Drayton Manor Magical Christmas
Reviewed by Jane Hopkins
Drayton Manor is a family Theme park on the outskirts of Staffordshire, and just outside Birmingham. It has the very special Thomas Land inside which is specially designed for kids. During the winter, the main park is closed but Drayton Manor open Thomas Land to present its Magical Christmas. This was our fourth year attending the Magical Christmas and this year I do believe Drayton Manor have outdone themselves!
The day started out drizzling, and it didn’t let up all day. We’ve been having an unusual spell of rain and flood warnings all over the country so it really was a wet day. However we were delighted to find lots of waterproof gazebos with outdoor heaters all over so we parents didn’t get wet waiting for the kids on the rides. Hot chocolate was available all over the park, as was the fabulous hot Apple and Cinnamon drink which was a first for me, and was very welcome!
So we did all the rides, watched the fabulous show at Knapford Station, which involved the Fat Controller and other characters acting and singing a short play for us, before delighting the children with making it snow down on us – we all know it’s fake snow but my goodness it was lovely to see – the kids were especially excited by it all. Then a ride on Annie and Clarabel through the Christmas themed woods, down to see the reindeer was indeed magical.
In the afternoon we went to the 4D cinema for the show. Previous years we’d seen a Santa on ice show in a circus style big top, or another 4D mini film, but this year Drayton Manor went a fabulous few steps further…We had the pleasure of watching a short version of The Polar Express where a boy goes on an exciting adventure by train to the North Pole to meet Father Christmas who gives him a bell from the reindeers reins. It’s a super story made even more special by the 4D effects; you get thrown back into your seat, you feel wind when you’re on the runaway train, you feel the spray from the water – you actually get wet!! It is quite simply a fantastic real life experience.
So after the excitement of the 4D cinema, it was beginning to get dark and the fireworks were about to start. Despite the rain, the fireworks lit up both the night sky, and the brand new purpose built Castle that was beautifully illuminated.
After the fireworks it was our timeslot to meet Father Christmas. Because of the rain we were at this point considering going home, my seven year old was moaning a little and I was beginning to think you’ve seen on Santa’s grotto you’ve seen them all… but boy was I wrong! As we were deliberating, the gates opened and we were ushered down a pathway which zig-zagged over a large pool of water, parts of which were bubbling away like a cauldron. This led to a waiting area where we were greeted by two very friendly costumed elves. They chatted to the children then as the doors behind them opened, they introduced the children one by one to the new elf who then took us through to see Father Christmas. The large doors opened into Santa’s room, all decked out like a warm Christmassy log cabin, complete with log fire and picturesque scene from the window.
Father Christmas spoke to Jamie for some time, asking him about what he wants, whether he’s been good – he even joked and made us all laugh about checking that it was an egg box that Jamie wanted “nooooo!” Jamie said, “an XBOX!” Santa invited me over and we all had a photo taken and soon after we left. Father Christmas was happy to chat to us and was brilliant with Jamie. He reminded us of the gift Santa gave the boy in the film we’d just seen, and then presented Jamie with his own bell from the Reindeer’s harness, which was the most delightful gift to have, Jamie cherished it.
We left the grotto and contrary to my normal tendency to shy away from buying merchandise, we did buy a photo; it was a glitter box with the photo placed behind it – there was also the option of a lovely Christmas tree bauble. (Incidentally, this same service was at our school’s school fair last weekend– a lot more expensive than at Thomas Land!)
After meeting Santa we thought that was the end, but we were wrong. We thought we were walking outside but we reached a large circular room decked out like the inside of the castle, all of a sudden two very jolly jesters appeared who launched into the superb “Knight before Christmas” show. Moving around us all, they told us a highly entertaining story about a dragon, and got all the kids involved – it was great fun and everyone left beaming.
A fantastic way to kick start the Christmas season.
And if you want to make some of what we now call Thomas Land Apple; that gorgeous drink that tastes like apple pie! We’ve made some at home, this is what we did…Simply warm up a carton of clear apple juice in a saucepan – don’t let it boil, add cinnamon sticks to your personal taste, strain the cinnamon bits and store in a bottle. Reheat in microwave to serve. Fabulous.
Magical Christmas is running until Sunday the 6th January. Price is £15 for adults and £10 for Children. Wrap up warm and take a camera!
For more information and to book tickets visit www.draytonmanor.co.uk/christmas