‘Go to Drayton Manor, instead’ I was told when I’d mentioned I was thinking of taking my kids to a major theme park for a day out. ‘You’ll love it, and it’s better for the kids too!’ I was sceptical at first. I’d heard of Drayton, but I knew little about it. I didn’t know much about the rides, how big was it, was there going to be enough to keep them occupied? I decided to take the chance, and one busy Monday morning in the middle of the school summer holidays, I found myself driving up the access road and parking in a large grass-covered parking lot next to the main entrance. The surrounding trees kept the delights of Drayton Manor Park hidden for a little longer, but every now and then a scream or two, and a quick glimpse of a bright blue rollercoaster rose above the tree-line, before disappearing just seconds later. If my kids weren’t excited before we arrived, they certainly were now.
Drayton Manor is a theme park unlike any other I’ve visited. Sure it has its rides and its amusements like every other, and yes they’re scary, exciting, and in some cases, wet, but here’s a park that has a lot more to offer than the usual adrenaline thrills. Especially if you’re travelling with younger kids.
Immediately as you enter through the gates you arrive at Thomas Land, a treasure trove of rides for the under 6’s (although adults are allowed on as well). We stepped inside and queued for the Troublesome Trucks ride, the first rollercoaster my 4 and 3 year old children would experience. And an hour and a half later we were still in Thomas Land, queueing to do every ride again.
When we finally persuaded them that Drayton Manor was somewhat larger than miniature Sodor-land, Thomas himself took us on a one-way ride to the far end of the park. And we started all over again. Dino Land, the Drayton Zoo, a driving school and a friendly goose captured the boys’ attention for the next hour as we wander back towards the main attractions. In fact, there’s a real element of eductation thrown in here, and most kids probably won’t even realise they’re learning as well as having fun. Subliminal teaching, I think that’s called!
There are plenty of rides here that are designed for older kids and adults, and they’re sensibly kept to an area all of their own. It means that families travelling with younger kids only don’t have to face the crush and the crowds that surround the main attractions.
Somewhere in the middle of the park, the Ben 10 ride looms in vivid green, and at its base, a 4D movie cinema showing a 15 minute feature film called The Little Prince, (I remember studying the book in French class, many years ago) was a welcome break from all that walking.
To be succinct about it all, Drayton Manor Park is most definitely a great, family-friendly day out. It’s fairly relaxed, or as relaxed as a theme park can be, anyway. But although it’s not as large in size as some of the bigger name parks are, it’s got everything a family needs for the perfect day of fun. This Christmas, Drayton Manor Park is giving its cinema over to a 4D version of The Polar Express, which is a firm family favourite, so I suspect November will see us travelling back down to watch it just after it opens.
Drayton Manor Park has a hotel on site for families who want to turn the trip into more than just a day away. Another great family hotel to book is the Village Urban Resort Dudley, which is a short drive from the park, and is within easy access to the motorway.
If you’ve got children and you’re stuck for what to do with them or where to go, then you can now get a little help from iVillage.co.uk. Their handy search tool directs you to all the best places in your area which is great to give you some inspiration around the holidays, weekends, and any other time you’re tearing your hair out.
The tool divides activities by area in an easy to use map system, and then gives you the choice of activity types; active play, discovery, adventure, castles, museums and much, much more. Every link to an activity gives you details about the exciting adventure your kids can enjoy, along with useful adult info like prices, opening times and contact details.