Baby’s first Christmas in 2012

Our little lady was two and a half last month. I won’t bore you with the standard ‘hasn’t she grown!’ and ‘hasn’t time flown!’ comments now.  (Although if you’re wondering, yes, she’s now bigger than she was in 2012… and yes, time has flown but it has also seemed like a lifetime- I can’t remember what life was like without her around and yet it really only is two and a bit years!)
 
Her first Christmas she was 6 months old… which meant it was a case of the wrapping paper bringing more joy than the actual presents. And, with it being baby’s first Christmas we had everyone come to visit us- a complete full house, including the grandparents parking their motor home on the drive! What an adventure!
 

The Grandparents bought their own Christmas Holiday home

When the Dads went missing we found them having a festive tipple in ‘Betty’ on the drive!
 
Last year, at 18 months she was more than capable of unwrapping a present on her own and she was already showing her own personality- refusing to put a doll in the toy pushchair (much to my Nan’s frustration) and preferring to push around her ‘puppy’ instead.

Cheeky Monkey at 18 months last Christmas!
This year though… she’s fast becoming a little person and not a toddler. Which brings new challenges. Do we start talking about Father Christmas? Will she understand? And what activities can we do with her to set the festive scene?
 
Luckily, this year, Maidenhead and Windsor have got LOTS going on! We’ve been over to Harehatch Sheeplands to check out the iceskating and Christmas displays (Click here to see my post about it) and last weekend we went over to the Great Park in Windsor for a festive horse carriage ride. With a little lady that loves her toy horses, I was keen to see how she would react to get up close and friendly with one! (As a side note, I’ve not been paid in any way to write this review, I just wanted to share our adventure)
 
‘Baby Horse’ gets lots of cuddles

Toddlers often get bad press; ‘Terrible Twos’ is a phrase that usually comes to mind, but in fairness to them, they have short attention spans at this age, and the whole wide world is revealing itself to them every day. There’s a lot to take in. Because of this I’ve found that whole day activities don’t really work for her or us grown ups either. Admittedly, a lot of attractions let two year olds in for free, but it still hurts a bit to pay for two full price adults for a whole day if you only want to pop in for an hour or two and then head home for lunch or a nap. (For her or for yourself!)
 
So I was pleased to read about the Horse carriage rides organised by Ascot Carriages over in the Great Park. You can take a carriage ride all through the year, but at Christmas they do some shorter rides (just 15 minutes long) which are perfect for the younger children. Plus, at £22.50 for up to 6 people for your own private ride, I felt this was fairly priced and would be a highlight of a day trip out with the grandparents. To make it extra fun, I invited along her best play buddy so that she would have someone her own size to share the experience with too. 
 
Here’s what happened on the day… 
 

We headed for the Savill Garden Visitor Centre… Very cool building, like something from Grand Designs.
We had to wait a little while for the horse to come back but these two kept themselves entertained.
 
Inside they played Peekaboo with each other.
Savill Visitors Centre
While they played, I marvelled at the magic Timber structure roof

Meeting point for Horse Carriage Ride, Great Park
You meet the carriage right outside the Savill Visitor’s Centre.
Horse Carriage Ride, Great Park Windsor
You can sit in the back of the carriage and feel like a celebrity as people stop and wave at you!

Playground, Windsor Great Park
There was lots to see from the carriage… and our driver pointed out some interesting bits for us all… including the kiddy play area!

 

 
The little lady was VERY excited about it all and enjoyed ringing the bell. 

The point! She loves a point. What’s thaaaat?!

It was fun to have a buddy along… and another Daddy’s lap to sit on!

Me and the little lady. She was a bit squirmy, she wanted to go and meet the horse first hand!

Horse Carriage ride, Great Park, Windsor
After the ride you can meet the horse properly and have your photo taken.
Henry the horse is huge, but the little lady was happy to get close and stroke him. 
Loving the Reindeer Antlers on Henry!

When I was trying to organise this, I found their website a bit tricky to navigate, so if you think this sound like great festive fun, here’s what you’ll need to know to book your own festive carriage ride: 
 
  • I reserved our carriage by calling Jo at Ascot Carriages (07811543019) on the Sunday morning. I rang at 9.30am and was lucky to get a carriage for 12.45pm. As it gets closer to Christmas you’re probably best to book in advance as the shorter daylight hours mean that they usually stop the rides by around 3.30pm. (If bad weather means they can’t do the rides they will call you to let you know)
  • You pay the ride fee to Jo on the carriage itself at the end of the ride, so it helps to have the right money ready.
  • You can fit 6 adults in the carriage, although we had 4 adults and two toddlers and that worked well. Make sure that you have your arms free to hold onto them though- our little lady was very excited by the whole thing and wanted to stand up, sit down, stand up, see the horse, ring the bell… and repeat! There’s not lots of room for much else  so you’re best to leave bulky bags or pushchairs in the car.
Enough room for 6 of us, but leave the big bags in the car
  • Don’t forget the camera… and nominate someone to be on duty with it so you can keep your hands free to hold on to the little ones. I wanted to take more videos, but only had the chance to take one short one…
 
  • There is plenty of (paid) parking at the Savill Gardens Visitor Centre. You’ll meet the horse and carriage just outside the centre and you can wait inside in the warm. The girls enjoyed looking at the Christmas trees and I got a bit excited by the timber roof span (just like Kings Cross!) You can grab a coffee or even some lunch there too. 
You pay for the parking before leaving the car park. Don’t lose your ticket!
  • The 15 minutes flew by… we might even have held their attention for longer so don’t be shy about booking a longer journey. 
  • Taking a little friend along was a genius idea. there were squeals of delight as they chased each other around while we waited for the horse carriage, and they continued giggling and squealing once we were on the carriage too. 


They loved having a run around together.

 

  • After the ride you can while away some more time in the playground, which was very toddler friendly and just a short walk from the visitor centre. 
 
Fun on the swings
The playground is perfectly sized for toddlers to explore safely.
Although someone had so much fun they had to be carried out, sobbing! Whoops!
 
The festive carriage ride was a great mini adventure, one that I’d happily recommend if you have kids of a similar age, or a bit older. I might even go back myself for one of the longer rides so I can discover more about The Great Park, feeling very guilty its on my doorstep and yet this was my first visit! 
 
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