This is what the new James ride at Thomas Land is like

Just when you think Drayton Manor Theme Park can’t get any better, a new ride is unveiled for the 2017 season. James is now the latest train to get his own themed ride on the island of Sodor inside the much-loved Thomas Land.

The Fat Controller officially opened James and the Red Balloon to a packed crowd of families at the beginning of the month.

My six-year-old son, three-year-old daughter and I were lucky enough to attend the launch event and were among the first to try out the new ride, which sees families fly up and away in their own hot air balloon.

IN A SPIN: The New James ride at Drayton Manor

The £250,000 ride has a spinning wheel inside, so if that’s left alone you can enjoy a gentle flight that goes up and down while going around in a big circle. But if, like my two, your kids want more excitement, you can make the ride spin, too.

The new attraction is the 20th ride in Thomas Land and proudly sits alongside the likes of the Troublesome Trucks runaway train, Terence’s Driving School and Jeremy Jet’s Flying Academy. The new ride is part of the huge expansion completed in 2015.

Thomas Land – which is free to enter once in the Drayton Manor theme park – really is a dream come true if your little ones are fans of the programme, but even if they’re not they will love the variety of rides.

Thomas Land

Outside the Thomas Land gates, there’s also the rest of the Drayton Manor theme park to explore.
It’s easy to see why it is one of the UK’s most popular family attractions with more than a million visitors per year.

The rides are for children of all ages and include everything from the carousel, dodgems and pirate ship to the G Force rollercoaster, splash canyon and the Apocalypse drop tower. There are lots of other attractions, too, including a 4D cinema, dino trail and crazy golf. Animal lovers can also get up close and personal with the park’s furry friends in the 15-acre zoo.

FUN: Oliver and Jasmine Lovell at Thomas Land

Can you stay over?

But Drayton Manor is more than a day out. At the end of a great day you don’t have to make tracks home because the theme park has its own hotel. The four-star 150 bedroom Drayton Manor Hotel features executive rooms, presidential suites and 15 Thomas-themed rooms, as well as two bars, two restaurants plus The Grill Inn, next to the hotel.

I’d thoroughly recommend staying over. The hotel is lovely, contemporary and stylish, and obviously caters well for children. Our family room had a very comfortable king bed and a lovely sofa bed for the kids.

HAPPY: Jasmine Lovell at Thomas Land

In the hotel’s restaurant, my children enjoyed playing with the train tables with other children, which kept them amused while we waited for our food.

While it’s not cheep and cheerful, the food is of a high standard, with duck and steak on the menu, to name just a couple of choices.

We went for the buffet, which seemed easier for the kids, and they loved helping themselves. After eating, we headed to the children’s entertainment, which runs from 6.30pm to 8.30pm and really makes you feel like you’re on holiday.

The children’s entertainers were great with the kids, who loved the Punch and Judy show, juggling and party tricks, which was followed by a disco. The entertainment is all included in the price of your stay.

The kids were so excited to stay at the theme park and could see the rides from our bedroom window. Staying over turned a day out into a mini-break and if you’re having a second day in the park, or stay over the night before, you can get in nice and early without any travelling.

Where is it?

Drayton Manor Theme Park is near Tamworth, Staffordshire. Use postcode B78 3TW

How much is it?

It’s always cheaper to book in advance online instead of paying on the gate on the day. Aged 12-59: on the day £39, pre-booked £25. Aged 4-11/ 60+: on the day £29, pre-booked £20. Aged 2-3: £7 on the day and pre-booked. Under 2’s: free. Other discounts are available. For tickets visit the website or call 0844 472 1950.

The 2017 Drayton Manor Park season runs until Thursday, October 26. The award- winning Magical Christmas event will be on selected dates from November 18 to December 31.

  • Reviewed April 2017

What National Holidays coach trips are like with two kids: Hull to Legoland


I don’t mind admitting I was a little apprehensive about taking two young children on a four-hour coach trip by myself from Hull to Legoland.

My six-year-old and four-year-old have never been on a coach for that length of time before and I worried I may not have been able to keep them entertained on the journey.

However, we like an adventure and when I told Oliver and Jasmine they were super excited so off we went and I’m so glad we did because it turned out to be one of the best family weekends away we’ve ever had.

FUN: Oliver thought the coach trip was fab!

We went on the Legoland Spectacular break with National Holidays – the UK’s leading specialist in short breaks and holidays by coach – which included a one-night hotel stay, travel and entry into the theme park in Windsor on two days.

The coach first picked up at Hull Paragon Station but we got on closer to home in Elloughton. Despite it being early at 7.40am the driver couldn’t have been cheerier welcoming us aboard and after I’d secured my children’s booster seats off we went.

I thought I would be the only one travelling alone with children but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Behind me was a mum and daughter spending some quality time together for her sixth birthday. In front of me was another single Mum from Hornsea and her son.

There was also a Grandma travelling with her grandson and a dad travelling with his toddler son and his mum.

I needn’t have worried about keeping the kids entertained either because the coach driver put Disney films on the main TV for them to watch and being in row four we had a perfect view.

I was also armed with their tablets, sticker books, colouring books and a huge picnic so they were happy and thought the whole experience was a wonderful adventure.

The coach also had a toilet so I didn’t have to worry about them needing the loo.

We stopped for 45 minutes at a service station, where we got lunch, and arrived at Legoland just after 12.30pm.

I actually enjoyed the journey and found it very relaxing. Usually when I take my children away, I drive us there, so it was nice having someone do that for us. I also felt very safe and it was nice to chat to other adults, too.

We were given free time in Legoland until it closed that day at 5pm. See my more detailed thoughts about Legoland in this review.

Jolly Family Outings visits Legoland, Windsor

It’s a brilliant family day out. The theme park is dedicated to children aged two to 12 and has more than 55 interactive rides and attractions. If you go in summer don’t forget your costumes as the outdoor splash zone is amazing. My children most enjoyed the pirate show – seeing them summersault into the water and also loved taking their driving test in the Lego cars.

FAVOURITE: The kids love taking their ‘driving test’ at Legoland

After our day out we were then driven to our hotel, which turned out to be the Hyatt at Heathrow Airport, which was about a half-hour drive away.

I was really impressed with the hotel – it was of a very high standard. Our mini break included bed and breakfast, but I’m told many National Holiday breaks also include an evening meal.

I asked my children whether they wanted to get changed and go down for a meal or get into our PJs and get room service.

So my son leisurely changed into his PJs while my daughter put on her dress and sparkly tights to go downstairs. Typical.

Anyway, it was two votes to one because I fancied seeing what the restaurant was like and I was glad I did, because we had a lovely meal. Then it was back to our room for a relaxing bath before bed.

SPACIOUS: The kids loved chilling out at the Hyatt Heathrow Airport Hotel

The next day, we didn’t have to meet at the coach until 9.30am, so it gave us chance to have a leisurely breakfast first

Oliver and Jasmine saw our driver and ended up calling him over and he even buttered Jasmine’s toast – if that’s not good and beyond the call of duty service – I don’t know what is!

We were back in Legoland by 10am and, having found our bearings, knew exactly what rides we wanted to go on.vWe had until 3pm when we met back at the coach to set off for Hull.

Jolly Family Outings (5)
REAL LEGO: The kids loved seeing Lego London!

On the way back, once the kids were settled and watching the film, I found myself googling more coach holidays.

It turns out National Holidays offers more than 1,000 holidays every year, including weekend and city breaks, showtime breaks, special event and sporting breaks, family fun breaks to the UK and Europe’s top theme parks and attractions and seaside breaks.

I’ve got my eye on going to Blackpool with the kids on our next trip.

We were back in Elloughton just after 7.30pm after having a 45-minute break at Woodall services for tea. By 8.15pm both Oliver and Jasmine were tucked up in their beds after a brilliant weekend and Mummy returned home relaxed for once!

LEGOLAND: Oliver loves the giant lego spider
  • Reviewed March 2017

Need to know…

LOCATION: Legoland Windsor,  Winkfield Rd, Windsor SL4 4AY

PRICES: Prices start at £99 per person with National Holidays, travelling from Hull.

MUST SEE: The pirate show at Legoland.

CONTACT: National Holidays website or call National Holidays on 0844 477 9990.

Legoland website  or call Legoland on 0871 222 2001.