quite long for little ones and ours was not the only one complaining how far it was. However, it will be no problem for older kids and I just wish we had remembered to bring the buggy board. The whole trail is suitable for prams and is a flat, easy walk.

Jurassic Kingdom will be at Osterley Park until 17th April and then will be embarking on a UK tour.

OPENING TIMES

10am to 6pm (last entry at 5pm). Entry is by hourly time slots but once  inside you can stay as long you wish.

ADDRESS & GETTING THERE

Osterley Park, Jersey Road, Isleworth, Middlesex, TW7 4RB (sat nav TW7 4RD).

There is parking on site which is an extra £7 which I think is pretty steep on top of the cost of tickets – be warned it’s cash only! It took us about an hour and twenty minutes to drive from Woodford Green.

If you want to take public transport the nearest tube is Osterley on the Picadilly line and its only a 1 mile walk away. Isleworth train station is 1½ miles away. You can catch the H28 Hayes to Hounslow to Osterley, or the H91 Hounslow to Hammersmith to within 1 mile.

TICKET PRICES

London:

£13.50 adults online, £15 on the door

£11.50 Child online, £13 on the door (Under threes go free)

£46 Family Ticket, £52 on the door

Prices are cheaper for the rest of the tour at the other locations in the UK!

The Cadbury Easter Egg hunt costs an additional £3.

JURASSIC KINGDOM UK TOUR DATES

Birmingham 20th May – 4th June

Manchester 8th – 23rd July

Blackpool 5th – 13th August

Glasgow 26th August – 10th September

Newcastle 23rd September – 1st October

Leeds 14th – 29th October

MORE INFORMATION

Jurassic Kingdom website

Osterley Park website

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How to make chocolate easter egg nest cakes

Despite the fact that the Little One isn’t really allowed chocolate yet, I decided to make some chocolate easter egg nest cakes for our Easter egg hunt party with his friends today. And even though I had great intentions to make healthy snacks (see Healthy Easter party food ideas for kids post), I just really liked the idea of getting him involved in the creation process as we probably don’t do enough messy play. They are super simple and great fun to make with kids so I thought I’d share the recipe. And don’t worry too much about the exact measurements of ingredients, to be honest, I mostly bung things in by eye for these and so much of it ended up on the table, floor, his clothes and in his mouth that it’s probably best to make a bit extra!

Chocolate easter egg nest cake

CHOCOLATE EASTER EGG NEST CAKE RECIPE

Makes about 18-20 small nests depending how much gets munched in the process.

You will need:

Some willing kids to help you

100g Rice Krispies (you can also use Shredded Wheat, Cornflakes etc)

300g Milk Chocolate (2 large bars)

2 tbsp of Golden Syrup

A bag of Mini Eggs – I prefer Cadbury ones

Small paper cake cases

Rice Krispies, chocolate and Cadbury mini eggs

How to make them:

Grab your aprons and break the chocolate into small pieces – little ones will enjoy helping with this job, just try to make sure it doesn’t all get eaten at this stage! Then melt it in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of water simmering on a low heat. Try to avoid the boiling water touching the bottom of the bowl as it tends to make it too hot. When the chocolate is all melted remove from it the heat and cool for a minute or two.

In a large mixing bowl, combine your Rice Krispies with the melted chocolate and squirt in a generous helping of Golden Syrup which is about 2 -3 tablespoons. Children can then mix it all up with a wooden spoon. Once all the Krispies are covered, use a spoon to fill up the paper cases. You can put them in a fairy cake tin if you want them to keep their shape, but I just put them on a large plate. Add a couple of Mini Eggs to the top of each one and then pop them in the fridge for a few hours to set.

boy mixing chocolate and rice Krispies in large mixing bowl with wooden spoon

Then try not to eat them all at once! And if you’ve tried this recipe or have your own version that you think is great, I’d love to hear from you so please leave a message in the comments section.

Boy eating chocolate easter egg nest mixture

There goes the ‘no chocolate’ rule!

Local eggcellent easter egg hunts for kids

I love Easter. Daffodils are some of my favourite flowers and once they start appearing everywhere, and the nights get lighter, I can’t help but get excited that Spring is finally here. Easter is a great excuse to decorate the house, make the most of the long weekend off work and get lots of yummy food in. And it seems like it is becoming even more popular every year, with more and more decorations and Easter themed food in the shops than ever before.

Easter fluffy chickens

Like stockings at Christmas, a visit from the Easter bunny and a chocolate egg hunt was a tradition that my parents continued for us long after we had ‘grown up’. And now I can’t wait to pass on the fun of the great Easter egg hunt to the Little One. Although he is barely old enough, I’m organising a hunt in the garden for all his friends and I am stupidly  excited. (If, like me, you’re hoping to avoid a chocolate overload this Easter, have a look at my Healthy Easter party food ideas for kids post.) If you want to get out to a public family event (that way you can join in the egg hunting fun too) here are some local Easter egg hunts for children.

Woodland Trust Family Easter Egg Hunt, Hainault Forest Country Park

Hainault Country Park

When: Saturday 4th April 2015, midday – 3pm

Follow the trail, find the clues, solve the Woodland puzzle and earn your Easter egg. Booking essential. All children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Dogs on leads welcome but please mention while booking. While the activity is free, a donation towards the costs is appreciated. Book via foresthainault@btinternet.com

Hainault Forest Country Park website

Egg-cellent Easter at Valentines Mansion & Gardens

During the school holidays Valentines Mansion will have a special Easter trail to follow when you can pick up your special treat when you complete it. They will also have Easter arts and crafts activities for kids to enjoy in the house. Free entry.

When: Sunday 5th April – Wednesday 8th April 2015

Valentines Mansion & Gardens website 

Easter Bunny Trail, Chigwell Meadows

When: Thursday 9th April 2015, 10am-3pm booking essential.

Join in for a hop, skip or just a walk along the nature themed Easter Bunny Trail on Chigwell Meadows. Follow the giant bunny footprints to various stopping off points to gather items along the way. If all items are found correctly – these will be exchanged for a chocolate Easter egg. This activity is suitable for children aged 3 – 7 years. Start at the Grange Farm Centre. Please note this is a self-led activity – because there is a prize, booking is essential. A £4 donation to Essex Wildlife Trust is required. Please call Claire on 0208 500 3094 or email clairer@essexwt.org.uk.

Chigwell Meadows website

Easter Egg hunt, The Owl High Beech

The Owl High Beech

When: Easter Sunday 5th April 2015

This family-friendly pub in High Beech is hosting lots of Easter activities for children, there will be Easter bonnet making with a visit to the Easter bunny in his burrow with an Easter egg present. £6 per child.

The Owl High Beech website

What’s on this weekend: Mother’s Day special

With Mother’s Day coming up on Sunday, I’ve reminded the boyfriend a number of times that he has to make the day special until the Little One is old enough to make me tea and burnt toast in bed. I’ve dropped lots of hints, well ok demands is probably more accurate. There must be breakfast in bed, flowers and a card. It’s only my second Mother’s Day as a mum but I think it’s important to set the ground rules early! And I want to get out-and-about with the Little One and I definitely do not want to cook. Not too much to ask really.

As the boyfriend has been lacking inspiration, I’ve been suggesting things we can do and I thought it might be useful to share some of the local places we’ve been considering. Hopefully, by next year he can just surprise me! So if you haven’t quite decided how you’ll spend the day together or if you want some inspiration to share with your other half, here are a few ideas for kid-friendly places visit.

WALK IN EPPING FOREST & LUNCH AT BUTLER’S RETREAT

boy walking in Epping Forest

If your don’t want to be tied down to a lunch booking or if you’ve left it too late, one of my favourite ways to spend any Sunday is a walk in Epping Forest followed by lunch at the lush Butler’s Retreat café. And as we don’t do it often enough, this looks like it could be a front-runner for us this weekend. Run by the same people behind The Larder in Wanstead, the food at the Butler’s Retreat is great and it’s very child-friendly with lots of space to run around outside. Perfect if, like me, you have a toddler who is against sitting still for 5 minutes. Hopefully, by next year he’ll be at an age where he can sit nicely at the table without a meltdown and we can go somewhere a bit fancy. But until then, open spaces and outdoor tables mean we don’t have to worry about noise or making too much mess.

Address: 12 Rangers Road, Chingford, E4 7QH

More info: Butler’s Retreat website

GUIDED TOUR OF COPPED HALL

Flowers in Copped Hall garden

Run by a charitable trust, this Georgian mansion is currently being restored and they open the doors to the public once a month. It’s set in grassy parkland and so at their open day and tour this Sunday you’ll also get a chance to see the gardens. There’s a shop that sells produce from the walled garden and refreshments available on site. You don’t need to book and the tour lasts between 2 – 3 hours. Kids under 14 are free and it is £8 for everyone else.

When: Sunday 14th March 2015, The gates only open between 10-11am on Crown Hill.

Address: Stables Courtyard, Copped Hall, Crown Hill, Epping, Essex CM16 5HS

More info: Copped Hall website

EASTER BARNS AT NORPAR BARNS

Easter barn at Norpar Barns Essex

I’m a big fan of Norpar Barns. It’s a lovely drive out into the Essex countryside and the barns are down a peaceful country lane. A visit to their Christmas barn is already a family tradition. Last year, I went along to the Easter barn and it really does get you in the mood for spring. There’s also a small tearoom where you can have tea and cake. It depends on the age of your children and how well behaved they are if you want to bring them. Babies and older children will be fine. For the moment, while the Little One is a mischievous toddler who wants to grab everything I think we’ll wait a bit longer before bringing him back. However, it would be the perfect place to take your own mother if you want a few hours away from the kids!

Address: Navestock Hall, Navestock, Romford, RM4 1HA

More info: Norpar Barns website 

FLAMINGO FAIR FOR MOTHER’S DAY

Based in Wanstead library, this local fair is holding a Mother’s day special this Sunday 14th March 2015. It’s child friendly and there’ll be stalls from local artists and craftspeople as well as jewellery, vintage furniture and haberdashery. Open 11am – 4pm and it is open to all ages

Address: Churchill Room, Wanstead Library, Spratt Hall Road, LONDON, E11 2RQ

More info: Flamingo Fair Wanstead

MUMS EAT FREE AT HARVESTER WOODFORD GREEN

I haven’t actually eaten here before but I noticed that The Castle Harvester restaurant in Woodford Green is offering a free main meal to all mums who eat with them after 6pm. There’s no voucher needed and you can read more about the offer on their website. The website claims they are kid-friendly so I’d be interested to hear from anyone who has tried it out.

Address: 393 – 395 High Road, Woodford Green, Essex, IG8 OXG

More info: The Castle Woodford Green website