What a great day we have had, I'm sat here typing this up and I feel absolutely shattered, we have done so much today that all I am ready for is a night in front of Saturday night trashy telly!
When the invitation arrived to attend a press familiarisation day at Drusillas Park in Alfriston, East Sussex it was an easy decision for me to know we wanted to visit. Myself and the kids had visited on my 40th birthday a couple of years ago whilst my husband was working and we had lots of fun so I knew the day would be a hit and dh loves animals and watching his kids having a great time so I was sure he would have fun as well.
We set off early for Drusillas Park, it is only about 40 minutes from us and I was super pleased to see that the brown directional signs started early and as soon as we approached Polegate we were drawn to the park by the signs and we didn't need sat-nav. Drusillas is located just off the A27 and is easy to access by car, there is plenty of parking and it is well maintained and spacious.
Being as it is out in the countryside it is slightly harder to get to by public transport but you are advised to get a train to Polegate and then pick a taxi up form the rank there.
Entry & Exit
I was pleased to see that the entrance area was organised with a distinct queueing system for busy days. There are separate queues for members and pay on the day/booked online entry. We arrived before the park opened and joined a queue and were ushered into the park very quickly. You can enter and exit the park as many times as you like but you need to make sure you stamp your own hand by the turnstile before heading out of the park the first time.
Flow around the park
There is a designated zoo route which you can lead straight into from the entrance and this makes it very easy to know where to go and to make sure you experience everything. As w had my friend Anya with us she knows the park really well and advised us to go the 'locals route' and to do the park backwards as it was raining when we arrived. So we headed off to the soft play whilst it was bad weather and nice and quiet.
Amazon Adventure Soft Play
This was our first stop and it was empty at opening time which was a bonus as it meant our five kids could run wild and really enjoy everything this 300 square metre soft play has to offer. There are separate parts for the differing ages and loads of fun slides, aerial walkways, spinning poles, netted areas and a cannon canyon.
There was plenty of room to hang coats and to place shoes in and adequate seating for the adults. We all had a drink here and a large tea, large coffee and small chocolate came to just oer £5.00. The kids then had a small slush each at £1.35 or an animal flavoured water at £1.25. Miss M also tucked into a banana, which was 70p.
The toilets in this area were clean and had size appropriate sinks and soaps to help the little ones practise good hygiene. Outside the main door was plenty of large lockers at £1 so you can store your lunch and also an undercover seating area for picnics.
Hello Kitty Secret Garden
Once the rain started to ease we decided to go outside and experience more of the park. We had been advised that the new Hello Kitty Secret Garden area can get busier in the afternoons so 11am seemed like a good time and we were not disappointed. The kids could literally go on a ride and then run round the queue and go on again, they were over the moon, Yes it had been a rainy morning but it was now dry and is the Easter school holidays so we were super pleased it was not too busy. We also visited this area again about 3pm in the afternoon and whilst it was busier there was still never a queue more than about 6 kids in front.
There are three Hello Kitty rides; the Hopper, the cars and the teacups. The area is beautifully themes and pretty girly and pink as you would imagine but this did not put off the three boys aged 5 - 11 years that we had with us. The Hopper ride was the firm favourite and I believe each child probably rode this at least twenty times but they also enjoyed the other two and rode those a few times as well.
We didn't use it but there is a super-cute Hello Kitty Parlour where little girls can have their hair braided, face painted or a temporary tattoo applied. There are additional costs and my girls tell me it was £3.50 for a glittery tattoo.
Thomas Tank Engine
Our next stop was to ride on Thomas the Tank Engine. I was totally surprised how into this my 11 year old boy was, I think it must have been a trip down memory lane for him but we all joined in with the Thomas quiz as we took the train ride and I was pleased the train itself is plenty big enough to accommodate adults. Again we did not have to queue at all for this.
Eating at Drusillas Park
We decided to take a picnic with us as this allows everyone to have exactly what they want but we got some chips to accompany our sandwiches and they were £1.80 for a regular portion or £1.99 for large.
There are quite a number of eating outlets in Drusillas, it felt well catered for. The main eatery is the Explorers Cafe and this is open for the parks full opening hours. It serves a big variety of foods, including things like fish and chicken tikka massala, as well as having a nice serve yourself salad bar, jacket potato station, pizza bar and sandwiches made on side with decent quality bread. The prices vary from a sandwich at about £3.35 to kids meals at £3.99- £4.99 and main courses at about £6.50.
Of course you can also get the classic fast food like burgers and chips at the Oasis in the play area and we treated the kids to ice-creams there which star at £1.00 for a milky bar lolly, £1.20 for a Fab and £1.85 for an Oreo cookie sandwich.
I was impressed with the variety of foods available across the park and whilst some of the prices are more than I might like (£2.99 for a plain cheese kids sandwich) generally I thought the standard and pricing was in line with what I would expect.
Pic-Nics and the Events Arena
We sat in the events area and there was plenty of clean pic-nic tables and the AstroTurf was soft underfoot. The kids loved this area as there were lots of pay attractions like panning for gold, dino dig, vertical limit (rock climbing) and giant bouncy slide. The girls choose to spend their money on the bouncy slide and it was £3.00 for 6 slides which I think feels like a lot of money but they tell me they had an awesome time and were happy with their spend.
Go Wild Play Area
After a big lunch just what you need is to run around and burn some of those calories so we headed straight into the massive play area. This area is awesome and even though busy was lots of fun and the kids could get on everything they wanted to. Go Wild is full of fun for older kids and Go Bananas is designed for those under 6 years, although I have to admit to having a go on the sings!
There is so much for the kids to do in this area - zip wires, trampoline, 6 story rope towers, slides, banana boats, turntables, bucket swings and more climbing areas that you can ever desire. This was definitely one of the kids favourite parts of their visit to Drusillas Park. I hope we can come back over the summer and then we will bring towels and swim cosies as there is a small paddling pool and lagoon area.
Whilst the kids were having a fabulous time I'd had enough of the play area so we headed off to see the animals which of course where Drusillas first started 90 years ago.
Visiting the Animals
Whilst it was fine seeing the animals in the opposite direction to how Drusillas intended, I think I would have preferred to start at the beginning and collect the children's stamp book and zoolympics books and follow them from start to finish. These were real highlights for my kids they love being bale to stamp in their book as they spot the animals or recording how fast they can run or loud they can scream.
I've never seen anything like the zoolympics that Drusillas have and I think it is fantastic and so educational. They do seem to have taken great care to make sure that the animal section of the park is very interactive and enjoyable. It would be easy fro the kids to want to just bypass the animals and get to the play areas and rides but actually it is fun to do all the areas.
Since the last time we visited there is a new interactive bird feature, Lorys Landing where you cna buy a small pot of nectar and have the lorikeets come and feed from you. They are really happy to land on your hand or even head!
When we visited in August 2012 I wrote quite extensively about the animal experience, educational value and zoolympics, so hop over and take a look at that post for even more information.
Both my husband and I commented on how well maintained the park is, it is set in the beautiful South Downs and has wonderful planting everywhere, it really is a joy to walk around. Generally it looks really well kept and I felt my kids were safe here.
There were lots of toilets facilities and it was good to see child toilet seats, low door locks and coat hooks and plenty of baby change areas. Each one we used across the seven hours we were at the park was clean and well stocked.
There were designated buggy parks in many areas, vending machines for quick drinks refills and wi-fi hotspots across the park so you can catch up on emails whilst the kids play. I also noticed vending machines for forgotten items like nappies, pain killers and sanitary products.
It was great to see recycling initiatives across the park and colour coded bins so the kids could join in and I also noticed a few smoking areas for those who need them, as well as a water fountain to fill your bottles.
There are a number of shops across the park selling lots of beautiful items, of course my kids favourite was the cuddly toy paradise.
We all had a great time at Drusillas Park and we definitely want to visit again. It s far cheaper than many other attractions offering the same kind of facilities but of course still not cheap, these places never are. Drusillas really did offer us a full day out though and fun for kids aged from about 2 through to at least my sons age at 11 years but I suspect beyond this if they are still willing to enjoy parks and such,
I asked my family what could be improved and not one of them could come up with anything. My husband commented that Drusillas are using the space they have really well. They are still well placed as a zoo but also have the benefit of being an interactive day out and there really is something for everyone to do.
Disclosure: We received free entry for four of us as part of the press familiarisation day. I was not instructed what to write and I remain honest. Thank you Drusillas Park for inviting us to your press day.
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