The eldest said “choo choo” before he said Mummy; in fact it was practically the only word that he said until he was about 20 months. I used to take him to Hove train station and we would sit by the railings watching the trains come in and out (a cheap and easy hours entertainment for a sleep deprived Mum).
We would watched Thomas on loop and his Brio trainset is still being played with today (by all three boys at times). The Thomas DVD that we have advertises Thomasland at Drayton Manor and the boys have always wanted to go. We booked the date in when visiting my best friend in Derbyshire during the Summer holidays. Two adults and six children, aged 1 – 11, so how did it go?
The boys were blown away when we arrived at the park and they got their first glimpse of a rollercoaster. We have never been to a theme park with the children and they were seriously excited. The sun was shining (it was about 24 degrees), the park must have been nearly at capacity (a weekday in August) and there were people everywhere. We decided to head straight to Thomasland (this is an area within the park) to give the little ones a ride. We took it in turns to go on a few rides, there were long queues but they went down very quickly as the actual ride times were short. My 17 month old loved the rides but the 3 year old was nervous and didn’t go on anything until much later in the day.
We mixed the day up by making sure we did some rides for the older kids and then a few for the younger ones (although all of them enjoyed the train ride through the park, Harold the helicopter and the water rides). There was a soft play indoor area that allowed us to get some respite from the heat. The kids loved it and there were comfy sofas for the adults to sit on. I was particularly grateful of this area as it gave S (17 months) a chance to have a good run around. With 6 children (including my 3 year old who kept running off into the crowds) there was no chance to get S out and put him on the reigns, it was simply too busy. We used the soft play twice to have a break throughout the day.
We had taken a picnic with us to keep costs down and we walked through the zoo to get to the adventure playground for lunch. All of us enjoyed the zoo, there were all sorts of different animals and it was a nice break from the rides. The zoo and adventure playground are set in stunning woodland (15 acres) and the enormous trees provided shade and the perfect picnic spot. This area was well away from the rides and very peaceful, we were flagging a little by lunchtime and an ice cream and train ride got us back on track.
After lunch the older kids wanted to go on the Ben 10 rollercoaster and I was voted to queue with them. The queuing was possibly the worst part of the day for me, it was in the dark with Ben 10 interactive themed toys and games, strobe lights and was boiling hot. We were queued for 50 minutes and when we got out to the front of the queue the little two decided it was way too fast for them to go on. Bless them, they had just loved being in the tunnel with the Ben 10 experience but felt no need to go on the actual ride. I went on with the older two and I was surprised how much fun it was for what looked like a pretty mellow rollercoaster.
The best part of the day was when I took my five year old on his first ever rollercoaster. This was in Thomasland and he was really cross that he had to sit next to me (due to height restrictions) rather than his friends (the beginning of the future surely). Once the ride began J’s face was sheer joy, he literally could not believe how fast it was going. It was a moment I will treasure forever (we bought the souvenir photo which is on his bedroom wall).
There was so much to do at Drayton Manor. There was a Dinosaur park, a 15 acre zoo, soft play, lake, picnic areas, cinema, theatre, entertainers walking round, singers. We arrived at 10 (when it opened) and left at 6pm and didn’t go on hardly any of the rides. The children were really happy with this, they didn’t want to queue for one ride after the other, the older ones commented afterwards that they had been happy with joining the younger ones in Thomasland and only going on 4/5 rides.
Top tips for a great day out at Drayton Manor
- take a picnic for lunch and buy tea in the park (the fish and chips that we had were very good)
- stay until the end of the day, there were no queues at all on the rides from about 5.30pm and we raced round lots within a short space of time compared to the morning when the park was at its busiest. We also avoided the worst of the traffic with cars leaving the park at 4.30/5pm.
- break up the day with the adventure playground, dinosaur area and zoo; this is particularly good in peak school holidays when the queues are big
- go out of school holidays for a very chilled day out with your little ones (or big ones if they have inset days)
- pre book tickets online to get a discount and avoid queues at the gates
- remember to buy a £3 car parking ticket when you enter the park, you will be too tired to do this at the end and can’t leave the park without one
We were provided with a family ticket for the purposes of this review. All thoughts and opinions are totally our own. Thank you Drayton Manor, my children will not forget their first trip to a theme park, they had a blast.