Edit 01/06/21 – there has been a pretty appalling story about the accessibility of the venue in the Leicester Mercury, so that may affect your decision as to whether or not to visit. Read it here.
We were invited to the launch of Little Avenue Leicester on Raw Dykes Road this week. It was a miserable, grey and rainy day so we bundled Bam Bam into the pram under her cover (which she does not like) and headed out on the bus.
The play area is located in the former Go Kids Go unit just up from the King Power Stadium, next to the gym and Poundstretcher. There is an onsite car park and any of the buses that pass Morrisons on Freemen’s Common are a good shout to get there. Weirdly, Little Avenue takes up only a small part of the space, and old equipment from past incarnations of the building are barriered and roped off. Is it still actually Go Kids Go? No idea. This doesn’t make it particularly inviting when you arrive. In fact, there wasn’t even a sign outside, so we weren’t sure we were in the right place to begin with.
However we popped our heads inside and established we were in the right place! We left the pushchair downstairs as Little Avenue is inexplicably located up some stairs without any lift access. There is a gate at the top of the stairs which appears to be in place to protect your kids but has no catch so is universally left open by some of the older children flying up and down the stairs in their own games. If you have a new walker, keep a careful eye, because all of the activities for the smallest kids are out in this open cafe area.
However these teething troubles (geddit) aside, the actual Little Avenue play area was absolutely lovely. It is exactly as the name describes – a miniature street with every conceivable shop and service. Replicated in small and stuffed to the gills with replicas and toys, this is a beautiful space for children up to 10 years old to explore.
Bam Bam was like a pig in the proverbial, not least because there were tonnes of other smalls that she could wave at. She does love other little people. Which is incredible considering she is a pandemic baby, or quaranteenie if you will. She even made a little friend on the crazy covered pond sensory exciting doodad. I have been a parent for a year and I still don’t know what most of this stuff is called. I only remembered that people call pushchairs “buggies” the other day.
Nurse Willow administered to some sick pets in the vets. She served us all a tasty treat in the ice cream van. Then we popped over to the garage where she fixed some cars. In the house set she decided to use the pushchair to help her take a few steps. Genuinely we watched in amazement as she learned and applied new skills moment by moment in this space.
What’ll it cost me?
It is really nicely put together and generally a nice safe space for the little ones. Obviously the older children can happily play unsupervised while parents sit in the cafe. Smaller ones need supervision to navigate it safely. We really enjoyed taking Bam Bam in and would be inclined to take her again. However, the pricing structure is a bit strange. Supervising adults are charged £2.50 and babies under one are £1.95 for a 2 hour session – fine. But then kids aged 1-3 are £7.95, and kids over 4 are £9.95.
Personally I think these prices are really way over what I would expect. As we all know, kids aged 1-3 are probably going to be able to engage with the space for about an hour tops before they get overstimulated and need a break. So the ticket price is pretty steep for them anyway. But even for children over 4 (who don’t get me wrong, will LOVE it) paying just shy of £10 is a big ask. They may have the opposite problem of running out of things to do too quickly. And the costs stack up if you have more than one child.
Compared to other great activities locally that will have lots of positive learning outcomes I don’t think the pricing stacks up well. Let’s assume one parent and a baby under 1 and a child of 5 as an example. Little Avenue would cost £14.40 for a two-hour play session. Gorse Hill City Farm would cost your group £6.50 and you can stay as long as you like. Stonehurst Farm would be £14 to stay as long as you like. That would include a free tractor ride too (important!) I would 100% take Bam Bam to either of these places first.
More directly comparable is 360 Play on Meridian which would cost you £15 for 2 hours. Of course includes a play street like Little Avenue, plus a dedicated toddler zone and other activities to enjoy on your visit too. Additionally, they do lots of offers like reduced after-school prices for weekday visits. People with lower incomes have the chance to visit them too. Fun Valley on Evington Road would be £8 at peak times for the same party.
What do you reckon?
So you pays your money and you takes your chances. I think the space is lovely and Bam Bam really enjoyed herself. But I also think the prices are a little too high. Unfortunately, this venue won’t be as accessible to young families on lower incomes as perhaps it could be. And for me, that’s important to consider here in Leicester. They could charge a couple of quid per child and let adults spend their money in the cafe instead of charging them admission. My guess is you would end up with a busier play area – or maybe I’m unrealistic? Let me know what you thought of Little Avenue Leicester in the comments.
We were invited to the launch event of Little Avenue Leicester and so our admission was free. My thoughts are an honest reflection of our experience.