Disclosure: My family was provided with free entry to the Adventure Park, meal vouchers and a VIP cabana for the day of our visit, courtesy of Porter Novelli and Adventure Park Geelong. No payment was offered or accepted for this post, and all opinions expressed are my own.
Maybe it's just me, but when I think of theme parks, Queensland - and California! - are what spring immediately to mind, rather than regional Victoria. G and I had talked in a desultory sort of way about maybe doing a family holiday to the Gold Coast and doing the Dreamworld / Movieworld / Seaworld thing at some point, but, to be honest, we found the idea pretty underwhelming with three little kids and a single income; it's an expensive business, interstate vacations.
I had been vaguely aware that there was a theme park near Geelong - we've stayed in Anglesea a few times over the past three years and have been to Geelong a half dozen times, each time passing colourful billboards promoting the park. I hadn't really processed it though and if I am being frank, I imagined it to be a few waterslides and maybe some paddle boats - a low-key sort of water fun place, nice to stop at if you are staying nearby, but not necessarily worth a special trip.
After our enormous day at Adventure Park on 27 December, however, I'm revising that very mistaken impression completely. The Adventure Park is a multi-faceted, professional, and very fun place, with many more activities and options than I had imagined.
Our day at the Park was quite cool initially, although it warmed up later (and, in fact, I wasn't nearly as sun-smart with the kids and myself as I should have been, forgetting to reapply sunscreen after water play and ending up with an 8 year old with red shoulders and myself with a cherry nose. Ooooops.) Settling ourselves in our VIP cabana, we ventured into the completely awesome water play labyrinth before us, but, as I'd suspected, the chill wind, cold water and cloudiness quickly proved too much for my extremely cold sensitive 6 year old. She and I spent a fair portion of the morning sitting in the cabana sipping water, eating strawberries and watching the world go by, sometimes accompanied by the toddler, sometimes not (toddler was happy paddling a lot of the time).
My 8 year old, however, who would not be averse to skinny dipping in Antarctica, dragged her Dad around all the water attractions except the big slides. I couldn't count how many times the two of them floated down the lazy river. She thought it was the best. thing. ever.
Lunch was obtained from the park for husband and kids, but not for me - anticipating the probable lack of options, I brought rice paper rolls from home for myself, and it was lucky I did, as there were no real gluten free meals options available. This is a small point - the food quality, from what I could see, was high and the family certainly enjoyed their meals - but I think it would be ideal if venues like this maybe catered one allergy safe option (a g free, lactose free, nut free salad wrap springs to mind as something that is relatively easy to get right).
At this point, I admit, that while we were really enjoying ourselves, I wondered if it would really be worth the price of admission for a larger-than-standard family (such as ours) with most of the children under 8. This is especially true as Adventure Park doesn't do family ticket pricing, a model that serves to contain extreme costs for some other attractions we've been to. Water play is great and the water facilities are the best I've ever seen, but I worked out the maths and it would've cost us north of $120 just to get in for the day, and I couldn't see that amount of value could possibly be squeezed from the water adventures (however fun! however splashy!)
This is where Adventure Park really came into its own for us, however. I'd forgotten, or somehow neglected to take in, that there are lots of other things to do at the Park other than get hilariously wet. And it was in the "dry" afternoon that we really hit our stride, especially Miss 6.
So what did we do, from lunch til dragging ourselves car-wards at 4:30?
- We watched the Bonito Pirate Stage Show, which was light, cute, a bit cheesy, but enjoyed by all the kids
- We drove electric bumper cars. Wheeeee!
- We rode the carousel - a real, old-fashioned, beautiful one - 6 times.
- We played on the enormous air cushion (like a jumping castle on steroids)
- We took a train ride around the Park and the kids used their new cameras to take shots
- We watched paddle boats, canoes and water bikes splashing about on the water
There were other activities, too, that weren't age-appropriate for our kids but would be fun with older ones (like the tube water slides and the archery range).
All in all, I'm now completely converted to the idea that Adventure Park represents good value for a "special" family day out - as part of a staycation, perhaps (like the one we had between Christmas and New Year). The option to bring food in and the excellent BBQ and picnic facilities allows you to budget the day fairly tightly, as all the activities are included in the entry price (park food was, I thought, reasonably priced for attraction food - better than at other places I've been - but there's no doubt that with a family like ours, you wouldn't get much change from $70 if you had to buy all your food, snacks and drinks).
So would we go again? We not only would, we are - we're taking a family short-break down in Anglesea for 5 days in March and the kids have made it clear that one of the days is booked for Adventure Parking :-)
Adventure Park have kindly provided 2 season passes to be given away to readers of this blog. The passes, valued at $74.99 each, entitle the bearer to unlimited free entry to the park for the whole of this summer season (until the park closes for winter on 29 April 2012). Check out this page for full terms and conditions.
Here's how to enter:
1. Leave a comment below telling me about a summer fun special experience from your childhood - something that really sticks out in your mind, something you might have only done once or occasionally but that shines in memory. (I have such memories of going to the Penguin Parade at Phillip Island, for instance).
2. I will select the most interesting two from the entries and each will win a season pass to Adventure Park.
Entries close at 5pm AEDT on Monday 16th January. Entrants must provide a valid email address and be an Australian resident. Judges' decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
UPDATE: This competition has now closed. Winners will be notified and then announced here. Thank you for playing!
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