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

Thomas Land @ Drayton Manor Theme Park

THEY SAY: Drayton Manor features some of the biggest, wettest and scariest rides around! There’s also a host of fantastic family entertainment and Drayton Zoo.

WE SAY: A fab day out. Well worth a visit, even if your children are not particularly into Thomas the Tank.


Thomas Land at Christmas is magical. Fact. We had such a fantastic time in December 2014 that we went back in 2015 – and I don’t even like going to the same place twice!

Waiting for Thomas at the station #tooexciting

You will find Thomas Land in the Drayton Manor theme park. At Christmas and February half term Thomas Land is open, as well as a few smaller rides from the main park.

The first time we went, in 2014, as we walked into Drayton Manor, Bing Crosby’s White Christmas was playing and I instantly felt festive.

You can’t fail to feel festive!

The kids had already clocked the huge Christmas tree, which was lit up in the distance, changing colour as we passed, and they could hardly contain their excitement.

We were one of the first families to arrive in the park that morning because we had stayed over in the Drayton Manor Hotel the previous evening. Click here to view a map of the park.

Thomas Land boasts 12 themed rides, but at Christmas there’s also others in Drayton Manor open including the carousel, dodgems and big wheel. There is also an indoor play area, a 4D cinema, and it will grow with an expansion due to open next year.

2014: You can’t fake that kind true excitement.

Everywhere we went there was Christmas music and lights and beautiful trees and decorations and great lenghts had been gone to with the fake snow – to the point every tree was covered which really added to the magic.

I was impressed at the amount of outdoor patio heater areas to keep everyone warm and the staff on every ride were helpful and friendly.





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2015: Jasmine and Mummy at the station #christmasfun

TIP: There’s plenty of outdoor seating so you’re welcome to take a picnic

My son, Oliver, was so impressed Thomas the Tank had a red shiny nose and loved watching him on his turntable.


We joined in with a live show with the Fat Controller and his friends who sang Walking In A Winter Wonderland from the station balcony – now if that doesn’t make you feel festive, nothing will.

Snow also falls at least three times a day in Thomas Land over the Christmas period, mulled wine is on offer and there is also an ice skating rink (charged extra at £2 per person).

2015: We love the carousel

We also paid extra to meet Father Christmas in his Castle of Dreams, which was a lovely experience. You can pre-book and that way are given a time to join the queue to save time.

Oliver, 3. Drayton Manor Christmas 2014

Santa really took his time with us and asked lots of questions and we brought home a special gift – a lovely keepsake Drayton Manor snow globe.

In 2015 we actually visited after Christmas. I admit it was a little strange seeing Santa after the big day – I’ve never done that before. I did think about not bothering going to see him, but the Castle Of Dreams is so impressive, and it was included in the ticket price, so we went inside and I’m so glad we did.

Instead of the usual, “What would you like for Christmas?” conversations, Santa asked all about our Christmas, and he told the children the three secrets to Christmas.

He asked them to close their eyes and then, while he told them the secrets, he dropped a present into their hands.

Aged two, five, seven and nine, my children and niece and nephew all thought he was truly magical.

And before home time, there is also a magical fireworks display.

TIP: Book online to save a lot of money. Print your tickets and go straight to the gates when you arrive. There’s no need to join the queue at the ticket booths if you have printed your tickets.

I think Oliver’s favourite was Terence’s driving school, where he could ride the engine around the yard himself.

He also loved Harold’s helicopter tours and steering Sodor’s classic cars. Since our visit in 2014, there’s a whole new area in Thomas Land with plenty of new rides. To read about the expansion, click here.

But it’s more than just rides, there is also a zoo home to 100 animals from all over the world, including endangered species. We even saw reindeer.

There is also a dino trail, which Oliver absolutely loved and wanted to know what each dinosaur was called.

I think we will definitely go back in summer next year, when it will look different again. It will be worth the journey back to experience all rides, including water slides, the big wheel, dodgems, chairlift and live shows – to name a few.

2015: Santa’s elves paint Oliver’s face #toocute


2015: Jasmine, 2, with no idea which train?!


Staying over at the Drayton Manor Hotel really made our into a proper mini-brea.

When we arrived at the hotel, just a stone’s throw from the entrance to the theme park, the kids were given a bag full of goodies, including a teddy bear and Thomas book and were able to get excited about the next day ahead, having seen all the train displays in the hotel.

I’d thoroughly recommend staying over, the hotel is four star and was more like a business hotel and actually hosts weddings – much better than some I’ve stayed in at other large theme parks. Parking is free.

Despite being contemporary and stylish, it’s obviously well catered for children.

Mine enjoyed playing with the trains table in the restaurant, which kept them amused while we waited for our food. Just one bit of advice though, either take your own train for the track, or rent one for £10 deposit, but get it from reception before you sit down to dinner, as they don’t have them in the restaurant.

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.

Children playing, parents relaxing – at the Drayton Manor Hotel

There’s also camping and caravaning options. Click here for details.

2014: Sign of a good time! My three and one-year-old were shattered! #wayhome

Location, times, prices, facilities and weblink

LOCATION: Drayton Manor Park, Near Tamworth, Staffordshire. B78 3TW

PRICES:  Cheaper online.

Winter Prices: Adults £15 (£30 on the gate), £10 for four to 11 year olds (£20 on the gate) and £5 for children aged two and under.

OPEN: Depends on season. Check website.



  • Changing facilities in all toilets
  • Nursing private cubicle at The Grill Inn
  • Pushchair hire £6
  • Nappies and other essential baby care items can be purchased from the Toy Shop
  • Baby food can be purchased from Teashop, Knapford Station Café, First and Last coffee stop and Mrs Kyndley’s kitchen.


  • First Aid centre
  • Lost Property
  • Lockers next to Emily’s playcentre. £1 for two hours.
  • Cash Points at Guest Services
  • Free Parking

CALL: 0844 4721950.




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