Monday 30 September 2013

A Visit to Cadbury World

We were recently sent some new Cadbury Pebbles and an invite to Cadbury World.  Pebbles are fab, if you love mini eggs then you'll like these, basically the same but you are allowed to eat them all year round!  The little coloured crisp shelled nuggets come in a re-sealable bag so they're perfect for giving out a small handful as a treat.  I think they'd be pretty good as cupcake decorations too.

Cadbury Dairy Milk Pebbles

So with our appetite whetted, we headed off to Cadbury World yesterday.  We're currently reading Charlie and the Chocolate factory, and to be honest I think that gave us rather inflated expectations - I mean this place was never really going to be made of cocoa or have molten rivers of chocolate running through it. Shame.

Cadbury Factory

The original factory buildings are stunning, as was the small section of the Bourneville village we drove through to get there.  I'd have loved to have seen more of the architecture and learnt more about the history of the town, perhaps seen inside a mock-up of one of the worker's houses.

I should say, there is the 'Bourneville Experience' which is more museum-like in feel according to the website, and perhaps I'd have learnt more here - if I'd have been able to find it.  It's obviously somewhere people miss as the tickets are all stamped 'don't forget to visit the Bourneville Experience'.  But how do you get there?  I didn't see any signage, and I assumed the 'Essence' section which is situated outside the main building was it.

Anyhow, going back to the tour.  You are required to book a slot in advance, which is a good idea as it keeps numbers down meaning you have a better chance of seeing and hearing everything - providing of course you're not stuck in the video rooms with a rowdy bunch...

You first enter the Aztec area, showing where the cocoa beans come from and their historical importance.  Sadly, this first section wasn't very interactive, and the kids (daughter aged 5 and nephew aged 6) weren't interested in reading the information boards.  They whipped through here, hardly paying it a second glance which was a shame.

On to the story of how chocolate was discovered by the Spanish and brought to the Western world and on to Bull Street to hear how John Cadbury first became involved with chocolate.  There is a replica of his first shop here but sadly we couldn't see it or take pictures because the whole area was filled with people waiting for the first video tour.  We here shepherded into a series of rooms, one of which is a 4D experience, and jiggled about on our seats like cocoa beans being processed for consumption.  The children looked a bit confused at this point!  

Next we were on to the sections I was most looking forward to - the actual factory to see how the goodies are made and packaged.  Walking up the stair cases and along the corridors, the air is filled with the sweet, warm scent of melted chocolate.  Mouths watering and expectations high, we entered the doors expecting to see a throng of activity, tonnes of chocolate and a whole team of people in white coats.

I have to say, I was a little disappointed.  There wasn't much to see through the windows, apart from some wrapped bars plodding along a conveyor belt.  I was really hoping for a true 'behind the scenes experience' and although the kids seemed happy enough (particularly as they'd just been handed even more free samples) I was left feeling a little disappointed.

Here the kids got to feel the temperature of a chocolate vat. They wanted much more of this - anything they can press, push, touch or generally get 'hands-on' is good.  They did manage to have a go at writing their names in chocolate and were very proud of their efforts.

Watching the decorating was fascinating, and seeing some of the beautiful chocolate creations was really interesting.  Again, I'd have liked to have seen more of this, and some of the more bespoke items.

The next section was the one that the kids claimed to enjoy the most.  Although frankly, I found it bizarre to the point of being almost surreal and trippy.  Cadabra is a little train ride where you go through the world of little chocolate bean characters.  The kids thought this was hilarious, but I just found it very at odds with the rest of the experience, almost as though it had been tagged on later.  There seemed to be no clear message, character or consistent style running through the whole experience.

On to a green-screen photograph area where you can have your picture taken in a 'bath of chocolate' or surfing on a Dairy Milk as the kids chose to.  Of course, there's the opportunity to buy this image as a keyring, mouse mat, mug... you name it, but helpfully you could also purchase a download copy at £2 to use yourself which I thought was quite reasonable.

More photo opportunities!

Next we went through Advertising Avenue which I loved.  I'd have really have like to spend more time looking at the vintage packaging and the TV adverts from my youth.  I was sad not to spot the Flake Girl one (serious girl-crush on her made me spend a large part of my youth wanting to live in a Romany caravan), but I was very pleased to see the Phil Collins drumming gorilla - sing along now...

I can feel it coming in the air tonight...

The kids had already legged it round to the Purple Zone, a selection of interactive and computer generated games.  As chance to work off a chocolate bar or two, this area was a big hit.  The bubble screen was brilliant, and we all spent quite a while under the 'shower' of bubbles, catching them, letting them gather in pools on our shoulders or heading them into the air.

The dance floor was also a lot of fun and all the children went a bit crazy here jumping in chocolate puddles, smashing up chocolate chunks or kicking around CGI creme eggs.  The blurry shots are an indication of how much they were cavorting around!

After that, you predictably exit via the gift shop, but we managed to persuade the kids we'd have lunch first and them come back for some souvenirs.  It was a glorious day so we decided to go outside and let them carry on letting off steam in the play park while we ordered lunch from the hut.

They had lots of fun on the equipment, in fact it was a struggle to get them back to sit down and eat.  For me though, I think they missed a trick with the playground.  It's themed as an 'African adventure' but I really didn't think it was anything different than you'd get an any other attraction.  How much cooler would it have been to slide down a giant Twirl, or climb a Curly Wurly ladder, or have a ball pool full of Bubbly bubbles?

Anyhow, maybe I've just become to accustomed to living in a world of branding.  While they happily cavorted round there, we ordered lunch from the Costa concession.  I grabbed a seat and dodged errant ping pong balls from the play tables, angry wasps and a very enthusiastic magician who was rounding up an audience for his show.  Lunch arrived and it was a very average panini and a bag of crisps and quite possibly the most disappointingly insipid cup of hot chocolate I have ever tasted.  I really was hoping for more from a hot chocolate at Cadbury World, and it was so bad I returned it and asked for my money back.

After lunch, we popped in to 'Essence' another computer generated video experience, which told us all about how the famous Dairy Milk came to be.  I found this interesting and we were then allowed to 'create our own chocolate concoction' although this wasn't exactly all it was hyped up to be either.  An operative deposited some melted chocolate into a cup and gave us a choice of one of four ingredients to add - white buttons, jelly babies, marshmallows or rice crispies.  It was all done for us and handed to us.  Now, I realise there's probably all kinds of health and safety reasons why you couldn't let the general public loose with melted chocolate, but really it didn't feel very participatory, or like we'd created a unique product.

Finally, we returned to the gift shop and bought a few treats.  We marvelled at the new Halloween lines and Christmas products, but there wasn't anything really on sale chocolate-wise that was very different.  Nothing that made it feel like a special experience.

So all in all - the kids loved it, although they were a bit bored in places.  I found it a bit disjointed, I was very disappointed with the refreshments from the hut (although the cafe looked much nicer), and I was left feeling that I wanted more from the visit.

Overall I think the admission price is good value for money - we were there for about 4 1/2 hours and adults are £14.95 and children £10.95 (although there are family and online deals available).  You do get lots of free samples so take an empty bag, but I think you'd have to be VERY strong willed not to spend more on the extras available.

Disclosure: We were sent a complimentary family pass for Cadbury World and some Pebbles chocolates to review.  All opinions, words and photos are my own.

Check out some other blogger reviews here and if you're quick, Becky at Baby Budgeting is giving away a group ticket to one winner this week.

Northern Mum's Review
Sticky Fingers Review
Baby Budgeting Review
Not Supermum's Review
Pink Oddy's Review


  1. Thank you for such an honest review! I have heard mixed things from friends who have visited and you explain very well what worked and didn't from your visit. Can I also say, I loved Mr Shadow's freddo face..hah x

    1. Thank you Vi. There were parts that were really good, others not so much. I've tried to be honest and balanced. x

  2. I think we had very similar feelings about it, I think they could do so much more with it. Such a shame.

    1. I think it struggles with identity a bit - is it a factory tour or a theme park...?

  3. I had some of the same feelings when I visited the Nestle factory in Switzerland many, many years ago with a group of my 8th grade students. No interactions back then, but lots of free samples!! The "smell" was overwhelming and migraine headache producing! But it looks like your kiddoes enjoyed their visit. I lo ved the cavorting photos! Linda@Wetcreek Blog

    1. You see a chocolate factory tour in Switzerland I'd be expecting cows with beautiful eyelashes and golden bells from their collars mingling around. Do you think I expect too much?!

  4. I'd have expected more too. I'd always thought it would be an amazing tour. They need to watch Willy Wonka :)

    1. Hehe maybe that's why I was hoping for more. Still, the kids were happy enough.

  5. Awww, thats a shame it was disappointing. Especially the hot chocolate. I'd have expected, swirly cream, marshmallows and chocolate sprinkles!

    1. To be fair, the picture in the cafe showed exactly that so maybe I should have ordered in there instead. But I regularly drink Costa hot chocolate and even by their standards, it was poor.