On Easter Sunday we took a daytrip trip to Margate and for the first time visited The Turner Contemporary Gallery and Dreamland. I am an artist and I have three boys 12, 9 and 7 yrs and the payoff for family trips that involve art galleries is that we do something the boys want to do too. Though in my experience despite all the grumbling they always enjoy some aspect of a gallery. This time we promised we would take them to Dreamland with its famous Scenic Railway (better perhaps known as the oldest rollercoaster in the world.) and recently refurbished rides which retain a lot of the park’s original quirkiness.
A car journey to Margate is much quicker for us than the train would be so we piled into our ‘scenic’ and set off. Unfortunately, by the time we got to Margate three out of the five of us were already feeling car sick as the cross country roads were very bendy. We steadied our delicate stomachs by heading off to visit the Turner Contemporary first. We spent an hour there and the boys enjoyed wearing the bug eye specs that they were given to view the artwork through. After a picnic lunch overlooking Margate’s lovely sandy bay and the big wheel at Dreamland we drove off to find the big car park behind it. We were able to get tickets, walk straight in and get on our first ride immediately, no queues, no crowds, no panic.
The park entry allows you as many goes on all the rides as you like so you can visit and re visit favourites during your day – the park is a good size but not too big that you could lose a child in for long if they go off and explore on their own. We stayed together though and started on the merry-go-round which was good old fashioned fun even in the rain! Highlights for us were the dodgems, monotopia, the slippery slide, Speedway and of course the Scenic Railway. We rode the rollercoaster in sun, wind and then the third time in full pelting rain and loved every minute of it. As my 9 yr old said, ‘that’s a great rollercoaster to go on if it’s your first time, it was mine and I got to sit at the front.’ Thrilling enough to have fun and not too high to scare a young child or a novice. If you fancy something really challenging then there is the Barrel of Laughs where you are spun so fast you stick to the walls of the drum…If however, it turns out to be a barrel of woes then the staff stop it immediately and you can get off, I like that kind of service, someone who is really watching and taking care of visitors. Every staff member we spoke to and plenty spoke to us first was really friendly and welcoming encouraging us all to have fun.
Dreamland is able to withstand mixed weather as there are plenty of things to do undercover such as the maze, an impressively confusing experience and a roller disco. Or you can treat yourselves to afternoon tea in the ballroom – on our visit it was an Easter themed tea offering a glass of prosecco, pots of tea, multi coloured bread sandwiches like you have never seen before and a huge array of cakes and hot cross buns. It was creative and interesting if a little overwhelming and a bit early in the day to be eating large quantities of food before being shaken, bumped and stirred in the park again but we appreciated the huge effort and thought that had gone into making this food experience interesting and fun. The ballroom lacks a bit of atmosphere and perhaps some music and different lighting would help fill the space but the staff were extremely friendly and enjoyed telling us about park membership and what the park is like in the winter when it opens at Christmas!
So, this was a great day out for the whole family: the 7 yr old said ‘ the rides are cool, I loved speedway’. My 12 yr old said on leaving the park ‘the only frustrating thing is you have to be 14 to drive a dodgem on your own’ but you can be a passenger. Over all we had a brilliant day in all weathers having lots of new experiences and will definitely go back to Margate to visit more of the town and see what’s new at Dreamland next as they keep improving the park.
A ticket to Dreamland costs £17.95 per adult and £14.95 per child on the day – but discounts are available in advance.
Thanks to Dreamland for inviting us to review it, supplying the tickets and the tea!