Reviewed by Nealy Collins
Gambado is an indoor play centre with six venues across the UK. I took my two boys aged 5 and 6 to Gambado in Watford which was easy to find – just off J19 of the M25. It’s situated on a ‘leisure park’ along with restaurants, cinema and a bowling alley. Parking is free and we found a space quickly.
We arrived just after 1.30pm on a Monday during the half term school holiday and whilst this is a peak time it was a sunny autumn day so I didn’t expect Gambado to be very busy and it wasn’t.
Inside we were warmly welcomed, there weren’t any queues and there was ample staff available on the entrance tills. There were plenty of seats available – we chose a high table with stools which allowed for easier viewing of the play centre and it was nice and clean. We used a nearby locker to store coats and shoes which was handy.
Once settled the boys went off to explore and play and there was lots to amuse them! What makes Gambado different to other indoor play centres (that I’ve experienced) is that it’s more than just soft play equipment. This is particularly appealing now that my children are getting older. There is also an ‘under twos’ area which is appealing to parents of younger children/toddlers and makes it suitable for all ages.
My boys particularly enjoyed the dodgems at Gambado, as its wasn’t very busy they were able to go on them quite a few times but there was a good system in place that even during busy times would allow everyone a go – without having to wait for a very long time.
Whilst the centre has a large three storey soft play area, in addition to the dodgems there is also a carousel ride and a climbing wall. One of my sons particularly enjoys climbing so the wall was very appealing. There was a member of staff on hand to assist the children and again there was a fair queuing system and time limit in place.
We purchased drinks and a cake from the café which was very tasty and reasonably priced. Whilst we didn’t eat anything else we saw lots of food going past and it all looked very nice. There’s a varied menu on offer but I would have liked to see healthier snacks on offer, for example fruit.
During our visit there was lots of staff regularly cleaning up and wiping the tables which was refreshing to see, especially as indoor play centres often have a reputation for being less than clean!
During peak times there is a 2½ hour limit on play which I think is very reasonable. However, we spent nearly 3½ hours at Gambado and I think the children could have kept going for even longer!
Gambado Watford charges £9.50 per child during peak times (weekends and school holidays) and a further £3.50 per adult. Whilst I think the entry price is good value for children particularly as this includes unlimited rides on the fairground rides and climbing wall, I think the adult price is unfair. The company website states the adult charge is to encourage adults to get involved and play! However it also states that Gambado provides free newspapers, TV and Wifi which suggests a relaxing environment. Unfortunately I did not see either newspapers or TV at the Watford centre and the Wifi was not very strong. To warrant the adult entrance price I would suggest more comfortable seating and a selection of up to date newspapers/magazines.
Gambado also charge a one off registration fee on your first visit. According to Gambado this is to maintain high levels of security however I fail to see how collecting personal date can increase security on site so this would be my only other critique of Gambado (Editors note: The registration fee is a one off addition to the entrance fees and is per family for life. It entitles your family to access to any Gambado centre. Every registered family will receive their own security swipe card and a pack including a £2.50 café discount voucher amongst others).
Overall Gambado is a great indoor activity centre that can offer hours of entertainment for children and a chance for parents to relax which is ultimately great!
For more information, to book tickets or a party visit www.gambado.com.
Woodside Leisure Park, Kingsway North Orbital Rd, Watford, Hertfordshire WD25 7JZ