Sam is off on a two-week work trip to Mozambique at the start of March (which I’m trying to ignore), and he’s also informed me that there is a strong possibility that he will have to fly straight back out to Tanzania as soon as he gets home from the first work trip (which doesn’t bear thinking about).
Once he’s back we will be firmly into our last weeks as a family of three, and fully into ‘preparing for baby 2’ mode. Weekends will be filled with washing baby clothes, relocating all of the baby equipment in the loft and making sure we have everything we need. So we were really happy when Westfield Stratford shopping centre invited us to come down and try out the All Star Lanes as part of their Food Explorer Month – it was the perfect opportunity to have a memorable day out with Arlo before Sam goes away.
The Food Explorer Event is running throughout February and includes loads of restaurant discounts and food vouchers. The offer for All Star Lanes is 50% off food (not including kids meals). You can print out vouchers online, or pick up the whole voucher booklet from one of the concierge desks when you get to the shopping centre.
A fun fact for you: The last time we went to All Star Lanes was almost exactly three years ago on one of their club nights. I had discovered I was pregnant about five days beforehand. Sam was having to drink all of my drinks on top of his own whilst I attempted to sip non-alcoholic drinks without being detected. It was during that horrible month I’ve written about before where tensions were raised and everything was up in the air. I remember we had a very emotional row on the way back to my place. It was fun times.
Returning three years later with a toddler was much more fun. All Star Lanes is very child friendly (Kids menu, crayons at the table, a complimentary milkshake for Arlo). Buggy access is great, with loads of space to park buggies right next to you at your lane (we didn’t bring Arlo’s buggy but I noticed a lot of people with young babies in buggies as they bowled). The staff set our game so that the bumpers were up for Arlo’s go, but down for the adults. Every lane had one of those ramp/slide things for kids to launch their balls from.
Unfortunately a pregnant lady and a two-year old did not provide quite enough competition for Sam, but we all enjoyed ourselves because Arlo was having such a good time. He got the idea straight away (A bit of YouTube education the night before definitely helped!) and stayed completely focused for the whole game. (It took about 35 minutes to complete our game, which I think was just about the right time for Arlo).
A note about bowling with toddlers – I found that we did need to be extra vigilant with a toddler let loose behind the lanes, which is not something I’d given much thought to before we arrived. We had a ‘fingers squashed between the balls’ moment right at the beginning of our game (probably should have had the ‘Dont go and pick up the balls without Mama or Dada’ talk before this point), and we were careful to make sure one of us was properly ‘manning’ Arlo while the other one took their turn to bowl, as I had visions of him running up behind us and getting hit by a swinging bowling ball (eek!)
After our game, we went to the restaurant part of All Star Lanes to have lunch. You can eat at the laneside tables during your game, but we didn’t think this was as toddler-compatible as eating in the restaurant. Service was good and everyone enjoyed their meals. The 50% off voucher is a really good deal, as it means two of you could eat for around a tenner.
We then had a little wander around the shops (showing Arlo the moses baskets and baby chairs in Mothercare and explained that this is where his baby will sleep when he/she arrives. He enjoyed rocking all the cribs rather vigorously) before heading back to the car to go home.
Normally when travelling through London we go by public transport, but I noticed that the car park rates for Westfield Stratford were very reasonable (first 2 hours free and a maximum charge of £5 for the day), and would be much cheaper than the cost of two travelcards, so I drove. (Although my sat nav did route us through what is now a bus-only road on the way back, which may come back to work out a lot more expensive than two travelcards. Possibly about time I finally updated my 3-year-old maps. Oops!)
Bowling is definitely something I’d do again with Arlo. It’s left a huge impression and, as with most things that leave an impression with Arlo, I’m sure we will be hearing about it for weeks to come. If you are planning a trip to Westfield Stratford this month, it’s so worth picking up one of the Food Explorer voucher booklets to score a very reasonably priced meal at one of the many eateries in the shopping centre.
Our bowling and food at All Star Lanes were complimentary for the purpose of this review.