Pickle has always loved a theme park. He loves nothing more than whizzing along a track, the faster the better, or swooping high into the air. Some of the most memorable days out we’ve had together have been at family friendly thrill-seeking attractions like Peppa Pig World at Paulton’s Park and Thomasland at Drayton Manor (which we’ve visited in both the summer and winter).

Over the past eighteen months, we’ve been learning so much about Pickle’s sensory needs and following on from his autism diagnosis, we are starting to get pretty in tune with what his sensory diet should consist of and ways in which we can help with his emotional regulation. It’s no coincidence that he is at his ‘best’, (and by ‘best’, I mean calm, relaxed, happy and most cooperative!) at a theme park. There’s so much opportunity for the proprioception and vestibular input he craves. It was a no brainer that investing in some Annual Passes for our closest theme park, Drayton Manor, was a good move.

Where is Drayton Manor?

Drayton Manor is not far from the Staffordshire/Warwickshire border, just south of Tamworth and not far from Sutton Coldfield. It’s easily accessible from both the M42 and M6 Toll. It takes us about a forty-five minute drive and so makes regular visits very feasible.

What is the cost of Annual Passes?

At the time of purchasing, our Annual Passes cost £109 for adults (aged 12+) and £95 for Pickle who counts as a concession. Ordinarily, children over four years old would also cost £109. Altogether, our order cost £313 and the passes last a full calendar year. Tickets for the park without a pass can be booked online starting at £27.50 (their pricing is dynamic and their system charges more for popular days) so we calculate that we’d need to go at least four times over the course of the year to reap the financial benefits of the pass. I think that will be easily achieved!

1 x 12 years+ ticket£109
1 x 12 years+ ticket£109
1 x Concession ticket£95
Average cost for single visit£82.50
Amounts of visits needed to recoup cost of Annual Pass4

How suitable are the rides for a 5 year old?

Drayton Manor is famously the home of Thomasland, which makes a great day out for younger children. There are a mixture of rides to suit a wide variety of ages and we’ve taken Pickle when he was 18 months old, 2 years old and also for his fifth birthday. Whilst the earlier visits were largely spent in Thomasland or the Zoo for the vast majority of the visit (we didn’t even consider any of the main park rides except for the Carousel), he was keen to venture outside of Thomasland for the bigger rides and for more of a thrill. Luckily, Drayton Manor has plenty of such rides that fit the bill for children wanting a little bit more thrill.

That’s not to say the rides within Thomasland itself don’t have any appeal for our adventure seeking lad. His first choice of ride for the day was Toby’s Tram Express (which is enough spinning and lurching to make even those with a strong stomach feel a little bit queasy… or maybe Jim and I have delicate constitutions!). The Troublesome Trucks junior rollercoaster is wonderful fun, evident by always having the largest queue line in Thomasland in our experience. And as you can see above by my facial expression: Cranky’s Drop Tower delighted Pickle and made me squeal like a little pig.

At 1.25m tall, Pickle could go on quite a large number of rides. The only rides restricted to him were: Apocalypse (standing up), Maelstrom, Pandemonium, Shockwave and Stormforce 10. And out of those rides, I think the only one he would be disappointed about at this age is Stormforce 10. Don’t be fooled by thinking that any rides suitable for him would be all gentle and tame – the Accelerator ride as pictured below is pretty scary in my mind. The slow backwards ascent letting you see exactly how steep and high you are before whizzing around the track before whooshing back round it in reverse feels a lot worse than it looks! Although, you wouldn’t know from Pickle’s chilled expression, whilst I am obviously seriously considering my life choices at the moment this photo was taken.

Family Favourite Rides

Our favourite rides at the moment are the ones we can all enjoy. At our most recent visit, it was a toss up between Wave Swinger and the River Rapids for the most ridden ride of the day – although, Cranky’s Drop Tower wins the award for the most times in a row! All of these rides are perfect for us – thrilling enough to give Pickle the sensory input he craves, but gentle enough for Jim and I to enjoy ourselves too (neither of us are big on the thrills). They are also rides with smaller queues and so with a smaller waiting time, there’s more fun to be had. In fact, every time we went on River Rapids, we walked straight on with no wait time at all. (It’s worth noting here that the lack of queue for River Rapids could be attributed to past incidents on the ride, one which resulted in the very sad and unfortunate death of an 11 year old girl in 2017 – from our experience, the staff operating the ride were incredibly thorough in their safety briefings and made sure to tell us the rules every time we rode, even if there had only been a few minutes in between).

The Flying Dutchman (pictured below) is a milder version of the Wave Swinger for those families with children that aren’t quite as adventurous as Pickle.

Not Quite Brave Enough for The Haunting

The only ride of the day that was a bit too much for Pickle was the literally scary The Haunting. Having been on ‘Ghost Train’ rides before, I think that’s what he was expecting, but as anyone who has been on the ride before will know – that’s not the deal with this spooky attraction. I may have not helped matters and I’m the jumpiest person around after having experienced a similar thing when I was younger where actors physically jumped out and scared you, tapping you on the shoulder etc. I can’t shake the feeling that someone is about to make me jump out of my skin.

I also distinctly remember being terrified by this exact same ride when I was younger – probably older than Pickle is. The staff were excellent though and offered multiple escape route options for those that had bitten off more than they could chew. Pickle managed three checkpoints before wanting to leave. I don’t think we’ll be trying it again for a while!

All in all, we had a GREAT day at Drayton Manor and we absolute can’t wait to return and make the most of our Annual Passes. We’ll be heading back as soon as we are able (we would have already returned had it not been for a bout of Covid!). If you have any questions or would like to know more about any particular rides or the suitability for your family, leave me a comment below and I’ll be sure to address it after our next visit.

Other Theme Park Days Out

If you’d like to read about our other family theme park days out, feel free to have a browse: