A day in…Cribbs Causeway

By | Category: Travel destinations

From this angle, Cribbs Cuaseway could be just another out-of-town retail park

According to Wikipedia, Cribbs Causeway in Bristol is the name of a “surrounding area, a large out-of-town shopping centre, including retail parks and an enclosed shopping centre known as The Mall.”

Most locals look on the retail park, and in particular, The Mall as a shopping centre and refer to it as such. But would you, unless you are a shopaholic, spend a day at a shopping centre?

Inside, the Christmas decorations are up

The answer is yes particularly when family events are scheduled to occur such as Christmas celebrations. These have already got underway and, last Saturday when I was there, The Mall was crowded with cars queueing up to find parking spots.  Cars were even parked in the roads leading to the car park lanes! And this in a place where there are over 7,000 car parking spaces just in The Mall alone.

outside the Winter Wonderland has opened

Even thirty years ago when the main attraction was a giant supermarket called Carrefour, (now called Asda) Cribbs Causeway was a busy place.  Now the combination of stores, attractions such as  the ten-pin bowling alley, the twelve-screen cinema, a fitness centre and  a range of large restaurants. It is quite obvious that people come to shop and then head to the restaurants to recover from shopping. That’s not to say that there aren’t a variety of eateries within The Mall but, for example, at 4pm on a Saturday afternoon the restaurant side of Marks & Spencer was full and the café in the food section was busy.

inside gromit and Shaun the Sheep welcome younger visitors

The Mall is anchored by a Marks & Spencer at one end and a John Lewis at the other. That the next nearest John Lewis stores at as far away as Cardiff, Swindon and Exeter shows how widespread is the area from which Cribbs Causeway attracts its visitors and that is made easier by being just off the M5 south of the M4/M5 junction.

outside the “snowy” hippos await you…

In between the two stores there are 130 others including the shops that you would expect to see in a large out-of-town retail park. Even the three travel agencies that I went past were busy. The two-storey complex was bedecked for Christmas already but only some of the shops were playing Christmas carol musak to “entertain” their customers.

…as you head to the ice-skating…

Near Bristol is Aardman Animations, the home of characters like Morph, Wallace & Gromit and Shaun the Sheep. In recent years, public statues of some of the Aardman creations have been placed around Bristol with an auction to raise money for the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children. This has generated quite a lot of publicity and visitor numbers for the city. In The Mall, there is a shop where younger members of the family can play and have the photos taken with Shaun the Sheep and Gromit. Merchandise saes there raise money for the hospital.

Most people make at least half-a day to do their shopping and many make it a day trip as I was told by the people that I stopped and asked. Visitors from Bath and Gloucester were shopping there despite the fact that those two cities have quite large retail outlets themselves.  The reason I was given for travelling to Cribbs Causeway was because there was more to do and they had brought children with them to enjoy the funfair that had been erected.

…the Christmas Market…

As I mentioned, at certain times of the year, events are held there and the Christmas celebrations are important in attracting a wider range of people than they might get at some times of the year. In addition to a funfair for the younger children there was an ice-skating rink (with a very long queue to buy tickets as only so many are allowed on the ice at any one time) and a German style-market. “Snow” had been sprayed onto the hedges and grassy areas. Even the multi-coloured, public statue hippos had been sprayed in places.

Saturday, if you were in Bristol, was not a pleasant day. In the afternoon, the heavens opened and it rained quite hard in the late afternoon. It didn’t stop the crowds coming and it didn’t stop the outdoor fun either.

…and the crowds

In the future there will be even more to see and do at Cribbs Causeway. The local council has given permission for an ice rink, a sky-dive and ski centre as well as more shops, a drive-in and another car showroom to compete or complement those that are already there.

Cribbs Causeway may put a lie to the fact that shopping centres are dying because shoppers are expanding their online purchasing. Where a shopping area offers something that is different it becomes more of a shopping centre; it becomes a tourist attraction. And that is what Cribbs Causeway has become – a tourist attraction that just happens to have retail outlets

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