Ten Things to do in Cardiff to Beat the January Blues

“January is my favourite month of the year,” said no one.  Ever.  I mean, come on, it’s bleak.  Christmas is over, it’s suddenly extra dark without all the fairy lights and decorations, and everyone’s either on a diet or hibernating in the dark.  It’s a depressing time of year.  But it doesn’t last forever, thank goodness.  A few little pick-me-up’s this time of year can go a long way to fending off the January Blues until Spring comes back around.

▲Go Trampolining at GoAir!  If getting fit or starting an exercise routine is top of your list of goals for 2017 then this will ease you right in.  GoAir! in Ty Glas is a trampoline park – a whole warehouse full of trampolines to spring and somersault around on to your heart’s content (…or until your legs turn to jelly).  Not only is it great fun, but I staggered out of there red-faced and spluttering for air, so it’s a great way of working off all those Terry’s Chocolate Oranges you scoffed for breakfast at Christmas (…oh no wait, that was me).


▲Walk across the Cardiff Bay Barrage.  One of my favourite walks.  Park up somewhere near Penarth Heights and walk down past the Custom House, over the Barrage and into Cardiff Bay for food or coffee.  The walk takes you past the BBC studios, the Doctor Who Experience (which isn’t sticking around for much longer, I’ve heard), the Norwegian Church and the Senedd.

▲Escape Rooms.  Instead of staying in and Netflixing it with your mates or your family on a Friday night, why not lock yourself in a room with them instead?  There are several Escape Rooms in Cardiff to choose from (Check out my review of Escape Reality here), all with themed rooms in which teams have an hour to solve enough clues and riddles to be able to escape.  You’ll either be laughing or arguing by the end of it!

▲Museum Hopping.  And there are plenty of Museums in and around Cardiff to hop to.  In the centre of Cardiff there’s the National Museum of Wales (free!) and The Cardiff Story in the Old Library (free!).  Down the Bay there’s the Pierhead Museum (free!) and Techniquest, and just outside Cardiff there’s also the Museum of Welsh Life – also known as St Fagans (free!).

▲Go Karting.  If you’re a fan of classic games like Mario Kart and Crash Bandicoot then why not try the real thing out?  I took Sunny Go Karting for his birthday and we had a blast trying to beat each other round the track.

▲Eat!  There are so many great places to eat in Cardiff these days, it’s hard to pick a favourite.  There’s Hangfire in Barry when I’m feeling extra carnivorous, Joe’s Ice Cream on Wellfield Road when I’m craving ice-cream… Signor Valentinos for Italian food, and Antlers at the Thornhill Farm Shop for tea and cake with a view…  As for the rest, I’m still discovering them myself 🙂

▲Chips and 20p Machines at Barry Island.  Okay, technically, it’s not in Cardiff – but it’s close enough.  I’ve blogged about Barry Island so many times; it’s my favourite place for a walk along the beach.  Be sure to stop in at Bay 5 for a hot chocolate, or O’Sheas for Fish and Chips – take in the view from the top of the Barry Eye/High, and cash in your tokens for a Barrybados Mug in one of the Arcades.

▲Go bird watching at Forest Farm.  This place is a total secret and one of the best places to get out, walk and watch the birds.  Not far from Coryton, Forest Farm sprawls alongside the M4 (though you wouldn’t know it, it’s so quiet), and is a great place to explore on a clear and frosty winter’s day.

▲Explore a Castle.  We’re lucky that Wales has more castles than any other country in Europe.  Just in and around Cardiff alone there are at least three, and there are even more lurking close by if you cast your net a little wider.  Castle Coch (above) will probably always be my favourite, but there’s also Cardiff Castle, Caerphilly Castle and plenty more out in the Vale; like Coity Castle.

▲Catch a Show or Live Music.  We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to places to see drama and live music.  In the centre there’s St David’s Hall, The Motorpoint ArenaClwb Ifor BachThe Sherman Theatre and The Chapter Arts Centre.  There’s also the Millenium Centre down the Bay, and the Welsh National Opera.  Did I miss anything?

What’s your favourite thing to do to fend off the January Blues?

Go Karting with Teamsport

I’m a little bit embarrassed about the number of hours I’ve clocked on Mario Kart.  There’s nothing more satisfying than whizzing past my brother while he skids off the road on a banana peel, or slamming Sunny with a perfectly timed green shell (…and nothing quite as frustrating as when I get bumped right on the finish line when they both enact their revenge).  We  all love it, and we’re pretty good at it.  I mean, okay, we still career off the edge on Rainbow Road (damn it!), but sometimes – and especially around Christmas time – we’ve played it for so long that we end up seeing red shells in our sleep.

With that in mind, for Sunny’s birthday this year I booked us in to give the real deal a go (…minus the red shells) at Teamsport’s Go-Karting track on Newport Road.  On Sunday nights they offer Unlimited Karting – 50 minutes of track time split into five, ten minute sessions.  So around the same time that the Brazillian Grand Prix was struggling with crashes and restarts, we were taking to the track ourselves.

All those hours spent on Mario Kart counted for nothing (…who could have guessed?).  It was tough!  In our group there were guys who came down to race every week and so our first round on the track was a punishing one.  Sunny got black flagged and pulled into the pits (for breaking the rules…), and I was more Maureen than Massa.  We got overtaken a lot.  We sucked.  We came last.  Well… I came last.  Not only that, but my hands were hurting from gripping the steering wheel so hard.

But by the third lap we got into it.  We stopped using the break as much and flew into the corners (…Literally, in my case.  Twice.  Ouch.) – screeching and skidding around each bend.  Our times got a little better.  We didn’t come last.  By the final round I actually managed to beat Sunny and clock my fastest time (which was still four seconds behind the leader, but still…!).  🙂

…I also clocked my slowest time in that round because I went spinning around one corner, slammed into the barrier and got stuck…  😦

Go Karting is even more fun than it looks, and also a lot harder and more physical than it looks – we were both surprised how much we were aching by the time we got home.  But we’ve already decided to go back and try and beat our times.  Also, apparently at the Bristol branch they do a Mario Kart themed night for members – which sounds amazing! 🙂

*Escape Reality

I completely forgot what Cardiff is like on a Saturday night.  To be fair, I think the last time I went “out” in Cardiff you could still drive down St Mary’s Street and Oceana was still around.  Ho yes, it’s been a while.  But this time, instead of the whole drinks, drunk-dancing, dirty burger routine we opted for something a little bit different.  We dodged the crowds ducking down Caroline Street and decided to Escape Reality instead.

I’d heard of the whole escape room thing before – in fact they’re so popular that there are now four different companies in Cardiff alone – but I’d never tried it.  (If you’re new to the concept the idea is to team up with up to 5 other friends, family or coworkers, get locked in a room and then work together to solve a series of themed clues in order to “escape”)  So when Escape Reality got in touch and asked if I’d like to give it a try, I said “yes please!” and dragged my brother, his girlfriend and the hubs along for an early Halloween night out. 🙂

Tucked away on St John Street (opposite Burger King and Owain Glyndwr) you’d walk straight past the entrance if you didn’t know it was there.  A sign beside a door leading to a dark staircase is the only hint at what lurks upstairs.  We walked through that door clueless as to what to expect – especially as none of us had ever tried an escape game before – and the reception and bar area wasn’t exactly forthcoming as to what was in store!  No glossy promotional snaps, just black walls and bar stools, and a leader board of team pictures on the far wall.
We were a bit early, so we took a seat in the bar with a drink while one of the girls explained how the game worked.  We’d be locked in the room of our choice (there are six to choose from, all with different difficulty ratings and background stories; from Saw-themed “Enigmista”, to “The Heist”) and we’d have one hour to solve all eight clues and crack the door code to escape.  We were given torches and an iPad which we’d be able to use to get hints and solutions if we got stuck (with a time penalty for each one used, obviously!).

…I don’t want to give away the story behind the room or any of the clues we had to solve and spoil the surprise – but we did escape… only just!  For the first 10 minutes we completely ignored the first hint and turned the whole room upside down snooping in cupboards and drawers with our torches.  I had no idea how interactive and atmospheric it was going to be – and that solving clues might mechanically open boxes and unlock doors etc.  It kind of reminded me of the Crystal Maze or Fort Boyard.  Once our time began to run down and we’d sort of worked out the whole process of solving clues, we got really into it and raced around the room shouting at each other as we desperately tried to solve each clue and quickly move onto the next one!  As soon as we cracked the final clue and got out with seconds to spare we were a bit bummed that it was over and all wanted to try another room 🙂

If you’re looking for Halloween night out with a difference, then I’d definitely recommend trying out Escape Reality.  There’s a room to suit everyone, from difficult to easy and from horror to heists.  It’s great fun, and as soon as you’ve escaped you’ll want to be locked back up again 🙂

(Psst! I’ve just noticed via Twitter that you can get a 20% discount on your booking between the 28th and 30th of October if you add the code HALLOW20 at the checkout. PLUS, if you turn up in costume, you get a free drink at the bar. Happy Halloween!)