Express & Star

In pictures: 8 reasons Drayton Manor's Christmas Wonderland is definitely worth a visit this December

It perhaps comes as no surprise that a theme park like Drayton Manor, which recreated Sodor perfectly in Thomas Land, is so easily able to transform into a Christmas haven.

There's an impressive Christmas Tree in the middle of the lake at the park, which adds to the festive atmosphere.

Featuring train-based light shows, fake snow, authentic Santa encounters and the usual great rides, Drayton Manor's Christmas Wonderland offers families the ultimate build-up-to-the-big-day trip.

Weekends only from November 25 - December 25, and every day from December 16 - December 31, the park is open to visitors this season for festive fun.

We were given an exclusive preview of the event - and it didn't disappoint, so here are eight reasons why it's one of the best family days out in the region this Christmas.

Thomas Land

Drayton Manor chiefs appear to have spared no expense in refitting Thomas Land into into a Christmas episode of Thomas & Friends.

Great rides for young children like Cranky's Drop Tower and my son's personal favourite the Troublesome Trucks rollercoaster are still there - but there's more than a sprinkle of festive spirit added into the Sodor mix.

The Troublesome Trucks rollercoaster at Thomas Land.

The Rusty and Dusty Show has a Christmas twist involving a water gun and a festive singsong.

The addition of fake snow and the remarkably talented actors bring an extra layer of enchantment, making it a super experience for the entire family.

Very few shows keep young children gripped liked this one.

The Rusty and Dusty Show on the balcony of Knapford Station at Thomas Land.
The actors are impressive.


Drayton Manor doesn't just decorate - it transforms into a spectacle of lights and Christmas cheer.

A large chunk of the park, including Thomas Land, is adorned with festive decorations, creating a magical themed atmosphere that immerses visitors in the true spirit of the season.

The park is kitted out with trees, candy, snowmen, fake snow, baubles, reindeer and just about everything festive you can think of.

Basically, the theme is Christmas and, unsurprisingly, Drayton Manor does it well.

A tree at the park.
The trees at the park are lit up with fairy lights.
Thomas, adorned with lights and antlers.
You'll feel like your walking in the air on the rollercoasters.

Santa's Grotto

Meeting Santa is always a heartwarming experience when you have children. But Drayton Manor's 2023 Grotto is a cut above the rest.

The park's castle has essentially been converted into an awesome Lapland HQ and a meeting with Father Christmas awaits children inside. But there's more to the Grotto than that.

Before meeting the big man, elves guide you into a pleasant Christmas shop and children are invited to write Santa a letter and post it to the North Pole.

You then cross a bridge to meet Santa in his Grotto and I must say he was a very "authentic" Santa indeed. You also get to capture the moment with a family photo.

At the end, children are treated to a sweet gift and adults are treated to a hot drink, which went down well on a very nippy Friday night.

Father Christmas was a particularly "good" Father Christmas - if that makes sense.
Children will love meeting Santa, as they always do.

The Accelerator

For those seeking an adrenaline rush, the Accelerator delivers.

It was the first "big boy" rollercoaster my son ever went on so for some reason it holds a special place in my heart.

It remains a brilliant ride that adds an extra layer of excitement to the festive celebrations.

It'd be wrong to forget the fact that there are some great rides on offer at Drayton Manor. You can explore them here:

Wishmas Express

Headphones on! The park train has been transformed into a Christmassy moving light show with an audio element.

Narrated by a fun character suitable for young children, the Wishmas Express is a whimsical ride through a snowy, lit-up dreamland.

It's the perfect way to soak in the enchanting decorations around the park, and if your children like trains as mine do, it's an ace experience.

There's more fake snow too.

The train station. Extra Christmassy.
A glimpse of the light displays while on board the train, listening to the narration.

Festive Fuel

Christmas, Thomas Land and rollercoasters means, for children, complete excitement overload. It's therefore crucial to keep that energy up.

Theme parks don't tend to be known for the food on offer per se, but Safari Pizza Pasta is a solid pit stop for families as pasta and pizza are usually a safe bet.

While you may not expect gourmet cuisine, the tasty pizzas are substantial enough to keep the festive spirit alive all day.

It's rainforest themed too and there are animatronic creatures which adds a layer of fun and intrigue for youngsters.

Animatronic animals in the pizza pasta restaurant.

Mrs. Claus' Spectacular Show

At the end of the night, Mrs. Claus took to the stage in the park's central square to perform a "Spectacular Show" that caters for both children and adults.

Filled with Christmas hits that everyone will know the words to, the performance will get you walking around the Christmas tree for sure.

For children, look out for a festive Rory, the park mascot, who joins in with a Christmas twist, and who knows, you might catch a glimpse of Santa's sleigh!


The Staff

Finally, the festive spirit is not confined to the decorations, rides and performances - the staff deserve a mention as well. Helpful and happy, the park's team contributes to the overall warm and welcoming atmosphere, making your visit even more enjoyable.

If it's within your family Christmas budget, I'd thoroughly recommend a visit to Drayton Manor this December.

To check out Drayton Manor's Christmas Wonderland or to book tickets, visit the website at: