Drayton Manor Theme Park review for families
In a nutshell
This large theme park, with adjoining hotel, is well known for its Thomas Land area, full of toddler-friendly rides. A great family day out in Staffordshire, but it's not cheap
What we tested
- Fun for kids
4.0A star rating of 4.0 out of 5.
- Fun for parents
3.0A star rating of 3.0 out of 5.
- Worth the money
4.0A star rating of 4.0 out of 5.
4.5A star rating of 4.5 out of 5.
- Family friendly
5.0A star rating of 5.0 out of 5.
4.5A star rating of 4.5 out of 5.
- Plenty for rides to suit all ages, nice zoo area, friendly staff
- Long queues during peak times, possible to spend a lot of money
COVID-19 safety update
Some facilities and attractions may be closed or restricted this year, due to COVID-19 – and there may be extra safety rules, pre-booking requirements or one-way systems in place. Please check Drayton Manor's website before travelling or booking.
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I visited with my husband, and daughters Jasmine (6 years old) and Roselyn (4 years old) on a hot, busy day in the summer holidays.
When we visited:
We visited the day after the late August bank holiday. It was towards the end of the summer holidays, and very hot and busy.
What age is Drayton Manor Theme Park best for:
Best for: Ages 4 to 12 years
Still good fun for: 2-4 years. The rides are categorised by height – around 50% are shown as “ideal for those under 1m”.
For more theme park fun, take a look at our roundup of the best UK theme parks.
How much do tickets for Drayton Manor cost?
During the time of our visit the family ticket was on offer for £88, which I feel is reasonable for a full day out for the family and access to so many rides. In 2022, prebooked tickets for Drayton Manor are £27.50 for 4 years + (or for 1 adult + 1 child under 4 years), £11 for 2-3 year olds and 0-23 months are free. So a family of 4 with primary school-age children is £110.
Are there any discounts or cheap tickets available for Drayton Manor?
- There is currently a promotion where you can pay for tickets with Tesco Clubcard
- Look out for special deals on Picniq and Kids Pass
- If you're looking for staycation options, the hotel is within the theme park grounds and is extremely child friendly. Stay and play packages – hotel, kids entertainment, breakfast & theme park tickets - start from £38.50 per person.
How long will we spend at Drayton Manor Theme Park?
We stayed overnight at the adjoining hotel and it was one of the highlights of our visit. The room was a family deluxe which had 2 double beds. There was 2 hours of kids entertainment in the evening which had us all laughing. The breakfast was tasty, varied and enjoyed by all and it was a very short walk to the theme park so we could maximise a full day at the park.
We spent a full day there, however the kids woke up a little tired and moody after a late night caused by the excitement of a hotel visit.
What is Drayton Manor Theme Park like for families?
Lots of fun! The site is very pushchair friendly and we found the map easy to navigate, although there was a fair bit of wandering around early in the day as we weren’t sure where to go first. We wandered into the zoo, it was lovely and quiet and one of the keepers was extremely friendly and full of fun facts. However, on hindsight I think we should have used our early arrival to head straight to one of the more popular rides and avoid queues.
There is an app which my husband downloaded and described as “Alright”. He felt it needed to be more intuitive to help with navigating the park.
Is Drayton Manor suitable to visit in all weather conditions?
The theme park doesn’t have much cover if it rains. Drayton Manor do include the option of adding a 'Rainy Day Guarantee' for £2 per person which will give you a return visit for free if there is more than 30mm rainfall during the park's opening hours.
What shouldn't be missed?
Stormforce 10 got rave reviews from everyone I spoke to – they assured me that the 2-hour queue was worth it. However, it was more than I could take with my 2 little ones who had begun the day cranky! If this ride is the one you want to check out arrive early and head straight there! Keep in mind during peak time I saw steadily moving queues to get into the carpark so factor this in too. The theme park opens at 9am and rides at 9:30am in peak season.
Is there anything else to see and do apart from the rides?
The 4D cinema was a new experience for us and although the 3D aspect of the film wasn’t working on the day – we still all enjoyed the experience and some respite from the sun.
Are there any scary/boring elements that young or sensitive children might not enjoy?
Our 4 year old is scared of absolutely everything at the moment and the haunted house she found very scary. It’s marked as a family ride but I would suggest avoiding if your child is even slightly scared by PG films like mine are. Luckily a member of staff led us to the exit so we could leave early.
What’s Thomas Land like for families?
Fans of the cartoon will love how it’s all been bought to life. For many toddlers, this was the highlight of their visit to Drayton Manor and the characters are pleasingly bought to life. All the rides within Thomas Land are family and toddler friendly and it’s easily a day out on its own.
Are there any seasonal or special events?
Quite a few. Check the website for upcoming events, but in previous years, Mother’s Day, Easter, school holidays and bonfire night are just some of the seasonal specials.
Does it cater well to children of all ages?
Yes, I loved seeing groups of tweens and teens roaming around so I would say it skews slightly younger than the crowds at Alton Towers. All kids aged under 12 years need to be accompanied by an adult to enter Drayton Manor.
What to bring
I would say bring a big budget, or manage your kids' expectations before you arrive! There are multiple fairground style pitches where you can win large cuddly toys etc. My kids were so drawn to these – and the arcade games too – much of the day was spent telling them no to their multiple requests. Firstly, some of the prizes were too large to carry around all day (like the size of a gym ball), and I also didn’t want to cave in to pester power. This did turn into an ongoing battle and towards the end of the day I preferred to take the long route to avoid all the temptation. I would say that there are a few too many pitches that cost extra. Also note that the haunted house exits directly into the gift shop – but we just kept it moving! I had attempted to alleviate any potential temptations by travelling with a big bag of lollies (which usually works as an alternative to a pricey treat) but the kids just ate them up and asked for more stuff!
Pushchairs would be helpful if your little one won’t be able to walk all day and/or to lug around all the equipment that comes with a family day out. We took backpacks as our kids no longer need a pushchair – but I did miss having wheels to help with the load. If you’re on the verge of giving up the pushchair I would say definitely take it along.
What are the queues like at Drayton Manor?
We were in no mood to stand in long queues when we visited. The sun was relentless and there was no guarantee that our little ones would enjoy the more popular rides once we reached the front of the queue.
Most of the bigger rides have a sign which indicates the wait time from that specific point. These are helpful to plan whether you want to queue and manage expectations.
For the Thomas Land rides, we queued for about 30 minutes. But we found the rides themselves were quite short.
After a few rides we worked out that if we took a look at the queue and then the number of seats the rides had we could work out how quickly the queue would move. This formula worked out to be quite consistent. The Flying Dutchman queue moved quickly and my 6-year-old loved it. My 4-year-old got on but bottled out just before take off…
On this busy day, the only ride I saw without a queue was the Test Track, which had an additional cost.
What to watch out for
- If you’re dealing with different age groups and have enough adults, it might work well to split up and divide the rides
- Arrive early on busy days and get to the popular rides first or any you think your kids will love – it’s worth studying the map and website beforehand
- If someone in your party has a disability affecting their ability to queue there is an access band available. You will need to provide proof of the condition and it doesn’t entirely eliminate queueing. You can find out more information here
- If you want a quiet, calmer day head for the zoo. It was lovely and just the right size for a slow wander
What are the food and drink facilities like at Drayton Manor Park?
There were loads of places to eat. We opted for a packed lunch but the amount of temptation and advertising was considerable so ice cream was a must! There are several eateries on site – however these did get busy once lunchtime arrived. I spotted a queue 10 or more deep at the Fish n’ Chips stall.
It was also nice to see a baby station – microwave and bottle warmer – to help with preparing food for babies.
Can we take a picnic?
Yes. We took a little picnic bought at the huge local Asda to save a bit of money but (like many picnic areas) there were loads of bees so the kids wouldn’t sit for long. I saw a good few families with their own sandwiches.
What are the toilets like?
Toilets were plentiful and easy to find. We didn't have to queue, and they were generally clean. As with the rest of the park, accessible options are clearly marked.
How accessible is Drayton Manor?
- The few rides and areas not suitable for wheelchairs were clearly marked. We saw many wheelchair users enjoying the park when we visited, and noticed clear signage and labelling on the theme park map for all needs
- On the busy day that we visited park I think the tranquillity of the zoo was a good area to escape the crowds and noise
- See the Drayton Manor website for more information on accessibility.
What to do before you go to Drayton Manor Park Theme Park
Have a good look through the website and download the app. I don’t usually plan days at theme parks, but on hindsight and having to deal with the kids tiredness, a plan would have been helpful.
I’m glad we wandered into the zoo first but then we missed shorter queues due to our early start, so think about which rides you'd most like to try so you can head there first.
Opening dates and times
You need to check the website before your visit for opening times and days. It varies throughout the year. There is a calendar on the right hand side of just about every page of the website.
Is Drayton Manor worth a long car journey?
From London we drove for about 4.5 hours (it should have taken 3 hours). There was an accident which caused major delays and a pitstop for the kids to use the toilet.
If you live more than a bearable car journey away, I would highly recommend the Drayton Manor Hotel. It was so nice to arrive to a well decorated, comfortable room. The dinner was delish (about £80 for the 4 of us – we all had 2 courses and drinks). After dinner there is a large outdoor area for the kids to burn off any excess energy. The beds are very comfortable, and the bath was enjoyed by us all. There are also Thomas themed rooms for die-hard fans. Just make sure to have an early night ready for the long day at the theme park!
How to get to Drayton Manor Park:
- If you plan on driving to the park, the nearest village is Tamworth and you should use the postcode B78 3SA
- You can also catch the 110 bus from Birmingham, Sutton Coldfield or Tamworth, or the 115 from Tamworth, Hurley, Dosthill or Kingsbury, and alight from both at 'The Square' island in Fazeley
- The nearest train station in Tamworth (approximately 3 miles away), you find tickets on trainline.com. From Tamworth station you can get to the park by bus or taxi. Find more information here
Is there free parking at Drayton Manor Theme Park?
Parking is charged at £6 a day. It’s recommended to pay in advance to avoid the end of day queues. Parking was included as part of our hotel stay and the hotel car park is located near a quiet back entrance on the opposite side of the park from Thomas Land.
Which hotels or holiday accommodation are near the Tower of London?
- For onsite hotel packages, check out deals for the Drayton Manor 4-star hotel
- There's also a family campsite on the grounds
- Find self-catering cottages near to the park on Holiday Cottages and Vrbo
- You can find further accommodation options on Booking.com
Nearby attractions for a longer day out
It's likely that you'll spend a full day at Drayton Manor, but if you would like to stay in the area for longer there a number of nearby attractions. These include Tamworth Castle, SnowDome snow leisure centre, and Ash End House Children's Farm, all of which are less than a 15 minute drive away from Drayton Manor.
Also nearby is the Legoland Discover Centre Birmingham and Cadbury World.
Again, our family was not operating at our best (lots of tantrums) on the day – our youngest is a challenge if she doesn’t get a good long sleep. Taking this out of the equation, I'd say Drayton Manor is a great family theme park that caters for all. The hotel and stay & play package are a great option especially during the long summer holidays. However, I would recommend an off-peak visit for fewer queues or the Halloween or Bonfire seasonal celebrations with an overnight stay would make for a great family break.
I wasn’t at all prepared for how drawn to the slot machines/fairground stalls my kids would be, and the battle this caused was draining. We loved the zoo and one of the zoo keepers was the friendliest chap ever with such a passion for his work and conservation. Drayton Manor is well worth a long drive and an overnight stay.
Visit the Drayton Manor website.
See more reviews of Drayton Manor on TripAdvisor.
Janet is mum to two children aged 6 & 9 and a great-Aunt too. She began writing early, penning her first book aged just 7. She has published 2 books