Over the years, we must have been to Drayton Manor Park in Staffordshire almost a dozen times.
And it is a powerful testament to the park’s facilities that we had just as much fun when Flea was three or four as we do now she’s 9. It’s quite rare to find a family attraction that will keep everyone entertained, but Drayton Manor fits the bill – with a wide range of rides, attractions and shows that will entertain everyone, from toddlers to teens.
This week, we were invited to the park to see the grand opening of the new Sodor Airport, part of a £2.5 million expansion to the park’s Thomas Land area, which is now 40% bigger with a host of new rides and attractions.
Considering a trip to Drayton Manor this summer? Here are our picks of the things to see, for each age group:
Thomas Land is a dedicated area of Drayton Manor that’s themed perfectly for little ones. It’s just inside the main entrance and has been expanded hugely for 2015.
There are more a dozen different rides, including the brand new Captain’s Sea Adventure, where kids can ride in boats and squirt cannons, or Toby’s Tram, which rotates and spins in the air. Another new attraction is Flynn’s Fire Rescue, where you can try to put out fires with your watering cannon, and Jeremy Jet’s Flying Academy for those who don’t want to stay on the ground.
If you have a junior thrill-seeker on your hands, then the Troublesome Trucks rollercoaster is worth a try, while more sedate options for nervous riders include the train ride on Thomas or one of his friends up to the Zoo, or the helicopters in the centre of Thomas Land.
The newly-expanded Thomas Land also includes a two-storey Sodor Airport, with a generously sized cafe on the ground floor, serving sandwiches and paninis. The upstairs offers great views over the park, too.
Five and Overs
Younger primary school aged children will still love many of the rides in Thomas Land, but Drayton Manor has other attractions worth checking out, too.
The Buffalo Rollercoaster offers thrills for more nervous riders, although the wait times can be long – so try and visit this at the start or end of the day. Other family rides include the Jolly Buccaneer, which takes you round in dizzying circles in a tiny pirate ship, or the Carousel, which is a must-see on any trip to a theme park in our book.
Bolder kids will love the relatively new Ben 10 ride which can have long queues but there’s plenty to look at while you wait, and the ride is deemed well worth it by Flea and her friends.
On this trip, we took along my nephew for whom any ride that’s fast, or high is a complete no-no, but there’s still plenty for him to enjoy at Drayton Manor – there’s the 4D cinema, haunted house, zoo, Dino Trail, and all the fairground games (we especially liked the new ones in Thomas Land). Oh, and if you don’t mind getting DRENCHED, there’s also Splash Canyon, a log flume that’s lots of fun.
10 and Overs
For bigger kids over 1.3m there are some serious thrill rides at Drayton Manor. It has to be said that if there’s a ride that goes fast enough to make you feel sick, while throwing you upside down, then Flea is at the front of the queue (with me, whimpering, behind her).
We tried out Air Race (imagine sitting in a washing machine and being spun upside down, repeatedly), Maelstrom (imagine being strapped to a large wheel and thrown into the air, repeatedly) and Pandemonium (the worst of the lot). I was also forced onto Apocalypse, a 55-metre freefall tower ride, which drops almost the entire height in just four seconds, which feels like a LOT more. You can see us sitting on the ride above, with me thinking, “Was it really a good idea to ask the attendant to take this photo before she clipped me into the seat safely?” (She did strap me in, obviously).
Flea and her cousin also tried out G-Force (twice), which turns three complete loops and leaves riders dangling upside down at the top of the biggest. I sat that one out (someone had to look after the bags, right?).
The range and variety of attractions means, I think, that no matter what sort of family you are, there will be plenty to keep everyone entertained at Drayton Manor.
You can buy food on-site (there is a pie shop, a burger outlet, a pizza/pasta restaurant and a range of stalls selling hot dogs – but you can equally bring along a picnic. The snacks are plentiful, and it’s refreshing to go to a park that doesn’t make you deal with a gift shop after every ride, or to get to the exit.
Pricing is competitive, especially if you book in advance, with under 2s getting free admission and tickets starting at £5 for under 5’s and going up to £20 for adults. The park is open daily from 9am to 5pm (opening hours are longer during the summer holidays).
Here’s a quick round-up of our day: