Everyone says there’s nothing to do in our town for older children and teens, but with the Castle Quay 2 area at last being completed (apart from a couple of restaurants), it’s increased options a lot. The Light Cinema has come to Banbury and with it other activities and eateries.
Over the years before the final developments, rumours of what the offer was going to be, and which restaurants were coming have changed. It’s also gone from about 9 restaurants to 3 which is a bit disappointing. It’s weird they’ve opened bowling too when we already have a larger (and cheaper) bowling place in town. But it’s definitely a great addition to the town. Hopefully now it’ll stop so many people travelling elsewhere to the cinema. And will encourage more people to visit from elsewhere. Hopefully if the town gets busier again, more shops will come back into town to fill up the old shopping centre again.
We decided to spend a day of the summer holidays at The Light Banbury doing some of the activities. We crammed in quite a lot, and by the end were exhausted. Outside air was required, but a walk along the canal back to the car helped a bit.
I booked everything in advance – I think The Light prefer cashless, so buy your tickets and you get a QR code for each activity you book. With some, like the cinema, you scan your code at the entrance, but we didn’t show our bookings at any others. They just checked our name. Or for the bowling, so our lane was ready for us when we arrived. If you’re not wearing trainers, you’ll likely need to use their bowling shoes which are included in the price.
We started out with the adventure golf. We do love crazy golf, and are now fairly even on who wins. This golf is all indoors, 10 holes, with some quite challenging holes. They advise age 7+ which sounds about right, and large groups are asked to go round in 4s so there’s not too much holding up of people behind. We were the first booked in, so had the place to ourselves.
There’s one fun hole which is different to normal, where you have to move the ball around the maze like those ballbearing games you have as a child.
The neon lighting always makes me smile, but if you’re going and wearing a skirt or light coloured top, be warned about wearing white underwear!
I’d asked before I booked our next activity, how long the golf would take. I was told 45 minutes, but we were done in just over 15 minutes. If would take longer assuming a bigger group, and if it was busier. The staff member at the door thought we were done quickly and must have been really good. But not really. We spent some time repeating some of the ‘impossible’ holes so we could prove it could be done, so it wasn’t like we whizzed round. It was fun, but I’d hoped it would take longer.
The price was similar to other adventure golf places we’ve been to – just over £16 for the 2 of us.
It’s not often we go to arcades (usually it’s a by the beach holiday activity), but we’d seen The Light have our favourite basketball and knock the clown down games. I’d topped up my phone with some arcade credit. What we could see, the games cost about £1.25 each, some better value than others.
We were gutted to find both of our favourites were out of action, and N didn’t want to try the dance mat. So we mainly stuck with air hockey (it seems I have a hidden talent at it), he had a go on Mario Kart, and we played Whack a Mole (I’ve got good reactions, so N was a little peeved that his top score got thrashed by me).
They also have Shuffleboard, pool tables which you can pay for. Plus there’s a free sandpit boat for toddlers, and free table tennis to play outside the entrance.
The Light has boutique bowling, with 10 slightly shorter lanes than normal bowling. It’s accessible with no steps onto the lanes. A screen tells you the upcoming booked lanes with your name so you know where you’re going. We had to wait for others to get off the lane which was annoying given there were lots of spare lanes before our time, and while we played, so we probably lost a couple of minutes of our 40 minutes.
There’s no need to go off finding bowling balls, as there’s a variety set up in your area. When you book you can choose whether to have the side barriers up for individual players or not, and there’s the rolling frames available for young children if needed.
I had a great game compared to normal. Our first game I started with 2 strikes, and somehow managed to hang on to get 109. N beat me by 1 point in the second game, then we just about had time for a 3rd game. N’s bowling went very downhill as I managed to get 5 strikes. The board cut out as our time was up, just after I’d done a double strike followed by 7, so I worked my score out as 140. I think that’s probably one of my best ever bowling scores, no doubt made a bit easier by the shorter lane. I was pleased to see everyone playing in the different lanes while we were there, noone else got over 100.
As well as the standard lanes which allow for 2 groups to share a bowling area, there’s also a separate larger private bowling lane which would be great for parties.
Bowling isn’t cheap at £24.99 for 2 people to play for 40 minutes. You have the option of 40 minutes or 1 hour slots. The other bowling alley is cheaper (1 hour family bowling at £20), and is nice enough inside, but the lobby area is disgusting). If we were just going bowling, we might go to the other place. But The Light is clean, new, and has lots more going on, as well as being central to town. So for a treat it’s worth trying out.
Lunch at Pizza Express
We had lunch in the newly moved Pizza Express – we got free dough balls and a free soft drink thanks to finally getting round to getting the app (if you don’t have it and are planning to eat there, you can use my referral code NN5C7V when you download it).
Our waitress said she was new, but was lovely and attentive. We struggled getting my free options to add to the bill, but the manager sorted it out for us. The restaurant is nice and airy. It’s a shame it’s not a new restaurant to the town – it’s moved from up near Banbury Cross to this venue, but we can live with that. There’s going to also be a Nandos, but the 3rd restaurant space is still to be decided.
The Light Cinema Banbury
There was a bit of time after lunch so we decided to head elsewhere to get some cinema snacks to take in with our water bottles. While we think The Light cinema tickets are great value, their cinema snacks and drinks are extortionate. £5.50 for popcorn is just too much and £3.80 for a drink.
We paid £7.95 for Top Gun Maverick recently, and this time Minions: The Rise of Gru. Other shows can be just under £10 – with prices rising if you opt for the fancier reclining seats or loungers).
With about 6 or 7 screen times to choose from to see The Rise of Gru, it’s such a treat to have a multiscreen. In the past we’ve been stuck with the 2 screen Odeon and their limited showings a day. The Light cinema is so comfy, there’s a great rake meaning you don’t see anyone obstructing you in the seats in front. There’s lots of leg room, and if people get up to nip out to the loo, they don’t really impact your view either.
We had a lot of laughs at the film, and it was a good end to our day out at The Light Banbury.
As well as the activities we did, there’s also a an adventure climbing area – N did it with school and really enjoyed it. Plus a diner, bar, karaoke room, laser darts, and a terrace garden bar area on the room.
There’s plenty of parking nearby – including (with pretty tight spaces) underneath the cinema. I didn’t realise before going and had to dig around the website to find out, but if you validate your ticket in one of the validation points inside, you can get discounted parking.
Toilets are all cubicles – with choice or unisex, mens, womens and disabled (although the first time i didn’t notice the signs on the door, it took N to point them out to me.
We think The Light Banbury is a great addition for the town/ I’m sure we’ll be back fairly regularly now that we’ve somewhere showing more choice of films and other live screenings.