When is the best time to visit Butlin’s on the beach? Probably not the depths of winter.
However we are a hardcore crew and so we (being my husband and children aged 2 and 4) visited Butlin’s in Bognor Regis for Christmas Fantasy break in the week before the Christmas holidays.
We stayed and ate at the Shoreline Hotel which I reviewed in a post here, however this post is about things to do at Butlins with children under 5 years old.
So what is there to do at Butlin’s Bognor Regis for children under 5?
As well as the hotel stay and food, the package included tickets to the Christmas show, Whittington Rocks pantomime and Father Christmas experience (including meeting Father Christmas), as well as all the entertainment, access to the swimming pool and soft play and most of the fairground rides.
Skyline Pavilion (the main tent)
Inside the large tent called the ‘Skyline Pavilion’ is where basically everything happens.
There are a whole load of rides and arcade machines that you can pay to use.
We loved the 2p machines and blasted through more money than I care to add up in search of elusive tokens which you inevitably change for something you could have bought from the pound shop.
The Skyline Pavilion tent is also where the swimming pool ‘Splash Waterworld’ can be found. It also comprises the Skyline arena, restaurants and cafes, soft play, gift shop and stands and children’s entertainment.
Entertainment at Butlin’s Bognor Regis
Butlin’s is famed for its Redcoats and their cheesy entertainment and on this front it did not disappoint.
We had two ticketed shows which were free to attend; the first was ‘A Magical Christmas’ which was a collection of Christmas songs performed in the Centre Stage theatre. Although the place was so packed with didn’t manage to get seats, we perched near the back and the kids enjoyed dancing along to the familiar songs.
The second show was Whittington Rocks, the Butlin’s panto which I am informed the cast have been knocking out six times a week since January! Lordy. Although Pantomimes are very much Not My Thing and therefore I’m not the best person to comment, it was a professional production with a lot of groan-worthy gags, recognisable songs and great costumes and of course, a pantomime dame. Definitely worth a watch if it’s your sort of thing!
The baddie was a bit too scary for my four year old, but then she was scared by the CBeebies panto so I’m not sure if she’s just very sensitive, but it’s something to take into consideration if you have under 5s.
There was also a timetable of live shows on at the Skyline Arena (inside the main Skyline tent). Each evening there was something for children at 6.30; we saw Billy (the Butlin’s teddy bear mascot) and his girlfriend Bonnie one night and the Tots Disco the next.
We also watched the Skyline snowstorm which covered the whole area in ‘snow’!
There were puppet shows in the ‘castle’ area for younger children but we didn’t make it there.
At around 7.30 there was entertainment in ‘Reds’ suitable for young children but again we never made it there as my two were just too tired!
Fairground rides at Butlin’s Bognor Regis
The outside fairground is aimed mainly at older children, with most rides requiring children to be at least 90cm or 1.1m tall even when accompanied by an adult.
Inside however is a small fairground specially aimed at under 5s (up to 1.5m).
The indoor children’s rides – teacups, cars, aeroplanes and ladybirds – were seemingly unchanged since my childhood (I’m not kidding; the planes may have changed but I am 99% sure that the ride itself is the same one and I have the photographs to prove it!) but the kids loved them!
The soft play opens at 9am. There are three different soft play sections; one for very small children which is next to Turner’s restaurant, and then one in the main tent which is divided into two sections; one for young kids and one for over 5s.
Unfortunately when we went there was a member of staff ensuring younger children did not go on into the soft play aimed at older kids but not vice versa. One of my pet hates is big kids in the wrong section of soft play (I clearly lead a charmed life) and as a result my two couldn’t really use it for fear of being trampled.
Splash Waterworld (swimming pool)
Splash Waterworld is the name of the Butlin’s Bognor Regis’ swimming pool. The entrance is located inside the main tent.
There is one large main pool with a wave machine, and plenty of shallower water for toddlers and children to splash about. There are slides and rapids for older children and adults to enjoy. The kids loved it and could have spent hours in there.
A new swimming pool is being built for 2018 to the east of the current Butlin’s footprint. I’m sure it’ll be great!
Top tip: They hold special tots sessions for under 5s when the main pool is in use without the wave machine and this is quieter than usual. They also hold hotel-specific sessions if you’d prefer it less busy.
Father Christmas Experience
Meeting Father Christmas is a mainly terrifying experience for any youngster and even more so when that (fairly unconvincing) Father Christmas has been singing and dancing with a grotesque elf (I didn’t take a picture for fear of causing nightmares). Slightly bizarre and terrifying in equal measure, the Father Christmas experience was, to Butlins’ credit, free and the children got a gift.
Outside play areas
There was a specific under-5s sandpit area which they enjoyed on our last day, which was the brightest – always the way.
But not to worry, we had more than enough to do at Butlin’s while the weather was cold and rainy.
For a weekend break in the UK with children under 5, Butlin’s Bognor Regis is a great option at any time of year!We went on a Christmas Fantasy Break at Butlin’s Bognor Regis free for the purposes of this review but words and pictures my own!