Going shopping with a kid is a bit of an experience. Between trying to find what you want whilst keeping the little ones amused, you can feel exhausted and empty handed. When we were invited to Westquay in Southampton recently, I was eager to see how they made the shopping experience fun for kids.
Westquay is based in Southampton city centre and has two sites (north and south) filled with shops, restaurants and even a cinema. They have a massive car park, which made getting there a breeze and didn't mean we had to walk very far. With plenty of maps, escalators and lifts, they have really put family shopping at the centre of their designing.
We decided to see what shops were available with kids in mind. The bright shining lights of Build A Bear instantly drew Max to want to venture inside. Build A Bear is every child's soft toy dream come true. Max had an amazing time picking out a bear (well a Pokemon) and helping the staff members stuff it. From filling in an adoption form to picking out an outfit, the whole Build A Bear experience is one to definitely be remembered.
After exploring some of the other shops, were were surprised to see how many had fantastic facilities and things for kids. From an amazing choice of clothes in River Island, to a climbing frame dream in Waterstones, there was literally something for ever kid in all the stores we went to.
Westquay also collaborate with companies and attractions to host events at the centre. When we went they had teamed up with Winchester Science Centre to celebrate British Science Week. On the ground floor there was a giant pop up planetarium and several different science experiments to try out for free.
Having been to the Science Centre before, we couldn't wait to see what they had brought for everyone to try out. Max had great fun creating a car out of materials and watching it speed down a ramp, making loud noises with folded paper and watching bubbles float on dry ice. Our favourite experiment was by far the magical glasses that turned ordinary lights into an amazing rainbow (we definitely need to grab a pair of those glasses!).
The planetarium was incredible. The Science Centre had inflated it in the middle of Westquay and held free 10 minute shows. A short film about the International Space Station was projected onto the top of the planetarium and you rested on bean bags to sit back and take it all in. Max was amazed by all the planets and parts of the space station. He also impressed me by how much he already knew about space. We will definitely be visiting the Science Centre soon!
Of course all that walking and shopping left us with rumbling stomachs so we stopped by Bill's for something to eat. We've never been in Bill's before and couldn't wait to try their delicious menu. I was feeling nostalgic and opted for a classic fish finger sandwich, it was gorgeous and perfectly filling with chunky fish fingers and skin on fries.
Max went for the chicken burger, all kids dishes come with a starter of hummus with carrot and cucumber which is perfect to keep them distracted whilst you are waiting for your mains. He absolutely loved his burger and wolfed it down in record time.
The staff were fantastic and really attentive to Max, speaking at his level and making sure things were good for him. I loved this little personal touch as their staff truly realise how having a happy child makes for a happy meal for all!
Of course we couldn't go out for dinner without having a dessert. Kids get a choice of dessert and Max somehow managed to swindle himself two ice cream scoops (lucky boy!) whilst I went for the cinnamon donuts. We all know that kids love to try their parents food so having the donuts meant that Max could easily share mine! The desserts were fantastic and were devoured in a shot. A fantastic restaurant to end a fantastic day.
I never would have thought that heading to a shopping centre with Max would be a brilliant day out, but Westquay proved me wrong and we can't wait to head back there and see what we can discover next. Thank you for the invite Westquay, we'll see you soon!