Drusillas Park in East Sussex is somewhere that holds many fond memories for me. I remember visiting with my family when I was little, and we've also visited a couple of times with the children - you can read my previous review here. Last week we were invited back to see what's new, and we had a brilliant day out!
A visit to Drusillas starts with the Zoo. You follow a clearly marked route through the varied animal enclosures, including which include monkeys, bats, penguins, red pandas, owls and flamingos. The zoo is beautifully presented, lovely and clean, and with plenty of information about the animals.
At the entrance you can pick up a couple of fun little books that you can fill out as you go around. The Animal Spotter Book has pictures of twenty different animals that you will find at Drusillas. As you spot the animals you can find the close by stamping station and stamp the box. Even very small children are able to take part, and both children loved doing this, it also makes a nice souvenir to bring home with interesting facts about the animals that you have seen.
You can also collect a Zoolympics record book and take part in the Zoolympics Challenge, then if you complete the whole book you'll receive a certificate. We just took part in the challenges as we spotted them and they were a lot of fun, seeing how high you can jump, how fast you can run, how long you can stand on one leg and so on, and then comparing your results to different animals. These activities are both a fantastic way to get the most out of the visit, and especially if you have children that get impatient quickly it's a good way to get them to slow down and not rush through.
When it came to the animals, our two probably liked the Meerkats the best. You can crawl through a tunnel and pop your head up in the middle of the enclosure for a really close up view, and there are additional activities like hunting for meerkat food in a tray of dirt.
On your way through the zoo you catch a few tantalising glimpses of the Thomas the Tank Engine train as it passes by, and so that's where we headed for next. The Thomas the Tank Engine Experience is a lovely little ride through the park, passing some of the animals, including the penguins and llamas, as well as having lots of familiar faces from the Thomas stories to spot along the way. You can ride as many times as you like, and we didn't have to queue at all. When Thomas is at the station you can also stop to have your photo taken in front of him, although the children weren't sure about standing in front of him even though they could see the driver on the platform!
One of Harry's favourite areas of the park was the Eden's Eye Maze. It's a really fun interactive maze, not too difficult so you won't be getting lost, but you will want to explore all the different paths so that you don't miss anything! There are lots of sensors which make things happen as you go past or touch things, and make you jump if you aren't expecting it!
Harry enjoyed trying to work out the clues to find his way to the centre, and they both loved the two-way mirror where you can watch your fellow guests pulling silly faces without knowing that you are there watching! When you've finished you can climb some steps and see the whole maze from above, which Harry found fascinating.
Mia's favourite area was the Hello Kitty Secret Garden. It's a pretty corner of the park with three themed rides that take you through Hello Kitty's world. It was a quiet day when we visited, and we were able to walk straight onto all the rides with no queue. Both children loved the Hello Kitty Car Ride, Mia was convinced that she was driving the car herself and went round and round over and over. Harry is a bit timid when it comes to rides but Mia had a great time on the Tea Cup Ride and the Hopper Ride, I think that she could have stayed here all day! On certain days throughout the year Hello Kitty makes appearances in her Secret Garden.
A new area at the park for 2016 is the Get Wet Splash Pad Experience. It was a cold drizzly day when we visited and so it wasn't open, but I can see that in the summer it will be great fun for little ones, and they definitely will get wet!
Another highlight at Drusillas is the large indoor and outdoor play areas. It was a bit cold for us to spend much time outdoors (although lots of hardier families were out there having fun!), but the children had a brilliant time in the Amazon Adventure indoor soft play area which is really big with some long slides. Although I couldn't see everything that they were up to as these days we tend to leave them to it, it was enough to keep them busy for ages!
The cost of entry includes admission to all the main areas of the park but there are some activities which cost extra such as Panning for Gold and a Dino Dig. They are placed around the edge of one of the outdoor picnic areas, but we knew they were there and so we just avoided them, I think there is plenty to do without needing to pay any more.
There are lots of places to eat your picnic around the park, both grassy outdoor areas and covered tables and benches. We always take our own food on day trips, but there seemed to be plenty of options when it comes to buying food and drink.
We had a great day at Drusillas, there is a lot to do for children of all ages and I'd really recommend a visit!
We were provided with complimentary admission to Drusillas in exchange for this review. A family ticket would have cost us £72 (peak price as it was a Bank Holiday, an off-peak day would have been £68 and if you can visit off peak during the week it's just £54 for a family ticket - see all prices here.) I think it's a reasonable price for a full family day out, especially if you are like us and take your own sandwiches and avoid the extra activities and gift shops!