In early September, just as the schools resumed, we were invited to Thomas Land at Drayton Manor theme park for a special preview of the new film Thomas the tank engine in Blue mountain rescue. “Yippee we are going to Thomas Land!” The day was wildly anticipated by Little Man who is an avid Thomas fan. Less so by me for the fact of having to juggle the logistics of getting there, keeping baby happy, as well as keeping track of a very excited Little Man (just shy of 4 years old). In the end I asked a friend with a similar aged child to come along.
Getting there is relatively simple, though my GPS did take me on a slightly scenic route (it always does that on occasions).
There is plenty of parking available- disabled parking right by the entrance and heaps a bit further. As we got there just at opening time, there were about 25m queues at each of the 6 booths open. However each of the queues was moving fast, as most people had pre-booked. So all in all a great start to the day!
Getting in, immediately to our left was Thomas Land, a separate area with all the rides for the Littlins. I could hardly keep track of Little Man, he was so excited.
There are all sorts of rides themed around some favourite characters from the series. The ones we tried were:
- Jeremy Jet – Flying high with Jeremy with Little Man in control of our flight over Sodor
- Crazy Bertie Bus – Climb onboard and enjoy a crazy journey with Bertie
- Harold’s Helicopter Tours – Fly with Harold high above everyone
- Rocking Bulstrode – Climb on board and have a rockin’ ride as it rotates you 360 degrees
Just after lunch we went to the 4D cinema for a special screening of Thomas in Blue Mountain Rescue. The cinema was fun; giving some surprises when our seats moved, we got engulfed in smoke and we got squirted with water (though the second squirt was a bit too much for the preschoolers, just too wet)… hence it’s called a 4D cinema.
After the film we went back to Thomas Land and went on 2 more rides:
- Troublesome Trucks Coaster – A 220 metre roller coaster that runs up and over Thomas Land
- Taking a trip from Knapford Station with Rosie pulling our train to the Discover Thomas Exhibition located in Farmer McColls Farm.
The favourite of the day, by far, was the rollercoaster ride. This goes around twice- first easing the little ones into their, most likely, first ever rollercoaster ride and then second time with a whoosh, revving up the speed a notch or two.
The bits I liked about Thomas Land was, first and foremost, the joy it brought the children, then the fact that Thomas Land is relatively compact and easy to get around with young chidren. There is also an indoor play area for those rainy days or when your child just wants to let off steam themselves by climbing and running around (we actually didn’t get to go there as time ran out on us).
Thomas Land was a HUGE contrast to the Playmobil FunPark which we’d visited the week before: In Germany we had no conventional rides, like in Thomas Land, and hence no queues. Whereas in Thomas Land even on a school day there were queues to each ride. Generally we queued at least twice as long as the ride itself. This is very boring for a 4 year old, especially as the rails and the queuing system is such that the children don’t get to see much from where they are standing. I think the park could address this and make the queues more interesting for the children by adding some interesting things along the queues: pictures, activities (e.g. drawing with chalk, spot the difference and other brainteasers).
A couple of suggestions if you are planning a visit to Thomas Land:
- Check the Drayton Manor website and book in advance, as there are generally big savings to be made and there are special events (like Christmas theme this time of year).
- Arrive early; the day will pass very quickly and before you know it it’s time to head home;
- There are plenty of benches and picnic tables, so don’t be shy to bring your own food and drink. (I always think this makes a day much easier as the kids have their familiar flavours available on demand… you can also have a snack in one of the queues and save time. )
- Bring some toys (and your patience) to occupy your children while waiting for the rides.
- …and have a FAB time!!!
What if you can’t get to Thomas Land?
Well, Thomas often shows up at rail museums around the country, like at Didcot… check that out.
Or as we often do you can create your own Thomas day at home … I’ll share how we do this next week.