It’s been years since I’ve been to a proper theme park, but over half term we decided to head to Drayton Manor theme park and zoo. We’d taken my sister in law and the youngest nephew – it’s always nice to visit places with others, especially for N.
The last time I was at Drayton Manor I was about 15 years old, so I didn’t remember it at all. But it turned out to be a great day. The weather was dry, and even though it was Halloween and half term, it wasn’t as busy as we’d expected.
Buying tickets for Drayton Manor
As with most tourist attractions, if you pay in advance you’ll get discounted entry. In October half term they were doing a 4 for £88 deal. A bargain because it worked out cheaper per person than an advanced children entry cost normally. Prices vary through the year depending on special events, e.g the next day, the offer for 4 people was over £90. Parking is £5 which you pay during your visit from the machines – although as we left, the car in front of us was paying at the barrier.
A first visit for the boys
I’d got mixed up with the opening times, so do check before going as the park opens, then Thomasland rides open 30 minutes after, and other rides after that. When we went, ride started opening at 10, and then 10.30.
The boys were so excited about the day. You can download the app with the map, or grab a map at entry. The park isn’t that big so it’s easy to find your way around. But there are some areas which are a walk away – like the high ropes (which is an additional cost) and the crazy golf which we decided was too far to find. You can go on the train if you want to head round to some of the extreme parts of the park.
With Halloween, there were plenty of giant pumpkins and decorations around the place. There was also a small tent for pumpkin carving, although it looked like it was packing up when we went past. I’d expected more for the advertising of the Halloween activities.
While N and his cousin love the fair, they’ve not really experienced huge rides. Thomasland wasn’t too embarrassing for them to be seen in at age 8 and 11. It’s a great introduction area for young children, as well as getting older children (and adults) warmed up for the park.
All the rides in Thomas Land are themed around the different vehicles in Thomas the Tank Engine, but that doesn’t mean they’re really young. There’s a good variety of rides, covering from those good for toddlers, through to a roller coaster and Cranky’s drop tower which is a smaller version of the thrill seeker’s drop ride Apocalypse.
I liked that it was really easy to check children’s height. Obviously you can check these before going, but around the theme park as well as at rides, it was clear about the heights for rides.
With plenty of rides to choose from the boys went straight for the Troublesome Trucks runaway roller coaster. My sister in law and I both used to be thrill seekers loving all the scary rides, but since having children didn’t feel the need to go on all the big rides. But I think I could get back into them again.
We liked the roller coaster – I was back to my giggling like I always do on rides, while my sister in law screamed a lot. N found that really funny for a little roller coaster. The boys loved it, and later on went back again to queue a couple more times to ride the coaster again.
For a great view of the park and other rides, we went on Winston’s Whistlestop tour which goes on an elevated track above Thomas Land. You could also see a (very empty when we were there) soft play area below the steps to the ride.
There were so many rides to choose from, and only short queues for most. They loved Cranky’s tower drop. Clambering on and waiting to be strapped in for those who couldn’t reach – their faces when they thought the ride operator had forgotten to check them was funny. They rode it several times and proclaimed it one of their favourites.
Before lunch we explore a bit more outside of Thomas Land. My sister in law recommended the Buffalo Coaster which goes out over the water. It’s a nice little coaster that doesn’t go up too high. We had to queue around 15 minutes for it, but that queue length was shorter when we returned to it later.
I fancied the Drunken Barrels (like the tea cups), but neither of the boys wanted to try it, so we went next door for the Sheriff’s showdown. It’s an inside shooting ride, going through a western town where you laser shoot to get your top scores beating the scores of the day. N did a lot better than all the rest of us – sitting in the front seat of the carriage gave him an advantage I think! It was lots of fun, and I could have ridden it again.
N wanted to ride the ‘swing’ Jolly Buccaneer ride while the others debated the Haunting. Not somewhere I’d fancy seeing (I hate Ghost Trains and things jumping out at me), but I have a feeling I’ve done it years ago. They decided against it in the end, and came and watched N. He did have to wait a long time for the ride to fill up, but he said it was really good and it goes up quite high.
Eating at Drayton Manor park
We’d taken packed lunches with us so we didn’t have to pay what I expected to be high food prices. But the prices at the cafe for hot chocolates were coffee shop prices, and the lunch prices looked reasonable which I was surprised about. We did stop off later at the fish and chip shop to share some chips which were cheaper than our chippy back home, as well as being tasty.
There’s plenty of places to eat – informal takeaway cafes, snack kiosks and more sit down places serving different types of food.
Drayton Manor Zoo
While it’s only a small zoo, Drayton Manor still has some of the favourite animals. With meerkats, lemurs, tigers and various monkeys, the zoo is a good way to let lunch settle before heading back to the rides.
We walked the lemur trail, and spent some time in the reptile house, although the monkeys were most entertaining. Especially the ones with the horrible bottoms because the 2 bigger ones were having a fight while the younger one came between them as peacemaker.
The boys went on some other rides, and the Buffalo coaster was calling again. But I wanted to go on the Accelerator.
N didn’t want to, but my nephew said he’d come on with me. He hadn’t really watched it before going on. Once he was seated, I thought he’d changed his mind. I reminded him they let over 4s on it, so it couldn’t be that bad. Oops.
They take you up really high so you’re facing down (think like a pirate ship ride), then you drop into the roller coaster, before slowing, then riding it all in reverse. It’s a great ride, short enough, but different to any other rides I’ve been on. He wasn’t too sure – and neither of us could quite believe that 5 year olds would be ok to go on it. Hopefully he was proud of going on it. He could go home and tell his older brother.
We went home having had a great day with both boys saying they wanted to come back another day. Maybe in the summer when it’s warm enough to go on water rides as well.
In future I’d also want to check out the 4D cinema, take the train ride and N would like to do the high wires course.
What we loved about Drayton Manor theme park
- Handy being close to home, only an hour away
- Fewer queues and no fast queuing tickets which means everyone has the same chance of going on rides.
- Good value entry, parking and the food wasn’t as expensive as I expected.
- Easy to walk round the whole park, but there’s also a train if needed.
- Good variety of rides for all ages.
- Lots of lockers if you don’t want to carry bags around with you all day
See more of what we got up to in my vlog – somehow I’ve lost half of my photos so the video shows more of what we did.
Do you have thrill seeking children? Where’s your favourite theme park?
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