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Posts Tagged ‘birthday’

1 Jan, 2010

As part of the many celebrations for Lilly’s third birthday, we took her on a special outing to Thomas Land.

Thomas Land is the home of all things Thomas the Tank Engine, and it’s part of Drayton Manor theme park in Staffordshire. At Christmas time, the main park is closed, but Thomas Land is open for a Winter Wonderland celebration, complete with plenty of Christmas trimmings and guaranteed ‘snow’ three times a day.

We had planned to take Lilly to Thomas Land last year for her birthday, when her obsession with Thomas was at its peak, but we decided against it as Lilly is naturally quite a cautious personality, and we worried that the rides might have been a bit too scary for her.

No such worries now she’s three. Not one phased her, and to say she loved Thomas Land is an understatement. In fact, I loved Thomas Land! Having enjoyed many birthday outings of my own to Thorpe Park when I was younger, this was right up my street. As i’ve got older my idea of a great ride has been toned down slightly, so I’d pretty much say the rides at Thomas Land weren’t only perfect for Lilly, they were just about perfect for me too!

All four of us went so Tony and I took turns going on the rides with Lilly while the other stayed with Isla. That was one of the really great things about Thomas Land, the fact that grown ups can accompany kids on all the rides, so you aren’t left with that awful scenario of watching helplessly as your child goes round and round on a carousel crying their eyes out because they are terrified. Imagine how cruel and bad a parent you would feel if that happened!! (NB this scenario may or may not have happened to us on a trip to Truck Fest in Haydock a year and a half ago. Ahem.)

First up was Diesel, then Classic Cars, followed by rides on Jeremy Jetplane (probably my personal favourite) and Harold the Helicopter. Tony took Lilly on a truly terrifyingly fast pirate ride, which she loved! I tried to take pictures but it was going way too fast, I just kept taking pictures of empty seats! We also enjoyed Bertie the Bus and a traditional carousel. On the day we went, December 27, there were no queues for rides. In fact, on a couple of occasions at the beginning of our visit, we had the rides to ourselves!

And then we watched as the main man, Thomas himself, chuffed into Knapford station as the (fake) snow fell and the Fat Controller and friends entertained us with dancing and singing. Lilly was delighted when Thomas puffed right up to her before turning on his turntable to puff back the other way!

Because it was Christmas themed, all the children visiting the park were able to claim a free gift from Santa’s elves. And when we walked over to collect it, we heard an unexpected “ho ho ho” and turned around to see Santa himself! He was really friendly and chatted to Lilly about Christmas, and asked her if she had been happy with her presents. He also asked her if she remembered him tickling her nose while she was asleep, which made her giggle! She even got to sit on Santa’s knee and have her picture taken (by us, for no extra cost… now you gotta love that!) Afterwards, Lilly collected her gift (a handbag with brushes and combs) from the elves, and Isla got one too – a cuddly rabbit rattle.

It was pretty cold though. Freezing! At one of the rides, the operator said it had got to minus 11 on some days! And, if I was to make a criticism there was nowhere near enough provision for people to have a cuppa and a cake in the warm – there were a couple of burger bar type joints and only one cafe type place open with a totally inadequate number of seats. As Thomas Land didn’t open til 12, and shuts at 5, I thought those people wasting some of their time eating overpriced burgers in crowded restaurants were a bit nuts. Please, Drayton Manor, if you see this, think about more cafes and indoor seating for next year. It would have made a major difference to our day!

It was also unfortunate that the zoo was shut the day we went – I’m assuming because of temperatures and snow/ice. We didn’t miss the zoo so much, but we wanted to walk through the zoo to get to the Thomas and Friends exhibition, which we could see on the map but couldn’t figure out how to get to it on foot, other than through the zoo, which was shut. We asked a member of staff but they didn’t really seem to know what we were on about…

The other problem was the M6. Outside of Drayton Manor’s control, I know. It took us the expected hour and a half to get there. But on the way back, the M6 was at a standstill and it ended up taking two and a half hours. Luckily the girls were both really good on the way home. But still, a major drawback.

All in all though I think we will think about going again in the summer, considering how much we all enjoyed it, and how much Lilly loved all the rides. She surprised us with how brave she was, even asking us if she could go on the couple of rides that we still felt were a bit too scary for her.

Tips for you if you think of going too. Book in advance! We saved £8 overall by booking the night before on the internet. Eat before you go, if the park is only opening at 12 (which I would imagine is only the case during winter). And, if you’re going to ride on Thomas, do that first. This was the only thing people queued for, and the queues got longer as the day went on.

All in all though, I’d thoroughly recommend this place, for Thomas Fans of Lilly’s age and up (and for the grown ups, too!)

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