The largest theme park on England's South Coast, and also one of Britain's oldest, Margate's Dreamland offers an interesting - if not wholly thrilling - day out for all the family.
Entrance to the theme park is via a ramp off Margate's 'golden mile' of arcades lining the seafront. The ramp lies between Dreamland cinema (once a part of the theme park's premises, now sharing only a name) and Escape nightclub. Going through the doors leads you into a covered amusement and shopping arcade, with emporia offering food and tourist delicacies such as rock. Also in this area is the Stowaway! indoor water ride.
Leaving the arcade leads you out into the theme park 'proper', with a paved area rising slightly away to the south, ample car-parking space on the left, and the 80-year-old Scenic Railway rollercoaster as the centrepiece.
Rides, sideshows and attractions
Rides currently available for your amusement at Dreamland include:
- The Scenic Railway - the park's oldest and most famous ride, and one of only two wooden rollercoasters of its kind operational in Britain. (The other is at Great Yarmouth). A thrilling and fascinating ride which attracts rollercoaster lovers from around the world. Expect queues.
- The Ladybird - deceptively friendly-looking with its rolling stock decorated in the form of the familiar insect, this is a modern metal rollercoaster with plenty of sharp turns but little movement up or down. This is recommended practice material for the weak-stomached before facing the challenge of the Railway.
- The Looping Star - back by popular demand, this is the park's second most famous ride. Its main attraction, as the name suggests, is a loop-the-loop. Despite this, it is not quite as stomach-wrenching as the Railway. A good thrill, nonetheless.
- The Wild Mouse - a fairly recent addition to the park, this is a tall metal rollercoaster with seperate 2-person carriages. Be prepared to be bumped around - the carriages stop abruptly at fairly random points.
- The Octopus - a veritable steel monstrosity, this is a ride with a large arm protruding from the middle, from which suspend 8 groups of 4 cabins. As the arm spins the groups, they in turn independently spin. A real candidate for the 'ride most likely to drum up extra business for the restaurant' award.
- Log Drop - ah, the Log Drop. What self-respecting theme park skimps on this? Certainly not Dreamland. Sit back and prepare to get wet. If you are really lucky, waterproof ponchos will be provided.
- Waltzer - a traditional waltzer designed to hurt people and turn them green as much as possible. Great fun.
Other attractions include the Dodgems, a reverse bungee-jump machine costing £10 a ride, or £20 if you buy the video, an 'adventure golf' course and a variety of children's rides.
Well-loved rides now sadly retired:
- The Big Wheel - for a long time, the most recognisable landmark in Margate, and offering superb views of the entire Isle of Thanet, this was sold in the mid-1990's to a Mexican theme park.
- Skymaster - a ride consisting solely of two compartments which spun around in a vertical circle, was retired in the late 1990's, having, no doubt, paid for itself many times over with change falling out of unsuspecting riders' pockets.
The theme park boasts a large number of traditional sideshows and boutiques, where one may receive fake tattoos or have t-shirts printed. Not to be missed also is the thrill of eating in the restaurant directly below the Scenic Railway. All the fun of eating on a train without the view.
Both Dreamland and Rotunda, its sister park are owned by the same company, which is evident in their very similar logos - both 'thought bubbles' with the name of the park in the middle.
Admission to the park is free, although it costs to go on the rides. Most of these are paid for with tokens, costing varying amounts throughout the year, although more reasonable is an all-day wristband, costing £10 in the high season, and £5 after 6pm and during the low season.