Emma Kirkham and family head to Drayton Manor Theme Park in Staffordshire, home of roller coasters, a zoo and of course, Thomas Land!
We were delighted to be invited on a late summer fact-finding mission to check out some of the new attractions at Drayton Manor Park. The midlands theme park and the home to Thomas Land and surely a pilgrimage for every fan of Thomas, James and Rosie.
We were well rested as we stayed at the comfy Drayton Manor Hotel the night before, and we were only a short stroll to the entrance to the park. First up is the shiny new James and the Red Balloon ride in Thomas Land, with some trepidation for our youngest, Bea who is five, we climbed into hot air balloon baskets.
We all go to fly up and away in our very own hot air balloon, soaring over Sodor Airport we knew we had a good day ahead of us. It was deemed ‘Amazing’ and ‘Just a little bit scary’ by Bea, the other children took it in their stride, from the top of the ride they had spied the rest of the park and were dying to be let loose on the rollercoasters.
Getting into the park so earlier meant hardly any queues on the first few rides. We had been to the park a few years ago and we remembered the Thomas’ Troublesome Trucks ride being a great little rollercoaster, Ed, eight, had a wobble when we were waiting for the ride to start, a few kind words from one of the ride operators (thanks Barry!) and the promise of a Thomas badge when the ride was over, Ed ended up high-fiving him as we set off. Twice round the surprisingly fast tracks and we were raring to check out the rest of the park.
Four rollercoasters down, and there was fierce debate about which one was the best, Accelerator narrowly trumped the G-Force ride, but in the name of good journalism we rode them a few more times just to make sure.
After what seemed like hours of whirling and twirling and spinning in circles we took a well earned break by catching a lift from Knapford station on the very sedate Thomas train to see the stars of the zoo, the one and only red pandas, Tika and Pema who have recently taken up residence at the attraction as part of Drayton Manor’s many conservation projects.
We learnt that the population of the Red pandas is declining in the Watern Himalayas, which makes up for 50% of their habitat, so conservation is increasingly important and they seemed happy (if slightly shy) in their new home.
Drayton Manor was a winner with all of us, it is a good size, not too big and easy to find your way around. There was no wading through gift shops after every ride and we found the food and drink great value. We would love to come back again and see how Tika and Pema are getting on in their new home and of course to have another debate on which is the best ride.
During the half term there will be lots of treats at Drayton Manor Park, More treat than tricks in fact with eerie entertainment and frightfully fun family Halloween activities, they are also celebrating fireworks night with a science fiction themed display; Sky-Fi, A Galactic Gathering. For National Grandparents Day, grandkids go free.
Where: Drayton Manor Drive, Tamworth, Staffordshire, B78 3TW
Getting there: The park is located on the A4091, just off the A38 / A446, J9 M42 and Exit T2 M6 Toll. The nearest train station is Tamworth, trains from London Euston depart every 30 minutes.
Accommodation: For visitors travelling from far and wide or looking to turn a day trip into an overnight stay, there’s the on-site four-star Drayton Manor Hotel. It has 150 bedrooms, including 15 Thomas & Friends-themed family rooms; from £112 a night for a family of four.