As a family having lived in Blackpool all our lives, we’ve experienced over the years most of the things the town has to offer, some widely known, some not so. The town has loads to offer, you could write a book on it (in fact, I bet someone already has) but if you want to ensure you hit the big items during your time in Blackpool, we thought it would be useful to highlight a few ‘big ticket’ items, we think you should try and do in Blackpool first! (All links are direct – no commission is paid)
1. Blackpool Tower!
Of course, it goes without saying, no visit to Blackpool can be complete without a visit to the famous Blackpool Tower. Built in 1891 and modelled on a certain less famous Parisian landmark 😉 the Blackpool Tower is iconic across the country and the pride of the town.
The tower shouldn’t be thought of as ‘just a tower’, the tower building itself is an entertainment hub encompassing numerous activities to keep adults and kids equally entertained. There’s the tower dungeon, arcades and bars including the recently introduced level 5 bar which provides children’s entertainment so the adults can kick back and relax (though the beverages aren’t cheap be warned!). There’s also the famous tower circus, a show that mustn’t be missed and has been running since 1894 (watch for the fountains at the end!!) and the world famous home of ballroom dancing, the tower ballroom.
Going up the tower itself is no longer a case of jumping in a lift and up you go, its been made into a full interactive experience with a 4D (yes, 4D) cinematic experience before hand and at the top of the tower there is a glass floor you can stand on to test your bravery! (Kids seem to be better standing on the glass than adults for some reason). The view from the top of the tower is good…… though tbh, Blackpool itself isn’t the most picturesque of towns, the ‘big one’ at the pleasure beach is probably the most noticeable view that everyone will recognise from the off, but on a clear day, look to the north for views of the lake district, to the west to see Winter Hill and the Forest of Bowland and to the south / south west-ish…… you can see Southport and Snowdonia…….. and our house!! 🙂
2. Blackpool Pleasure Beach.
Ok, so white knuckle rides aren’t for everyone and the Pleasure Beach (or just ‘Pleas’, pronounced ‘Pleasure’ without the ‘ure’ as the locals call it) has oodles of those, from old school classics like the Big Dipper, Avalanche, Grand National and famous Revolution to the newer rides such as the latest –ICON, massively acclaimed water roller coaster Valhalla (You WILL get wet, buy a disposable mac before you come and save a fiver!!) and what was once the worlds tallest roller coaster, ‘The Big One’.
As with most things in Blackpool (at least in recent years anyway), entertainment is geared towards a variety of tastes and ages. There are gardens to walk through, slow train rides to see the whole complex from a high and to be honest, just walking through the complex is entertaining – there’s just such a buzz. As a kid, and indeed into my 20s, when entry to the park was unrestricted, I’d often just go for a walk through the park, sit and watch rides or people watch, which could kill hours in itself (in good weather).
Entry to the pleasure beach isn’t cheap, last time I checked an adult day pass to all rides on the day would cost £39.00 and a kids £33.00 however, there are ways of cutting cost.
– Annual pass. If you’re going to head to the pleasure beach and Blackpool a lot (and why on earth wouldn’t you?) then it may be worth going for a season pass which includes a host of extras and combinations you’d need to sieve through. Take a look here.
– Book in advance (cuts costs by ££s). This however means your committed to going on a certain day, which may be fine but with British weather, you need to keep in mind it might be pouring down on the day. Advance tickets come in at £25 for adult and £23 for kids.
– If you have a family going and some won’t want to go on many rides, get a ‘entry only’ pass, this gets you in the park and you can buy tickets for individual rides from some booths as you walk round, entry to gardens, the train and any entertainment they have on is included and could save pounds. Park entry ticket is £10.
– Cheap weekends – standing local joke is that the pleasure beach opens for a couple of weekends before the actual holiday season starts with reduced prices to test out rides and get staff practiced on the locals before the ‘real’ customers come along. Some of that may be true as it would seem a good idea, however, the weekends are undeniably popular and represent quite a saving, with smaller queues, than you’d normally expect. (From memory….. £20 but i’ll try and verify this).
Other ways to save on the cost are with your hotel provider, they often get better deals as part of a package or check out the pleasure beach rewards scheme.
This includes a load of companies who have negotiated special discounts for their student or staff…… the list of companies is wide ranging so worth having a look.
Final saving tip……. take your own food and drink! Food and drink is expensive inside but if you can nip to a shop beforehand and pack up some picnic items (you can leave them aside when you get on any rides) then you could save a small fortune!
3. Blackpool Zoo
As a kid I remember going to Blackpool Zoo and it was quite a tired looking place…. But we’re talking more years ago now than I care to count, and time waits for no man…. or Zoo!! …and a lot has changed since my days of running round with a sheet of paper trying to tick a box to say I’d seen a ‘Nigerian dwarf goat’ or similar. Blackpool Zoo now has had a lot invested into it and is massively underrated, I still find it surprising people will travel for miles to go to some of the more famous zoos such as Chester yet don’t go to Blackpool Zoo even if they’re in Blackpool for the week. (don’t get me wrong, Chester zoo is excellent and much bigger….. but size isn’t everything and Blackpool Zoo more than competes).
From Aardvarks to Zebra and everything in-between, Blackpool Zoo has a host of animals all kept in beautiful surroundings, the zoo is continually improving and this year, has introduced a new herd of elephants to a new purpose built enclosure….. we’re all counting down the days until the zoo reopens to see that one!!!
Cost for Blackpool Zoo is £19.75 per adult for the day last time we checked, reducing to £17.75 for seniors and student and £15.25 for kids over free (under 3 free). Parking on site is £3 for the day, theres always plenty of spaces but you can avoid this by parking up near the local park Stanley Park and taking a short walk. If you happen to have relatives living in Blackpool… take them along with you with proof of address and you can get a 20% discount on the above.
If you intend to head to the zoo a couple of times over the course of the year then it may be worth investing in a annual membership to the zoo, details of the cost of this aren’t available at time of writing due to coronavirus but I will update later … or you can check out on the link below.
Like most places, costs can be further reduced by taking your own food and drink, this can add up to a tidy sum if theres a few of you.
4. Beach Day!! (or half….)
A lot of people can’t stand sand, I mean, it gets everywhere right? Well, suck it up is my advice, you need to experience what made Blackpool what it is today in the 19th century ……and that’s the miles and miles of glorious beach, which is often over looked on a visit.
Most people who visit the beach in Blackpool tend to steer towards the beach area near/ in between the piers, this isn’t bad advice tbh, there are toilets on the piers, refreshments all along the prom between the piers however on the downside, because of that, the beaches do get busy, very busy and are often left in a mess by people leaving their rubbish behind (angry face!!). With a bit of planning however, you can quite easily avoid the manic hustle and bustle of the tourist areas and have a bit more of a tranquil time, close your eyes and imagine you’re in some far flung beach resort at the other side of the world! (ok, bit of an exaggeration but you know what I mean!).
Whenever we as a family go to the beach, we steer away from the piers and given where we live, end up ‘setting up camp’ at Starr Gate (you could just as easily head further north of the tower or south towards St Annes and get the same experience).
Starr Gate is located just on the ‘sea’ side of Blackpool airport, really easy to get to for a day trip as just off the M55 motorway, it’s the favoured spot for watersports with loads of kite surfers and people coming and going on boats in the right weather. Free parking can be found within 5 minutes walk (Just over the hill on squires gate lane) where you can also find a Lidl with a toilet (though make sure you buy something if you go to use this!) 🙂 Theres a little convenience store that sell usual sorts of stuff for a beach day, worth noting it does ice lollies, drinks (including alcohol) and sandwiches plus your usual snack type fare. Its a bit more expensive than supermarkets but its the closest to the beach at starr gate…. and you’re supporting local businesses rather than a nation chain. Theres also a chippy in the same parade of shops…..though I wouldn’t take that back to the beach to eat myself 🙂
Its worth noting, Starr Gate is also the start of the tram route so if you or your other is getting restless and the family are happy, its easy enough to take a quick jaunt along the prom on a tram and mosey around the town or on the seafront (check plans for the day before doing that as may be worth getting day pass or day family pass depending). Grab a book, some headphones and maybe a bottle of wine and let the day drift away.
5. Illuminations (end of august until start of November…. usually…. extended 2020 due to lockdown)
Everyone likes the sound of ‘free’ right? Well, head along the coast and experience the ‘greatest light show on earth’…… I must confess to not having seen the competition to this self proclaimed accolade but given its popularity and that’s its been running since 1879, there must be something special about the Blackpool Illuminations.
We as a family head down the illuminations every year…… a few times to be honest, on a wet night the lights reflect brilliantly and can be done from the car, on a warmer or still night, its great to get out of the car and walk along with some hot doughnuts or chips. The best displays for me have always been near the north shore area of town which are best viewed on foot and provide great photo opportunities for your instagram!! That said, in recent years, there has been a concerted effort by the council to get people out their cars and stand watching displays and as such, ‘lightpool’ came along, which is a fantastic display projected against the front of the tower building and also Laurence llewelyn-bowen has designed some displays which need to be viewed on foot (they take a little while so grab a coffee to enjoy whilst you watch).
Every year the illuminations have a switch on ceremony where the start of the light is marked by some famous (or not so famous) celeb flicking the big switch, this is accompanied by a concert (getting tickets for which is like finding unicorn poo!). Past switch ‘oners’ have been Peter Kay, Robbie Williams, Westlife, Bee Gees……… the list is endless…. well, so long as you don’t get back further than 1934 anyway.
Blackpool has so many contrasting things to do it was difficult to pick just 5 ‘must dos’, we came up with around 25 contenders off the top of our heads! We’ll do another post exploring at a basic level some of the other and may also post more detailed reviews of the above as we didn’t want our first post to be too onerous. I do hope we’ve given a decent summary for you and you enjoyed the read as much as we enjoyed writing it!
What do you think of our first post? What would you include in your ‘top 5’ ?
Thanks for reading, please share 🙂