Anyone who knows me will know that I can’t stand theme parks – I don’t have a head for heights and, despite living in Brighton, the heady combination of candy floss and plinky plonky fairground music has never really done it for me. So, it was with some trepidation that we set off for Dreamland Margate for the day (in fact, I was sort of hatching a plan to nip off to the Turner Contemporary while the others got on with it). But, I have to say, once we got there I was completely won over – it really was like stepping back in time to the 1950s. Once you’ve paid for your wristbands, you’re free to go on any of the rides in the park – there’s an amazing wooden Scenic Railway (aka the UK’s oldest rollercoaster), giant rainbow-coloured Ferris Wheel, pedal-car monorail, jumping pirate ships, Barrel of Laughs centrifuge, plus traditional fairground stalwarts such as helter skelter, carousels, swing boats, mirror maze and dodgems.
Alfie and Kitty weren’t tall enough for all of the rides, so we also managed to do the Treasure Hunt, especially laid on for the holidays, which involved them running around the park to find riddles and attending pirate and mermaid school. Alfie also LOVED the mirror maze – which I also thought was pretty cool – so we did that lots of times. There was a dedicated area for preschoolers – Kitty enjoyed the Swing Boats and the Double Decker carousel, plus she also went on the big Gallopers and Hurricane Jets rocket ship ride. There was the added bonus of an up close and personal animal encounter on the day we went – the cheeky raccoon was everyone’s star of the show. There are also regular puppet shows and musical entertainment on the bandstand. The attention to retro detail was superb – I was swooning over the typography and the headbands worn by the female staff. All the staff we encountered were absolutely brilliant – really enthusiastic and super helpful.
We were lucky with the weather, but to be honest there is plenty to do even if it’s raining – there’s the 50s-style Roller Room with roller disco and diner, Octopus’s Garden indoor play room, complete with arts & crafts potting shed, play shop, circus tent, beach huts, sand pits and even a grassy hill to roll down. Both attractions have individual entry prices (from £4.95) separate from the park itself. There are also numerous arcade vintage arcade games – from pinball to Space Invaders – our guys were all given a £1 pot of 2p coins to play Penny Falls, which was a blast from the past (I used to love doing this as a child).
We didn’t try out the diner, cafe or numerous street food stalls (I spotted Thai, fish and chips and churros) as we had packed a picnic for the beach, but we had an ice cream at Morelli’s and it was proper Italian gelato, not Mr Whippy – yay! There’s also a shop selling all manner of untacky, retro cool souvenirs. In conclusion, Dreamland is just a brilliant day out for children and adults alike – put it on your must-do list for the summer.
Dreamland, Marine Terrace, Margate, Kent CT9 1XJ. Adults: £17.95, Children: £14.95. Opening times: 11am to 6pm.