Film Review: Thomas & Friends: King of the Railway at Thomas Land

We were thrilled when we were recently invited along to a day at Thomasland to see the new Thomas & Friends: King of the Railway film in their 4D cinema.

I'd imagine most three year-olds would be excited about going, and our particular three year-old is a huge fan of Thomasland. We're lucky to live just 10 minutes away from Drayton Manor, so she's been several times and is a real thrill-seeker. This time, with our son turning one just the day before, we knew he'd be able to get on some rides, too (he was 4 weeks old when we last went, so it didn't appeal quite so much to him!).

We arrived at the park at around 11 by which time all rides were open (they open at 10.30). We skipped Thomasland and managed to get onto several rides in Drayton Manor, before grabbing some lunch and making our way to the 4D cinema. The excitement was built up with the presence of the Fat Controller, and a great variety of Thomas toys to play with. We particularly liked the magnetic tracks and trains, whilst the husband was very taken with a remote controlled Thomas (boys and their toys..!). Armed with Thomas flags, popcorn and drinks, it was movie-time..

It'd be fair to say that the three year-old was transfixed. She is a big fan of films, so it was no surprise she'd sit still and enjoy it, though I hadn't expected her to get home and immediately ask to watch it again! Which she did, and was again mesmerised. It's an hour-long, and tells the story of the arrival of the Earl of Sodor and a big surprise that he's arranging, and introduces several new characters. We were given a DVD of the film as part of our fabulous day out, along with lots of Thomas goodies and toys to keep the magic alive for some time to come, but I can honestly say that I would have ordered this if not, as it was a fun story and the three-year old was thoroughly enamoured of it (she's actually now watched it four times in the last 3 days!). 

The 4D cinema meant that there were various real effects supplied while viewing, such as bubbles being floated around, seats moving, and my daughter's personal favourite (indicated by the fact that she mentioned it, oh just 20-30 times!) getting squirted with water. It all added to the fun experience, though it does mean I've had requests to blow bubbles in the living room while she watches it again....

Film over, we had a quiet wander around the zoo. We always take the time to have a roam here, as I think it's a lovely addition to the theme park. It's a whole extra attraction, and there is a brilliant adventure playground and dinosaur trail there, too. To be honest, you could spend a long time just there, especially as it was a sunny day, and tearing a little one away from a playground as good as that one is not easy to do!

After a brief calm respite, it was back to the thrills of the rides. This time, it was all about Thomasland! The three-year old ran from ride to ride with glee, and queues were either short or non-existent. She was particularly keen to go on the new ride for this year,Winston's Whistle Stop Tour. It was a huge hit, with the one year-old, too :-)

She then went on every ride in Thomasland. She's tall enough to go on everything, and fearless enough to want to, and there are quite a few rides in Drayton Manor that she can go on, too. The Troublesome Trucks coaster is probably my daughter's favourite, though that was a bit too much for my son! We stood by and watched while she and daddy went on it several times in a row, so she was delighted. 

There is also a brilliant soft-play centre there, which we've been to before, though not on this visit, just because we ran out of time. It is well-worth popping into, though be warned, you could easily lose an hour of your day in there! And then there's the Thomas shop, full of Thomas toys, clothes, books, DVDs - you name it, it's in there! So be warned, you could easily lose lots of cash in there...!

As I say, we do live 10 minutes from the park, but if you're further afield and want to make a full day of it, Drayton Manor also has a hotel on site that you could take advantage of, and they have Thomas-themed rooms! Can I justify the stop-over?!

The park does get quieter from now until it closes for the season, as the children are back at school. We went in early October last year, and barely had to queue then either. I was very interested to find out that Drayton Manor have just launched an 'ultimate toddler pass', which is aimed at parents and pre-school toddlers under the age of five and costs only £30 for 99 days of Thomasland adventures, and we'd have the zoo to wander round and playground, too. It can be used Mon-Fri when the local schools are in, and you get 10% discount in the four large catering outlets scattered around the park, a 5% discount in all retail outlets, and a 30% discount in the on-site restaurant, Grill Inn, and free car parking. Not bad at all, so I'm thinking it might make the perfect, slightly early, birthday present, as my daughter turns 4 next month.

If you're looking for something a special night out, there's the Fireworks Spectacular coming up, on the 2nd & 3rd November. The fantastic fireworks and laser shows are set to music and last for 20 minutes, making them one of the biggest displays in the Midlands. I understand that it's best to book now for this one, as it can be very popular. 

And then there's the Magical Christmas. My in-laws took my daughter to see Santa at Thomasland last year and she (and they!) thought it was fantastic. I mean, rides and Santa - she was in her element! I suspect we may need to return again this year.... 

By Jocelyn Reading at the Reading Residence 

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