We were invited by the team of the newly opened leisure and entertainment centre, The Light, in Banbury to try out some of the activities they have on offer. Ay, being an avid climber now, really wanted to do the adventure climb, so that was a no-brainer, but it was hard to choose another. They have so much to offer with the adventure golf, interactive darts, a retro arcade, Karaoke, American pool, shuffle board, Table tennis and of course, seven-screen cinema and dining, all arranged on three levels under one roof!
Now if you think you can cram it all, I am sure you could, but we eventually went with climbing, bowling and crazy golf and were exhausted by the end. Exhausted but happy with a well spent day! It does live upto its hype of a great family entertainment/ leisure destination in my opinion, not only for the residents of Banbury but also the surrounding cities and villages. All activities are indoors, so it can be your saviour on rainy days, but that should not stop you from heading here at other time. It is an all weather friend.
I totally understand that the cost of individual activities will add up, so you can choose to do as many or as little as you want. You can also lower the costs by combining it with freebies like skating or cycling in the nearby Spiceball park ( just across the road) or indoor activities in the Banbury Museum. One of the plusses of the Light is that it is not located in one of those industrial estates in the middle of nowhere. It is right in the town centre, so you can easily make a day of it.
Whether you’re looking for an amazing movie or fun with your friends or family, there is something for everyone. I think Banbury has a winner here.
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I will review the individual activities we participated in:
I was particularly impressed with the bowling. If you booked online, you just turn up at your designated time, the screen at the entrance shows you your lane, where the board with all the players names is ready for you to commence your play. As soon as our time was over, the board automatically updated to next team, and we vacated the arena. It was seamless!
What I really really liked was that they have bowling ball ramps, which can not only be used by younger kids, but they can be specially helpful for wheelchair users and those with lower extremity weakness or poor balance. In all our previous bowling experiences, Ay would either sit it out or may be push a ball or two in with some help. For the first time, Ay fully participated in bowling with these ramps and was so chuffed with his “own score”. The ramp is placed at the front of the lane and lined up for a direct path to the pins. The bowler simply gives the ball a slight push to send it rolling down the alley. Once their turn is over, you can just move the ramp out of the way for the next player. To be honest, until today, I did not even know that such a thing existed and it was not until I saw another family using it, that I got one for us (they were just by the side), so it is possible that other venues also have it and I am just ignorant. I will give the Light FULL MARKS for introducing me to these and making bowling a truly family affair!
There are 10 lanes altogether. The very first one is walled off a bit to create a private section, which would be ideal for birthday parties, corporate events or celebration of any other special occasion.
Bowling is charged per lane and you have the option of 40 minutes or 1 hour slots. So, if you have 2 or 3 or 4 players, it will cost £14.99 to play for 40 minutes or 19.99£ for 1 hour during off peak, but increasing to £24.99 to play for 40 minutes or 34.99£ for 1 hour during peak hours/ weekends.
Ay was most excited about this. We have only ever done indoor climbing at Clip n Climb in Bicester, which Ay loves, so I was interested to see him out of his comfort zone. He did much better than my expectations (lesson to myself: never under estimate your child).
The session lasts about 80 minutes and you need to sign a waiver to take part. One of the team members will be waiting for you at the second floor next to the soft play. They then take you to the climbing arena, where you have safety briefing and harness fitting, followed by about an hour of climbing.
The arena is beautiful with 26 different climbs divided into challenge zone, bouldering zone, ninja zone and a stairway to heaven. Different walls have different difficulty level, so there is something for everyone, making it a great all round family activity if you have kids of different ages or want to participate yourself. You can race each other for record on the speed climb in the Cliffhanger Zone or to the top of the Mirror wall. We had our friend with us, who had never climbed before, but did well for her first time. I must say the team was super friendly and helpful. They spent extra time with her, making sure she was comfortable and gave her lots of good tips.
The walls are higher than at the Clip n Climb in Bicester, but Ay successfully managed to navigate to the top in 5 of them. They both use the auto belay system with the same mechanism, but here, once you are finished with an individual wall, you raise your hand, and the team would come to take your latch off and attach you to the next wall of your choosing. Parents are not allowed inside the climbing arena unless they are climbing, but you are welcome to watch them from the side free of charge (limited to one per climber). There are chairs to sit but unfortunately, there is no cafe or refreshments in this particular part. However, there are plenty of options in the rest of the arena.
There is no drop slide here like the one at Clip n Climb in Bicester, but they have a NINJA ZONE. Here you can swing, climb, slide and jump on the range of cargo nets, rope ladders, fireman’s poles, strength holds and 8 metre leap of faith! Just when you think you’ve done it all you’ll also come face to face with Vertigo where you must decide whether you risk jumping to hit the target or strategically climb to it. Part of it was closed, so we did not experience it, and probably wouldn’t have on our first attempt even if it was. We will definitely go back though when it is fully open.
Standard climb for juniors (4-7 years) is 9.99£ off peak and 13.95£ on peak days, which is the same as Clip n Climb in Bicester
I will begin by saying we are all rubbish at crazy and mini Golf and this one was no exception 😀 We failed miserably and had to cheat A LOT to get to the end!
After crash landing onto a mysterious island, you must conquer 10 mind-bending holes in order to escape. Despite us being crap anyway, I felt that the track was more challenging than the ones we have been to and some holes were almost impossible (for us at least). Also, they have fitted a lot in one tight space, which in my view can be hazardous for younger children when the balls fly around and can accidentally hit them. They recommend it for age 7+ which sounds about right. We spent about 20 minutes here, so unless you have keen or good golfers, I would recommend not using this as your main activity.
There’s one fun hole which is different to normal, where you have to move the ball around the maze atop a moving table, similar to the ballbearing games one gets in party bags.
Can you ever escape a mini arcade when you come across it? Nope, and this one is no exception. There are various games for all ages with fairground classics like Down the Clown and Allstars Basketball to modern favourites like Mario Kart, Daytona Racers and Transformers. The games cost about £1.25 each on the ones I tried and some were better value than others. You can use your phone contactless to buy individual games or upload a QR code to your phone at the time of booking, which is probably a better way to budget your spend on the day.
You can also pay for Shuffleboard and American pool. There are also two free table tennis tables to play outside the entrance.
There is a small sized soft play one site too which is recommended for children aged between 2 and 6 years old, and is very conveniently located next to the bar. I did not venture inside but could see a ball pool, tunnel, drop slide, mini-trampoline and ball blaster. Tickets are £3 and can be purchased from any till on the second floor. You can get a wristband for 3£/h, though I wished they have shorter time ranges. No one is going to come to a place like this and spend an hour in the soft play, so 1£ for 15-20 minutes while you are waiting for food, would work well in my opinion.
We did not go to the cinema but I read they have a variety of seating options including armchairs, electric recliners, sofas and lounger beds. They also have family special movie screenings on weekends in the morning. Sing-a-long Sundays sound perfect for a lazy Sunday, where you can sing along to family-favourite soundtracks, rock out to your favourite ballads, or channel your inner Dr. Frank-N-Furter. Audience participation is strongly encouraged in these sessions.
There are also baby-friendly screenings aimed at adults with babies under one year old. The sound is lowered and lights dimmed making for a more comfortable experience with other parents and carers. They are breast-feeding friendly and have baby changing facilities available. Click here to see baby-friendly screenings.
They also offer regular showings for guests with learning disabilities/ autism which have the sound turned down and lights dimmed. Guests are welcome to move seats during the film as well as bring their own food and drink. Click here to see autism-friendly screenings.
I love kids friendly cafes where I can enjoy my food or cuppa in some peace. They had kids activities sheets and colouring to keep em busy but I particularly liked the soft play for under 6s on the top floor next to one of the eateries/ bars. There is also a selection of board games to play.
There are many places to grab a bite or refreshment with the arena and also outside, so, overall, there is good variety. The pizzas were freshly baked but the waffle fries were out of the world!!! I ended up eating them all myself 😀 The staff was super friendly and helpful
Address:The Light, Spiceball Park Road, Banbury, Oxfordshire, OX16 2PA
Different activities cost
PAID PARKING- North 1 car park located off Spiceball Park Road is the closest car park to The Waterfront where The Light and canal-side restaurants are situated. Guests of The Light can benefit from:
Free parking for visits of less than 2 hours or after 6pm Monday-Friday (no validation required)
£1 parking on Sunday and Bank Holidays (no validation required)
£2 capped before 6pm Monday to Friday (validation required through machines in the Bowling Bar and in the cinema foyer)
Standard charges apply at all other times. Updated prices can be found HERE
Toilets and baby facilities
Refreshments on site
Support and guide dogs are welcome with harness
Fully accessible venue with lifts to all floors and with wheelchair spaces in all screens. Bowling lanes do have steps up to the lanes and there is a lift available to assist any guests who require it.