Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Days Out - Thomas Land at Drayton Manor

I decide just one post wasn't enough to cover Harry's fabulous birthday treat! The last post was about the Thomas-themed rooms at Drayton Manor Hotel - a big hit with the boys - however, the real treat was still to come - meeting the real Thomas and his friends!

Of course, first we enjoyed a lovely breakfast in the hotel and we headed over to the park at about 9.45 (it opened at 9.30). The rides didn't start until half past 10, so we probably could have left it a little bit longer before entering the park, but it was nice to orientate ourselves and figure out what rides we were going to go on when they did open! We left our lunch cool bag in the lockers near Emily's Play Area (a soft play area adjacent to the main part of Thomas Land) and headed off to the Zoo, which was open. Harry enjoyed looking at the animals, allthough I think he was a little bit confused about the zoo and theme park concepts. When we walked past the tiger he asked 'Is that a real one?!' to be followed by when we saw the exhibits on the prehistoric trail 'Are those real dinosaurs?!'

Just past the dinosaur trail was Spencer's Play Area. I love it when a play area is well judged and designed for its target audience and this one was perfect for 2-5 year olds, which is also prime age for Thomas fans I would guess. I am sure Harry would have been happy if this was the culmination of our day but we soon had to drag him (and Archie) off the play equipment to see what else this end of the park had to offer before heading back t the main part of the park on the train.

Harry was captivated by the magical Thomas exhibition in one of the nearby sheds. He thoroughly enjoyed looking at all the elements of the scene and waiting to spot his favourite trains come chuffing around the track. The Terrence Tractor Driving School is also in this area of the park, but sadly Harry was too small to drive his own tractor. This was probably our only disappointment of the day. We would have appreciated an option for te younger drivers - perhaps even just a Terrence model to climb on - but it was a minor disappointment in what was otherwise a wonderful day.

Before long there was an influx of new people which told us that a train must have arrived at the station, so we hot-footed it over there to find it was Percy, Harry's absolute favourite train! The train rides were, perhaps predictably, one of the highlightss of the day. Nothing beats wating on an actual platform, selecting your own carriage and riding the rails with your favourite trains. We were pleased to capture a usually camera-shy Harry standing next to his new best buddy, Percy the train.

The rides in Thomas Land are really well suited to Harry's age. In fact, at about 90cm, he was tall enough to go on even the bigger rides - the Troublesome Trucks rollercoaster and the Cranky ride. However, Harry didn't fancy those ones having never been on any rides before, and I don't really blame him - I'm sure they would provide plenty of fear factor for even an older child. He absolute favourite ride was the Vintage Car ride, which isn't specifically Thomas themed, but does fit well with the rest of the rides. Little ones sit in the car (accompanied by one adult) and 'drive' it along a track. Harry asked to go on this ride every other time! We were lucky to be there on a very quiet day, it meant that most rides were just waiting for people before starting, even your little family were the only passengers! Harry also loved the Diesel ride, and being able to ride the Blue Mountain Quarry trains. Again, because it wasn't busy he was able to ride on all his favourite trains by going on the rides multiple times. Archie also enjoyed the rides, but at 10 and a half months he was a little young for them. You aren't allowed to have children sitting on your lap, they have to sit on their own seat, which can be tricky with a wriggly crawler!

We ate our lunch on a picnic bench and although we'd held the soft play area in reserve, we decided just to go back and have a go on more of the rides. We also never made it into the main part of Drayton Manor. As we walked through it seemed like there were a few rides that the boys might have enjoyed, but, to be honest Thomas Land was more than enough for us for the one day. I couldn't recommend it enough for a great day out if you have a train- and vehicle-crazy little one like Harry. I think the memories are going to stay with him for a long time and it made his third birthday a really special one. Thank you, Drayton Manor!

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