Beatrix Potter’s classic storybook character Peter Rabbit has given himself an entirely new audience in the 21st century – thanks to an animated children’s TV series and now a blockbuster movie franchise.
The adventurous rabbit and his friends have now bounced into the Trafford Centre for the summer to entertain families with a new Secret Garden experience.
A sort of ‘summer grotto’ it has arrived just in time for the school holidays and is open right up until August 30.
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I headed along with my five-year-old son George, who is a huge Peter Rabbit fan, to see what it was like.
Inside the Peter Rabbit experience at Trafford Centre
The first thing to say is that while billed as a secret garden, it is all safely set indoors away from horticultural elements.
Families are led inside to Peter Rabbit’s family burrow – guided through by his mum Mrs Rabbit.
She explains she cannot find Peter and that she needs all the children to help her do so.
Each family is sat at their own, socially distanced table with wooden log chairs – and parents may like to be warned they’re not the comfiest for adult bottoms.
Peter Rabbit Secret Garden
(Image: Darren Robinson Photography)
Looking around the room you can see that the children are entranced by the magical setting, and by Mrs Rabbit’s storytelling.
She then encourages them all to decorate a pot at the table before our next adventure – negotiating Mr McGregor’s garden while trying not to let the baddie gardener notice our presence.
To my mind, the pot decorating is rather hurried at this stage, indeed my boy was quite keen to add some more colourful flourishes.
But off we go into the next room, where the children get to meet Squirrel Nutkin.
George gets to work decorating his plant pot with Mrs Rabbit looking on
The enthusiasm of the actors here cannot be faulted, and they lead children through a comical routine that each group will need to tiptoe past the snoring Mr McGregor and try not to wake him, while collecting carrot seeds for their plant pot.
If he stirs you must turn into a tree, and my boy absolutely loved this bit.
Then it’s on to the big moment – meeting Peter Rabbit himself.
Peter Rabbit Secret Garden at Trafford Centre
Each child gets to meet the big furry guy, and for George this was chance for a huge hug and a high five – he loved it.
Although I was disappointed to be told you were not allowed to take your own photos at this stage.
Instead you’re ushered out to the main entrance where you can buy the snap – the cheapest option being £6 for a keyring or magnet photo – right up to £18 for photo packages with novelty Peter Rabbit gifts.
Peter Rabbit Secret Garden Experience – the official photo at the end
Is it worth the money?
It costs £12 per child – for that you get the interactive experience, as well as the decorated cardboard plant pot and carrot seeds you can plant at home, and a jelly tube on the way out.
The experience only took half-an-hour in total, but my boy loved it all, and enjoyed going home and planting the carrot seeds.
He can’t stop talking about meeting Peter Rabbit, so on balance it was worth the money for him I would say.
However, it also costs £10 per adult which seems a bit much to me as obviously adults aren’t getting quite so magical experience as the kids (or a jelly). So you might want to limit the number of adults heading along to keep costs down.
And, naturally, you’re going to have to budget for that Peter Rabbit photo at the end as well, which your children are almost definitely going to want.
Where is the Peter Rabbit Secret Garden?
Peter Rabbit Secret Garden
Don’t be fooled by the garden title – it’s not outside.
You’ll find the experience in the former Zara Home unit opposite Pandora on Upper Peel Avenue inside the Trafford Centre.
For those who visited the Christmas grotto in December, it makes use of the same spaces.
The nearest car parks are the ones right next to Selfridges – Regent 1.
Where to buy tickets and what time is it open?
The Peter Rabbit Secret Garden is now open daily until August 30.
It is open Monday to Thursday 10am to 5pm, and Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 5pm.
Tickets are priced at £12 for children (plus £1.20 booking fee) and £10 for adults (plus £1 booking fee) and are available to buy online here.
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