When I received the invitation to the preview weekend at Peppa Pig World, I think I was more excited than my kids.
My two-year-old has been properly obsessed with Peppa, George and the gang for some months, so meeting them in real life would be like Christmas come very early. Peppa lives in the middle of Paultons Park, so I hoped that there would be enough to keep his older brothers (five and seven) happy too.
Paultons is in the New Forest – a beautiful part of England we had never been to – so we decided to make a weekend of it. We stayed at the picturesque Beaulieu Hotel, just 15 minutes from the park.
The weather turned out to be beautiful, so we had to use our imaginations when we rode the Windy Tower. This and the hot air balloon ride soared just high enough to excite the little ones, but without being scary. Nevertheless, I wondered why there were no seatbelts on something designed for very small kids.
Playing the oh-so-cool seven-and-a-half-year-old, my eldest initially moaned about things being 'babyish' and kept demanding to move on to the bigger rides. Yet, as soon as he saw the muddy puddles, the clothes were off – and so was he. It was a warm day, so all three had a blast splashing about and were as happy as pigs in muddy puddles.
Peppa's section of the park is relatively compact, but we still managed to spend more than three hours there – and still not cover everything. My younger two loved meeting Peppa and George, and all three spent ages in Mr Potato's Playground. Grandpa Pig was popular with his boat trip and train ride, though the three unanimously agreed that George's Dinosaur Adventure was the best of the rides.
There were plenty of photo opportunities by much-loved landmarks, including Peppa's house and Madame Gazelle's classroom. And Peppa's Magic Photo Studio is exactly that. Thanks to modern technology, the kids were snapped alongside the piggy family jumping in – you guessed it – muddy puddles.
Overall, the park exceeded our expectations, as much attention has been paid to the finer details. There is also a lovely indoor soft play area for rainy days.
My one criticism would be directed at Daddy Pig's Big Tummy Café. There was no hot food, and few sandwiches that fussy littluns would actually eat. When I mentioned this to staff, I was directed towards an eatery in the wider park. But as any parent of a Peppa-mad toddler knows, when hunger strikes, you need something there and then. Save yourself the aggravation and pack a picnic.
Nevertheless, it was a lovely day and being part of a bigger theme park makes Peppa Pig World all the more appealing for families with older children too.
* If you would to make a weekend of your visit, there are family-friendly hotels within the New Forest, including the Beaulieu Hotel. Situated between Lyndhurst and Beaulieu, the child-friendly hotel allows kids under 16 to stay for free in a family room.
The hotel offers a Peppa Pig Package, which includes a two-night dinner, bed and breakfast break, with a family pass for four people to the Park for £406.
To book, visit www.newforesthotels.co.uk or call reservations on 0800 444441.