On Saturday 21st June 2014, Theme Park Guide were invited to Drayton Manor, a theme park in the West Midlands to review their brand new ride Air Race, a new Zamperla flat ride.
The entrance fee compared to Merlin is £36 on the gate for an adult which compared to Alton Towers would cost you £49.20. Unlike Merlin theme parks, Drayton Manor doesn't offer fast track tickets for the ride so there's no beating the queues. This is good because when you’re in the queue you know there's going to be no hold ups with large groups of people going in front of you and making your queuing time longer.
The entrance plaza for Drayton Manor is small and compact unlike Merlin theme parks which like to take advantage of having a big plaza. We suspect that when the park opens in the morning the plaza might become very full making guests that would like to purchase tickets have a few problems working out who has and has not got tickets. The ticket booths are nicely spaced out and there were around 8 open at the time we arrived, which was around 11am. One thing I do have to fault with the car park and the car parking tickets is that there is no one checking when you’re leaving the car park that you've brought a ticket unlike Merlin. Drayton doesn’t have any car park barriers blocking you in. A car park ticket is only £3 so it's not too bad a price considering the entrance fee as well.
When we stopped off at the park for the day we only got the chance to try the new fish and chip shop by the Flying Dutchman. I think we all agreed that it was the best fish and chips we had ever had at a theme park! The food quality was second to none, however when you’re paying £6.99 for a meal you would expect good quality food. There were multiple food outlets scattered around the park such as Pizza, Hot Dogs, Ice Creams, Fish and Chips and many others.
Opening on Saturday 5th July 2014 is Drayton Manor’s new ride, Air Race, which is a Zamperla flat ride. As shown by the photos below the ride inverts you around 15 times during the ride cycle, the ride might look bad but let us tell you something it's amazing!! I think this is the best flat ride I've been on for a while. The queue line has three TVs showing some footage of some pilots talking about racing real airplanes which for an adult might be interesting but for kids might be a bit boring. However queue line entertainment aside the ride is very good and it's a great addition to the park line up.
There was one ride in the park that we couldn't wait to get on and that was Shockwave, the UK's only stand up roller coaster. Now we had heard some very good things about this ride and some very bad things about how comfortable the ride is but all of those were wrong! Yes the ride was a bit strange to get in and out off but the ride experience was good. This is the only stand up coaster we've ever done but we don't think it would be a good idea to build another one in a Merlin theme park. This is due to the fact that the ride has very slow loading times and the throughput of the ride was very poor. But it is still a very good coaster and well worth a ride if you get the chance.
One of the major flaws that Drayton has got is its one train operation on almost everything. G-Force only has one train whereas all other coasters on park have two trains. According to staff they are only ever used if the other ride train gets a major problem. This of course makes queue times longer and the overall throughput of the coaster worse!
The park’s most recent roller coaster, Ben 10 Ultimate Adventure, was also on our must ride list of the visit. With the ride being opened only a few years ago, the ride still feels very smooth. The theming whilst you’re queuing for the ride is done to a high level when compared to other attractions at the park.
Drayton Manor doesn't just do roller coasters and family adventures. The park also has a zoo with lions, monkeys and talking parrots! I don't think words are enough to tell you how happy we were when the parrots around us started to copy what we were saying.
The staff that work at theme parks are the ones that in our opinion can make or break a theme park. Being the front facing people for the park, the staff should present themselves as happy but remain professional at all times. We think the Drayton Manor staff were pretty good! They seemed to be up for a laugh at all times and will have a joke with you.
Normally if you have a problem with something you would just go to Guest Services and they would help you out in any way they can. For example, a ride breaks down and a door being locked behind you. We went to Guest Services along with around 70 other people from the queue line and all told them we had been waiting in the queue for 45 minutes. We had just been told it's broken down and we needed to leave the queue line. However the door had been shut and locked behind us so there was only one way out, over the boats in the station. No staff were helping guests over the boats which if a child was to fall would be a health and safety problem. Now if that was to happen in a Merlin theme park or anywhere else, we would have been to the staff who would apologise and given us exit passes. However we were just given a business card and were told to email them and it would be investigated.
Overall our visit to Drayton Manor left us leaving with mixed feelings. Some of us thought it was amazing where as some of us thought otherwise. For families with very patient children the park is fantastic but the park has a long way to come before it is up to a Merlin standard theme park.