“Ma’am we heard there are 2 birthdays in your family this week.”
“That’s right, mine and my daughter’s.”
“Well, we hope you don’t mind, but we’ve upgraded you to the Presidential Suite.”
Of course I did not mind in the slightest.
It’s difficult to find birthday treats for people like us who travel permanently and visit fun places like Disneyland, Peppa Pig World, Lost World of Atlantis as part of their every day life. I was happy to do nothing for my birthday, but I knew that wouldn’t be the case for my energetic daughter who was turning 6.
I then realised how close we were to Drayton Manor and, more importantly, that Drayton Manor was still open considering it was the middle of winter.
So we decided a surprise visit would make the perfect present. When I found out they had a themed hotel attached to the park, we decided to turn it a mini vacay.
We departed our cottage in Machynlleth, Wales early in morning before the sun had inched above the horizon, and drove the 2-and-a-bit hours across eastern Wales to Drayton Manor. Upon arrival we placed our bags in the luggage storage room along with a lovely bunch of flowers Josh had organised for me several days prior. I was asked by the friendly staff member if they were for a special occasion. They were in fact for my birthday and we were here at the park for my daughter’s birthday. The smiling gentleman wished us a very happy birthday and I thought nothing more of it.
Drayton Manor Theme Park
We picked up our theme park tickets at the hotel concierge. The hotel offers a handy Stay and Play package that combines accommodation, breakfast and a ticket to Drayton Manor theme park. While check-in was only at 3pm we could pick up the tickets at any time during the day.
The hotel provided a free train-themed shuttle over to the park every 15 minutes. The excitement levels in our two little ones were reaching fever pitch, as they had no idea what to expect.
The theme park is set amongst 280 acres of lakes and parkland. Not all the rides were open since it was mid winter, but we were mainly heading there for Thomas Land, which was jam-packed.
We opted to visit other parts of the park first with the hope that as the afternoon rolled on Thomas Land would be less busy. The kids favourite attraction of the day turned out to be the Ben 10 roller coaster and we rode it at least 5 times, before the cold air got too much and I had to say no more.
The kids also loved meeting Santa (since it was December at the time), and were enthralled at the Drunken Barrels, a fun Pirate show. The popular Polar Express 4D cinema doubled up as a cosy spot to escape the rain.
Thomas Land covers 6,000 square metres with 12 cute themed rides, an indoor play area and the world’s largest Thomas and Friends shop. We loved the faux snow falling from the sky and the Thomas roller coaster.
Overall, it was a fabulous fun park with the perfect amount of activities for kids, even in the winter season. I could see the section of the park that was closed for the season would appeal to older kids and adults, so we didn’t feel like we missed out. But it was just a little too cold for us Aussies. So at 3pm as the sun started to wane we caught the shuttle back to the hotel.
Drayton Manor Hotel
The four star Drayton Manor Hotel features 150 bedrooms, 15 of them Thomas and Friends themed. There were plenty of touches of Thomas throughout the hotel (check latest prices…).
It was now finally time to check in. The kids received a very special Thomas and Friends welcome pack with bubble bath, activities and a torch. And then for the best surprise, we were told that because we had two birthdays in our family they had upgraded us to the Presidential Suite. Holy moly!
Opening the door to that suite was one of the most exciting moments in my hotel-hopping sojourns. We discovered a spacious circle-shaped room complete with Thomas-themed bedding for the kids and the ultimate king size bed for us.
Absolute decadence. I was giddy.
In Da Club… Kids Club, that is
The hotel provided special kids entertainment in a dedicated room on a set schedule. It usually lasted about 2 hours per day. Mia and Caius loved the Christmas-themed activities, balloon animals, face painting and movies. I’m sure they would have liked to spend more time if they could, but their tummies were getting hungry.
Dinner With A Difference
After a few moments of relaxation in our suite we headed across the road to the Grill Inn. It was styled like an American diner but with a more modern twist, complete with super friendly staff and colouring activities for the kids.
The staff really made this place shine. Our table was waited by a lovely young guy (coincidently named Thomas) who was an inspiring actor. He made our dinner exceptionally memorable, and to celebrate Mia’s birthday, brought out a delightful surprise dessert treat along with a hearty song. She felt so special.
Little Did She Know…
Later that night once the kids were fast asleep in the hotel room Josh and I sneakily decorated the suite with balloons, streamers and placed Mia’s wrapped gifts on a table. The following morning I didn’t mind waking up earlier than usual to the squeals of laughter and delight. It was the perfect birthday experience for my newly minted 6-year-old.
In fact, Drayton Manor truly put on one of our favourite birthdays to date. But regardless if it’s your birthday or not we still give it a hearty thumbs up. And if your child happens to be a fan of Thomas The Tank Engine then they will be in Thomas heaven. Tooooot!