Sundown Adventureland review
In a nutshell
A memorable day out at a 50-year-old park where under-10s can explore a fantasy world. Don’t expect high-octane rides like the teen-focused theme parks – this is a gentle adventure for preschool and primary aged kids, with nostalgic touches for parents
What we tested
- Fun for kids
4.0A star rating of 4.0 out of 5.
- Fun for parents
3.5A star rating of 3.5 out of 5.
- Worth the money
4.0A star rating of 4.0 out of 5.
3.0A star rating of 3.0 out of 5.
- Family friendliness
4.5A star rating of 4.5 out of 5.
- Sweet rides for younger children, affordable cafes, terrific staff, old-school charm, digital detox.
- Some parts are a bit tatty, disappointing coffee.
COVID-19 safety update
Some facilities and attractions may be closed or restricted this year, due to COVID-19 – and there may be extra safety rules, pre-booking requirements or one-way systems in place. Please check Sundown Adventureland's website before travelling or booking.
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When we visited:
We visited on the first Sunday of the school summer holiday. It was a scorcher but not too busy
What’s Sundown Adventureland like since Covid-19?
- Upon entry to the park you must have pre-booked tickets (anyone without a booking may be refused entry as we are trying to avoid overcrowding).
- Rides will still be cleaned at regular intervals so queuing times may increase slightly.
- Due to Covid-19 there will be no meet and greets with our characters at this time, but this may change in future months.
- You will be able to go to your car and collect your picnics however it is advised to minimise the amount of people going back out to vehicles.
- They will except cash but is encouraging pay via card as much as possible.
- Guests are encouraged to wear masks in any indoor setting.
- Some staff may wear face coverings and protective visors around the Park to keep teams who work in certain roles safe.
- Face coverings are recommend to wear as needed but face coverings are available to purchase at the Park if necessary.
- Those being told to continue to shield should not visit until given advice that it is safe to do so.
- Guests should not come if showing any symptoms of the Coronavirus such as a high temperature, persistent cough, or a loss/change to your sense of smell/taste.
- Guests should not come if a member of their household or someone they have come into contact with has experienced symptoms of COVID-19 in the last 14 days.
- To allow for social distancing inside the park, Sundown will be greatly reducing the numbers of guests welcomed each day. Therefore, to guarantee your entry you MUST pre-book your ticket online.
- Sundown will be keeping additional hand sanitising stations throughout the park and are advising guests to wash their hands regularly for 20 seconds or more throughout their visit.
- Sundown will still be cleaning surfaces throughout the park regularly.
What age is Sundown Adventureland suitable for?
Best for: Children aged 2-10 years
Still good fun for: Young siblings aged 0-2 years
For more family fun, take a look at our roundup of the best UK theme parks.
How much does it cost?
- 2021: Adult/child over 90cm £17.50, under 90cm free, family of 4 £64
Are there discounts or cheap tickets available for Sundown Adventureland?
Keep an eye out for deals on Picniq or google other discount sites before buying. Sundown also offer discounts on ‘quiet days’ so check their online calendar too.
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Any extra charges once I’m there?
- Generally the food is cheap, but it’s a shame you can’t pack your own ice-cream. Magnums will set you back £2.20 – more than a cheeseburger and fries in one of the cafes!
- The gift shops don’t flog your average branded pencil sharpeners, and big sellers include the plastic cowboy pistol “with sound” and sheriff badge (£2.99), guaranteed to drive parents mad before you’ve even left the car park
- A fiver in the gift shop should keep kids more than happy
- We managed to escape without buying a mountain of plastic tat and spent about £30 on food and drink (lunch for 4, a couple of ice creams and a coffee)
- I also forked out £3.99 for a driving licence with my son’s face on it after he ‘passed his test’ at the driving school
- A family of 4 with a backpack full of their own Fruit Shoots could do the day (with tickets, lunch and minimal gift shop loot) for around £100
How long will we spend at Sundown Adventureland?
Give yourself a full day. We arrived at 11am and left at 4pm and could easily have spent a couple more hours there but our 1 year old was getting grumpy due to sensory overload.
What does Sundown Adventureland offer for families?
Sundown Adventureland is a much-loved theme park aimed at under 10s, with a range of rides for preschool and primary aged children. It was a dream for us with our 2 children (13 months and 6 years) – albeit a slightly surreal experience at times!
What shouldn’t be missed?
Highlights for us were:
- At Lollipoppet Castle, you can explore tiny rooms with their own sweet smells – for example the Royal Mint whiffed of peppermints
- Storybook Village is a classic, where kids can explore mini fairytale-themed houses. Beware, the witch lurking outside Snow White’s house is the creepiest of them all (my boyfriend genuinely asked: “Isn’t that the Emperor off Star Wars?”)
- KAPOW! My son released his inner cowboy in Shotgun City, where you can play old-school rifle games and push down dynamite plungers to trigger a noisy bank raid
- The new areas went down equally well – we loved Monkey Mayhem Driving School, which opened in May 2018
- Also a hit – the new Angry Birds play area. It has a springy floor, tiny climbing walls and tunnels and various boingy bits to keep them occupied while parents park up on striped benches and catch their breath
- The Olkie Yolkie – a different spin on the teacups, where you sit inside eggs – and the Giddy Piggies ride are also here, although avoid repeat rides if you have a sensitive tum!
- After a turn on the Olkie Yolkie, I politely declined Giddy Piggies, which was as crazy as rides get at Sundown (an up-and-down flying spin with the odd lurch, worthy of a mini squeal) but my son went on twice
- Staff across the park were excellent – the service really stood out and they had a sense of humour with the kids. Even the younger staff members were engaging and had top chat with our little people
How does Sundown Adventureland compare to more modern theme parks?
Sundown is celebrating its 50th anniversary and parts of it are showing its age. Some border on the bizarre. Like the antique dolls glaring from a window on to the Market Square area. And the pet shop, packed with fluffy Jim Henson misfits that scream a rowdy chorus at you. Or the mysterious figure sitting behind a toilet door with his trousers around his fat pink plastic ankles!
Baffling. But kind of brilliant. Call me sentimental, but these were the things that made me want to go back.
What’s the new Monkey Mayhem Driving School like?
Kids sit inside and watch a cartoon monkey give a driving tutorial (“This isn’t dodgems”, “Stop at the traffic lights”, “No eating bananas at the wheel”) before they are let loose on a road with various intersections, a brake and accelerator at the mercy of their little Crocs.
Despite the lesson and the large arrows painted on the ground, my son insisted on taking the roundabouts anti-clockwise and driving on the right, causing as much chaos as his mother on the roads. Luckily, there was no call for parallel parking and he still earned his driving licence (£3.99, with a rainbow lanyard and personal photo).
Is Sundown Adventureland easy to navigate?
Yes, Sundown was compact and easy to navigate with a buggy. You get a printed map at the entrance and extra help from signposts and staff. I never felt lost (and I get lost easily!).
Is it a good rainy day option?
We struck lucky with the weather but there are plenty of indoor soft play spots, covered kingdoms and tiny towns if it starts to chuck it down. Mind your head on the doorframes, though.
What to bring:
There are lots of little places and mini castles to explore where you can duck in and clamber up steps, so bring your baby sling if your knees can take it. We made do with the buggy and tag-team parenting. You can easily watch older kids run wild from ground level.
I’d packed a change of clothes for my son thinking he might get soaked on the Jolly Pirate Barrel Ride but it was all very low-key splash action. Plus I was used effectively as a human shield!
What you need to know before you go:
- Beware low doorways in some of the indoor areas – despite the numerous warning signs, I bonked my head on at least three door frames
- Don’t expect high-tech modern rides everywhere – some areas do feel dated and in need of polishing up. The Christmas ride, strange enough when you’re wearing shorts and t-shirt, was like a swift trip back to Granny’s house in the 80s. But our son still loved it
Did Sundown Adventureland cater well for different aged children?
Sundown is billed as being “uniquely designed for the under 10s”, so expect gentle giggles where imaginations can go wild, NOT stomach-lurching, white-knuckle thrills. Despite the big-ish age gap, it worked well for my 6 year old and 13 month old, with silly attractions and big play areas where he could run wild and she could perch on my knee and gawp.
There’s tons for toddlers, with slow rides that don’t last forever, soft play galore and a giant sand pit. Most rides are fine for kids under 90cm if they are with an adult. My 6-year-old son (125cm) could go on everything and did plenty independently, such as gliding around gripping a giant plastic bird on the Wild Ostrich Safari ride.
However, Sundown is not suitable for teenagers, who would get twitchy for their tablets and be way too tall for the likes of Monkey Mayhem Driving School. Kids over 1.4m are too tall for this cool new ride.
Was it pushchair friendly?
Sundown is flat so fine for getting about on wheels. There’s a chipped bark area in the Wild West zone that you might struggle with, but there are paths everywhere else. As far as buggies go, we managed with ours and just did the tag-team parenting thing. But a sling would come in useful if you were there solo.
What are the food and drink facilities like at Sundown Adventureland?
There are three main cafes – Honey’s Pumpkin Patch, Crash Landings and Rodeo Corral. Don’t expect gastro cuisine or healthy dining, but it is cheap, fast and very kid friendly
- Honey’s is the quietest and best for really young children, it’s right by the play area for under 5s and main toilets
- Crash Landings is the biggy, with a serious indoor play area and kids elbowing each other for neon slushes
- We had lunch at the Rodeo Corral in the Shotgun City Wild West area, and food is the same right across the board – basically channelling Wimpy
- Bryce stuffed his face with chicken nuggets and fries (£2.99) from a squeaky polystyrene carton, while Elin had the classic oh-just-get-her-that-at-least-she’ll-eat-it dish – a toasted teacake (£1.60) before diving head first into a nearby ball pool
- There were chip butties (£2) fries (£1) and all the usual soft play suspects for under £3
- I am a gluten-free coeliac person so settled for a jacket potato with cheese and coleslaw (jackets from £2.30) and you can get a satisfactory brew for £1.50
- Like most soft play places, they expect you to pay for baby food (£1.60 a jar) although parents were mostly using their own
Are there places to pick up a coffee or an ice cream too?
There are plenty of chances to grab an ice-cream on the way round, although it felt odd paying more than £2 for a lolly when that could get you a sit-down meal in the café.
My main gripe was about the coffee in the cafes, which was dribbled straight from a Kenco machine and cost £1.70. This was a missed opportunity, as there were so many chances to sit down and enjoy a nice hot drink while you watch the kids play safely – e.g. soft play in the cafes, baboon swings in the outdoor play zone for under 5s.
Can you take a picnic?
You can take your own picnic but to be honest the food is so cheap there’s not much point. If you do want to bring your own food, there are tons of benches and picnic spots.
What are the toilets like?
All the cafes have toilets and there is a main block near the entrance/exit. Loos were fine, clean and stocked up. The baby change areas were basic but did the job – essentially a long deep shelf. There were no queues and they were easy to track down.
I had a site map on my phone but I find asking someone “HELP! Where’s the loo?” better than scrolling through your phone when your baby has poo dribbling down her leg.
How well does Sundown Adventureland cater for disabled visitors?
- All rides are accessible with a wheelchair but users have to be able to transfer from chairs to the ride
- Restaurants and shops are accessible
- Don’t go expecting lifts to higher levels at Shotgun City. And they were not really thinking of chairs when they built those tiny fairytale houses decades ago
- Disabled visitors and carers cost £12 during peak days, saving £4
- For more information visit Sundown Adventureland’s disabled access page
Sundown Adventureland is open from 10am-6pm the summer (until September 2). Low season is generally 10am-4pm or 5pm. The park is closed in January and reopens mid-February.
Best time to visit:
Sundown Adventureland is busiest during weekends 11am-2pm, and its quietest days are all-day Tuesday and Wednesday.
How to get to Sundown Adventureland:
Sundown Adventureland is located Treswell Road, Rampton, near Retford, Nottinghamshire, DN22 0HX
- It’s 6 miles from the A1 Markham Moor and signposted 3 miles from Dunham on the A57
- We had no problems finding it and the car park was big
- The nearest train station is East Retford, 7 miles away
Do you have to pay for parking?
No, parking is free and plentiful
Worth a long car journey?
It was definitely worth our 70-minute drive. If it was going to take you more than a couple of hours, I might think twice.
Which hotels or holiday accommodation are near Sundown Adventureland?
There are plenty of family-friendly accommodation options nearby, including:
- The Best Western Plus West Retford Hotel offers family rooms in an 18th-century manor house set in landscaped gardens, 15 minutes away by car
- In nearby Marton, the Black Swan Guest House has great-value family rooms and a garden for kids to enjoy while parents tagteam over breakfast
- For a home-away-from-home feel, look for deals on HomeAway.co.uk and Sykes Cottages
- Find family-friendly hotel deals near Sundown Adventureland on Booking.com
Nearby attractions for a longer day out:
Captain Jacks Adventure Play is a 15-minute drive away, as is Idle Valley, one of the largest sites for nature conservation in the East Midlands. Robin Hoods Wheelgate Park is less than 40 minutes away by car, with all sorts of rides for little ones.
A top day out for under 10s (with a sprinkling of strange) where imaginations can go wild. We found cute, old-school giggles for our cheeky little monkeys, but this is not the place for adrenaline junkies.
Although some parts feel dated, I actually sense there would be uproar if Sundown did update these older attractions. It would be like offering hoverboard rides at Beamish.
See more reviews of Sundown Adventureland on TripAdvisor
Intro to me:
I visited with my boyfriend Rod and our six-year-old son Bryce and 13-month-old daughter Elin.