If you’re a fan of theme park events, 2023 might just be your year. Almost all major theme parks across the UK have put together an exciting season of events for the coming year, but none have announced quite as many as Drayton Manor Resort. Drayton Manor currently have an incredible 7 events announced throughout the year, with announcements regarding their Halloween, Fireworks and Christmas events still to come! With that in mind I, Claire, couldn’t resist a trip to the resort to check out the event that would be kicking their whole season off, ‘Dinosaur Breakout’. Running from 17th – 26th February, Dinosaur Breakout offers guests the chance to meet ‘some of Europe’s largest walking dinos’ alongside experiencing a selection of family attractions throughout the park.

Arriving at the park a little late after some transportation issues, it wasn’t long until I got my first taste of what was to come throughout my dinosaur-packed day. On stepping into the park’s main midway, I was immediately greeted by an enormous Triceratops! My first interaction with the event’s headliners left me in awe. From their sheer scale to the detail on the… puppets? Costumes? I’m not sure what they are, but these creatures were pretty magnificent! As I walked up to meet the Triceratops, its eyelids moved as if to greet me as it shifted to pose for a photo. Of all the dinos I’d meet throughout the day, this was one of the least expressive, and still, I was very impressed! Also impressive was the management of crowds around the dinosaurs. Three members of staff were always on hand, a dinosaur handler, a crowd handler and a photographer who together made sure that all guests were able to have an enjoyable meet, free from any guests who were hoping to skip the queue.

At the end of the meet, I was handed a QR code card for the redemption of my dino meet photos taken by the park photographer. This did seem a little redundant as the photos appeared to be being taken on a mobile phone, and I had already been able to ask someone else to take photos for me. But, if you’re a large family group, this may be just what you’re looking for!

On my way over to the first planned stop of the day, I was stopped again. This time because Rory, the park’s ever-present mascot, was out meeting – and with a dinosaur for company! The first performance of Rory’s Dino Disco had just wrapped up, and there was still time to grab a photo with the lovable lion in yet another seasonal outfit – this lion has more looks than me! This was also my first interaction with one of the dinosaur babies roaming the resort, what a cutie!

Finally, I managed to walk into Thomas Land without encountering any more dino-happenings, thoroughly impressed by the amount I’d seen going on during my short walk across the park. After all, I had important business to attend to. Drayton Manor very recently teased a new attraction coming in 2023. A new attraction this year?! From the mysterious graphic, all we knew was that the new attraction would be located in Thomas Land, so I went to see what was currently visible of the new addition. The answer? Not much. Except, that it’s due to be located at the very rear of the land behind Blue Mountain Engines and James & The Red Balloon and that it will be ‘making a splash’. A water ride it is! Behind Blue Mountain Engines, translucent fencing makes the site just about visible, enough at least to see that the area isn’t particularly spacious, though it’s hard to tell how far back the project is due to extend. Should it reach back into the current car park area, it could be quite substantial indeed! I’m very much looking forward to seeing how this develops.

Checking the event schedule, it looked like the perfect time to leave Thomas Land as, just outside the land’s main entrance, a very special guest would soon be making an appearance. Arguably the highlight of any dinosaur event, and surely one of the most impressive of all the creatures at Dinosaur Breakout, it was time to meet the Tyrannosaurus rex. As it hit the time for the meet, suddenly the area broke out into dramatic music. A siren sounded, warning us that something had gone terribly wrong. Another dinosaur had escaped! The enormous T. rex then made its appearance. Emerging from a black marquee that can only have just been big enough, the vast creature let out a roar and readied itself to meet an enthusiastic, and slightly apprehensive, crowd. The dramatic music kept playing, making this really feel like an event, whilst the staff deftly formed a long line of guests keen to meet the creature. The line was lengthy, but moved quickly, with staff always keeping guests moving to ensure everyone got their turn during the allotted time. The dino himself was great, using its eyelids and mouth to be greatly expressive and made for a fun meet. I was also awestruck at the size of it, particularly the tail. The tail just seemed to go on forever. It was magnificent.

I’d arrived at the park hungry, so it was already time to grab some lunch. Sadly, there were no themed options available for the event – at least that I saw! Special doughnuts had been available previously, but having spoken to some people around the park I believe these were just for the first weekend of the event which is such a shame, but hopefully something that can grow in the future. All this meant was that there was only one choice for lunch, Safari Pizza & Pasta. Whilst there were an impressive number of outlets open across the park given the limited operations, Safari Pizza & Pasta has quickly become a must-visit for me on any Drayton trip. It is, in my opinion, the best-themed theme park restaurant in the country. Is it essentially a Rainforest Café? Yes. But is it even better? Yeah, probably. You can enjoy these glorious animatronics without dropping your life savings on a sub-standard burger! Here you can get a pizza large enough to share, or even just grab a drink with friends and all the while rainforest atmosphere plays and a wall of animatronics serenades you. What more could you possibly want? On that note, I’m sure these animatronics are more alive than they were last season! That wall simply did not stop moving and chattering. Between the gorilla, rhino and elephant there was always an animal making itself known, which might actually make Safari Pizza & Pasta rank more highly than Rainforest Café! Blimey.

This visit, having had it highly recommended, I simply ordered a cheesy garlic bread (£9.75) and a bottle of Magners cider (£5.75) both of which qualified for 20% off with my annual pass. The garlic bread was very much a meal in itself, the size of a large takeaway pizza and loaded up with cheese, fresh chopped garlic and parsley, all on a soft pillowy base. It was delicious! I couldn’t even finish it. Thankfully, the restaurant keeps a supply of empty pizza boxes next to the napkins and cutlery for guests to box up their leftovers to take home. Such a simple, but thoughtful gesture that’s much appreciated. Also, Super Nintendo World’s wet floor signs have another home and it’s Safari Pizza & Pasta! I felt like I was seeing a celebrity.

In what was perhaps not the best planning in the world, we used the time immediately after lunch to finally get our first rides of the day in. Heading over to Vikings, the park’s newest land, I was struck by how 9 months on everything still looks just as fresh and vibrant as it did when it opened last May. Vikings is still immaculate, and its beautiful score still catches me off guard every time I enter the land. In a twist, our first ride of the day was actually an attraction not even scheduled to be open. A very welcome addition to the line-up, Thor remains my favourite Disk-O coaster in the country, seeming to offer just a little bit more thrill than its counterparts elsewhere. Next was Loki, which in a stroke of luck we managed to walk straight on to as it was loading. Honestly, I’m often put off by the often-time-consuming operations on Zamperla NebulaZ, but the crowd levels at the event were pleasant enough that it was finally time to get back on this beautiful ride. I’d forgotten quite how fast Loki can move when it gets up to speed. Sure, it never offers a high thrill, but it’s not trying to. It’s just a good time, filled with moments of airtime and an absolutely unparalleled aesthetic. It was so great to ride this again! We rounded off our visit to Vikings with a ride on Sleipnir because when there’s the option to ride one of these little pony rides, you ride it. I don’t know why these are so delightful, they just are, and I’ll be damned if I’ll ever miss the opportunity to rock back and forth shouting silly words. This was actually my first ride on Sleipnir where the audio on my horse was working – I must be very unlucky. I didn’t know the ride had audio! What a pleasant surprise. Unsurprisingly, the audio elevated the experience massively and I had an excellent time being talked through my training!

Vikings was unfortunately also the scene of our only dino disappointment of the day. As we waited for the scheduled appearance of the Spinosaurus, 15 minutes passed and there was no sign of this highly anticipated dinosaur. This was thankfully the only time we experienced this throughout the day but was a little bit of a shame not to have any communication that the meet wouldn’t be taking place. Still, problems arise and these things happen, and headed off toward the next dinosaur meet, making a mental note to be sure to attend the next Spinosaurus visit.

On our way over to our next dinosaur, we met yet another roaming character, this time a delightful baby Velociraptor! This baby and its handler were chilling out next to Humble Pies, meeting and greeting guests stopping for lunch. With the families in the area having moved on, we were able to spend a lovely time with this dino and its very friendly handler. Being able to get up close and personal, I was once again taken by how great these puppets really were. This Velociraptor’s eyes were just gorgeous, and it was interacting with us in a really engaging manner. So cute!

But our next planned meet was a slightly larger dinosaur, the Brontosaurus, meeting outside of the Zoo entrance. The Brontosaurus was another seriously impressive dinosaur, towering way above me! It was also another dino with quite an expressive face and certainly made me laugh quite a few times as we were waiting to meet.

With dinosaurs seemingly breaking out left, right and centre there was surely no better time to learn the suddenly essential art of raptor training. Thankfully, the 4D cinema had me covered with a Raptor Training show running throughout the day. This 15-minute show was a blast and found guests learning various actions (that they could learn by standing up and joining in, of course) they could use to train a Velociraptor, all with the help of a real live Velociraptor! It also transpires that Velociraptors really love dancing, so we just had to have a little dance too! The show was also educational, with plenty of Velociraptor info packed in. Did you know that a Velociraptor could catch up with you, even if you were riding Shockwave? No, I didn’t either! But I do now. But, even with an enormous Velociraptor on stage, the true star of the show was Ranger Vicky. Our host for the performance, Ranger Vicky was so full of energy and enthusiasm and genuinely seemed to be having a great time playing around with the audience. It made the whole thing such a pleasure to watch and take part in! The performance concluded with the discovery of a missing dinosaur egg, and an invitation to join the dino parade at the end of the day to discover its owner! I loved this way of tying the whole event together and scurried down to the stage when they wrapped things up by inviting everyone down for photos with the show’s Velociraptor. Another for my rapidly growing dino selfie collection!

With large areas of the park remaining closed for winter maintenance, there was plenty of activity to be spotted as the park continues its preparations for the main season. Over in the area earmarked for the park’s exciting 2024 expansion, this was my first time seeing Apocalypse gone and I found it more than a little emotional seeing the hulking concrete structure devoid of its iconic tower. Aside from that, not much work is visible on this area from the accessible areas of the park, though the resort’s managing director, Victoria Lynn, has previously stated that ‘we’ve broken ground’ on the project – very exciting times for the resort!

Over at Adventure Cove, refurbishment works continue on the mighty Maelstrom and I’m certain that Stormforce 10 has had a lick of paint! Whilst I always spend plenty of time gazing out over the lake, the ride’s final drop has never caught my eye like it did this visit, looking pristine in a gorgeous teal.

With the windows overflowing with dinosaur paraphernalia, I nipped into The Toy Shop to check for any new park or event-specific merchandise. Whilst there was nothing unique and branded, the shop was absolutely packed to the brim with everything and anything a young dinosaur fan could want, even down to some very cute little balloons!

Rory’s Dino Disco is performed twice a day on Rory’s stage near the entrance of both Adventure Cove and Thomas Land. Having missed the first performance, I made a beeline to the stage ready for the second and final showing of the day. The show does pretty much what it says on the tin, with Rory and some baby dinosaurs coming out for a dance-along, but it was actually really, really fun. The kids around me were having a fantastic time and honestly, some of the adults seemed to be too! The show ran for ten minutes and in that time we were introduced to two different baby dinosaurs and had plenty of opportunity to dance and roar along. Plus, after the show, there was once again time to meet Rory and the dinosaur!

As the end of the day approached, there was just one dinosaur left on my list. The dino who’d evaded us earlier in the day, the Spinosaurus. With its final meet scheduled for shortly after Rory’s Dino Disco, I scurried over to Vikings in the hope of meeting this seemingly elusive creature. As the photographer and a handler arrived, it seemed like my luck had changed and suddenly there they were, walking their way from a structure next to the Vikings entrance all the way up to the throne. As expected, this took a little while as this very impressive dino was being absolutely flooded with guests, but both the dinosaur and handler handled this with good grace and soon had it up at the throne ready to meet the queue of guests. I’m so glad I got to meet the Spinosaurus as, for me, this was definitely the best meet of the day. I’ve done a fair few character meets in my time, and this one was up there on a Disney level. The host was Ranger Vicky from the earlier show, who was so friendly and chatted with everyone as they waited to meet the star. She also remembered me from my earlier selfie and asked how my dino-spotting was going, which was a lovely touch! Of course, the star was the Spinosaurus itself, which was undoubtedly the most chaotic of the dinosaurs – but in a great way! Whilst I was there, they decided to try and eat the Vikings throne and had to be reined in by their handler, they stole their handler’s umbrella and tried to eat it and they even tried to bite the head of a delighted child! This dino just had so much personality, and it made for such a fun interaction. The best way to round off my dinosaur hunting!

There was just enough time left in the day to grab a few more rides thanks to the minimal waits across the park. I think the only thing we really waited for was Troublesome Trucks and even that was only a three-train wait, and I mean have you even visited Drayton Manor if you didn’t ride the almighty Troublesome Trucks?

Admittedly, this might have been a little bit of a mistake as it did mean I missed the very start of the Dino Parade! Wrapping up the day with a great big dinosaur party, the parade starts at the entrance of the zoo before making its way – very quickly I must say – through the park. I stepped out of Thomas Land 4 minutes late and it was already almost at its final destination. A sea of guests surrounded the Velociraptors as they paraded their way through the park alongside Rory on a mission to see who the missing egg – discovered during the Raptor Training show – could belong to. The answer lay – of course – next to Rory’s stage, where the Tyrannosaurus rex was out and ready to meet the arrivals! What followed was a super fun, and slightly surreal dance with Rory, his handler, two Velociraptors and a T. rex! How else would you end your dino-packed day? It was so nice for the whole experience to have a grand finale, where all the guests can get together to celebrate. Honestly, all events should have this in my opinion. It’s what makes Legacy such a perfect addition to FRIGHT NIGHTS, and why it’s so fantastic that the music continues after park close during Alton Towers’ Oktoberfest. There’s nothing quite like ending your park day on a high!

Dinosaur Breakout at Drayton Manor Resort was quite honestly an incredible half term event. As I made the drive up to the park, I was worried that I’d be finding myself at a loose end after an hour or two, with most of my usual go-to rides closed for maintenance, but that wasn’t the case in the slightest. Each time I found myself wondering what to do next, I pulled up the event schedule and every single time there was something happening in the next ten minutes. There was quite literally always something going on. Even with the limited ride offering, this was a complete day out and if your kids are of an age where they’re only going to be interested in Thomas Land and/or Vikings anyway, I really can’t think of a better time to come! (Though the Thomas Land celebrations later in the season may have something to say about that.) If this is what we can expect from Drayton Manor’s events, the park has got a fantastic year ahead of them.

Dinosaur Breakout ran at Drayton Manor Resort from 17th – 26th February, but the dinosaur fun continues with March of the Dinosaurs, the resort’s next event, from 10th – 31st March. Are you planning to meet the dinosaurs at Drayton Manor? Let us know via our social media channels.

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