I've had trouble writing this blog for one reason and that is Drayton Manor is such a hard park to describe. It's like the unknown middle bit of the Marmite argument. It's not terrible but it's also not amazing. It's got some huge positives but it also lets itself down. So I'm going to try to delve into it a bit more.
Let's start this with its roller coaster line up. The park has 4, Shockwave, Accelerator, Troublesome Trucks and Buffalo Coaster. Let's be honest now, none of them are top tier but each of them have moments where they outshine the favourites in the UK. Shockwave has the strangest restraints in the country as well as a pretty basic layout (that straight bit of track is just so peculiar) but the zero g roll is immense. It's not something that you expect and it is up there as one of the best inversions the UK has to offer. Accelerator, for a boomerang roller coaster, is very intense, especially if you have only ridden Velociraptor at Paultons Park. Its twists and turns whilst zooming around the buildings really tricks you in to believing you are travelling at some speed. Troublesome Trucks is the parks kiddie option and whilst it has a very basic layout, the trick track before the station really packs a punch, almost akin to Icon's trick track. Lastly, the Buffalo powered coaster may not have the most exciting layout imaginable but it does offer some amazing views across the lake towards Stormforce 10 and the rides drops, twists and turns are surprisingly fast and fun. So whilst the roller coaster isn't the strongest, they are all really quite fun coasters that don’t often get the appreciation they deserve.
Thomas Land deserves more love and respect that it gets. It's without doubt one of the better themed areas in the UK for younger guests. There is just so much to see and do that I can fully understand why parents will take their kids there. It's bright, engaging, fun and has characters that have stood the test of time to become a British icon on the same level as Freddy Mercury. The area is full of so many great rides for the whole family to enjoy and I kid you not I was walking around wishing I was 5 years old. The rides are all themed to different Sodor characters and the whole area just feels so immersive. It doesn’t feel like it’s the biggest area but the park has used the space very well and I think they have created something quite magical.
The park has a great array of other rides and attractions, the most notable is of course Apocalypse, the parks tallest and probably most terrifying ride. This 54m tall drop tower has three sides, each of which up the terror. Seated, stand up and stand up floorless are all on offer with both stand up options adding to the sheer terror by tilting you out. This ride is absolutely horrendous to anyone scared of heights but it's worth trying to force yourself to do it as you will come of buzzing and it is not an experience you will forget. The park has other thrill rides such as Flying Dutchman, Air Race, Pandemonium and Maelstrom. The thing is though that, with the exception of Air Race, they all are either a bit painful or have really tame cycles. They aren't as thrilling or as intense as they possibly could be which is a shame. There is another attraction I feel needs to be mentioned in this and that's Sheriff's Showdown. This indoor shooting dark ride themed around the Wild West is pretty much the perfect definition of Drayton Manor. The first thing you will notice in the ride is the ceiling. It's supposed to be a starry night sky but there is just way to many too stars but at the same time it kind of weirdly works. The set prices are beautiful except for the animal heads which feel half finished. The animatronics reacting to the shots you fire at the targets is so much fun, when they work. It's such a hit and miss attraction, just like the park itself. The park has many food options which I didn't try unfortunately as wasn't hungry but I did have a small portion of chips from one of the stands which was nice. The zoo is great too though we only had a quick walk through as it looked like most of the animals were staying inside.
Drayton Manor feels like it's currently at a cross roads. With Looping Group now owning the park we can see that it's going to get a lot of investment, which is great, but with Pandemonium and Apocalypse up for sale could the park be heading a more family focused route. That being said what I saw on Friday was a park that is very well kept with some great rides and attractions that aren't quite up to the same quality as the big parks but a park that is still thriving and full of life and wanting so desperately to get back to normal after the lockdowns. It's a great theme park with so much potential and we are certainly going to be keeping an eye on how this park grows.
Tickets are pre book only with ticket prices currently £29.50 for an adult. On the day tickets are usually £39.50 for 12+. Other tickets are available. Parking also costs £6 but this can also be prepaid online. The Drayton Manor Hotel will reopen on the 29th May. The theme park is currently closed Tuesdays and Wednesday throughout May. More information and to book tickets you can visit https://www.draytonmanor.co.uk/