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.
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.
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.
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.
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