Travel: Drayton Manor Hotel
What’s the worst thing about a day at a theme park? That it has to come to an end.
We all know there’s no worse feeling than the clock ticking on a brilliant day out; the big sign reminding guests that rides close at 5pm, the shutters being pulled down on the doughnut and hotdog sellers, the slow march towards park gates.
But that doesn’t have to be the case, as we found out during a stay at Drayton Manor Hotel, on the same site as the action-packed theme park and zoo.
The excuse of ‘we just couldn’t fit it all in’ won’t wash when you’ve got two days of fun rather than one. The hotel offers special packages with reduced entry price for your second day in the park so it’d be silly to miss out.
We arrived at the hotel early and although we couldn’t check-in until after 3pm we were able to collect our park tickets from the friendly reception staff.
And then it’s merely across the road and through the gates where, already at just after 10.30am, we were greeted by the screams of thrill-seekers on some of the more exhilarating rides.
But for us, with a two-year-old in tow, it was straight to Thomas Land to ride the 20-plus themed attractions.
Thomas Land has just celebrated its 10th anniversary and yet looks as shiny and new as when it first opened.
Our little girl couldn’t wait to fly high on Harold’s Helicopter Tours, and give everyone a soaking (including her own mum and dad) on Captain’s Sea Adventure. Jeremy Jet’s Flying Academy also proved to be a hit, while the lofty tracks of Winston’s Whistlestop Tours afforded great views of the entire park. Queues were pretty short too, which is always a bonus with a tot saying ‘my turn next?’.
For little ones looking to burn off some steam after tackling the queues, there’s Spencer’s Outdoor Play Area, a fabulous adventure playground conveniently located next to an ice cream stall so parents can indulge while the kids have some fun.
Our weekend was blessed with great weather so warm and sunny we felt the need to retreat to the cool comfort of the hotel’s restaurant for a spot of lunch. This was a rather extravagant stop-off since there were plenty of alternatives within the park, serving everything from burgers and fries, to jacket potatoes and pasties. However, after a lunch of fish finger sandwiches and chicken Caesar salad in the elegant surroundings of the Parklands Brasserie, we ventured back to the park, heading straight for the zoo.
We hopped aboard one of the Engine Tours from Thomas Land to the zoo, disembarking near to the Chilean flamingo and emu. Wandering through the 15-acre zoo proved a joy; it’s a manageable size with plenty of nooks and crannies to explore. From mini beasts such as guinea pigs to the majestic Sumatran tiger, there was plenty to keep us busy for a good few hours – there’s even a dinosaur trail, featuring an enormous model T-Rex, for fans of the prehistoric age.
Our daughter’s nap time gave my brave other half the opportunity to jump on to some of the adult rides including Shockwave, Maelstrom and Apocalypse while I remained with two feet safely on the ground minding the buggy. I also had the opportunity to browse some of the gift and sweet shops without the threat of being bribed into buying a cuddly tiger or record-sized lollipop. Apart from for myself.
Once the park had closed we returned to the hotel where we were able to check-in to our luxurious family room, which offered all the four-star facilities you’d expect including a flat-screen TV, tea and coffee making facilities and a spacious bathroom. There’s even black-out curtains – a must on a long summer’s evening – ensuring everyone has a great sleep after their day of adventure. For those wanting to push the boat out, there are Thomas-themed rooms and larger suites – perfect for a special occasion.
Starving, we headed over to the onsite Grill Inn where the hotel reception staff had booked us a table. Offering typical pub grub like steaks and fish‘n’chips plus a few more unusual options such as beef chilli burrito and Cajun chorizo, it was a perfect end to a great day, or so we thought. On returning to the hotel we discovered there were fun activities for youngsters in the garden including face painting, balloon modelling and music, while indoors there was a mini amusement arcade and a handful of Thomas-themed rides. Would we ever get to bed?
Eventually hitting the sack, our good sleep was rewarded the following morning with a freshly cooked hot breakfast – included in most overnight rates. There was something for everyone with fruit juice, cereal and fresh pastries along with bacon, eggs and beans for those looking for more sustenance before another day in the park.
Our little girl was disappointed to check-out of the hotel but delighted that it meant another full day of fun.
And so with full tummies and big smiles on our faces, it was time for round two . . .