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Published on Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Walking in a Thomas Wonderland

Lisa James and family send Season's Greetings from Drayton Manor Theme Park's  Magical Christmas in Staffordshire

I'm not really the type to mention the 'C' word in mid-November but I think even Ebenezer Scrooge would find it difficult not to get into the festive spirit at Drayton's Magical Christmas.

Between now and December 31, Drayton Manor Theme Park, which includes Europe's only Thomas Land, transforms into a winter wonderland for its Magical Christmas extravaganza, with sparkling decorations and seasonal music to create a fairytale atmosphere.

There are real-life reindeer in the park's 15-acre zoo; a 30-ft high Christmas tree that's the setting for a festive sound and light show; an ice-skating rink and Christmas entertainment in Thomas Land with spectacular snow-shower finales.

Add to that the 4D cinema showing Christmas movies, a 4.30pm Imagination Parade and an end-of-day firework display and it all makes for a fabulously memorable experience.

Accompanied by two youngsters and one youngster-at-heart: 11-year-old Zeddi, eight-year-old Freya and my 50-year-old school friend Sam, I boarded the Polperro Express for a circular tour of the park, taking in all its attractions and its beautiful lake. Then we tried our luck at hook-a-duck; returned several times to ride the old-fashioned fairground carousel and set sail for the Captain's Sea Adventure.

The big rides aren't open during winter, but some of the smaller ones in Thomas Land are just as thrilling. The Troublesome Trucks Runaway Coaster is a good introduction for first-time rollercoaster riders and hair-raising enough for adults as it climbs, drops, then tilts, at speed. One go was plenty for me, but my 11-year-old niece couldn't get enough and had two more goes at braving the twists and turns.

Jeremy Jets Flying Academy, located at Sodor Airport, meanwhile, takes off into the air, rotating as the planes go up and down. For added excitement, each compartment has a button for riders to press when they want to fly higher.

Until December 24, when he's busy delivering presents around the globe, Santa can be found at the grotto in the Castle of Dreams on the lake.

Visitors are given an allocated time to enter the grotto, which is reached by a  covered pathway with overhead heating, which keeps guests nice and warm on chilly winter days while they wait in the queue. Once inside, the building is done up nicely and Santa is delightful. I don't know how long he'd been staying in the Tamworth area, but he definitely had picked up a little bit of a Brummie accent.

After promising to leave mince pies and carrots out on Christmas Eve, we said goodbye to the great man and headed out.

En route, we passed Percy's Post Box where little ones can pop in their letters to Lapland, a face-painting area manned by Santa's helpers and finally, a gift shop stocked with  some very reasonably priced, pretty and unusual items that caught our eye.

I bought a few stocking fillers and tree decorations before we headed off home, happily exhausted. It might still be November, but it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

Day passes to Drayton Manor Theme Park, including Thomas Land, start at £14 for children aged two-three; £22 for ages four-11 and £26 for 12 years and over. Entry is free for under twos.

In a recent policy change, there is now a £2-per-day charge to park at the theme park.

There's also a stay-and-play package for a family of four that includes one night in a standard room and breakfast at the four-star on-site Drayton Manor Hotel, plus theme-park entry, from £138 in December.

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