Wednesday 23 November 2016

...days out: 5 fun festive things to do at Thomas Land Drayton Manor and top tips when visiting this Christmas

Ethan has been a Thomas the Tank Engine fan from an early age and at the weekend, we visited Thomas Land at Drayton Manor for only the third time to have a fun family day out and celebrate the start of the festive season - including our first trip this Christmas time to see Santa in his grotto.

It was a beautiful day - perfect for a day out and about, with blue skies and a slight chill in the air but not too much to put you off being outdoors for most the day - and our little man had been so excited. We were too; Ethan has grown up so much since our last visit, and of course even more so than the first time I took him for the day two years ago. There's a lot to do at Drayton Manor and Ethan is at just the right age (three and a half) and importantly, height (99cm to be precise) to enjoy all the rides that Thomas Land has to offer.

And boy, did he enjoy them all!

We first headed to Thomas Land when we arrived just before 12.30pm and, considering it was the first day of #DraytonsMagicalChristmas season, it wasn't too busy and we only ever had to wait two turns on a ride before we had our go - and sometimes, no queuing at all. We went on almost every ride, from Jeremy's Flying School through to Troublesome Trucks - a pretty fast and twisting rollercoaster which when it started, I worried would be too scary for my little boy but soon realised that he loved it, as he shouted out "again!" and "that was really fun!" as we went round.

We then decided to go and grab a cup of tea and a bite to eat to warm up, before we headed to the zoo section of the park to spot tigers, snakes and gibbons... before finding the dinosaurs.

Ethan was full of energy and loved every part of the day but his highlight, inevitably, was catching a ride on board Thomas himself, to take us back to the heart of Thomas Land. He had an appointment with the man in red in the Castle of Dreams, so we headed off to Santa's grotto before visiting the 4D Polar Express experience.

As if that weren't enough, we then squeezed in three more rides - one ride we went on twice in a row as there was no queue - before spotting and following the Christmas parade performance, which rounded off with some beautiful fireworks over the lake.

A pretty packed day, I am sure you'll agree, which is what makes it such great value as a family day out and it certainly left us feeling magical and ready for Christmas.

So, what festive treats can you enjoy at Thomas Land this Christmas?

1. Let is snow - the magic elves at Thomas Land make is snow up to three times a day, and all the houses in the park are covered in the white stuff

2. Put on a show - there are performances of Christmas songs at the main station during the day and then each evening, towards the end of the day, the performers come out to sing and dance their way from the bandstand through to the main parade and sparkling Christmas tree, and you can follow them on the way as they meet Santa and Rory the Lion

3. See Santa and his reindeer - of course, a must-see if you visit at this time of year is Father Christmas himself, located in the Castle of Dreams. He has plenty of time for each girl and boy, photos are available to buy at the end and every child receives a cuddly elf (ours is called Elfvis), a large chocolate coin and a free child return ticket with a paying adult to be used in early 2016 - bonus! If you buy your photo, you also receive a digital download link, so we could immediately change our Facebook cover photos... When you leave the castle, you can stop to see the reindeer too - which Ethan loved, as a huge fan of Sven from Disney's Frozen!

4. Watch the Polar Express, then catch your own - the 15 minute 4D short of the film Polar Express will make you feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside, and catching a trip aboard a festively decked out Thomas or Percy will undoubtedly be a highlight for your little ones

5. Catch the fireworks - a pretty perfect way to round off the day, it's worth staying until the very end to see this lovely display, it'll make you feel festive and don't worry about the crush in the car park to leave - everything ran smoothly for us and there was no queuing to get out at all

Whilst we were kindly invited along to experience Drayton's Magical Christmas for the purposes of review, we absolutely loved our day out and would recommend it to anyone with young children as there is so much to do and it really did feel like a special place to start the festive season.

And really, Ethan's face says it all...

What tips can I offer you if you visit at this time of year?

* Wrap up warm - perhaps the earlier in the season you go, the better, as it can get quite chilly and you are out in the fresh air for most of the day (goes without saying really)

* Pack some snacks, if you want to keep an eye on pennies

* Stop for a hot drink, and there's plenty of places to pick up a drink or something warm to eat if you fancy it

* Plan your day, so you can make the most of quieter spells in Thomas Land or fit in around little ones with tired little legs

* Try to fit it all in - we like to go to Thomas Land, then the zoo before catching the train back

* Use the cinema experience as a chance to rest your feet and warm up a little

* Pack light, as with any day out, you'll be on your feet, helping little ones on and off things and taking lots of photos so the less you have to carry, the better

* Stay until the end, to catch the parade and see the tree light up before the fireworks are set off, as it's a lovely way to round up a fun day

Have you been to Drayton Manor Thomas Land at Christmas time at all? What are your must-do things when you visit?

Find out more about Drayton's Magical Christmas in my bumper guide to seeing Santa across the Midlands - packed full of all the details and links you need to find a great grotto near you.

* Thank you to the Thomas Land team for a kind invitation and a memorable day - all opinions and looks of glee our own.


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