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The wonderful world of Thomas the Tank Engine
Drayton Manor (Staffordshire)
Member Name: emmad5689
Drayton Manor (Staffordshire)
Date: 04/09/11, updated on 14/03/12 (269 review reads)
Advantages: Clean, polite staff, thomas land is very realistic, good facilities
Disadvantages: Zoo was disappointing, expensive
In June this year we had a look at the variety of Tesco rewards available and decided we would head towards Birmingham for Drayton Manor and Cadbury World (review to follow) We found a place to stay at the Travelodge on the M42 and were all set with Drayton Manor about 15 minutes away.
Tesco Clubcard rewards allow you to triple your usual Tesco Vouchers and therefore making them worth much more if you use them in this way, you have to exchange your vouchers over the Tesco internet site and they will send you your selection through the post for you to take to the attraction with you. We had to exchange £11 of Clubcard vouchers for each person to have a ticket into Drayton Manor so for the 2 adults and one child (don't have to pay for under 2s) it cost us £33 in vouchers.
The fees to get into Drayton manor if you pay on the day are,
Aged 12 - 64 years - £32.00
Aged 4-11 years - £25.00
Aged 2-3 years - £5.00
You can reduce the cost by getting family tickets of 3, 4 or 5 people or by booking your tickets in advance over the internet, as you can see it should have cost us £89 so we made quite a saving.
The park itself was very easy to find and was sign posted off the main road, when you arrive at Drayton manor there are sign posts for you to follow to the car park which is a quite narrow winding road through fields, trees and past streams which is quite nice to drive through. We found that parking was very easy and that there seemed to be plenty of overflow spaces there was also a large disabled car park right near the gates.
We arrived for the park opening at 9.30am although the rides don't actually start until 10.30am, there are a set of toilets outside of the park to allow you to get sorted before children see the rides and there are three little square buildings with a window on each side for you to purchase your tickets or to exchange your Tesco vouchers. You have to have a ticket for babies even though you don't pay for them or they are not allowed into the park.
On entering the park you go through the usual turnstile area with staff checking your tickets, there is a sign as you walk in warning you that if you leave the park and want to return you have to have your hand stamped, your ticket and your receipt or you will not be allowed to re-enter which I thought was a little over the top really.
Now like I say we went with young children and therefore I will review our experience and therefore although there was bigger rides such as a large log flume and big rollercoasters I am unable to comment on these.
Drayton Manor is the home of Thomas land and when you walk into the park you can immediately see Thomas Land to the left of you, it seemed to me that the park was set out for the younger children to the left, the older children and adults to the right and the zoo at the back. We walked into Thomas land to have a look and there was a train track with turntable where a large Thomas model was being washed by his driver, I found this a lovely touch as in the TV programme the engines have to have a wash too.
We decided to go and get something to eat and see the animals as the rides weren't open. Next to Thomas land was an array of eating options, first of all there was a sit down café and then next to it we found two different serving hatches one of which was doing donuts and one doing ice creams and then further around the corner was another food bar which sold pastries and coffees with an outside seating area. We purchased a couple of bacon and cheese wraps and sat down, the food was expensive as you would expect in these places but it tasted nice and wasn't overly greasy.
We made a visit to the toilets, each toilet area has a male and female toilet along with a disabled which was a good size and a baby changing area. The toilets were cleaned and well stocked and they remained so throughout the day so I assume that cleaners must have being going in through the day as there were a lot of people there the day we went. The baby changing areas were large and the main one had enough space for five babies to be getting changed at the same time so I never had to wait too long too change my daughter.
Next we headed to the zoo which to be honest we were a little disappointed with but that is probably as we only have Flamingo land to compare to which has a fantastic zoo. In the first few enclosures we found Monkeys and Meerkats, next along there was a reptile house but this didn't open until later and so we didn't see inside. We then found 2 leopards which were pure black, one of them seemed to have sores on its back and the 2 of them were separated so not sure if this is why but to be honest one of them seemed to have very little space and kept just walking around in circles which wasn't very nice to see. Further along there were numerous owls in a darkened walkway and then you came to a large park and a further café and toilets.
Spencers outdoor play area was huge, there was a model of Spencer made purely out of wooden logs which the children were able to sit in. There were two different areas made to look like carriages joined by numerous sections of climbing frames, slides and other play bits. There was seating for the adults to watch the children playing and the floor was rubber or bark and so provided a soft landing in case of any accidents. Even our 10 month old had a go on one of the slides and really enjoyed it, her older sister didn't want to leave the play area until we mentioned that the rides would be starting soon!
Further into the zoo we found penguins, spider monkeys, tigers and a chimp, the tigers were inside (although they could get to an outside enclosure) so you had to go into a darkened area to see them. The week before we visited someone had thrown a buoy in with the chimp which the chimp had thrown and managed to crack the reinforced glass which was boarded up, we were told that the chimp had had to be locked up for a week whilst they got it sorted although it still wasn't fixed fully. We found that the zoo really didn't have that many animals and a lot of it was in a very dark area and made photos of your experience near enough impossible which was a shame.
When we went into Thomas land we found there was a bit in the middle set up like Tidmouth sheds with three different engines that the children could have their picture taken with I think it was Gordon, Edward and Percy but can't promise! There is also a big sweet shop, a shop full of Thomas merchandise although to be honest was overpriced and then there were many rides. There was a boat that was a mini galley ship style ride, a ride of Harold the helicopters that went up in the air, two normal rides with characters from Thomas, Bertie bus which went round in a circle like a Ferris wheel and a set of cars that went round a track for the child to pretend to drive.
All the rides had long queues as you would expect at this time of year, the cars that went round the track could be ridden by any age children but other than that there was nothing for little babies unless they could sit on their own and have a seat belt on which our daughter was ok with. On all the rides you could only have one adult per row or per carriage which meant that when a child wanted two parents to go on a ride with them an adult would be taking up a carriage of a ride and making you queue for longer, we took it in turns to ride with our eldest and she was happy enough with this. I understand that this is due to the capabilities of the rides but would have thought on busy days they could have a rule such as every adult rider must be accompanying a child.
Within Thomas land and all through the park there were the usual games where you can win giant teddies which cost a fortune and are set up to prevent people winning. The one in Thomas land was to win a large character train from Thomas and you had to throw 2 balls into a bucket and they had to stay in the bucket. Obviously the buckets are set at such an angle that this is unlikely to be won but there was a very nice member of staff running the game when we went to it and he let our daughter stand on the top and showed her how to hold the ball and then even guided her throwing it to allow her to win which we thought was really nice of him. Further through the park later in the day my daughter had a go at another game and I overheard one member of staff saying to the other that she sometimes lets young children win if the manager wasn't about!
The main attraction of Thomas land was Thomas himself, there is a set-up of the actual tracks to the side of which is James the engine with a sign saying "engine sleeping please be quiet" which the children can sit in. There is a bridge which goes over the railway tracks just like on the show and Thomas and Rosie give rides from one ends of the park up to the zoo and back again. This set up was really realistic and when you are on the platform there is an announcement that your train is coming before the train comes into view. When the train pulls into the station the engine turns around on a turntable and then comes around the carriages to connect back to the front which our daughter found amazing.
We thoroughly enjoyed our day and there were many more things available that we didn't use, there was an indoor play area which ran every 15 minutes but we just didn't have time to go into this. There was also a small rollercoaster within Thomas land but our daughter was too little for this. The rides have height restrictions like all theme parks and these were checked by staff with the usual wooden pole which I thought was really good as in other theme parks I have seen this get forgotten on busy days.
There was also an amusement arcade with both adult games and the usual 2p slots for children, a lot of the machines pay out in little yellow tickets which you can then exchange for prizes, we ended up with quite a lot of the tickets throughout the day and our daughter ended up with a soft toy rucksack which is actually really good quality, a range of different character stickers, a Disney princess up and some sweets.
Overall this park is brilliant, it is clean and tidy and all staff we came across were polite and the train driver of Thomas really made a fuss of his passengers. The park has thought about families with young children and there are buggy parks near to some of the rides and there is also space for buggies on the train ride without having to collapse them down. There is plenty to keep your child amused for the full day and plenty of places to buy food. There are 2 different sweet shops and two different gifts shops although be aware that like any other theme park the shops are very overpriced. I found the zoo was poor and I think charging for a 2-3 year old is out of order even if it is only £5 as there are very few rides this age could go on. I would recommend this to anyone with young children as long as they are likely to enjoy Thomas as there isn't actually much else for young children apart from one carousel, we thoroughly enjoyed our day here.
It is now about 9 months since we visited and my daughter is still asking when we can go again so it is obvious she really enjoyed herself.
Summary: A fantastic day out for our daughters
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