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Drayton Manor Day Out

Drayton Manor is one of our favourite theme parks to visit mainly because of Thomas Land. This was our second visit after a brilliant first visit a couple of years ago. There is plenty in Thomas Land to keep a family busy all day. There are over 25 rides and attractions, and we didn’t go on them all! Since our last visit there has been the addition of a Troublesome Trucks rollercoaster; James and the red balloon ride; Blue Mountain Engines and several other attractions at the other end of the Thomas train journey through the zoo. We stayed mainly in the main Thomas Land near the entrance. We were fortunate to be able to collect wrist bands and a Carer’s Card to avoid the children having to queue. However, Drayton Manor’s system implies that the carer must ride with the children, which in our case is largely unnecessary. There are reasons why both children can’t queue, and I always assist with the children getting onto the ride and off the ride. However, with most of the rides, it was felt that it was appropriate and safe for the children to ride alone, and thankfully the Drayton Manor staff could see this as well. Toby was measured at the magical 120cm which meant he could ride without an adult, Rosie was 140cm which meant she could ride on a number of the bigger rides alone. The Thomas Land rides are perfect for smaller visitors. Last time the children were 5 and 6 years old, and they had an amazing time. I was worried that this time Rosie may have been bored especially as she loves big rollercoasters, however, she still had a brilliant time. Some rides are very tame, such as Lady’s Carousel, but rides such as the Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster and the Cranky’s Tower Drop had both children screaming with delight. The theming is superb. You truly feel like you have just been dropped into the Island of Sodor. It is entirely believable. Many of the engines are parked in their engine sheds for you to say ‘Hello’ to. Of course we had to see Rosie the engine and ride on Toby’s Tram Express which bucks and turns causing huge grins on the children’s faces. At one point I decided I ought to join in, so chose to go on the Captain’s Sea Adventure with the children. Arrrghh! Never again. We got spun and whizzed around so much that it took me a while to recover! Rosie and Toby are far braver than me! Their favourite rides were the Cranky Crane drop, which took them to the top of the tower, and then dropped them, before pulling them back up, and dropping them again. They also loved Flynn’s Fire Rescue even though they both ended up soaking wet. The facilities at Drayton Manor are very good. There is a large toilet block in Thomas Land which was handy for changing wet clothes in. There are a good number of benches around, but I think they would benefit from some more seating for the adults in places. Some of the queues were very long, and even with the Carer’s Passes, the staff only allowed one family with a pass on at once. I wish this was made clearer when we joined the queue because if 4 families were in front, then it may well have been quicker to join the main queue! We didn’t do all the Thomas rides because I didn’t feel it was appropriate for Toby to go on some of them with no adult. The queue to get the train to the newer park of the park via the zoo, was massive, and Rosie was eager to move into the main park and do something bigger and faster. Rosie knew she could only do the bigger rides if she was capable of going on the rides alone, as I needed to stay with Toby. Rosie is an expert rollercoaster rider, and has no fear! I was happy for her to go on the rides that she had previously done on our last visit. First we did a quick whizz round on the train accompanied at the very back, by a lovely young man who chatted to us all the way about the various rides. Rosie decided to begin with the Bounty Pirate Ship. This was followed by the Accelerator which pulls you backwards like an elastic band, before releasing the rollercoaster forwards along a track. Finally Rosie did the Flying Dutchman, followed by the Buffalo Coaster. There was a huge wait for the Buffalo Coaster because the heat was causing the train to run too fast when fully loaded, so it was being run half full. By this stage, I was tiring not least from standing waiting for rides (there need to be more benches in certain places!) and it was the end of a long day. Feeding a child with Coeliac Disease is always a challenge. We carry gluten free bread buns and tins of tuna mayonnaise everywhere with us, so that we always have something that we can feed Rosie. However, Drayton Manor’s Burger Kitchen make delicious gluten free burgers and gluten free bread buns! Their chips are also gluten free. So we all had a wonderful dinner before leaving the park. Rosie had also noted that The Airport building in Thomas Land had gluten free cake, however, there was no mention of this on the Drayton Manor map or website, and it was too far to walk back and risk there being nothing appropriate there for tea. The other thing omitted from the map was any mention of the necessary heights to ride accompanied and unaccompanied. It was a bit frustrating having to walk to the entrance of the ride, just to discover this information. Other theme parks put this information on their maps which make it much simpler. We took advantage of one of Drayton Manor’s Flash sales and got half price tickets for the children at £14.50 each, and I went free as their carer. The downside of this was we had to pick a day without knowing the weather. Thankfully it was warm but dull, so we didn’t get too hot! We would absolutely return to Drayton Manor. I think even for an older child, there is enough charm in Thomas Land to give them a fun day out, and it is a great theme park for children to gain some independence on rides. Drayton Manor becomes more of a challenge when you have a child like Rosie who wants to head out and do the bigger rides, because there wasn’t much for Toby to do other than just wait for Rosie. Long may the charm of Thomas Land continue.

Originally published on 3.9.2017

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