"The big news this summer is the opening of LEGOLAND®'s newest Discovery Centre in Manchester."
Keeping the kids amused over the summer break can test the patience of any parent. But the exciting news is that more and more cool places are now open for business, and they don't rely on the good weather for a good time.
The big news this summer is the opening of LEGOLAND®'s newest Discovery Centre in Manchester. LEGO® is loved by children and adults alike all over the world and sells in more than 130 different countries.
The company was founded in Denmark in 1932 when carpenter Ole Kirk Christiansen started making wooden toys. He named them Lego, a contraction of the Danish 'leg godt', meaning 'play well'. There have been imitators since, but none matches the creative genius of the original.
'Lego is all about playful learning. It is such a creative material,' says
Kurt Bolding Kristensen, a project manager at the original Legoland theme park in Denmark which opened in 1968. 'You can build with Lego for hours and hours. The only limit is your own imagination.'
While the Danish Legoland is still going strong, smaller Legoland Discovery Centres have since opened in Duisburg, Berlin and Chicago. Now, the UK's first Legoland Discovery Centre has opened at the Trafford Centre near Manchester.
Unlike the large Legoland theme parks, the Discovery Centre is perfect if you don't want to spend a whole day outdoors. There are also great savings to be made if you visit after 4pm. Once you're there, the first stop is a trip to the Factory, a fun, hands-on introduction to making Lego bricks by Professor Brick-a-Brack.
Then, armed with a souvenir brick, the trail leads onto Kingdom Quest, a ghost train-style interactive laser ride designed to entertain and intrigue older children.
The centrepiece of the attraction, however, is Miniland, a model village re-creation of key landmarks across England's north west made from some 1.5 million Lego bricks. Look out for a mini-me Coronation Street (pictured above), the Blackpool Tower, Liverpool's Albert Dock and a walk-through street scene under Chester's famous Eastgate Clock.
Of the play areas between the café and the 4D cinema, the Lego Racers build and test track is one for boys and dads. Meanwhile, the Princess Palace, with its pink towers and flower garden, keeps little girls transfixed.
A word to the wise, though: while great as an indoor attraction, it can get very busy at times, with long queues for the Lego ride. Try to avoid peak hours if you can. When
it comes to food, the café has basic sandwiches and drinks, but you don't have to eat-in: there's also lots to choose from just a short walk away in the main concourse of the Trafford Centre. So, who's for a trip on the Legoland ghost train?
Go by train: Manchester Piccadilly. Take bus route 250 from Manchester Piccadilly Gardens, just outside the train station (30-min journey)
Info: legolanddiscoverycentre.co.uk, 0871 222 2662
...Days out on the network
Butterfly World, Stockton-on-Tees
A tropical paradise in the north east, this attraction is dedicated to the conservation and understanding of our butterfly friends. Watch out, too, for a selection of wriggly reptiles.
Go by train: Yarm. Take bus route 7 towards Stockton
The Aquarium of the Lakes, Lakeside
This sprawling lakeside attraction celebrates all things fishy in Cumbria. Experience the walk-through tunnel accompanied by diving ducks and shoals of carp, then jump aboard the virtual diving bell.
Go by train: Windermere. Catch Windermere Lake Cruise To Lakeside
Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh
There's lots of nature-friendly developments at Edinburgh's Botanic Gardens. The new John Hope Gateway explores the world of botany using interactive media, and also houses an eco-friendly café.
Go by train: Edinburgh. Take bus route 8, 23 or 27 to the East Gate
Royal Armouries, Leeds
Wow the kids with these five stunning galleries featuring more than 8,000 exhibits. Horse shows and falconry displays add action-packed drama to the visit.
Go by train: Leeds. 15-min walk
We have five family tickets to the Legoland Discovery Centre in Manchester to be won, complete with First Class train travel with First TransPennine Express. Each ticket is worth over £40 and gives entry for two adults and two children (kids under two go free). Closing date: 30 September 2010.