During phase three of our summer holiday program (long live the holiday spreadsheet) we were invited along to Drayton Manor Park and Zoo to see what they had going on this summer.
I type ‘summer’ but I think due to the UK’s persistent inclement weather it has officially been renamed ‘the extended holiday between school terms’.
So you’d think that a visit to an outdoor theme park might not appeal or be top of the list for days out this, errr, summer.
But we – once again – had a great time at the park, and discovered they even offer a rainy day guarantee.
They can’t actually ensure that you’ll stay dry (some of their rides would break that promise rain or shine) but instead they offer patrons the chance to return to the park for free on another day if they do suffer from persistent rain.
Drayton Manor’s rainy day return guarantee got me excited as a parent, but my son – obviously – wasn’t really bothered about this initiative.
He was bothered about meeting this bloke however.
They opened Europe’s only Ben 10 themed roller coaster last year, and during the main season this year Drayton Manor are offering children (and floppy haired adults that have never grown up) the chance to meet characters from the show.
The sight of Ultimate Humungousaur is enough to make any young fan ecstatic and us a little older ones feeling a little in awe, and inadequate.
He’s a proper beast.
I want one.
Ben 10 and Gwen also make appearances, as did Four Arms during our visit.
My son, Max, is 7-years-old, and the Ben 10 rollercoaster is his favourite, he has also progressed to liking some of the bigger rides his height allows him to now go on. But we still spent time in Thomas Land, and on some of the rides more akin to the fairground.
Also having a zoo and outdoor playground makes Drayton Manor a great day out for us, there’s something for whatever mood my boy is in.
There’s upside down rides for when he’s being a daredevil, there’s rapids for when he doesn’t mind getting wet, there’s the Thomas train when he fancies something a little more sedate, and of course there’s the giant chicken things on the carousel when he’s in the mood for making his dad look daft.
So here our my top tips for a good day out at Drayton Manor
1) Arrive at 10.00am
The gates actually open at 9.30am, but rides don’t actually open until 10.30, so splitting the difference seems the perfect time to arrive. It’s busy but you miss the initial rush and are still there for the rides starting.
2) Crack on from 10.30am
As you are there from the rides opening, take advantage of the smaller queues and get rides chalked off, ignore any urges for a coffee stop, and fit a toilet stop in before 10.30am
3) Take an early lunch
The queues will start to get busy from 11.30 ish, so when they do get longer get out of them and instead take your lunch. Adopting this tactic means you’ll easily find somewhere to sit and eat, and when you’re done you may find the queues have eased a little as more folks are now eating, and thus aren't lining up for the rides.
4) Visit the Zoo and 4D cinema at busy times
It really doesn’t matter where you sit to enjoy the 4D cinema, it is great fun wherever you're sat. Plus they get a whole theatre full in for each ‘ride’, so you don’t have to be near the front of the queue to get in. And browsing round the zoo also negates the extended queuing process.
5) Hold you nerve and stay
If you can plan to, stay until the rides close. As more and more people leave the queues will obviously go down. It’s common in most theme parks to get on the most rides in the last hour, but it is especially true for Thomas Land, when more of the younger patrons seem to leave before the end of the day.
Finally, and most important of all:
6) Don’t get pictured on a giant cockerel or chicken