Drayton Manor is located near Birmingham and next to Tamworth, with several motorways near it including the M42 that is 15 minutes away. It’s home to a Zoo as well as Thomas Land, one of the largest areas designated to the popular character Thomas and friends for the books, TV Series and Films.
We have been visiting the theme park for many years since the opening of Thomas land. All three kids have now been and have been fans of Thomas for themselves. So with this all being said, we decided to do a review and see where it’s at.
Drayton Manor has three entrances, 1 main entrance located near Thomas land, this is the traditional one and has a proper style entrance. Another is located nearer the overflow car parks, this is also near Vertigo the High rope walk. This activity is a separately paid experience, it’s a walk past the lake towards some of the older rides. The last entrance is via the restaurant and hotel area and is near entrance 2, its a little tucked away to the side and isn’t really the main entrance in. This year saw the car entry improvements with new barriers in and out, unfortunately like other theme parks its brought a charge to park with it also, which like almost all theme parks, the money doesn’t go park towards the quality of the car parks.
The park is split into little sections, it’s not a huge theme park spread over big distances like Alton towers for example. For the most part, you are going from one to the next. They also have a new app which can help in plotting your route and activities, the app has the rides with there information, like heights etc… But unfortunately doesn’t have queue times and up to date info about the rides offers etc.. Not perhaps as good as other apps out there.
There’s a mix of rides in the main centre area, a traditional carousel, a small pirate boats that spin round and a big pirate ship called the bounty. This is a very good pirate ship and goes quite high and fast, one of the favourites of the kids in any theme park. The Neptune’s arcades and bumper cars make up the rest in the middle area, the bumper cars do swap out for ice skating during the winter months as they hold selected dates, rides attraction at Xmas. This is also the last thing in the middle, a big boat on the water rides, however! This no longer exists for normal days, it’s been converted for just Xmas, it used to be nights and dragons etc, but personally I think it’s a waste. I’ve visited there in the Christmas time and do the ride is OK, I don’t think it’s this great thing that’s only worth opening for a month.
On the edge of the middle and towards the bigger rides area is a train that circles the big rides area. The Polperro express! This a great little slow-paced train that goes around the lake and past those big rides. Speaking of those rides, shock wave and Maelstrom are two of the major rides in the park, shock-wave is a roller coaster, while maelstrom is a swinging ride.
The parks major water ride storm force 10 overlooking the lake and partly in it lol, is good compared or most water rides, it’s the traditional boat and drops and gets wet. Lastly, the air race is possibly one of the best but sickening rides I’ve been on, it looks great, and you feel like your in a washing machine, your limits, to be honest, will be pushed on this. However! This fairly big area is waisted, both maelstrom and storm force 10 on the edges, shock wave is on the other end, but wit Gforce leaving the park (though still there but closed for a year) to be sold and the rapids ride closed due to the fatality a few years back. The whole area looks a little sad and waisted.
Flip across the lake back near entrance 2 and 3, are the remaining non-themed rides left in the park. The buffalo coaster is that traditional old school coaster that also briefly goes over the water. The Flying Dutchman is like a chair swinging ride but you’re on boats. The Pandemonium ride is arguably one of the best there, and probably should be relocated over the other big rides, it’s a hanging ride that you go forward and back, then all the way over. A small little pay cars track has replaced the big wheel.
Accelerator (used to be Ben 10 ride) is located here and is one of the more popular, its like roller-coaster that you do half forwards but then stop and go backwards. Apocalypse is the last of the major big rides, it’s a big drop that you can do sitting down or standing up, very high but not as scary as you think. But if your not a fan of heights then give it a miss.
Tucked away in the corner is the drunken barrels which are a waltzer type ride but you are in barrels, next to this is sheriff’s showdown, a lazer ride in which you shoot targets. Next to this is, The Haunting! A horror style chapel that you can discover. There is a row of different cafes and shops with the 4D cinema, for those who like them.
What sets them a little different is the zoo, this is a little zoo but has a few animals in, due to the size etc… There are lots of smaller animals, still has a tiger but certainly focuses on monkeys, birds and lizards. It can make for a refreshing change if you need a break from the rides or if you have people in the party with you that perhaps don’t enjoy the rides.
At the back of the park is a Dino trail, it’s been changed over the years and is OK, again nice, small, and a break from the rides. This is the whole point, in my eyes of this corner of the park. It has the train stop from Thomas land (talk more about it later), a big outdoor play area with Spencer, a great themed area. It’s very popular and rightfully so, a cafe and picnic area, so you can relax for an hour.
In this corner of the park are a little more animals including Emu’s and flamingos, and the model railway. Which is great as its replicas of the old Thomas and friends series from the 80’s. Terence tractors are the only proper ride over here, a driving ride suitable for selected sizes.
Thomas land is in two parts, its located right at the main entrance, you enter through the brick and gates, much like the rest of the design of Knapford Station. This also enters straight onto Knapford Station in which the train turns around and performances are performed. You can get a train from Knapford Station over to Tidmouth, where the dino trail zoo etc…. This is a one-way trip, to come back you would have to come off and get back on, please bear this in mind as kids will want to go on as it might have Thomas, Rosie or Percy etc.. Pulling trains.
There are lots of rides here so I will skim over as this deserves its own review one day, the area had been improved with white plastic fencing around all rides to make it look prettier and no doubt safer. The signs have also been improved and all themed, information for each ride is also visible. Many of the characters have themed rides after them with an assortment of different type ones, from cranky a drop ride to troublesome trucks, a roller-coaster, There’s a little bit for every kid. In the newer but it’s taken further with more rides including James balloon and Toby ride. The whole area looks even better than the other part, Sodor airport is a big part here with a cafe and function room.
The facilities overall are OK, in Thomas land they look great, the toilets in the older section near shockwave have been redone, but other parts of the park they barely look tidy and clean, as they look very outdated. Food Place such as other theme parks includes and burger, pizza, chicken, but also includes a pie place and cafes.
Overall the park is good for youngsters, Thomas land is excellent and ideal for those 2 to 7-year-olds with perhaps 8+ getting a little Limited there. With how good Thomas land is there is a danger, the rest of the park might not look as good, and it doesn’t. Notably, they are trying, the zoo has had some tweaks and face-lift to it, as did the dino trail. The odd other ride has also had a slight lick of pain, much like the shops around the centre. It’s a shame to see Gforce being sold, as it was a big ride to lose. I do ponder the question is Drayton Manor changing there demographic? For a year’s I would say its good for the whole family, but I wonder if they are moving towards the young less than 12 age group? Which make sense with the competition out there. But with Thomas land they have nailed the younger ones, I do think the corner of the park is wasted, the car park there, as well as the outdoor part for animal like the emus, was huge and wasted, we were the only ones in that bit, where the play area and dino were busy, which was a minute away. If they want to extend Thomas land further this is where it should be, as clearly this is one of the main reasons to come here.
I still think this is a good theme park, my experience that day was actually not very good, which was a shame, and had this been the only visit I would have had a completely different review and opinion. Many rides were closed, it didn’t look great, the staff were great. This was still the summer holidays! Peak time! So I have no idea why the park was open long or why 6 rides were closed! Which for a slightly older person this would have limited what they went on for the day, as other rides briefly closed aswell. Even the main entrance was closed? Only the side near the overflow was open.