At the end of the summer I was offered tickets to Thomas Land at Drayton Manor Park for a very special screening of the new Thomas & Friends movie Blue Mountain Mystery. I knew at once who I would like to send on my behalf. My train mad nephews aged six and three and a half. Their mummy kindly agreed to be interviewed about the day and the screening. This is what she had to say.
Did you require accommodation in the area for your visit to Drayton Manor’:
Yes. Through Expedia (cheapest rate), we booked a room to accommodate the family at the Drayton Manor Hotel. We stayed for 1 night B&B.
What are your thoughts in regards to the accommodation/Would you recommend the accommodation?
Upon arrival I felt the hotel was light, airy and modern and clearly had the best access to Drayton Manor, being situated opposite the gates to the attractions. However, the staff in the hotel (unless in managerial positions), lacked knowledge and enthusiasm or common sense. The room was fine. Adequate for our needs of a 1 night stay for much less than 24 hours. The food was NOT amazing in the restaurant. The hotel had a lovely children’s play area, outside, but no other activities apart from fruit machines, arcade machines, grab machines seen anywhere else in the hotel. I would very much liken the experience to staying at a Travel Lodge or motorway service hotel. As said, fine for a 1 night stay, although pricey for a Travel Lodge experience (especially when it’s marketing indicates the hotel is of greater quality). On a previous visit to Drayton Manor, my family and I stayed at the Lea Marston hotel, 10 minutes away from the park by car. This has a pool, lovely rooms, a spa etc. It was the same price as the Drayton Manor. All staff were friendly and intuitive, the facilities fantastic for a 2 day break. At the time of that stay, the cost was cheaper than that of the Drayton Manor Hotel.
What was your ‘Park’ experience on the day:
Following breakfast, my family and I entered the park at 10:00am ready for 10:30am when the rides open. We didn’t experience any queues entering the park. Read out our booking reference to the clerk, received our tickets and walked on in. All rides, games and shops were closed. Cafes were open as was the zoo. We walked through part of the zoo and then headed to the Thomas Land area of the park for 10:30am.
My children are 3 and 6 years old. They both LOVE Thomas the Tank Engine. We had visited the park in December 2011, and they had enjoyed themselves thoroughly then, this experience was to be much the same. The rest of Drayton Manor theme park was quite out of their height and play reach but that did not phase them or feature on their radars at all. They were both delighted to be back in Thomas Land.
The rides are great as have been well thought out for children of all ages and those of a certain height must be accompanied by an adult. There is plenty to do in Thomas Land and all the characters are their, on site, which means every childs favorite can be touched or ridden on someway or another. Thomas, Rosie and Percy pull carriages packed with parents and giddy children through to a different point of the park continuously throughout the day. My boys wanted a ride on Thomas, and loved every minute they were on board.
The boys chose what they wanted to ride on, and off we went. My husband and I taking it in turns to join the boys and enjoying the experience with them.
My 6 year old son is currently undergoing a 2 month procedure on his leg, which has involved an operation and strict rules in regards to no pressure being applied to his foot and leg (ie no walking). As a result my son has been issued a wheel chair and he has a thigh length plaster cast.
Having enjoyed our first ride of the day, ‘Dizzy Diesel’s', the ride operator advised us that we could get a special pass from the Visitor Support Unit, where we would be issued with a card that confirmed our party had disability access to 10 rides, and didn’t need to join the main queue’s. The Visitor Support team confirmed that we were allowed to go to the Exit gate of each ride and as long as we presented our ticket there, to the ride operator, would be let on the next ride without joining the main queue. The ride operator would stamp one of the 10 spaces on the card.
This card was very good and admittedly saved my family a LOT of time as we did not have to join the main queues. The popular rides of Harold Helicopter, Jeremy Jet, Vintage Cars and the train ride to the zoo had lengthy queues which my children would not have understood and would have become bored and agitated in.
As a family of a child with learning difficulties who was also in a wheel chair, the Thomas Land staff were caring and helpful.
We bought coffee from a cafe before the rides had opened. The prices were cafe prices and not racked up, which was refreshing.
We bought lunch, inclusive of sandwiches and crisps for my husband and I, and a sandwich ‘lunch box’ for the boys. This worked well for my family, and the boys lunch box was under £4.00 containing sandwiches, drink, crisps, chocolate bar and a yogurt. As with any theme park there were several styles of food available Burgers, Grills, Pies. During our December visit, we ate in the Drayton Manor fast food styled burger bar and knew that we would be avoiding eating there again. Other families were enjoying their own picnics and everyone was enjoying the good weather!
Did you enjoy the screening of Thomas the Tank Engine ‘s Blue Mountain Mystery?
I love the fact that my children really enjoy something as innocent as Thomas the Tank Engine. Soon enough, as growing boys, they will be moving on to the likes of Transformers, Ben 10 and other slightly more fast paced, thrill seeking, alien crushing shows. Why wouldn’t I encourage their enjoyment of Thomas the Tank and steam railways?
Both of my children really enjoyed the film. Blue Mountain Mystery tells the story of ‘an incident that was an accident’ (although of course the diesels as usually stirred trouble and dealt blame, got their facts all wrong and caused difficulty among the steamies!). The story showed Thomas befriending a scarred little train and being trusted with a secret as well as helping out. An enjoyable story and not as ‘dark’ as the previous film Day of the Diesels (which features train gangs!).
My 3 year old went in to his Nursery the following day, his first day of the term, and was able to recite the key elements of the story to his teacher, without parental prompt. I was quite impressed, it’s not like him to recount his experiences. This film he had obviously really enjoyed.
On exit of the cinema, the PR Team issued each child a cloth Blue Mountain Mystery bag that was absolutely rammed with Thomas the Tank merchandise. The boys were so excited, this was definitely Christmas early! The bags contained trains, books, a DVD of the new film that we had just seen, Thomas the Tank branded water even down to Thomas the Tank tooth paste! Their eyes were bulging at the abundance of gifts.
Are you able to grade your overall experience of Thomas Land?
My husband and I both agree that Thomas Land is a fantastic place to take a young family. Not only does it introduce the concept of ‘Theme Parks’ to younger children, the enjoyment they get from being surrounded by all of the characters from Thomas the Tank Engine are heavily underestimated.
With any theme park, a visit out of Peak Time is going to enhance the users experience as queues are nothing more than one ride deep, so if planning a visit, timing in line with non-term time, may be something worth considering.
We would return to Thomas Land, perhaps during their Christmas specials because our children had such an enjoyable time, even though at the time of this vist my son had greater difficulties than he usually suffers.
A great film, and a great day. 10/10 from us!
(Photos coming soon!)
Thank you Drayton Manor, Thomas Land and all those involved.
For more information on Drayton Manor Park and Thomas Land, please visit http://www.draytonmanor.co.uk
You can find out more about the Blue Mountain Mystery here: http://www.thomasandfriends.com/bluemountain