Over the weekend we were invited along to Drayton Manor Theme Park, to attend the first day of their Thomas & Friends weekends. What a brilliant day we had!
Now, we’re no strangers to Thomas Land. Our eldest (now approaching nine years old) was a huge Thomas fan when he was younger, and with Drayton Manor just under an hour away from home we’ve spent many happy days there in the company of Thomas and Friends. But we haven’t been since our four-year-old was born, so it was a great opportunity to introduce her to the park, while our eldest got to rediscover some of his earliest memories of family days out.
The Thomas & Friends weekends are aimed specifically at families with young children; only the Thomas Land rides and a few other gentle rides nearby are open. Such a great idea; the park is quieter, the queues are shorter, and you can take things at a more leisurely pace.
Thomas Land is located right next to the park entrance, so little legs don’t have far to walk. Not that our two walked; once they caught a glimpse of all those rides they were off!
Since we last visited, Thomas Land has undergone a £2.5m expansion, with lots of new rides and the rather lovely Sodor Airport, which houses a cafe on the ground floor and a VIP area upstairs for private parties. Check out the view!
We started off with an engine roll-call at the roundhouse, we just had to get a new photo of our eldest to compare to his first visit….
Everything in Thomas Land has been carefully thought-out to suit parents and young children. Most rides are suitable from 90cm in height, with some requiring an adult to accompany children under 120cm. There’s a height chart at the entrance to each ride, so you don’t spend time queueing for a ride only to find out at the last minute that they’re too small. Each ride has plenty of space around it, so you can watch your children if they’re riding without you, and take those all-important action shots. The spacious cafe allows you to grab a snack or drink without going into the main park, and there are plenty of toilets with baby changing facilities too.
There’s a lovely sense of occasion, with regular shows featuring the Fat Controller, Sodor staff wandering around interacting with the children, and the Fat Controller available regularly throughout the day for photos. It all makes for a really exciting experience.
And then there are the rides – so many! All the well-loved characters are here, and there’s a good variety of ride type, not just lots of variations on the same theme.
There’s a clever mix of age appeal too; thought has clearly gone into the fact that many families will be attending with at least two different ages of child. I was a little worried that our older thrill-seeker might not find much to keep him engaged, but there were more than enough rides to suit him.
Which brings me onto another lovely aspect of our day; big brother got to introduce his little sister to all his old favourites, and watching the two of them all twinkly with shared excitement was just brilliant.
There’s also Emily’s indoor soft play area to explore; we were so busy enjoying the outdoor rides we didn’t make it inside at all, but this would be brilliant for rainy days.
Obviously no trip to Thomas Land would be complete without a train ride; so exciting to see Rosie pull into the station!
There’s plenty to do at the other end of the line, including a Dino Trail, zoo and Spencer’s outdoor adventure play area. We hadn’t fully explored this part of the park on previous visits, and spent a lovely hour enjoying the sunshine with a cuppa from the cafe while the kids burnt off some energy.
The staff are so fantastic here. Every time we’ve visited, we’ve been blown away by just how friendly and lovely with kids they all are. Every ride operator chats away to the children, keeping them busy while they wait, making them giggle, and drawing them into the magic just that little bit more. I can’t emphasise enough what a huge difference this makes to your day out, the Drayton Manor team have really got it spot on here.
The park becomes quieter towards the end of the day, so after chugging back on Thomas we managed to squeeze in a last few rides before heading home.
Obviously Thomas Land is the perfect day out for those with a big Thomas fan in the family, but it’s appeal goes way beyond just that. With a big variety of age-appropriate rides, family-friendly catering and facilities, and the added bonus of the zoo, dino trail and adventure playground, it’s a brilliant option for families with young kids in general. We had a fantastic time, and hopefully we’ll be back for more very soon.
Oh, and there was one other bonus from our day out; we all slept very well that night!
The next Thomas & Friends weekend takes place on 5th-6th March, with the full park opening for the 2016 season on 12th March. There are also some other lovely events coming up, including Mother’s Day and the opening of the brand new Tamarin Trail at Easter. Pop over to the events section of their website for full details.
We were given complimentary tickets for the day in exchange for a review. All opinions are honest and genuine.