Family Day Out Review: Gambado Indoor Play Centre, Watford
Value For Money6.0/10
Variety Of Activities10.0/10
Things We Like
- Large, 3-tier play frame with a lot of different things to explore
- Fun Role Play Village with a shop, tractor shed, fire station and vets
- Separate gated Under 3's area with sensory zone which was watched by staff
- The addition of dodgems, a carousel and a climbing wall make it more than just a soft play
Things We Dislike
- Expensive compared to other soft plays due to having to pay for adults
- Rides are not operational all of the time which was disappointing
- Took a long time to be let out because staff were serving customers
- Difficult to find a table, even when the venue didn't feel that busy
What’s It All About?
Gambado at Watford is an indoor play centre which features a large, three-tier playframe for older children, an Under 3’s area with sensory zone and a Role Play Village. There’s also the added bonus of dodgems, a carousel and a climbing wall, which makes Gambado a great – albeit expensive – place for the kids to play for a few hours.
What Do We Think?
Gambado is an indoor play venue with three different locations – Chelsea, Beckenham and Watford. We recently visited the Watford centre for the first time after buying a Groupon voucher for a significantly reduced entry price. Our kids enjoyed the visit and we were impressed with the play equipment, activities and facilities available.
Gambado is located at Woodside Leisure Park next to Frankie & Benny’s. There’s plenty of free parking spaces at the Leisure Park so there shouldn’t be an issue parking up the car. You enter on the ground floor, then need to go up a large escalator or lift to reach the entrance on the first floor which reveals the huge venue.
Before going through to play, you need to go through reception. You can pay on arrival or pre-book a slot via the website – we’d always recommend the latter to be on the safe side and avoid disappointing the kids! Reception staff seemed friendly and it was good to see entry / exit gates operated by staff from a security perspective. However, it took at least five minutes to be let out when we were leaving because staff were busy serving arriving customers.
Gambado is primarily a soft play for children up to the age of 12, however there’s also a number of additional rides and activities that you don’t usually see within a soft play. Going from right to left around the venue, you’ll find seating, a carousel, an Under 3’s area, a Role Play Village, a large playframe, a climbing wall, a cafe with seating and party rooms. There’s also dodgems in the middle of the venue.
The Main Playframe occupies three levels and is probably best suited for children between 3 and 12. It’s a good-sized playframe featuring all of the usual things you’d expect including wavey slides, tube slides, tunnels, cargo nets, punch bags, foam obstacles, monkey bars and rollers. There was even a piano you play by stepping on it and a space area with gym balls and facts about planets. It also cleverly extends out over the dodgems which gives children even more room to play.
Across from the main playframe is an Under 3’s Area for babies and toddlers which is gated-off and has an underwater theme. This is split into two areas – (1) the main play area which includes a slide, a ball pit, a ball blower, soft pyramids, sequin walls, a rock pool with moving images and a large water bed thing, and a darkened Sensory Room with a ball pit, infinity mirror and bubble tube.
During our visit, we saw members of staff regularly come over to the under 3’s area to tidy up and ensure that all kids playing in there were of the correct age. They asked older children to leave on a number of occasions for the safety of the little ones, which was brilliant to see and sadly doesn’t happen enough at soft plays. Bravo!
Adjoined to the baby and toddler area is a Role Play Village split into four distinct areas to aid play and imagination. Despite not being the biggest area, children can play in a shop, a tractor shed, a fire station and a vets. There’s also a lot of different foam objects to incorporate and interact with, e.g. buying orange juice in the shop, building a tractor in the tractor shed or finding the right firefighter tools to fit in the gaps on the fire station wall. Both our kids loved it in here and being able to play together.
Something that makes Gambado stand out compared to other soft plays is the addition of dodgems, a fairground carousel and a climbing wall. Each of these are included in the price of entry, allow unlimited rides and provide additional entertainment to the play areas. Our daughter enjoyed the carousel and dodgems, and at 5 years old (over 1.05m), was able to ride both on her own.
Sadly, the climbing wall is only open at peak times, so this wasn’t available when we visited on a Friday afternoon – a shame as our daughter would have loved this. In addition, there was only one member of staff working these rides, which meant that the carousel was shut when dodgems was operating and vice versa. In an ideal world, everything would be operating continually.
There’s seating dotted around the venue, but we struggled to find somewhere to sit even when the venue didn’t feel that busy. We got a table near the Role Play Village eventually, but this provided limited views which made it tricky to keep an eye on the kids when we weren’t playing with them. There’s an onsite cafe which serves drinks, snacks and hot / cold food for adults and children. We didn’t eat here, but everything looked to be pretty good with quite a few healthy and organic children’s options.
There’s also toilets and baby change, free Wi-Fi and a number of other arcade-type games to play like air hockey (additional cost). Along the left side of the wall near the cafe is a number of separate areas which were all busy with children’s birthday parties. We’ve also noticed that they do specific sessions and events at certain times, e.g. SEN sessions.
One of our major gripes is the price as it’s significantly more expensive than most soft play. Going as a family on a weekend would cost us nearly £30 for what is essentially a soft play with a few rides. In addition, at busy periods, you may be restricted to a 2.5 hour play session. Gambado are one of the few soft plays we’ve visited that actually charge for adults – for us, soft play is for children, so charging adults feels a little bit cheeky and tends to put us off.
Of course, like most places, Gambado offers Membership (£9.95 per month) and Premium Membership (£14.50 per month) which reduces the cost significantly. It also includes additional extras like free adult admission, free guest passes for friends and discounts on the cafe and parties, which obviously gets around the paying adult issue mentioned above.
All in all, we enjoyed our visit to Gambado. Or toddler enjoyed the Under 3’s Area and Role Play Village, whilst our five-year old liked exploring the large playframe, going on the dodgems and the carousel. We’d definitely visit again, but chances are it would be in conjunction with another offer like Groupon to reduce the cost as our overriding feeling was that it was very expensive for what it was.
What Does It Look Like?
What Do I Need To Know?
Address: Woodside Leisure Park, North Orbital Road, Garston, Watford, Hertfordshire, WD25 7JZ.
Opening Times: 7 days per week, 9.30am-6pm.
Price: Under 1 Free, 1 to 3 years old £6.50 / £8.50 (Off-Peak / Peak), 4 to 12 year old £8.50 / £10.95 (Off-Peak / Peak), Adult £2.95 / £4.50 (Off-Peak / Peak).
Toilets: Yes. Male, Female and Baby Change.
Cafe / Restaurant: Yes. Onsite Cafe offering hot and cold drinks and food.
Parking: Yes. Lots of free parking spaces at Woodside Leisure Park.
Public Transport: Garston Train Station 1.5 miles away.
Duration: 2 to 4 hours.
Age Range: Babies and Toddlers (0-3), Young Children (4-8), Older Children (9-12).
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