By Sue Lancaster
Snakes & Ladders is an indoor adventure playground for under-12s located within Syon Park in Brentford. Usually my biggest worry about visiting soft play centres is the cleanliness of the equipment, however as soon as you step into Snakes & Ladders you can tell that that’s not an issue. Fresh from a major £2 million refurb, the play centre is immaculate and clearly maintained to a very high standard.
The bright and spacious area is separated into three distinct play sections; the main area spans three climbing levels and has numerous ups and downs, ropes, slides and tunnels, a ball pit and a mini sports pitch. The expansive framework is fully padded and the floor is cushioned for soft landings.
Then there is an enclosed area for under-fives. Here you have a much simpler padded climbing frame, which includes slides, swings, a tunnel and a mini ball pit. Within this gated toddler zone there are various trikes and push-alongs, as well as a small bouncy castle.
The third area is set up like a mini-village to stimulate imaginary play. Again, this bit is aimed at the younger kids and has a little hospital, a shop, a post office, a house, a construction area—complete with giant Lego bricks—and a big red bus to sit in. In a separate area there are also electric motorbikes for older children to enjoy.
The rest of the space is dedicated to lots of brightly coloured tables and chairs where the grownups can sit and relax (if you’re not being dragged around the equipment, that is). The layout of the place means that you can keep an eye on the kids while enjoying a drink from the café. When it comes to food, there’s a good range including sandwiches, jacket potatoes, hot meals and lots of reasonably priced options for little ones such as fish fingers with a choice of sides (including beans, sweetcorn, chips or jacket potato) for £4.
We went to Snakes & Ladders on a weekday morning, so although it wasn’t quiet, it was certainly not packed. Apparently it can get pretty full up in the school holidays and at weekends. This was clear from the outside wall, which had queuing times (‘20 minutes from this point’, etc.). The entry price varies between peak and off peak: for adults it’s either £2.50 or £1.50, for over-fives either £8.90 or £6.40, under-fives £7.90 or £5.40, under-twos £6.90 or £4.40, and babies under one go free. So, it can get pretty pricey if you’ve more than one child, although this does allow for unlimited play, meaning you can make a whole day of it if you want to (although play might be limited to two hours in particularly busy times). The play centre also offers birthday parties and private hire of their new party rooms. Visit their website for more information on this.
Probably the easiest way to get to Snakes & Ladders is to drive; however there are regular buses that go past the entrance to Syon Park, and the nearest overland train station—Syon Lane—is just a short walk away. It’s open seven days a week from 10am to 6pm, with the last admission at 5:15pm. The only days it is closed are Christmas Day and Boxing Day, with slightly shorter opening hours on Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
For more info, see the Snakes & Ladders website.