By Laura Mason
A couple of weeks back, my children and I were invited along to Drayton Manor Theme Park in the Midlands and introduced to the concept of a ‘Yes Day’. It’s a novel concept whereby parents hand over the reins to their children and agree to everything they ask. The benefit of doing it at Drayton Manor is that it is in a controlled environment with a wide variety of attractions and things to see and do from rides, cinema, soft play and a zoo so it makes it fun.
As a parent, I sometimes feel I am the epitome of the fun police ‘no, you can’t do that’, ‘don’t touch that’, ‘watch what you’re doing with this’ so I liked the idea of letting the kids make the rules. Having briefed them that it was their day the night before, we arrived at Drayton Manor shortly after opening. Armed with a map each, they set about making the day their own, with their chaperones in tow!
Drayton Manor is home to Thomas Land, the only one in the country, so for any little ones that love the troublesome trucks, you can quite easily spend the bulk of your day in here. It is meticulously designed with a finish reminiscent of the any of the TV episodes that children love. Noah, aged 4, had decided he wanted to head straight to this area and while the crowds were quiet basically hit as many rides as he could. The nice thing about Thomas Land is that there’s a range of rides from your simple up/down Jeremy Jets to more of a thrill seeking Cranky’s Tower Drop.
Eating at Drayton Manor
I did fear slightly that the ‘Yes day’ may bring about a lot of additional purchases, but the children were so delighted by the rides and attractions, that they had little time to start browsing the shops. We did however agree to lunch at the Grill Inn. Having visited Drayton Manor previously, we have always either picnicked or eaten from one of the fast food outlets. I’ll be honest and say I didn’t expect much difference in food quality from the restaurant, other than inflated prices with a similar offering. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find a good menu of dishes more commonly found at more of a gastro pub rather than a fast food outlet.
My husband and I tucked into the largest triple loaded burgers, well worth the visit alone. And to top it off, I have to shout about how good value the food was – there’s an assumption that you will be ripped off when you rely on the only onsite restaurant, but this genuinely wasn’t the case. My burger was £14.95 and I struggled to finish it, I think I could have easily shared this with my husband and still been full. The children had the children’s 3 course menus, again plenty of choice but as it was their day, we said yes to a starter of cheesy nachos, a pizza and chips main followed by chocolate brownie of course!
Drayton Manor Zoo
Having refuelled (a little too much!) we headed back down to the park, and this time Marley, aged 2, had selected the monkeys to go and see so we took a stroll through the zoo. Drayton Manor’s zoo is actually really good – probably overshadowed by some of the more thrilling attractions, but it’s home to over 100 animals and a vast space, so is a welcome break away from some of the attraction mania happening on the opposite side of the park. We got scared in the reptile room, breathed in the smelly, but super cute meerkats, and marvelled at the howling monkeys!
Soft Play Fun
Grace, aged 6, is our adrenalin junkie so while she took in Apocalypse (belly in your mouth type of stuff) and Air Race (fantastic twisting upside down ride) Marley and I headed off for some soft play fun. My bugbear of soft play is the condition they are in and the way parents and kids abuse the rules. Maintaining the behaviour and condition, there’s a gaggle of helpful staff to ensure children behave sensibly while having fun, while parents watch from the distance with a watchful eye. This is one of the best soft plays we’ve come across – ball ponds, suction chutes, slides and basically an oversized Thomas-themed play land for lots and lots of fun. Although parents aren’t allowed to enter, I had no concerns with 1 year old Marley tottering off as it was so well supervised.
Before we left we squeezed in the 4D cinema for some Ice Age fun with flying objects, movement and water, a great family option that is fun.
I really enjoyed stepping back and going with the flow, it makes a difference as I seem to meticulously plan my life to the minute with children. The children also enjoyed the new found freedom and opportunities of exploration and we enjoyed different rides and attractions than we would normally, and despite my initial concerns of how far they were going to push it, it worked really well – I encourage you to try your own ‘Yes Day’ at Drayton Manor.
Drayton Manor Theme Park currently has a family offer – Four tickets for £80. To find out more on this offer and the park, visit www.draytonmanor.co.uk.