We love those weekends when we can just escape from it all, forget about upcoming operations, pick the kids up from school, jump in the car and travel to somewhere new. Last weekend we did this when we travelled to Drayton Manor Theme Park, near Tamworth in Staffordshire.
Since I was little, "Thomas the Tank Engine" has been a big part of my life, I have happy memories of cuddling up to my mum, watching the first series of Thomas and Friends. I was amazed when she told me that the narrator was one of The Beatles, Ringo Starr!
When Danny was born, I could relive those happy memories through him. I loved cuddling up watching the shows with him as once one story ended and he'd shout, "Again, again!" another one would automatically start. Aunty Jo Jo bought him his first Thomas and Friends Railway set, he had all of the books and toys and even went on a Thomas Steam Engine. Everything "Thomas" has been passed onto his little sisters and now Izzy is the biggest fan in the family. In the week before our adventure she told her teachers and friends all about her planned trip to Drayton Manor and was like a bottle of pop by the time we arrived in the hotel.
We stayed in Travelodge Tamworth Central, which was a great choice as it was only a five minute (super easy) drive to Drayton Manor the next day (Sat Nav Postcode: B78 3SA). The kids got up bright and early as they were looking forward to the day.
If you would prefer to stay even closer then there is a hotel on site, Drayton Manor Hotel, which features Thomas and Friends Themed Rooms, for the ultimate Thomas and Friends overnight stay.
We arrived at Drayton Manor and parking was free. It's a lovely looking park, with lots of green spaces.
I got very excited on arrival seeing all of the lovely themed buildings- it looked very quaint.
After getting our passes and saying hello to some fellow blogger friends, we made our way into Thomas Land.
There were so many rides to choose from, at first the kids kept running from one attraction to another. Eventually, I decided that as they wanted to go on every ride anyway, it would be easier to go on every ride in the order they came in around the park.
When the kids went on their first ride, Harold's Helicopter Tours, I noticed how friendly and reassuring the staff were. Izzy hadn't quite "warmed up" enough to go on any rides yet- she likes to watch her older siblings first. The ride attendant double checked that she wasn't going on before he started. He also chatted to us about our home town, as he's holidayed there himself for many years. The staff throughout the park were friendly and welcoming too.
I stood on the flyover bridge to watch the kids on the ride. As I did, it very much reminded me of being on a real full size Thomas Train Set- the way the rides all interlink and go past each other. The kids had a great view of the park from their ride too.
More rides were enjoyed by all- Cranky Crane's Drop Tower...
and The Rocking Bulstrode...
Our favourite ride in Thomas Land was the Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster Ride- a 220 m rollercoaster suitable for families. The kids went on this again and again.
I always love a train ride at theme parks - it's a great way to sit down and rest your legs during the day while still keeping busy and "doing rides" too! Of course there is a train in Thomas Land- there are Thomas, Rosy and Percy Engine Tours. We happened to ride on Rosy.
There was lots to look at on the way. Beautiful scenery, Thomas Characters and animals- we spotted deer and ostrich.
We thought at first it was going to be a circular ride around the park, however it goes from Knapford to Tidmouth Hault (the zoo and dinosaur trail side). We weren't ready to explore these areas yet so we hopped off the train and then back on again.
We went on a few more rides and then stopped for refreshments and a rest in the Thomas Land VIP Rooms, Sodor Airport. These can be hired out for birthday parties and would be handy when just travelling with large parties (at least ten people). We went out on the balcony and had a good view of all the rides we had left to explore.
Izzy and Caitlyn enjoyed spinning on Sodor Search and Rescue.
The kids had a really enjoyable but also relaxed day. They all got along well together, which always helps a day out go more smoothly. It's a great day out for different generations and Nanny would have loved to visit here too.
We then left Thomas Land with the promise that we would return before leaving the park at the end of the day. The park doesn't fully open until Saturday 12th March, but the kids had great fun pointing out all the rides that they want to go on "when we come here next time", so it looks like we'll be coming back to Tamworth sometime soon!
My pirate loving kids will love the Pirate Adventure.
A family ride on the Drayton Queen would be fun too!
We then went to have some lunch. There are so many places to eat, we were spoilt for choice. In the end we chose pizza at The Safari Pizza and Pasta. It was themed and there were moving animal sculptures so Izzy felt a bit scared in there for some reason, but the food and service was really nice. There are great family meal deal offers throughout the park too.
All day Izzy had been asking to see "Thomas the Gibbon" so we went to find him at Drayton Manor Zoo.
I was pleased to see that conservation and education are the main aims of the zoo.
Oh, look at this Meerkat! They are so fascinating to watch.
We loved the Sign Along signs around the park too.
We couldn't see a name for this Cockatoo, but oh, we loved him. He said "Hello, Parrot!", "You're pretty!", laughed and mimicked us. It was so clever.
In the reptile enclosure we saw tortoise, various breeds of snakes and even dwarf crocodiles.
My girls were pretending to be creatures in this enclosure. I was jokingly saying to Izzy, "look at those strange creatures, I've never seen anything like it before in my life..." when another visitor asked me what animal was in here as she couldn't see it for herself. I had to explain that I was just teasing my daughters!
The Palm oil debate and the effect it has on the environment is a big issue at the moment so it was good to see information about this. We donated money and it's also reminded me and the kids that we need to check labels and avoid buying products containing palm oil.
There were lots of breeds of owls in the zoo, which Caitlyn loved.
Then we found Thomas the Gibbon!
There was a pretty waterfall. I had a few seconds tranquillity there listening to the water before running after Dave and the kids again.
After the zoo, we went to the play park as the kids always need a run around!
Then we went on the Dino Trail and taught Izzy some new Dinosaur names and facts.
I would have loved a photo of all four kids here but only managed one out of four! Mum photography fail!
Sadly, the Ben 10 ride wasn't open but Caitlyn managed to pose by his car.
Next, we went to warm up and lighten our pockets in the arcade.
I had to picture this- a Coronation Street tuppence machine! I don't watch the show nowadays but I love anything Vintage Corrie!
The big kids went on the Carousel Ride but Izzy said she was too tired.
We then returned to Thomas Land for last minute rides, The Thomas Live Show and to say goodbye to Thomas and friends. We loved the show and joined in the singing and actions with The Fat Controller.
Izzy was exhausted and fell asleep as soon as we got back to the car. Here she is cuddled up in the hotel with her new toy from Drayton Manor, she's named it Thomas after Thomas the Gibbon.
We had a great day as guests of Drayton Manor (thank you!) and we will definitely be back at some point in the future to see the fully opened park and to check out the Thrill Rides too.
Have you visited Drayton Manor before? What was your favourite part?
If you'd like to visit, book tickets in advance as it will save you lots of pennies!