We love Brighton and often head there for a family day at the seaside. And since it opened, the boys have been begging us to take them on the British Airways i360 - especially since Gabriel and Flynn have Blue Peter badges which let them on for free! So during the Easter hols we took advantage of the gorgeous weather and Jude being in nursery for the day to visit the observation tower with Gabriel, Flynn and Theo.
Getting to the British Airways i360 couldn't have been easier as it sits right on the beach - we parked in The Lanes car park and walked along the sea front to the West Pier arches. Although you can pre-book a flight timeslot we had chanced it, and found when we arrived that there was availability on their next flight in 30 minutes time. As they start checking people in 20 minutes beforehand, we pretty much went through right away. It was quiet that morning and we found the whole process quick and efficient.
Next to the X ray machines our budding engineer Gabriel was delighted to find a viewing window into the floor below, exposing the mechanisms of the observation tower. He wasted no time pointing out the cogs and pulleys to his younger brothers.
Once through security we entered the "British Airways i360: How it was Built" exhibition space and pre-flight area. The boys got busy at the Duplo table (they had it to themselves!) before we found some kids activity sheets for them to get stuck into. One side of the sheets contained pre-flight questions that could be answered from the information boards - great to keep them happy while we waited to board our flight.
The viewing pod is incredibly impressive; it's beautifully designed and huge too - apparently ten times bigger than a London Eye capsule and 175 people can fit inside (I was helping the boys with their activity sheets!). There were thirty or so people in the pod at our timeslot, so the boys had plenty of space to explore and walk around. I headed straight to the bar to purchase a couple of Brighton Gin and tonics (for research purposes only - I can confirm they're delicious). They serve ice creams too, though the boys had enough to keep them busy so we put treats on hold for later.
It didn't feel like we were moving at all since the pod was gliding so smoothly, yet we reached 450 feet in about 15 minutes, pausing to admire the 360 degree birdseye views of Brighton and Hove before starting our descent.
Unfortunately mist that day prevented us from enjoying the best views, but we were still able to marvel at the beach
and seafront. Apparently on a clear day you can see the South Downs and even as far as The Isle of Wight, 49 miles away.
The boys were fascinated by the pod and loved looking down on all the tiny people and cars below, hunting for things to tick off the checklist on the other side of their sheets. We haven't been on the London Eye for many years (since Theo was a baby) and being up high really caught their imaginations. And with the boys happily occupied I found the experience wonderfully relaxing, with the music, views and bar... I'd have happily stayed on for a second flight (G&T!).
We didn't have Jude with us that day but the British Airways i360 is great for young families: there's plenty of space for buggies and really good changing facilities. As well as the pod bar serving local juices and ice creams, there's the West Beach Bar & Kitchen in the same building that's kiddie-friendly and has a excellent children's menu. The staff we met that day were very friendly and helpful - chatting to the boys, taking photos for us and answering our questions. At one point I spotted two staff members cuddling a newborn and toddler while they chatted to the mother! I took a photo which I must send to them...
If you're looking for a different day out for the kids or are in Brighton and haven't yet tried the British Airways i360, the boys have given it a big thumbs up. They were fascinated and were talking about it all the way home. Going on the i360 felt as special as a trip to London, but without all the stress and crowds. And being right on the beach, the boys were able to run straight down to the seashore afterwards, much to their delight.
We're planning to return with our Blue Peter badges on a clear day to see if we can spot the Isle of Wight...
Disclaimer: We were given complimentary tickets to the British Airways i360 in return for an impartial review. All thoughts and images are our own.