AS well as chocolate, for families the Easter holidays also heralded a new season of fun, signalling the reopening of theme parks across the country.
Drayton Manor Park, in Staffordshire is where we were headed for my son’s 13th birthday, to join in with the Eggs-ellent Easter celebrations being promised.
But, post Easter, there’s still no shortage of fun to be had – from the theme park rides themselves (including Thomas Land) to the brand new 4D cinema, currently screening Ice Age: No Time For Nuts and the not immodest-sized 15-acre zoo!
Let’s start with the rides. Unlike some of the Merlin big-hitters (the likes of Thorpe Park, Alton Towers and Chessington World of Adventures), this has more to appeal to the younger visitor. Thrill-seeking comes at a variety of levels, and while there’s no shortage of white-knuckle experiences, it’s also about traditional fun such as dodgems, carousels and waltzers.
My son’s only gripe on the day of our visit was the unexpected closure of a handful of the rides. I think the problem is there are not enough rides (unlike the aforementioned) to disguise the closures which are acutely felt – and did unfortunately lead to some disappointment.
However, we appreciate that this is often par for the course with theme parks and it’s always wise to check their website first if your itinerary is flexible.
And that’s not to say there wasn’t enough to do. He and his friends were easily kept entertained for nigh on six hours before it was time to head home for birthday cake.
Most of the adults’ time was spent very enjoyably in the zoo which is home to many species of animals from around the world. My particular highlight, however, was the red panda. With two teenage boys I’ve certainly chalked up my fair share of zoo visits – but the panda was a very enjoyable first.
The reptile house was also a favourite with us (and not just as a shelter from the rain!)
Another first – for the park at least – is the new 4D movie experience, Ice Age: No Time For Nuts. Moving seats combine with lighting and physical effects to create an immersive movie experience like no other. (But proceed with caution if you have back problems, in which case it would not be the most comfortable of rides.) Thoroughly entertaining though for all ages.
Drayton Manor Park also marks the tenth anniversary of Europe’s only Thomas Land, a firm family favourite of this attraction.
The Island of Sodor, based on the much-loved children’s television series, is wonderfully recreated and the themed rides are among the most popular there, including Thomas himself, Jeremy Jet’s Flying Academy, Harold’s Helicopter Tours, Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster, Terence’s Driving School and the newly refurbished Emily’s Play Adventure.
But where it scores most highly, I believe, is its offering for the younger children. And let’s be honest. . . every parent enjoying the atmosphere of Thomas Land is secretly delighted they have a great excuse to go – a child in tow!
All in all a fun-packed day out that’s a bit gentler on the pocket than most (if not all) of its counterparts - and with the added bonus of a brilliant zoo.
Their excellent value Easter ticket offer of four tickets for £80 has been extended and keep an eye on their website too for offers on their hotel and admission packages.
You can find out more about Drayton Manor at: www.draytonmanor.co.uk