We were invited to go to Weymouth at the weekend to visit the Sea Life centre, and take a whirl up the Weymouth Tower.
We used to live in Weymouth, and when we were there we had passes to the park that meant we could go as often as we wanted. Often we'd go just for a couple of hours to play in the splash park with the kids on a hot day, because we were broke, and it was a free way to cool off and get some fresh air out of the flat we were in at the time.
We both love Weymouth. We got married there. Our children were born when we lived on the island of Portland, just a short drive away over Ferrybridge. But the tower was built after we moved away, and we haven't had chance to have a go, but wanted some fun things to do to begin our summer holiday break in style.
So on Sunday we all piled into the car after breakfast and drove through to Weymouth, and arrived just in time for the first ride of the day - 11am - on the tower.
The boys are very different, and both had different reactions to what we were going to do as we waiting to be let on.
Jellybean is more cautious - and was a little nervous as we were waiting. Midget Gem...? Well...not so much with the caution!
We all took our seats and waited for the ride to start - and Jellybean sat beside me, tucked right back and holding tight to my arm so I could keep him safe.
Midget Gem - in true Midget Gem style - stood as far forward as he could to peer through the curved glass of the tower so he could see absolutely everything, from the people below to the mechanisms and pit below the ride, as well as the huge expanse of land and water we could see as we climbed.
I particularly liked looking across the harbour to Portland, where we'd started our little family.
And back across Weymouth and the beach.
We hadn't really spent much time thinking about going on the tower before - but it was fantastic. The views from the top were just beautiful. The tower rotates twice per ride once you're at the top. The first rotation has commentary pointing out sights, and then you rotate again quietly just to take it all in.
Jellybean was a bit scared to begin with but was soon so enchanted by what he could see, and how far he could see, that he got braver (though he never let go of me) and Midget Gem liked waving to everyone and pretending to be a giant.
Even Daddytwo, who is King of "this is pointless", thought it was worth going up and enjoyed himself, so a winner all around!
Once we'd had our ride we went to pick up a picnic then headed across to Sea Life for an afternoon of fun.
We haven't been for well over a year and though the kids liked an hour or so of "look, penguins" and a quick splash in the past we've never actually been the WHOLE way around the park before, or spent more than an hour there, because the boys were so little and didn't really understand what we were doing there.
This time was a whole new world. They were far more interested in the animals and plantlife in the tanks, they had been talking before we went about what they most wanted to see (Midget Gem wanted to see baby turtles, and Jellybean wanted to see crocodiles) and both were very, very excited.
We started - of course - in the splash park and had our picnic as the boys ran in and out of the water, cooling themselves down in the scorching sun.
Then we headed to the main event that Sea Life are running and promoting this summer. The Octonauts!
My boys both love the Octonauts on TV, it's one of the few shows they will both watch without calling each other "baby" or "jerk", and both get different things from it. Midget Gem likes the characters and the cute animals, and Jellybean likes the things he learns about sea creatures, because there's always some interesting facts to pick up in each episode.
Midget Gem was SUPER excited to stand by this big sign and pretend to be an Octonaut, and had no idea what was about to happen!
Days later he's still laughing that Kwazii stole his hat!
The characters from Octonauts are starring at Sea Life, Weymouth, all summer long and do meet and greets in a rather warm marquee just outside the splash zone.
Once we'd all shaken hands and had a good giggle at 'grab the hat' we headed off to explore the zones and see what sea life we could discover.
As we'd arrived each boy had been given two activities to do - one was an Octonauts question sheet which had the kids searching for clues and learning about the animals in each zone - Jellybean LOVED this - and the other was like a passport of the zones which you had to stamp with an embossing stamp in each area. There were prizes on offer, so both tasks were taken VERY seriously by our boys!
Penguins REALLY smell when it's hot.
Through the tunnel I didn't really get any photos because I was a bit freaked out (the water being all around me makes me feel a bit funny) but we did take a picture of this sad story and rescued turtle, who looks grouchy and is just huge.
Then we had three goes on crocodile creek - the log flume - which was a huge success, and cooled us all down again nicely!
Once the kids had a taste for rides we went to grab a drink and let them go on even more - they couldn't believe there were more rides AND the splash zone AND all the animals to see.
I sensibly sat the rides out and Daddytwo manfully stepped in!
Then there was another Octonauts zone - the 'cinema' (a nice cool, quiet room filled with bean bags and a huge TV showing Octonauts cartoons) where we sipped our ice cold drinks and all had a bit of a rest.
Then it was back to see even more animals, because they're amazing, and it was beautiful, and we got way too many pictures and thinning them out has been hard (as you can already tell!)
The Jellyfish were by far my favourites - and in this tank the changing lights made them totally hypnotic. I stood for ages watching them with Jellybean while Midget Gem and Daddytwo wandered off muttering "they're so pointless".
Once we'd done every zone it was time to head back to the splash zone for more fun, where we all got soaking wet and wore ourselves out completely.
Then we just had time to touch some starfish and peer into rockpools before we headed to the gift shop to claim our prizes.
In the shop we were met with this little face. He'd gathered two big toy turtles and two small ones and begged with big heartbreaking eyes to be allowed to take the whole turtle family home.
"Is it really for me? My own baby turtle?! REALLY?"
Thank you to Laura at Sea Life, Weymouth, who contacted us to offer the tickets - we started our holiday off on a real high, and even though it's been days and days both kids are still on a high from our day out, they've really enjoyed themselves, and we had a fantastic day.
You can take a look on the Sea Life Weymouth website for information on opening times, seasonal offers, ticket prices and special events. There are discounts for buying online, season tickets, deals on going to both attractions (and I do recommend the tower, though we may not have opted to do it had we not been given the tickets for the blog - we're total converts, it was much better than we'd expected) and in February if you live somewhere you can get copies of the Dorset Echo you can collect vouchers for a very heavily discounted season pass - which we'll be getting next year so we can have more days out like this. It's well worth the drive from home, there's always more to see, the kids absolutely love it, and we all really enjoy ourselves.
The only thing I would change about the whole park is that there are a lot of ways in and out of the splash zone, and though there are benches all around it not all can see both the splash fountains and the pool, meaning that you can get a bit stressed if your children are like ours and want to go in opposite directions. Ideally there would just be one gate, and more of the tables would be able to see the full area, but that's just something that fiddles my anxiety, and wasn't an issue on the day because there were two of us to watch them when they split up!
*Disclosure - this is a review, the tickets were gifted to us for the purpose of the post - all opinions are honest and unbiased, and all photos are my own.*