As a family blogger, I'm always on the lookout for exciting new attractions to share with my parent community. Recently, we visited the highly anticipated The Gruffalo and Friends Clubhouse in Blackpool (North West of England), which is located a short distance from Blackpool Tower and SEA LIFE Blackpool is just next door. Blackpool Council have ploughed a £2.3 million investment into The Gruffalo Clubhouse in partnership with Merlin Attractions. It has been over 18 months in the making and opened in May 2023.
While the clubhouse is beautifully themed and the concept is amazing, there were a few aspects that left us slightly disappointed. In this review, I'll share what you can expect when you visit, our experience, highlighting both the positives and areas that could be improved upon.
What is The Gruffalo and Friends Clubhouse?
The Gruffalo and Friends Clubhouse is an exciting indoor play area in Blackpool that brings to life the beloved characters from six of Julia Donaldson’s best-loved children's stories (illustrated by Axel Scheffler): The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo’s Child, Zog, The Snail and the Whale, Room on the Broom, and The Highway Rat. The attraction offers an immersive experience, featuring interactive exhibits, play areas, and live shows based on the beloved characters.
Let's dive into what you can expect when visiting The Gruffalo Clubhouse (Blackpool)!
On arrival, you’re welcomed by a friendly member of staff who will ask you to put a coloured wristband on each member of your party. This wristband symbolises to staff what time your entrance slot is, and what time you have to leave. I believe this only applies during peak times like weekends and school holidays when they restrict how long you can stay at the attraction. On a Saturday in July, we had an hour and a half inside.
As we walked into the clubhouse, on the left you have the small cafe area and toilets behind the cafe, then on the right, you have all the themed zones with seating all around.
Deep, Dark Wood Adventure Play and Soft Play
The Gruffalo's deep dark wood area features a multi-level soft play with spinning walls and forest-themed elevations, and a climbing apparatus featuring slides, bridges, and tunnels. Make sure to spot all of the characters from The Gruffalo as you walk around the area, including the Mouse, Fox, Snake, Owl, and, of course, the main man himself! This section is so well-themed, even the soft play, having the characters on the walls inside.
Unfortunately, it was super busy when we visited (more about this later), and Elijah was too scared to go into the soft play part of the Deep, Dark Wood because of the number of children and adults inside (even I felt uncomfortable!).
The Gruffalo’s Child Sensory Room
In the winter-themed Gruffalo's Child Sensory Room, your little one can discover a haven of sensory delights. The dim-light room is adorned with soft textures, fluffy bean bags, LED curtains, and liquid lamps that create a calm atmosphere and bring the story of The Gruffalo's Child to life. This room was quiet, which was a huge relief compared to the rest of the clubhouse.
Room on the Broom Toddler Area
The Room on the Broom area is a small, closed-off toddler play area specifically for younger children. Your little ones can become fully immersed in the story, joining Witch in her quest to recover her misplaced treasures: her hat, wand/star, and bow. All of these items are soft play shapes.
This space also features a cauldron that ‘bubbles’ by pressing the green button and adding ball pit balls on top. This section was Elijah's favourite as it was much more calmer.
Zog’s Dragon School Challenge
In Zog's Dragon School Challenge, your child can embark on an extraordinary journey as they ascend to the towering heights of Princess Pearl's Castle (multi-level soft play), determined to rescue Princess Pearl from captivity. Prepare to see your very own dragon wings and put your fire-breathing skills to the test with the interactive, augmented-reality magic mirror.
This area looked great! Elijah loved the Zog and Castle photo op and the magic mirror. He didn't venture into the soft play itself where you can venture up 'Princess Pearl's Castle' as he's not a huge fan of heights. But this section is fantastic for more adventurous children!
The Snail and the Whale Seaside Play
This space is made up of a well-themed big deep-sea ball pool. Unfortunately, it was so busy with both children and adults when we visited, Elijah didn’t get the chance to go into the ball pool. The area is closed-off with netting around with only one small square for entrance/exit, making it difficult to enter when both inside and outside the ball pit were overcrowded. It looked great nonetheless.
Meet and Greet Area
The Gruffalo was available for regular photo ops when we visited, and running every hour in the meet and greet zone, your children can help the Clubhouse Crew wake the Gruffalo for a celebratory dance and photo opportunity. We did also see Witch walk through the clubhouse and would have loved to have seen Zog.
The Woodland Cafe
The cafe serves light snacks such as sandwiches and crisps, alongside a selection of cakes, brownies, muffins, Zog and Gruffalo cupcakes, as well as cold and hot drinks (including Costa Coffee). Here you can also see the Highway Rat!
The current prices and menu in The Woodland Cafe are as follows:
The Gruffalo and Friends Clubhouse Review
The attention to detail and quality of the clubhouse's theming was truly impressive. Every nook and cranny was thoughtfully adorned, creating a sense of wonder and excitement. The play areas offered a range of activities, including climbing frames, slides, and imaginative play spaces.
The Gruffalo and Friends Clubhouse is quite loud with themed music and tannoy announcements. It took Elijah a bit of adjustment at first as he did initially wear his ear defenders. But the clubhouse does have noise-cancelling headphones available upon entry (subject to availability), which we thought was good as not many establishments think of this.
The regular appearances of The Gruffalo were great, as there were lots of opportunities for photos throughout the session.
One aspect that was disappointing during our visit and unfortunately did spoil it for us was the overcrowding. We expected it to be busy as we visited on the weekend, but not as busy as it was, especially in reflection of the price paid (more about this later). The sheer busyness, adults having to stand around equipment with bags and shoes because of a lack of tables, and scrambling for play equipment did put Elijah off. I don’t think it helped with a lot of people coming and going every 15 minutes as some people’s time slots come to an end and others start. It was a constant scramble of people walking around others to grab tables and asking others if they were leaving when they'd only just arrived. It felt overwhelming and detracted from the overall experience. Obviously, if you visit off-peak, this will be less of a problem for you.
We have been to soft play and children's centres previously, which I believe have a better system in place. For example, having slots such as 9.00-10.30, 10.45-12.15, and 12.30-14:00 throughout the day with a small interval where staff can quickly clean up tables and all customers coming and leaving at the same time prevents the constant flow of people and scramble for tables. This would also make the overall atmosphere a lot calmer and less chaotic.
Additionally, the allotted playtime of only an hour and a half during peak times felt inadequate considering the price of admission (£22.50 for 2 adults and 1 child). We would have appreciated more time to fully enjoy the clubhouse and make the most of our visit, especially as it took us 5-10 minutes to get settled and ready to play and then with a sandwich and cake break in between (you know how long children can take to eat haha), then the time slot was up in no time.
Throughout your play session at The Gruffalo and Friends Clubhouse, there will be regular messages (every 15 minutes) on the tannoy to remind people with a specific time slot / coloured wristband that their session has come to an end and it’s their time to leave. However, we did see wristbands in the soft play and witnessed two families putting their wristbands in the bin and staying longer than their time slot. The suggested system (as mentioned above) would eradicate this.
How much does it cost to visit the Gruffalo and Friends Clubhouse?
Admission into The Gruffalo and Friends Clubhouse costs £4.50 per adult and £13.50 per child (aged 3-14 years), £4.50 per toddler (1-2 years), and under 1s go free. These prices are for peak times (weekends and school holidays). Prices may be slightly cheaper off-peak.
Where to park for Gruffalo Blackpool?
The nearest car park is Central and Bonny Street Car Park. The postcode for Central Car Park is FY1 5QB. Parking charges apply £3.50 for up to 2 hours, £5 for up to 3 hours, £6 for up to 4 hours, and £8.50 for up to 6 hours.
The Gruffalo and Friends Clubhouse Discount Code
You can get 10% off admission to The Gruffalo and Friends Clubhouse if you have a "Day Out With The Kids" Membership.
Despite the weekend crowds and the limited playtime, we can't deny the charm and appeal of The Gruffalo and Friends Clubhouse and the overall play experience. It's a place full to the brim of imagination, discovery, and play. The impeccable theming and immersive environment undoubtedly make it a must-visit destination for families with young children.
However, it's worth considering planning your visit on a quieter weekday to avoid the hustle and bustle, and to make the most of the experience without feeling rushed. Although, for families like us with children in full-time school, this is near impossible.
While the price may seem steep compared to the time allotted, the initial joy and excitement on Elijah's face made it a memorable outing. Would I visit again? If I was in the area already during term time or a local parent, yes, but I wouldn't go out of my way to visit.
Magic Light Pictures please answer all of our prayers and bring something like The Gruffalo and Friends Clubhouse closer to the Midlands!
Note: All information is correct at the time of posting (July 2023).
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