All good Summers must come to an end. What marked the end of yours?
We were invited to review Drayton Manor and Thomasland in Tamworth, plus the New Thomas the Tank Engine DVD Blue Mountain Mystery last week, and for me, it was the perfect end to our Summer.
There was a little pre-trip cynicism from my Dad and Miss L, who both said they weren’t fans of Thomas, but that they were prepared to go for the sake of Mr G. I was secretly hoping Mr G was still enough of a fan to make the day out pull together, but I needn’t have worried, look at the sheer joy on his face:
And dear reader, look closely at these pictures of My Dad and Miss L, do they look like they are just there for the sake of Mr G? I think not. It turns out that Thomasland is packed with fun rides perfect for all ages and that Drayton Manor has more to offer on top of that.
Thomasland is an area within the huge theme park Drayton Manor. Thomasland does get busy, but we found this peaked between 11-2. We avoided queueing for more than a few minutes by doing a couple of rides early on, before taking in some of Drayton Manor’s many rides and attractions. When we returned to Thomasland around 2pm it was easy to hop on rides again without queueing.
We took the train from Thomasland, into a quiet, spacious, leafy and crowd free area containing a playpark, zoo, driving school, cafe, dinoland and a model railway. L was impressed that Rosie a girl train was in charge. Both children loved the Terence Driving school which also had Dad and me fondly remembering my attempts at driving cars at Legoland in Denmark where I spent most the time on the wrong side of the road.
An unexpected highlight was the beautiful model village and railway, Dad and I were in stitches at Mr G who spent the whole time chasing the train round and round the glass cabinet screaming ‘Thomas is coming!’
Before lunch we caught the train back, rode the carousel and had a pirate adventure on a boat in the dark. Given our penchant for pirates in the Alexander Residence, this was a huge hit.
Then it was time for the film Blue Mountain Mystery. I was interested to see how the 60 minute film would develop and sustain our interest. The story was suprisingly deep and complex;Thomas encouters a train who did something so bad he believes he will be sent away from Sodor for ever. While Thomas works hard to unravel the mystery in the blue mountains, the film still maintains the engaging and familiar world or Thomas we know from TV.
What I came away thinking was that I really like the social and emotional aspects of learning in the film. Blue Mountain Mystery explores the complex emotions and boundaries which pre-schoolers have to face. It really took me back to the days when I didn’t fully understand how the world worked. My children enjoyed watching Thomas piece the world together and solve the mystery.
I wasn’t sure how Mr G would feel about an hour of Thomas before we went in. I don’t know about you but I have noticed kids and trains fall into two camps. Those for whom trains are trains are trains are trains, they police their play tracks like mini controllers, woe betide anyone who breaks the rules. Then there are those whose train play involves building a train track, making the trains talk animatedly about anything but trains, sprinkling them with fairy dust and making them fly, before inventing a giant who comes along and smashes up the track.
The latter describes how my son plays with trains. But I am happy to report both children really engaged with the moving story, the characters and their moral dilemmas. Mr G is still playing around, and talking about, the storyline.
We really appreciated having a post-lunch cinema stop at the 4D cinema, it’s a great way to give little ones a chance to chill and renergise during a big day out. The 4D elements, water jets and moving seats were a fun surprise too.
There are lots of lovely Blue Mountain Mystery tie-in products, including books, engines and playsets from Fisher Price. We were lucky to be given some Thomas products to try in a goody bag. Mr G has been very busy with the engines, re-enacting some of the film’s story lines, plus lots of his own back at home. He was also really happy to sit still and listen to me read for the whole of the book version of the film, which is much longer than anything he would usually sit still for. He hasn’t complained once about the Thomas toothpaste either, which he normally does with the other stuff daily.
I was so pleased to finally meet Mirka from All Baby Advice blog, and as she was busy juggling beautiful baby Olivia, it was a real pleasure to take her daughter Isabelle on some rides with us. Isabelle and Miss L are the same age and were soon running round hand in hand. Although Isabelle will probably always remember me as the woman who took her on that rollercoaster. My kids had all day to work up to the Thomasland rollercoaster and it was a bit of a high, although Isabelle bless her, had less time to gain her ride legs.
Overall impressions, a great day out with plenty to do for all of us. I’d forgotten how great a mini dose of adrenalin is, for all the family from 3 – 67. It was lovely to have quieter areas to escape to, and to be able to dabble in the Drayton Manor rides as kids get older, or for families juggling different age groups. Dad also threatened to go on Malestrom, but sadly we were too busy, I’d love to have seen it though.
We got away without planning much, and just pottering, which for me is what a good day is all about. We also left a few corners unexplored. If I went back I would factor in some time to queue for the rapids, as Mr G at just 1m is big enough. But you can’t do everything, and we’ll definitely go back. It’s under an hour from Nottingham.
More information on Thomasland here and Drayton Manor here, including the magical Christmas winter wonderland celebrations. Find out more about the Blue Mountain Mystery here or follow @thomasandfriends on Twitter. The DVD went on sale on 3rd September.