When you enter the park through the main entrance you will immediately see the flagship of the park on your left. The Thomas Land consists of several smaller attractions and has been designed to match the children’s series Thomas and friends. The park was one of the first in the country to use a well-known IP – an unparalleled success, even though the amusement park is now often reduced to the Thomas Land.
Among the larger rides in the Thomas Land area is a suitably designed train ride which has its second stop in the zoo area of the park, as well as the small Gerstlauer roller coaster Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster. The ride itself starts with some curve changes before you climb up the lift hill to start the fast paced ride, which has a very funny turn around. For children this junior coaster is simply fantastic, furthermore the Troublesome Trucks Runaway offers an excellent smooth ride.
Opposite the Thomas Land is the visually very appealing Intamin Gyro Swing called Maelstrom. Compared to swings of various manufacturers, a ride on the Gyro Swing is surprisingly brute and absolutely brilliant. The airtime, as well as the acceleration are simply breathtaking. A great fun!
Interestingly, there is another swing in the park, but it was not until a few years after Maelstrom that it found its way into the park. We are talking about the boat swing of the park, which again comes from the manufacturer Intamin. The ride called Bounty also accelerates very fast, but it has a much more family-friendly ride program.
Beside a typical English horse carousel you can take a quite interesting round trip with the well established Chance Rides C.P. Huntington trains. During the ride you will not only get good impressions of the main attractions Shockwave, Stormforce 10, Splash Canyon and G-Force, but you will also learn that the park used to be operated according to the Tivoli system.
The last attraction of the themed area known as Fisherman’s Wharf, which could also include Maelstrom, Shockwave and the rafting facility Splash Canyon below, is the Stormforce 10 whitewater ride.
After you have taken a seat in the boats the journey can immediately begin. Joyfully approaching the first shot, you are stopped shortly before and a gate closes behind you. The following effect is absolutely unexpected and surprising and ends as expected in cool water. Passing waterfalls we head towards the first drive up, where a turntable is waiting at the end to start the short and rather nasty backward ride. The problem of this is not the level of wetness, but the force with which the boat is braked, so the ride is definitely not for someone with a weak back. After you have turned around once again and passed under the station, you’ll be heading out into the lofty heights again and eventually reach the final shot at a snail’s pace, which will bring the ride closer to its end with a double drop.
The ride built by Bear Rides is not only unbelievably photogenic, but also simply unique due to the built-in effects, which is why you should not miss it.
A few meters above the turntable of the rapid ride is the station of the only Intamin Stand-Up Coaster in Europe. After you have left the beautifully designed queueline to Shockwave with all its stairs behind you and a train is waiting for you, you can try to get on your seat in some way, which is quite funny to watch, especially with small children. After the seat has been lowered slowly so that you are standing on your feet again and the two split bars, as well as the standing row, are locked, you slowly move towards the lift.
The rather strange first drop ends in a wonderfully intense loop, whereupon one tries to pull the ground from under one’s feet in a zero-g roll. The feeling to roll over the Splash Canyon is simply ingenious, especially as it increases the fear of losing something from your pockets during the ride. The two corkscrews that follow are the crowning glory of an all-round balanced ride, which in the end should not be any longer. The ride feeling is really something different and so it is a pity that there is only one ride of this kind in Europe. Due to the empty queues during the visit, the rides on Shockwave were unfortunately only held in the first row, so the ride sensation of the other rows could not be included in this review.
In the direct vicinity there is a roller coaster of German production, which unfortunately doesn’t form a unit with the surrounding attractions. Rather, it represents something completely different and thus formed the basis for the theme area Action Park at Drayton Manor Theme Park. The musical background in the queue to G-Force, which takes the floor level of the station building, is outstanding and creates a great unity with the roller coaster. As soon as you have left the stairs behind you can take a seat in the Maurer Söhne X-Cars and wait for your passengers for a few minutes if necessary.
After leaving the first downhill run behind you, you go up the strangely shaped lift to do an even stranger but ingenious downhill run. On the following hill you can experience a lot of airtime before the Cuban Eight completes the ride. Contrary to the Sky Wheel from Skyline Park or Abismo from Parque de Atracciones de Madrid, G-Force offers a completely satisfying ride, which also has a very smooth ride. Unfortunately, there is also the problem with the bars, which from time to time adapt to the human body in a rather unpleasant way and thus spoil the ride, as one hardly gets any air.
A little bit off the beaten track is the Pirates Adventure boat theme ride from Mack Rides at Drayton Manor Theme Park. The ride itself is beautifully designed, but – like most pirate themed dark rides – it lacks that certain something that only Disney can do. Unfortunately, the effects are rather sparsely set, the lighting is too dark in some places and the background music is as little dominant as the undisguised hall ceiling.
The newest roller coaster of Drayton Manor Theme Park is the smallest Boomerang variation by Vekoma, which is completely dedicated to the cartoon network series Ben10 Alien Force. Why they decided to go for the second, much weaker series remains a mystery to me, but the roller coaster Ben10 Ultimate Mission can convince from the beginning of the cue. The ride is fast-paced and especially during the forward ride quite intense. The backward part is unfortunately rather gentle, but if you consider for whom this roller coaster was created, this is absolutely acceptable.
Passing the 4D cinema of the park, where this year a film about the little prince is shown, we take a small path to a small mansion, where a research team is already waiting for us, so that we can watch the paranormal activities of the house a little bit closer. The story of The Haunting is brought closer to you through video recordings in a container in front of the mansion, but the other pre-show rooms also contribute well to the story. The main room seems to be quite small compared to other Vekoma installations, but is designed very well. Unfortunately the music during the ride is slightly monotonous but full of atmosphere. The compressed air effect simulating bats flying around did not work everywhere and the effect at the end of the ride is just unnecessary. All in all The Haunting is a really good Mad House by Vekoma, but unfortunately it can’t match the Hotel Embrujado from the Spanish Parque Warner, which is the closest comparison.
If you slowly climb the neighbouring hill you will find the interactive theme ride Wild West Shoot Out next to the beautifully designed Intamin Drunken Barrels, which unfortunately were broken at the time of the visit. This small dark ride, manufactured by Zamperla, offers an absolutely worthwhile ride, which is not only beautifully designed, but also has some funny effects.
At the top of the hill there is a restaurant, the Grill Inn, which is not only open to park guests and will probably not be very popular until some time after the park closes. Also the beautiful, although from the outside rather plain, park owned hotel can be found here. If the cable car would be running, one could play a round of mini golf at this place.
At about half height of the small ascent is the entrance to Apocalypse, one of the best free fall towers in Europe. The 54m heighted tower offers five lanes, two of which each have the normal gondolas and the stand-up gondolas with corridor. The last gondola is a stand-up gondola without corridor. For the real freefall tower lovers, of course, only the stand-up gondolas are suitable, as they enhance the experience. But it should be said that also the normal gondolas are completely convincing. While the stand-up gondola without corridor is simply outstanding, the stand-up gondolas with corridor are a little strangely designed. After closing the bar, one has to move upwards here, so that at some time, one stands in the right position that was also approved by the personnel.
Apocalypse is similar to the freefall tower La Lanzandera from the Parque de Atracciones de Madrid and in contrast to the bigger versions like Huracan Condor from the Port Aventura Park it is simply convincing. The fall is breathtaking and intense, but unfortunately, the gondola on the Intamin Giant Drop is brought to the tilt position quite early during the ascent.
One level lower, next to the Ferris wheel, is the Fabbri Pandemonium, named Pandemonium. This is basically a beautifully designed and much larger version of a Cataclysm ride made by the same company. Like the Flying Oil Pump from the Zoo Safari- and Hollywoodpark Stukenbrock, the degree of freedom of this upside-down swing is simply high, which guarantees a fun ride with a lot of hang time. By the way, during the ride you have to be very careful not to scream, as the park does not want to make itself unpopular with its neighbours and points this out quite clearly.
The latest Intamin ride at Drayton Manor Theme Park is a flying swing variation called Flying Dutchman. Here you fly through the air in small boats attached to steel cables, which is very relaxing due to the inclination of the seats.
The last roller coaster at Drayton Manor Theme Park is the Zamperla Powered Coaster Buffalo Coaster. The ride itself isn’t that spectacular, but it’s quite satisfying, because the ride is not as slow as it looks on video. But the track is very unconventional and can show some bizarre peculiarities.
The zoo area in Drayton Manor Theme Park is quite large and is located away from the park’s rides. Here, one can discover not only game animals, as one often finds in theme parks with animal enclosures, but also more exotic animals. Remarkable is, besides the large number of owls, the enclosure of the meerkats and the lemurs. Both animal species were quite astonished about what the other animals were doing in their environment. The zoo itself is well comparable with the zoological gardens from the Tier- und Freizeitpark Thüle, but also with the one from Chessington – World of Adventures.
In the back part of the zoo you can find a Thomas Museum, which is basically just a bigger model railway, as well as some attractions that fit the theme, but also Drayton Manor’s version of Cedar Fair’s Dinosaur Alive can be admired here. Although the animatronics idea has been left out from the beginning and there is no upcharge fee, the little tour with all its presentations is worth the time and is even more impressive than Nigloland’s Dinosaurs Aventure, which can score with animatronics.
Drayton Manor Theme Park itself is a good theme park with, at least in Europe, quite unique attractions. The smoothness of all attractions is comparatively high, and with minor exceptions, every ride is a sight to behold. It would be nice to see how the park will develop in the next few years, because there is clearly still a lot of potential. So I will definitely come back someday!
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