Yesterday we went to Christmas at Thomas Land at Drayton Manor Park to meet some friends of ours who live in Norfolk. They had mentioned they had planned a visit to celebrate their little boys third birthday, and having read Samantha’s post on her visit last year, I suggested we join them.
So off we set off at 8am for the 2 hour drive to the Midlands. I-pads in the car for the girls so we could have a little quiet time ourselves. The weather looked kind and the drive was easy, and we arrived in the car park at 10.15 within 5 minutes of our friends, not bad at all considering the distance we were all travelling. So far so good.
As it was a lovely day, cars came piling into the car park behind us – it was going to be busy! As we had bought out tickets online we could miss the queue at the ticket office and go straight through to the gate, the only problem with this as we were to later discover was that no-one offered us a map.
The gates to Thomas Land itself (it sits within the larger Drayton Manor Park) are just through the entrance gates so you can’t miss it. My first reaction was ‘oh crikey it’s busy, look at those queues’, the second was ‘isn’t it little, how are we going to be here all day’. As we left at 5.30pm with bright smiling little girls, having had a wonderful day, first reactions are not always to be trusted!
The first ride we went on was Winston’s cars which travel on a track above and around Thomas Land. We had to use 3 cars as there could only be a maximum if 4 in each car. We encountered a few negotiations during the day as to who was going to sit with who, and how many children and adults could/would go on each ride. With 4 adults and 5 children, the balance was sometimes quite tricky, but as our friends eldest was 8 she could sometimes look after one of mine.
We queued for half an hour for the first ride and half an hour for the second (the flying helicopters) and I did start to worry about the children’s patience (and my husband’s) it was also cold, very very cold. Everyone was starting to be a bit tearful and it was only 11.45! So we decided to have lunch. We thought this might give us chance to grab a map, and warm up. There was however talk of bailing at that point and heading for the hotel spa/swimming pool where our friends were staying that night!
Lunch was a fairly standard burger and chips (£24ish for 5 of us) so not ludicrous. You could buy sandwich and drink packs with apple etc for £3.55 for the kids but we really wanted to sit inside as we needed to warm us all up. We located a map, found our tickets to see Santa, and realised from the map there was actually loads to do. The time having lunch had also meant that Thomas Land had quietened down (as people had dispersed) and the queues were a lot shorter! Tip: Might be a good plan to arrive at Thomas Land a little bit later when people have dispersed!
We then went on loads of rides. Tip: You ideally need one adult per child that wants to ride of they are around 1m tall. We were lucky as the friends we went with had a little girl who was taller so we could borrow her Daddy for one of ours.
There were loads of rides that the little ones could go on though so perfect for children aged between 3 and 8.
We didn’t actually manage to visit the 4D cinema which was Polar Express and I was a bit gutted about that, but whilst the film was on every half an hour, you really need to be in the queue for the half an hour before hand to get in. We didn’t actually quite manage to do that, as by the time we got to that end of the park our queuing patience had waned a bit!
We did however get chance to visit Santa and this was the highlight of the day. Santa was fab, just how you want him to be. He was warm, friendly, engaging. He worked well with the little ones, encouraging them to tell him what they wanted. We had pre-booked tickets and our slot was at 2pm. They wouldn’t let too many people in the queue at once so there was only a small wait. The elves were also lovely and encouraged the children to chat. I can highly recommend booking this. The children all got a little red bag with a large chocolate coin in, a snow globe and a ‘golden ticket’ to return next year (clever marketing Thomas Land as we will return but will have to pay for the adults!). The kids all loved the snow globe although unfortunately one of ours hasn’t lasted 24 hours, as it fell out of the bag onto a wood floor and broke this morning! Thankfully it was plastic!
After visiting Santa at 2pm, going on the big wheel (which does go quite slowly when you have toddlers that need a wee!) and wandering through the zoo, it was getting towards 4pm, so we took a ride on Thomas back to the entrance. By that time it was starting to go dark and the Christmas lights came into their own. Thomas was very twinkly and the Christmas music was playing. It all felt really Christmassy, although still cold, still very very cold.
We had decided to leave at that point, but the girls wanted just one more ride. This obviously turned into 2 and then 3. We are glad we stayed though because at 5pm it snowed! It was according to the girls, actually Christmas!
We couldn’t stay for the fireworks as it really was too cold by then, but because of this, the earlier tip to go later and then stay later works for this too!
We had a really really good day at Thomas Land, possibly more about the great company and how lovely it was to catch up with old friends, but the girls all loved it and we will definitely be back.
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Karen Beddow founded Mini Travellers in 2014 while doing what she loves most...going on holiday!
Mini Travellers is for parents looking for holiday ideas, destination reviews, days out and things to do with the kids. We also have family travel tips, activity ideas and all other things family holiday related. Take a look at some of our latest reviews for holidays and day trips in the UK.