Christmas at Drayton Manor Review
We are a family of four with two young boys who are both Thomas fans. This year as a treat for them we decided to visit Christmas at Drayton Manor, the home of Europe’s only Thomas Land.
Drayton Manor has an on-site hotel but it appeared expensive to stay there during the Drayton Magical Christmas event. Instead, we opted to stay at the Travelodge in nearby Tamworth which was great value for money. The town of Tamworth is only a short drive from Drayton Manor Theme Park. The Travelodge hotel was well located with a Weatherspoons just a short walk away and a Frankie and Benny’s directly across the street.
We travelled down to Tamworth on the Friday night ready for our visit to the park on Saturday. Unfortunately, the weather forecast was not looking good but we took our warm clothes and waterproof coats so we were prepared.
Drayton Manor Theme Park
We entered the park on the Saturday morning shortly after it opened and Thomas Land looked quite crowded. Luckily this is not the only section of the park that is open during Christmas at Drayton Manor, so instead of heading into Thomas Land, we continued to the Ben 10 roller coaster which we were able to walk straight on. We rode the Ben 10 Ultimate Mission roller coaster ride three times in succession trying out the front, middle and rear seats.
Drayton Manor Zoo
Luckily the weather forecast was incorrect and it was quite a nice morning. Following our rides on the Ben 10 roller coaster, we had a nice stroll around the zoo. We visited the Meercats house, the excellent reptile house and watched the monkeys at play in the new Tamarin Trail. We did not see some of the larger animals like the Sumatran Tigers, but we did see Northern Lynx and the Reindeer (very apt for the time of year).
Our wander through the zoo led us to The Dino Trail where the kids came face to face with a selection of dinosaurs. We spent some time at Spencer’s Activity Park which is a large playground, where the boys had a good run around. Also located in this section of Drayton Manor park is Farmer McColls Farm and a large indoor Thomas exhibition.
Farmer McColls Farm
We had a wander around Farmer McColls Farm and the boys were able to drive tractors at Terence’s Driving School. We spent a lot of time inside the large building which houses the Discover Thomas and Friends Exhibition. The exhibition consists of the original model railway set from the TV series. All of the children present were having a great time watching the trains make their way around the tracks across the bridges and under the tunnels.
Ride on Thomas
Located on this side of the park is Tidmouth Halt station. Here guests can take a ride on Thomas or Percy back to Knapford Station. Whilst enjoying the train journey back to Knapford Station in the main Thomas Land area we took the opportunity to eat our picnic lunch. Once back into the main section of the park it was time to visit Thomas Land. Each of the rides in Thomas Land features one of Thomas’ friends, like Bertie Bus and Jeremy Jet.
Drayton Manor is home to Europe’s only Thomas Land and due to its popularity, they recently increased its size by 40%. The additional rides and attractions have definitely helped to reduce queue times. The extended space makes for a much more pleasant experience with plenty of room to move around. There are additional cafes giving guests the opportunity to stop for a drink or a bite to eat. We managed to ride the majority of the attractions in the original Thomas Land, starting with Cranky’s Drop Tower, followed by Rockin’ Bulstrode and Sodor Docks. The Theming in Thomas Land is very well done and it was even more magical with the beautiful Christmas decorations. Thomas Land offers a diverse selection of rides, from gentle rides for theme park first timers to more adventurous ones for older Thomas fans, there’s certainly something for everyone.
Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster
One of the highlights in the Thomas Land section of the park has to be the Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster. Whilst waiting to ride the queue line makes its way through Knapford station. This keeps the children entertained watching Thomas and Percy come and go. It is particularly exciting for them watching the engines using the turntable at the end of the line. The small roller coaster is a very popular ride but with the efficient loading and unloading process, the queue moves along quite swiftly. Once on the ride, you get to do two circuits of the track which all the children thought was great.
The new Sodor Airport section of Thomas Land offers a selection of new rides. In this section, we rode Blue Mountain Engines, Jeremy Jets Flying Academy and Flynn’s Fire Rescue. The only disappointment was that there was no water for the boys to squirt at the fire on Flynn’s Fire Rescue. I enquired as to why this was and was advised that during the winter months, the water is disabled for health and safety reasons. My wife and eldest son rode the new Toby’s Tram Express but both said it is not something they would consider riding again. We didn’t have time to experience all of the rides and attractions in Thomas Land because we had an appointment with Father Christmas at 3.00pm.
The Castle of Dreams
One of the highlights of Christmas at Drayton Manor is a visit to see Father Christmas. They have converted an old attraction into The Castle of Dreams, which is where Father Christmas is located. As we headed over to The Castle of Dreams it started to rain, but park staff were out handing out loan umbrellas which I thought was a nice touch. There was a fairly long wait to see Father Christmas but it was on an undercover walkway with regular heat lamps. Father Christmas’ Grotto was nicely decorated and the children enjoyed telling him what they wanted for Christmas. Both boys received a small bag with few goodies including a large chocolate coin and a soft toy. One of the best gifts they received was a Golden Ticket offering them free entry to Drayton Manor Park anytime during the 2017 season.
The Polar Express in 4D
A highlight of our visit to Christmas at Drayton Manor was The Polar Express in 4D. The only downside is they could have been more organised with the queue, with a clearer guide as to whether you would get into the theatre first time round. We waited whilst an initial show took place and the queue cut short just prior to where we were in line meaning we had to wait through a 2nd show and then wait again once inside there is also a pre-show. The 4d movie itself was excellent using snippets from the film combined with the 4D effects to make a truly magical experience.
Ben 10 Ultimate Mission
Outside the Polar Express theatre stood the magical Christmas Tree which was performing some beautiful light shows. Finally, before leaving the park we took one final ride on Ben 10 Ultimate Mission in the dark which was great fun. This was a great end to our day.