Reviewed by Sally Carter
Saturday 1st of April 2017 saw the Grand Opening of Thomasland’s brand new ride, “James & the Red Balloon”! CEO of Drayton Manor, Colin Bryan gave exclusive access to approx. 400 guests; members of the press and their families for the morning to enjoy all the delights Thomasland has to offer and celebrate the launch of their new ride.
I grew up living just down the road from Drayton Manor and have fond memories of visiting the park on many occasions with family and friends. However, I have not been there since my teens, so was keen to see how it had changed and what my 3 children would think if it!?
We were VERY excited to be visiting Thomasland! My husband, 3 children and I travelled up from the South Coast the night before, so driving to the park on Saturday only took about 15 minutes. It was easy to find and is clearly marked and signposted. On arrival, there were staff on hand guiding cars into the carpark and showing people the way in. We easily found the Season Ticket office and collected our passes and itinerary for the morning; this included a special lanyard and James no.5 pin badge making the children feel very special indeed.
As we passed through the gates and into Thomasland we were greeted by street performers and staff from “Knapford Station”, already excitement and celebration filled the air, almost like being at a birthday party. The children were all given red balloons, tied with red ribbon and a red station officers whistle! (As you might imagine, these were eagerly received by the children!)
As directed we made our way towards “Sodor Airport”, my 3 children aged 7 years, 6 years and 2 years old had eyes as big as saucers and didn’t know where to look first. My youngest saw the “Flynn’s Fire Rescue” ride and that was it, he was off! We managed several rides including “Captains Sea Adventure”, “Jeremy Jets Flying Academy” and the “Blue Mountain Engines” before heading over to take our places ready for the Grand Opening.
Just before 11am, people started to gather ready for the big event. As we stood in front of the red ropes the children and I decided to take a selfie – when who should we be photobombed by…? But Sir Topham Hat himself! After the speeches came the telling of the tale of “James and the Red Balloon” by Sir Topham Hat and Station Officer Sally. He then involved all the children in the countdown to the first ride; 3-2-1… and we all blew our whistles, a confetti canon exploded raining red ticker-tape down on everyone and the ride began for the first time.
While most people were then focused on watching or queuing for the new ride we used this opportunity to try a few more Thomasland rides instead. My youngest particularly enjoyed “Harold’s Helicopter Tours”, my middle one liked “Jeremy Jets Flying Academy” and my eldest (and most daring) loved “Cranky’s Drop Tower”. After a quick break to refuel (thanks to the lovely fresh food available at “Sodor Airport”) we were ready to try “James & the Red Balloon”. My older 2 rode together in 1 balloon basket and the little one and I in another. The ride has 8 balloon baskets which independently spin (a bit like the teacups ride) It takes you up and then rotates you around, tilting up and down, and the children loved it!
At midday Thomasland was then opened up to the general public too, however, it still wasn’t so busy that queuing became unbearable – even the wriggly 2 year old managed most of the time. We remained within Thomasland until approximately 2.30pm. Whilst the youngest then took a nap we ventured out into the rest of Drayton Manor Park. My eldest was keen to try a roller coaster! I was glad that most of the Thriller Rides don’t open for another month, however Daddy was persuaded to go with and try, “The Accelerator”, which she absolutely LOVED and made him ride again before we came home. We also rode “The Carousel” and tried the 4D Cinema Experience amongst others… we returned to Thomasland about 4.30pm to squeeze in a few more rides suitable for all the family, before slowly, happily and tiredly making our way back to the car.
We had an absolutely fabulous, action packed day which we all thoroughly enjoyed!
The park has special offers for customers wanting to return the following day to continue their fun and I can understand how this would be popular – our children would happily have returned the next day had we not had to travel home again.
Thomasland itself can easily fill most of the day without even thinking about the rest of the theme park or Zoo. We wholeheartedly recommend. As my 2 year old said, “2 thumbs up!” (the highest rating, as you only have 2 thumbs!)
Reviewed by, Sally Carter (with the help of her family: Rob, Evie, Poppy & Fin)
We were all encouraged throughout the morning to post on social media using the #jamesnewride, so checkout Facebook/Twitter/Instagram, etc… for more photographs, video and reviews.
Tickets cost from £7 to £25 if booked online in advance (£7 to £39 on the day).
For more information or to book tickets visit www.draytonmanor.co.uk or call 01827 287979.
Drayton Manor, Drayton Manor Drive, Tamworth, Staffordshire, B78 3TW | 01827 287979