Reviewed by Joy Wright
We’ve just spent a lovely day at Sundown Adventureland in Retford, Nottinghamshire. It’s advertised as a theme park for under 10’s and it is, yet there were no complaints from our older children accompanying their younger brother.
We arrived in the huge car park and there were still plenty of spaces left despite the park already being open, none of it is too far from the entrance though we were distracted by the taller building in the corner until we realised the chalet style building was the real entrance and from that point onward it’s a little bit magical. All the buildings are designed much like the houses and style you might see in a children’s story book, except now they’re nearly all full sized. We arrived in the Market Square and my son was attracted immediately to the Santa Sleigh ride. It’s a little dark and mystical inside but once he’d gone through once he was entranced, we had to do it again. And again! However, he really didn’t want to go in the Witches Cauldron, a slightly spooky walk through attraction across the square. His sisters did though, and they were entertained by the spooky noises and glow in the dark features.
Behind the Witches Cauldron we found Fort Apache, a substantial outdoor play area with wooden structures, slides, climbing nets and rope bridges in every style you might imagine. Although it’s for under 10’s it is a reasonably diverse play area and we were pleased to see seating for adults in the shade all down one edge and a few other seats besides, the adults could relax whilst the youngest could set about his own adventure quite safely.
There are height restrictions for some activities but there was nothing my six-year-old couldn’t do either alone or with an adult. His older sisters were able to participate in many of the rides and activities too.
Soon it was as if we had stepped foot into another world because Sundown has themed areas and it’s really nice discovering a new spot with a whole new theme. The Storybook Village created some lovely photo opportunities with little houses fully set up exactly like you’d see them in a book, sometimes with figurine inside and push button features which even the littlest visitor can reach.
Next we were lured to the Angry Birds play area, this is relatively new in the history of the park and it looks really bright and cheerful, even with the Angry Birds theme music playing. The ground is covered in a rubberised layer so there’s space to play without fear. We saw some new features we’ve never spotted before in play spaces and our 13 year olds were happy to help keep an eye on their brother in this case. Again, there’s lots of seating and a Tiki Hut serving drinks and ice cream. We bought drinks for the adults and ice cream for the kids for under £10 which felt quite reasonable. We really liked the double swing with a space for an older child or adult to join in or to enable them to push more than one child at a time – handy for parents of multiples!
The staff in almost all of the areas were lovely, the ride staff often smiley and joking with my children and for the Santa’s Sleigh Ride my son could stay on and go again immediately as long as no one was queuing.
The toilets are in the central area and on the map it seems like it’s a long way but actually, nothing is quite as far as it looks on the map. The loos were adequate in number and no queue, nice and clean and in good repair.
My son really loved the Monkey Mayhem Driving School where the kids are given a quick driving instruction class and then let loose on a small series of roads in electric vehicles. It might be one of the cutest activities I’ve ever seen, six kids aged around 4-7 years all driving round, giving way to each other – properly too, going the right way around the roundabout and obeying the traffic lights. That was just as much fun for parents and siblings to watch as it was for the participants driving.
The Pirate Cove water ride had the longest queue of the day, a whole 20 minutes, which really wasn’t so bad, especially since our visit took place in August – peak season. There’s a warning that you may get wet. That’s true, but it’s very little and you don’t need full waterproofs to survive. The next longest wait for us was the Ostrich Safari which takes a maximum of two per ostrich and in some cases one person at a time so it can take a little while to get through the queue but again, 20 minutes at peak time is pretty good.
The sun came out blazing then and I realised we’d left my son’s hat at home but the Tiki Hut had some for sale with a multicoloured logo emblazoned on the front for £3.99. Again, this felt really reasonable and my son was happy to wear it all day.
We ate lunch in Honey’s Pumpkin Patch Café, there were only two people in front of us and plenty of seating available. We spent £31 on chip and sausage butties, sweet slices and drinks for five of us. The chips and sausages were served in small breadcakes. The chips were plentiful though the sausage a little less inspiring, however, it’s fairly basic food at fairly basic prices so there’s nothing to grumble about and everyone felt recharged and ready to go again. There are cakes and cold sandwiches available and the healthier option of a baked potato with a variety of toppings so it’s a more diverse menu than our meal suggests.
We found the Tractor Ride next which is a simple rail driven ride which is suitable for all, really mild and lots to look at on the way round. We really liked the Robin Hood Merry Adventure ride too, it’s far from white knuckle but it’s so well themed it’s hard not to enjoy.
Next we found the Lollipoppet Castle which was a fun experience for adults and children alike. As we arrived in the courtyard area we could smell delicious things wafting in the air. Each area is themed around sweets and we had fun enjoying the aromas of mint, liquorice and other yummy things. We felt we could smell doughnuts mixed in with the sweets and the next thing we see is the welcome sight of a doughnut bar after such sweet temptation.
Shotgun City is a Wild West Themed area and it’s where we finished our day with a free shoot ’em up game and the Rocky Mountain Railroad, again the theming is brilliant, lots of attention to detail which makes it fun to walk through.
There are indoor play area scattered throughout the park which is great if the weather is a little less than perfect.
We could see on the park guide that there are extra Christmas rides only open during the festive season so there’s an allure to a Christmas visit too.
The park is really well maintained throughout which is really nice to see. We saw bins being emptied often which reduces the build-up and there didn’t seem to be that annoying hover of wasps around every bin.
Everything is almost universally flat and accessible with frequent seating opportunities and it’s visually lovely in most areas.
The gift shop has a magical sparkle for every child in my experience. I was surprised to see less branded items than I usually see at theme and play parks. There are more generic toys available and a small range of stationery items with the Sundown branding.
My son however was more drawn to another go on the Santa Sleigh Ride again which he enjoyed as if it were the first time another two times before we finally left.
In total we spent around 6.5 hours at the park and we could have gone on longer if we’d spent more time in the indoor play areas. There are more rides than I’ve mentioned but you’ll have more fun exploring them for yourself.
I’d definitely recommend this for under 10’s and I think we’ll go back again, perhaps at Christmas or certainly next summer.
We saw on the leaflet that there are new onsite lodges and pod accommodation being built for 2020 so there’s new options coming soon too.
Tickets cost from £16.75 (children under 90cms FREE).
Sundown Adventureland, Treswell Rd, Rampton, Retford, Notts, DN22 0HX