Monday, 25 November 2013

National Botanic Garden of Wales and Laserzone

Below is my “Days Out” column from The Weekend supplement in the Saturday, November 9, 2013, issue of the South Wales Evening Post


Days Out!
With Richard Thomas
The National Botanic Garden of Wales is the most visited garden in Wales. The site offers a stunning range of themed gardens that appeal to a wide range of visitors, from those who just love the sight and smells of flowers to those who want to know about medicinal plants or the latest DNA research into plant evolution. Admission prices are: £8.50 for adults, £7 for OAPS, and £4.50 for children 5 to 16 years old. Children 5 years and younger visit for free and families (2 adults and up to 4 children) can enter for £21. For more information visit:
WHERE? Spread across 560 acres of beautiful countryside, The National Botanic Garden of Wales is situated near Llanarthney in the Towy Valley, Carmarthenshire.
WHY? The garden is both a visitor attraction and a centre for botanical research and conservation, and features the world's largest single-span glasshouse measuring 110 metres long by 60 metres wide.
WHEN TO GO? They are open daily between 10am and 4.30pm.
CONTACT? Phone the switch board on 01558 668768 or send an email to
HOW LONG WILL THIS TAKE? With an amazing collection of over 8000 different plant varieties and lots more to see, you’ll want to set aside the whole day to see everything the gardens have to offer.
WHO WILL ENJOY IT? There is something for all ages to enjoy inside the garden. Families will enjoy the fantastic Magical Mystery Tour, a fun trail of the weird and wonderful aspects of the garden. Along the way you can visit the Great Glasshouse and see the amazing glowing fungus, see the Plastic Bottle Greenhouse, and hear the mystical story of the Lady of The Lake.
WHAT ABOUT THE KIDS? There is plenty of open space inside the garden for kids to run around and play in, but they will love the Roots and Shoots Adventure Zone, a willow play area with slides, climbing frames, tunnels and musical blocks made entirely of recycled materials. Not only is this great fun but it is educational too, as children also get to learn about plants at the same time. The “seed” and “seedling” zones were designed for younger visitors, while the “Leaf Lookout”, “Root Run”, “Branch Balance” and “Flower Fort” provide a bigger challenge for older children.
HOW DO I GET THERE? The National Botanic Garden of Wales is situated 10 minutes from the M4 and ¼ mile from the A48 in Carmarthenshire, midway between Cross Hands and Carmarthen. For sat-nav users the full address and postcode is: National Botanic Garden of Wales, Llanarthne, Carmarthenshire, SA32 8HN.
WHERE CAN I PARK? The garden has an onsite car park.
LUNCH? 90% of all the food served in the garden’s catering outlets is prepared and cooked on site by their excellent in-house catering team. The best place to visit to eat is the Seasons Restaurant, located in our Stable Block. Also serving locally made and sourced light food and drinks is the Gatehouse Café, which can be found at the garden’s entrance. The café is a lovely place to sit and relax, and locally produced produce, such as jams, cheeses and cakes, are all available to buy to take home with you.
ANYTHING ELSE IN THE AREA? Pembrey Country Park is one of Wales’ top visitor attractions providing a unique blend of coast and countryside. Consisting of some 500 acres of parkland, you can enjoy a picnic then check out the ski slope, Cobra toboggan ride, steam railway and many other facilities inside the park.
Fans of Arnold Schwarzenegger's favourite alter ego the T101 will recall the high-tech laser battle fought between humans and machines at the beginning of T2: Judgment Day. At Laserzone you can get a taste of what it would have been like to be on the set of James Cameron’s classic film, while you and your team take part in your own futuristic warfare. Visit
WHERE? Lazerzone is located opposite Castle Square next to Swansea Castle.
WHY? Laserzone is a high-tech, live action laser game played in a multi-level themed arena with special effects, fog, laser beams, pulse pumping music and other players/targets combining to create the ultimate laser adventure.
WHEN? Laserzone is open seven days a week. Monday to Friday groups can play from 12pm to 10pm, and on weekends games are played between 10am and 9pm.
CONTACT: Phone 01792 653433.
HOW LONG WILL THIS TAKE? Games last about 30 minutes.
WHO WILL ENJOY IT? Lazerzone is suitable for most age groups. Each player is given a laser pack consisting of a laser weapon and body armour. The gun and body armour both have hit sensors built into them, all of which have different score ratings. Your end score depends on your hit to shots fired ratio and how many times you’ve been hit by other players. Up to 30 players can play at once and you can choose to either play as part of a team or go it alone as an individual. Company groups can also book the whole area for themselves using Lazerzone’s exclusive booking facility.
WHAT ABOUT THE KIDS? Anyone from 7 years old and up can play.
HOW DO I GET THERE? For sat-nav users the address and postcode is: Laserzone, Castle Buildings, Worcester Place, Swansea, SA1 1JQ.
WHERE CAN I PARK? There is ample car parking next to Plantasia in Parc Tawe Retail and Leisure Park. Lazerzone is located just outside the shopping complex.
LUNCH? If you feel hungry after playing there are some snack machines to use and a pizza restaurant, Pizza Express, is just next door and there is also a McDonalds nearby.
ANYTHING ELSE IN THE AREA? There is lots to do inside the Park Tawe shopping complex next door to Lazerzone. The Odeon is a 10 screen cinema situated in the Park Tawe shopping complex, right next door to Tenpin Bowling. There is also a Joes Icecream and Dinky Donuts inside the shopping complex just outside Plantasia, which is another great place to visit. The superb all weather attraction houses a huge variety of unusual animals and exotic plants, some of which are extinct in the wild.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Manor House Wildlife Park St Florence and Swansea Museum’s Collections Centre

Below is my “Days Out” column from The Weekend supplement in the Saturday, November 2, 2013, issue of the South Wales Evening Post

Days Out!
With Richard Thomas
Manor House Wildlife Park is a conservation-led zoo set in 52 acres of Pembrokeshire Parkland. Inside you can find endangered species from all corners of the world in a natural and beautiful corner of Wales. Animals at the park include Wallabies, Pygmy goats, Brazillian tapir, Sulcata tortoises, Przewalski horses, Rhino, Llama and lots more.
Entry prices are: £11.95 for adults and £8.95 for children ages 4 to 17. Children 3 and under visit for free. For more information visit:
WHERE? The park is located just 2 miles from Tenby’s beautiful beaches and 3 miles from the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.
WHY? Setting the park apart from others are the special VIP experiences, where visitors can come face-to-face with rare species in their natural surroundings with professional zoo-keepers who know them well. There are 4 experiences to choose from. Be a Keeper, where you can work alongside the Manor House keepers behind the scenes, helping them feed and care for the animals; Look a Rhino in the Eye, where you can see a rhino’s home and bedroom; Hire a Keeper, where groups of up to 30 people can get a tour of the park from a zookeeper; and last but not least, Meet the Species, where you can choose between meeting Meekats, Gibbons and Tapirs.
WHEN TO GO? All of the VIP experiences are available anytime except for Look a Rhino in the eye, which is only available on Wednesdays.
CONTACT? Pre-booking is essential on all the VIP experiences. To book a place phone: 01646 651201.
HOW LONG WILL THIS TAKE? Until the end of November the park will be open every day between 10am and 5pm. With so many different rare species to see, you’ll want to spend the whole day at the park.
WHO WILL ENJOY IT? Children especially will enjoy seeing the animals in their natural habitat, but the park’s Wild Welsh Zoo has something for everyone.
WHAT ABOUT THE KIDS? Kids will enjoy the wildlife trail and can also have fun in the secure indoor Hay Play area.
HOW DO I GET THERE? Manor House Wildlife Park is on the B4318 Sageston to Tenby Road, at the edge of the floral village of St Florence, just two miles from Tenby. For sat-nav users the address and postcode is: Manor House Wildlife Park, St Florence, Tenby, Pembrokeshire, SA70 8RJ.
WHERE CAN I PARK? There is a free parking available.
LUNCH? With its network of intimate tree-shaded walkways and wide open spaces the park is perfect for picnics on a warm day. There is also the Snack Shack and Real-Food Café.
ANYTHING ELSE IN THE AREA? Nearby is Heatherton World of Activities. Open all year round this family leisure park has a wide range of indoor and outdoor activities, with something for the whole family to enjoy. Admission to the park is free as visitors only pay for what they want to do. Visit
Swansea Museum’s Collections Centre is a fascinating place to visit because it houses the museum's reserve collection, which include some extraordinary exhibits from Swansea’s industrial and maritime past. Some of the most popular items in the collection at Landore are the old vehicles like a traveller's van, lorries, a fire engine and also boats.
Admission is free. Visit:
WHERE? The Collections Centre is housed in a historically important building on the former Hafod/Morfa Copper Works site in Landore, parts of which date back to 1830. The former copper rolling shed and warehouse building has been transformed into a public-access store and collections centre. The building is now home to the reserve collections of both Swansea Museum and the Maritime and Industrial Museum, providing more opportunities for the public to see some wonderful gems from history.
In the mid-19th century the Hafod/Morfa copper-smelting complex was the centre of world copper smelting activity. Little evidence remains of this industrial past, however, save for the buildings on the site.
WHY? Some of the most popular items in the collection at Landore are the old vehicles like a traveller's van, lorries, a fire engine and also boats. There are even two lifeboats; the Naomi Beatty and the William Gammon. The later was gifted to the museum in 1992 and was named in memory of the coxswain of the Mumbles lifeboat, who lost his life along with the other seven crew members on April 23rd, 1947 whilst attempting to rescue the crew of the Samtampa. 
WHEN TO GO? Swansea Museum Collections Centre opens to visitors every Wednesday between 10am to 4pm.
CONTACT? Phone 01792 653763
HOW LONG WILL THIS TAKE? Set aside at least an  hour.
WHO WILL ENJOY IT? Anyone with an interest in Swansea’s maritime & industrial will enjoy a visit to the centre. The collection from the former Maritime & Industrial Museum in Swansea is now kept there.
WHAT ABOUT THE KIDS? Children and adults alike will be fascinated by the exhibits at the centre.
HOW DO I GET THERE? The Collections Centre can be found next to the Park and Ride car park, opposite the Liberty Stadium. For sat-nav users the address and postcode is: Cross Valley Link Road, Landore, Swansea, SA1 2JT.
ANYTHING ELSE IN THE AREA? As well as the collections centre Swansea Museum operates from another 3 sites: the museum’s main building on Oystermouth Road, Swansea, which has 6 galleries containing all kinds of unusual objects from ancient Egypt to the Victorian era; the museum's 3 floating exhibits kept at the Marina; and The Tramshed on Dylan Thomas Square, also at the Marina, which displays memorabilia from the old street trams of Swansea.

Dinosaur Park Tenby and The Grand Theatre Swansea

Below is my “Days Out” column from The Weekend supplement in the Saturday, October 28, 2013, issue of the South Wales Evening Post


Days Out! 
With Richard Thomas
The Grand Theatre is a performing arts venue in the centre of Swansea. The theatre stages various plays, pantomimes and touring theatrical acts visiting Swansea.
Since 1897 the 1,000-seat auditorium has been providing the public with a broad range of cultural, artistic and general entertainment events. The Grand Theatre was designed by the architect William Hope of Newcastle in 1897. It was built by D. Jenkins and was opened by Madam Adelina Patti - an Opera Diva of her day - under the original proprietors Morell and Mouillot. The Swansea Corporation leased the building in May 1969 and bought it outright in 1979. The Theatre was then refurbished and updated during the period 1983 - 1987 at a cost of £6.5 million. A further £1 million was spent for the Arts Wing to open its doors for the first time in 1999. Over the last twenty years, the fabric of the theatre has been improved and enhanced considerably, thanks to the support of the former Swansea Corporation, Swansea City Council and more recently the City and County of Swansea. However, none of the theatre's unique identity has suffered as a result of this improvement and today's Grand is as full of charm and atmosphere as was the case when the theatre first opened its doors all those years ago.
WHERE? The Grand is situated in the heart of Swansea’s city centre on Singleton Street.
 WHY? The Grand Theatre in Swansea has a wide variety of shows and exhibitions for everyone to enjoy.
 WHEN? The Grand is open Monday to Saturday between 9.30am and 8pm, on non-performance days they close at 6pm. On Sundays the theatre is open for one hour before performances.
 CONTACT: To book tickets call the Box Office on 01792 475715.
 WHO WILL ENJOY IT? The Arts Wing is the most recent development at The Grand and adds almost 2000 square metres of extra space to the theatre. The contemporary space holds exhibitions, conferences and smaller-scale music and drama performances including lunchtime theatre on the last Saturday of each month and a regular comedy club featuring acts on the comedy circuit.
WHAT ABOUT THE KIDS? Today (Saturday 26 October) children can see Erth's Dinosaur Zoo.
 HOW DO I GET THERE? For sat nav users the postcode is SA1 3QJ.
 LUNCH? On the top floor there is also the Rooftop Café, Restaurant and Bar with its own terrace, affording unique views of Swansea.
Morning tea and coffee, lunchtime specials and pre-show dinners are available in the theatre’s Footlights Café Bar. Located in the theatre’s delightful garden area it's the perfect setting to meet with friends for a drink or a light meal. The menu includes fresh Italian coffees, a variety of teas, sandwiches, toasted sandwiches, pasties, cold drinks and fresh pastries.
ANYTHING ELSE IN THE AREA? There are two excellent museums nearby to visit. Swansea Museum on Victoria Road has six galleries containing all kinds of unusual objects from Swansea’s past as well as the wider world. One highlight is The Amazing Cabinet of Curiosities gallery dedicated to everything Victorian, an era that was obsessed with the bizarre and strange. There are also Egyptology exhibits including an Ancient Egyptian mummy see. And just down the road is National Waterfront Museum which houses more than 100 historical artefacts from Wales’ industrial past.

At the Dinosaur Park Tenby you can come face to face with life size dinosaurs both great and small lurking in the woods on their dino Trail. There are 30 prehistoric creatures roaming the ancient woodland and Kids will enjoy helping the park ranger discover how many T-Rex roam the woodland, using their radio, lookout towers and field stations to accomplish their mission.
With your brush in hand, visitors can also enjoy unearthing dinosaur fossils and discover which dinosaur it is. Visitors can also make friends with the animals in Victorian walled garden and meet wallabies, sheep, kune kune pigs, donkeys. Afterwards you can head to the Fun Barn to cuddle a rabbit or guinea pig and then check out the creepy crawlies demonstrations board.
Around the park you will find stations were you can stamp the boxes on a passport you are given. Once you have collected all stamps you will be able to collect a medal.
Entry prices are £9.25 for adults, £8.25 for children, £7.75 for OAP’s and £6.25 for disabled. Children 2 and under visit for free. For more information
WHERE? The Dinosaur Park is situated on the B4318 at Gumfreston between Tenby and Sageston. For sat-nav users the postcode is SA70 8RB.
WHY? From the 26 October to 2 November the park will be holding special Halloween Days. Activities include a spooky trail, face painting, pumpkin carving and Halloween craft sessions.
WHEN? Until 2 November the park will be open between 10.30am and 4pm daily.
CONTACT: Phone 01834 845272 or email
HOW LONG WILL THIS TAKE? There are lots of activities to try inside the park, including the Astra Slide, 18 hole Adventure and Frishee Golf, 4x4 Off Roader Course, Super Jumper Trampolines, Big Game Hunting, Bubble Ride, Jungle Climb, Pedal Trucking, Disco Boats, Motorised Tractors, Orbiter Cars &  fabulous Tubey Run. With so much to see and do, you’ll want to stay until closing time and come back on another weekend.
WHO WILL ENJOY IT? There is something for all age groups inside the park, including the Family Games Garden with Dinos & Ladders, Jurassic Jigsaws, Guess Who?, Roaring Racers and Hooplasaurus.
WHAT ABOUT THE KIDS? Children will have a fantastic time climbing, sliding and scrambling in the adventure play area. The 23 metre climb-a-saurus provides lots of fun for older children and under 5’s will like the Tiny Terror'saur.
WHERE CAN I PARK? There is an on site car park.
LUNCH: The park is a great place for a picnic with lots of grassland areas and a picnic marquee if you want to eat indoors.
ANYTHING ELSE IN THE AREA? Folly Farm is much more than just a zoo, the 200 acre park is also home to Europe's largest undercover vintage funfair with a huge collection of working rides and stalls including a vintage big wheel and giant helter skelter ride lovingly restored to their 20th century glory. The address is: Folly Farm, Begelly, Kilgetty, Pembrokeshire, SA68 0XA. Phone 01834 812731. Also in Tenby isHeatherton World of Activities, a family leisure park with a wide range of both indoor and outdoor activities, offering something for the whole family to enjoy. Admission to the park is free as visitors only pay for what they want to do. Visit