Fancy a weekend of wholesome fun with Thomas the Tank Engine, close animal encounters and exciting rollercoaster thrills? Wersha Bharadwa checks into the beloved UK family theme park and resort of Drayton Manor.
Sitting pretty in 280 acres of picturesque parkland featuring manicured lawns and lakes, Drayton Manor Resort – adjacent to the famed theme park – is located in Staffordshire near Tamworth, a pretty village worth visiting for its castle and indoor attraction, Snowdome. Staffordshire, Birmingham and the attractions of Cadbury’s World and Warwick Castle are within easy reach too for families wanting a full and fun weekend trip away.
The hotel entrance and lobby features a Thomas the Tank Engine carousel, and there are several characters walking around the place engaging in meet and greets with kids which you’ll no doubt make your first stop at for a few snaps before checking in at the reception desk.
Corridors in public areas are adorned with artworks and photos vividly chronicling Drayon Manor’s history as a theme park and the evolution of its thrilling rides adding a unique, decorative touch for a theme park hotel. Check-in is fast and smooth with the most wonderful team on reception including reservations manager Jessica personally gifting children staying in themed rooms fun goody bags containing colouring books, large Thomas-themed wooden replica old fashioned train whistles, a Drayton Manor Resort branded refillable drinks bottle and activity packs in cute kid-sized rucksacks.
For adults and families staying on a stay and play package, the in-room welcome letter also contains tickets for the whole family for two days at the park and a number of fast track passes for you to choose which rides you’d like to skip the queues for. Importantly, for guests staying at the hotel, the theme park is open for early access from 10am enable access to all your favourite rides before the gates open for general admission visitors at 10.30am.
In the evenings, children at the hotel are kept thoroughly happy in the serene and private garden by a wonderful and assorted range of entertainers, including clowns offering energetic outdoor games and DJ’s spinning tunes for mini discos.
Large and modern, all rooms feature a fridge big enough to store kids snacks and milk. There’s also a kettle for warming up bottles and staff are only too happy to help with sterilising needs. Family rooms come with bunk beds and smaller families can request rooms with sofa beds and travel cots which housekeeping will have set up for you before your arrival.
Bathrooms are well lit and roomy and stocked with large, white cotton bath towels. Thankfully, all rooms come with bathtubs with showers overhead so as to cater for young children needing wind-down bath time (excluding accessible rooms which have wet-room
style bathrooms with showers). Of the 148 rooms, there are a range of Thomas the Tank Engine themed rooms and Viking themed rooms.
Executive rooms and a super spacious presidential suite are perfect for families celebrating a special occasion too.
Thomas Themed Bedrooms:
Children and toddlers will absolutely adore staying in Thomas-themed rooms, which feature Thomas-themed train-track carpets, wall decor, and detailed, colourful hand-painted murals. These rooms also include Thomas-themed double bunk beds decked out in Thomas bedding, with each bed having its own private mini television and DVD player.
Here, kids can watch Thomas & Friends episodes or borrow a range of family favourites, including Up, Harry Potter, and Frozen from the DVD library located behind the hotel reception desk.
Two main bars serve a selection of drinks including beers, wines and cocktails – important for frazzled parents who’ll likely need a chill-out, post busy-day-in-the-park drink afterwards. The Garden Room family buffet is a welcome, airy eaterie and overlooks the hotel’s freshly-mown green lawns and children’s woodland play park.
It serves a hot carvery every day of the week with sausages, homemade fish fingers and pizza on offer for hungry little ones.
Over at Parklands Restaurant, you’ll find a decent a la carte kids menu and where all children dining are provided complimentary colouring-in sets to keep them busy between courses.
Adult menus feature a wider selection of options and include hummus and pita chips and butternut squash and red pepper soup for starters, deliciously moreish stone baked pizzas, grilled fillets of salmon, ribeye steaks and creamy smoked chicken and chorizo risottos.
Breakfast is served as a buffet and you’ll find a good spread of delicious hot foods for a full English including sausages, bacon and hash browns to fortify you before a full day traipsing the park. Even better are the wonderful characters of The Fat Controller and Dusty played by actors who grace tables during breakfast for meet and greets, taking photos and asking kids questions about their stay and plans for the theme park. They’re all incredibly knowledgeable on all things Thomas too!
Drayton Manor Theme Park
As far as the theme park goes, this is the gold standard for families with younger children aged under 12 and has something for everyone. Most of the popular rides are height categorised for those under 1m where children can ride alone or with an accompanying
There are some exhilarating rollercoasters and rides catering for adults and children over at Adventure Cove and Vikings but apart from Maelstrom (an oversized pendulum that swings high into the sky) and Shock Wave which is a standing up rollercoaster with thrilling loops, everything else is very accessible for those in the minimum height restrictions either alone or when accompanied by an adult.
In Vikings, the whole family can jump onto Thor, a brand new Disk’O Coaster and circular style pirate ship that rotates like crazy the whole time and is super fun. You can also ride the Jormungandr roller coaster. Our favourite by far is Accelerator which is a speeding rollercoaster that goes both forward and backwards for a white knuckle experience guaranteed to have you smiling long after it’s finished.
A 4D cinema playing family friendly short, animated Thomas films in 4D offers welcome indoor cover from the sun on hot days and rain during inclement weather.
For true thrill-seekers, more daring rides over at Adventure Cove include River Rapids and Tidal Towers. Here you’ll also find Stormforce 10, a heart-stopping, three-drop water ride with a twist that will thrill adrenalin junkies everywhere.
The entire park is excellently planned out so map reading is cinch and you won’t lose each other never to reunite until closing time if you decide to split up for various activities and attractions.
Thomas Land at Drayton Manor Theme Park
Thomas land, is home to Europe’s first and only Thomas and the Tank Engine theme park and aptly called The Island of Sodor at Drayton Manor. It’s a great day out dedicated to the friendly stream engine and his merry pals on its own and you could easily spend your entire time here, especially if visiting with toddlers, as there’s so much to see and do.
Rides feature all the characters including Thomas, Rosie, Percy James. Harold l’s helicopter tours and Jeremy Jets flying academy will have you flying high in the skies. Toby’s Tram express, where you climb aboard and get ready for gentle spins and tilts as the ride rises into the air and begins to rotate, is tremendous fun.
The Troublesome Trucks rollercoaster which flies high in the sky will guarantee you queuing up a few times to ride it over again too. Other standout rides include Rocking Bulstrode, James and The Red Balloon and Cranky’s Crane Drop.
New for 2023 is Thomas & Percy’s Submarine Splash, a log flume perfect for younger fans which is much gentler than the main log flume, Storm Force 10. A major highlight is the lovely Thomas themed train ride that you climb aboard and which takes you from the edge of the zoo where you can wave to all the animals as you ride past them and over to Thomas Land.
You’ll find a small play area in this section of the park, where if the kids aren’t already tired from a day’s excitement, they can test their skills at climbing the Thomas themed frames.
Drayton Manor Zoo
Access to the 15-acre zoo at Drayton Manor is easy via buggy friendly footpaths or if you fancy maximising the fun, you can hop onto the large Thomas train – a great ride for little ones in itself.
Zookeepers are super friendly and only happy to have a chat and answer any questions inquisitive minds may have about the variety of species, the zoos important conservation work and research on animal behaviour and environmental enrichment. You’ll
love watching the Sumatran tigers, Northern Lynx, meerkats, red panda and gibbons and macaques play fighting and jumping from ropes and trees.
An indoor reptile house features iguana, San Francisco garter snakes, emerald tree boas, lizards and geckos. A bird aviary is
home to horned parakeet, scarlet macaws, Chilean flamingos and snowy owls.
What You’ll Love
- The gift shop in the hotel lobby has been carefully curated and sells lots of Thomas related memorabilia and toys including hard to find miniature trains for young collectors wishing to complete a collection.
- Parking is free for both days for all guests staying at the hotel.
How to Book:
Drayton Manor Theme Park, Drayton Manor Drive, Near Tamworth, Staffordshire, B78 3TW.
Book rooms online at www.draytonmanor.co.uk/hotel/short-breaks or call 01827 285551 for more information.
You can also email the resort front desk at firstname.lastname@example.org.