10 happy places to visit this January

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

According to a maths professor who crunched the numbers, the third Monday of January is the most depressing day of the year. If cold, dark nights, a stack of bills and general post-Christmas gloominess are threatening to drag you down, here are 10 destinations to put a smile on your face and banish the January blues for good (or at least until next year).

Explore other worlds in the ultimate virtual reality experience – MeetspaceVR, Nottingham

Playing a videogame in your living room can provide a small dose of escapism on a cold winter evening, but to truly conquer the January blues, a more immersive, adrenaline-pumping experience may be required.

MeetspaceVR in Nottingham’s Victoria Centre is the world’s first free-roam multiplayer virtual reality arcade. Don’t worry if you aren’t sure what that means – it’s a new concept that combines technology, software and your imagination to offer the ultimate social entertainment experience.

On arrival, guests are given virtual reality headsets, backpacks and weapons, then sent on missions in groups of up to eight. In a 300 square metre arena that’s transformed in your headset into realistic environments, you can explore alien worlds, break free from a pyramid-themed escape room, race through stunning locales in one of the world’s most powerful production cars, or face the undead in an ultra-realistic multi-level zombie fight.

Use the promo code ‘2020’ for 50% off the VR Escape Room this January.

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Make friends with cats over a cuppa – The Kitty Café, Nottingham

The Kitty Café has all the right ingredients to calm your mood and put a smile on your face – as long as you’re a cat person. The café’s mission is to rescue stray cats, bring them back to health and ultimately find their forever homes. You’ll find up to 30 furry friends relaxing in the café’s colourful surroundings on shelves, comfy sofas, raised walkways and in mounted boxes.

While the café is designed with its resident cats in mind, customers are treated to a tasty selection of food which, you’ll be pleased to hear is prepared in a sealed, feline-free kitchen. The café is a popular spot, so booking a table is essential.

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Score a ‘10’ at the National Ice Centre, Nottingham

Cosy cafes are one way to beat the chill, but why not embrace the cold by donning some skates and taking after Torvill and Dean? In fact, it was Jane Torvill who opened the first ice rink at the National Ice Centre in Nottingham and since then many of Britain’s best skaters have trained there.

Don’t worry if you don’t know your Toe Pick from your Triple Axle – friendly staff will get you started in the Warm Up Zone before you hit the ice. There are also fun events throughout the week, including family skating, club sessions and foam parties. Kids under-5 can skate for free in the Tots Zone and even use paint pens to draw on the ice.

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Soak up the nostalgia at the National Videogame Museum, Sheffield

Despite having fewer pixels than flashy new releases, retro videogames have the power to instantly transport you back to your childhood. Whether your favourite was Space Invaders, Pacman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or just a straightforward game of Pong, there’s a good chance you’ll find it at the National Videogame Museum in Sheffield.

This unique museum is the world’s first cultural centre dedicated to the celebration of videogames of the past, present and future. In the Arcade, you’ll find a huge collection of vintage arcade games. No change is required – after paying your entry fee, all games are free to play all day. There are also regular talks, conferences and events about games culture and production. If you know your way around a joystick, it’s a must-visit museum.

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Channel your inner Viking at Battle Axe: Urban Axe Throwing, Sheffield

If the Christmas break didn’t release all of your stress (or added to it), Battle Axe has a devilishly simple solution: score points against friends or family by slinging sharp objects at targets. There are three throwing lanes at this indoor axe throwing centre, with two targets per lane. After an obligatory safety briefing from the ‘axeperts’, you’ll be coached on the way of the Viking (accurate axe throwing is apparently more about skill than power). Then you can unleash your throws on the targets for a 90-minute session that’s sure to be full of laughs.

Once you’re done, head to the nearby Kelham Island Quarter– a hip Sheffield neighbourhood that’s full of trendy bars and restaurants.

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Witness the mischief of ‘dogs of the sea’ at Natureland Seal Sanctuary, Skegness​

Natureland Seal Sanctuary is a unique attraction in Skegness where orphaned and injured seals are rescued from Lincolnshire beaches, rehabilitated, then returned – happier and healthier – to their natural habitat. You’ll hear all about the uplifting rescue work during feeding time, which happens twice a day.

Elsewhere at the sanctuary, you can see penguins, a variety of tropical fish in the aquarium and even a clan of meerkats.

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Jump for joy at one of Europe’s biggest trampoline parks – Jump Giants, Loughborough​

Jump Giants is no ordinary trampolining venue. Here you’ll find over 100 connected bouncy surfaces covering 35,000 square feet that give you total freedom to spring in any direction. There are also special game modes to challenge your friends and family, including a last-person-standing Wipe Out game that features floating doors and cannonball swings.

If you’re feeling extra competitive and a tad ruthless, you can try the Battle Beams, where the goal is to knock your opponent off the beam with your pugil stick. It’s an ideal day of fun for an active family. However, if you’d rather watch your loved ones soar through the air than bounce by their side, you’re in luck. Spectators can grab a coffee and watch the action from the sidelines for free.

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Give Tiger Woods a run for his money at Treetop Adventure Golf, Leicester

If you’re planning a trip to Leicester this month to indulge in the January sales, there’s an ideal indoor activity inside Highcross shopping centre. Treetop Adventure Golf is a crazy golf experience with two 18-hole courses: Tropical Trail and Ancient Explorer. Both will challenge your accuracy, patience and ability to hold a scorecard, small pencil and golf club at the same time. After completing your course and leaving the tropical rainforest or crumbling ruins, tot up your scores over some grub at one of High Cross’s many restaurants.

There’s no need to book the golf – just turn up and play.

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Meet the animals at a feel-good farm – Gorse Hill City Farm, Leicester

To visit a real farm and meet its animals, you often need to travel far outside of the city centre, but Gorse Hill City Farm gives visitors the chance to see over 100 animals across 20 acres within a 10-minute Uber ride from the train station.

Gorse Hill practises humane farming and puts the welfare of its animals first. Every visitor gets the chance to feed the animals, including cows, goats, donkeys and ponies, as well as smaller creatures like rabbits, guinea pigs, budgies and fish. There are also some rare breeds you might not see elsewhere, including Leicester Longwool Sheep, Aylesbury Ducks and Golden Guernsey Goats.

The farm is open every day of the year, whatever the weather.

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Visit Derbyshire’s most characterful theme park – Gulliver’s Kingdom, Matlock Bath

Set in a gorge of the River Derwent next to wooded hillsides and rocky crags, Matlock Bath has been a popular tourist destination since its heyday in Victorian times. Today, it’s best known for the Heights of Abraham cable cars which offer a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside and reopen in early February 2020, with online tickets available in January. It’s also known for its frequent gatherings of bikers, quaint independent shops and a respectable aquarium.

For maximum enjoyment during your trip to Matlock Bath, pay a visit to Gulliver’s Kingdom. Located on the edge of the Peak District National Park, this theme park offers a log flume with a breathtaking view of the town, a swashbuckling Pirate Adventure water ride and plenty of activities for kids. Gulliver’s Kingdom has a charm you won’t find at the bigger theme parks and you get to visit one of Derbyshire’s loveliest destinations at the same time.

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