Christmas at Butlins 2011

Are you going away this Christmas? We’ve just had a three night break at Butlins and have tried out all their Christmas activities. It was great to have a short break to look forward to once term ended. We’ve visited Butlins before, last Easter, and to review the new Ocean Hotel when it opened 18 months ago. Overall, I’d say that the Easter break was the best, perhaps because the weather was outstanding. It is always a little harder on mum when it is cold: more coats to be done up, undone and carried around! Despite that, the kids had a fab time.

I think Butlins is perfect for 3-7 year olds. J, 6, was in his element. He’s old enough to do loads of activities, and young enough to enjoy every show in the Skyline Pavilion. K, nearly 3, loved Bob the Builder, Fireman Sam and especially Billy Bear. For D, 9, the highlights were the Club Red craft session and the Skyline Gang shows. She’s looking forward to when the new Wave Hotel and apartments open, which are aimed at families with children aged 8+.

We were staying in the Shoreline Hotel, which is ideal for the little ones. The hotel rooms have handy touches like socket covers, loads of space if you need to have a cot in the room, plus access to special extras like photo shoots and story time with Billy Bear. Our room was right next door to Billy Bear’s bedroom, which K appreciated. We also went to two ‘Character Breakfasts’ which were buffet meals, noisy and full of fun, with the Butlins dinosaurs in attendance alongside Billy Bear. From a parent’s point of view the breakfast at the Shoreline Hotel is much more civilised. On Monday morning waiters fetched us coffee and toast, and we had a lovely choice from the breakfast buffet too.

I’ve always felt that Butlins is a great family holiday, and was looking forward very much to trying out their take on Christmas. The highlights for the family were the Enchanted Forest, where the kids got to meet Santa, and Bjorn’s Snowstorm, a short show culminating in ‘snow’ falling in the Skyline Pavilion. We also visited the reindeer, which involved a very long queue in the cold. The staff were great and brought round hot drinks, but 45 minutes wait for 2 reindeer probably wasn’t worth it! The queues were a bit of an issue this time: we had tickets for the pantomime and turned up 20 minutes ahead of the show start time but once inside the venue couldn’t find any seats: we decided not to stay and stand for the hour and a half show. Similarly, it was worth getting a place in the Skyline Pavilion well before any of the kids shows started. Despite that, everyone had a great time with the activities that we did do.

One of the highlights for me was Turner’s Restaurant. Brian Turner aims to bring a bit of fine dining to Butlins, and he has succeeded in our view. We tried the restaurant out last Easter, and the main innovation since then is that we were able to ‘exchange’ our Shoreline Hotel dinner vouchers for £12 per adult or £6 per child towards a meal at Turner’s. The food was great: the kids meals seemed to be made of great quality ingredients without being too challenging. Our crew had hand made burgers, sausages, and macaroni cheese. DH had an excellent piece of pork belly and I went for a winter warmer of Shepherds Pie. Desserts were brilliant: it is worth going to the restaurant for the trifle alone!

I’ve posted some of our pics below to give you more of an idea of the Christmas atmosphere at Butlins.

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