I’m pretty sure I was just as excited about meeting Father Christmas at Drayton Manor last weekend, as my 16-month-old daughter. Sad but true.
I still get that excitable buzz as the count down to Christmas begins. Do you ever grow out of that? Everything excites me, twinkle lights, festive songs, the smell of Frankincense candles, making mulled wine, picking the tree, Christmas jumpers, Secret Santa presents and of course the endless food and treats.
Drayton Manor’s Magical Christmas opened this year on November 22nd and despite being ridiculed by friends for jumping on the Christmas bandwagon too early, I couldn’t wait to go.
We arrived at the park at 1pm, it was freezing… a bitterly cold two degrees. Some might say the perfect winter wonderland.
We headed straight to Thomas Land (where it snows three times a day) and went on a number of rides including Alannah’s favourite – the Sodor Classic Cars – she loved getting behind the steering wheel and “driving’.
We also went on Flynn’s Fire Rescue…
While waiting for the rides we were serenaded by live Christmas shows and festive, singing characters. We headed over to the 4D cinema, showing a shortened version of The Polar Express, every 30 minutes. It looked great, but we weren’t sure our wriggling toddler would sit still for five minutes let alone fifteen. So we decided to go for a quick late lunch at the Burger Kitchen instead and warm up our freezing cold hands/ feet.
We had a pre-booked 4pm time slot to meet Father Christmas. We’ve been reading Alannah’s Christmas book to her every day since the start of November, showing her pictures of Santa explaining how he’s a very, very special man. Like Daddy but with serious WOW factor. Endless cooings of “Wooooow, look Alannah, it’s Santa” everyday, seemed to do the trick.
We queued for just over 40 minutes to meet Father Christmas and although a few parents were disgruntled about this, we really didn’t mind. We were surrounded by trees adorned with fairy lights, twinkling in the darkness and the Castle of Dreams (where Santa was hiding) looked enchanting, lit up and glistening in the distance, across the water. It all added to the suspense and excitement.
We were greated by a friendly elf at the front of the queue, who gave Alannah a gold medal. We were then whisked inside and led to a magical looking, grand, wooden door. As we pushed it open there sat Santa, beaming at us with a huge grin. Alannah was instantly transfixed, mesmerised by this wonderful looking man with a big, fluffy white beard and equally flossy, ice-white hair. How could the jolly, red man from her book, be here? Her eyes lit up. We sat and chatted to Santa for a few minutes and took lots of photos. Alannah couldn’t take her eyes of him.
He gave her a present*, a wink and off we went. She clung on to that present for the next 45 minutes and then ALL the way home in the car. It was an brilliant end to a really fun day. Despite the freezing cold temperatures (our feet felt like ice blocks) we were all smiling widely and feeling very festive on the drive home.
It was a shame we were underprepared for the arctic-like weather (no gloves or scarves), so we didn’t spend as much time as we could have enjoying the rest of the park. The 15 acre zoo was open and home to Rudolf, Prancer, Dasher and the rest of the reindeers. There’s a new baby reindeer this year – Phoenix. You could also go ice skating on the indoor Slide & Glide ice rink for an extra £2.
To be honest though, it was all about visiting Father Christmas and soaking up the atmosphere for us. Which we did, and loved. Their huge Christmas tree is EPIC, it lights up at specific times through the day.
The evening finishes with a firework display over the lake (5pm during the week, 6pm over weekend). Unfortunately we didn’t stick around to see these but it would no doubt be the perfect end to a magical day.
Would I recommend?
Definitely, as long as you’re happy to queue for a while to meet Santa. The fact you’re not hurried out of the room and can take as many photos as you like once you get inside, makes it worth the wait.
*thanks Santa for the gift bag. Alannah loved her snowdrop money box and huge, gold chocolate coin. It was almost as big as her head! And we’ll definitely use the complimentary ticket to come back soon.