A traditional British seaside experience in Blackpool
Since the mid 18th century Blackpool has been the coastal retreat of choice for many in the North of England. From a tiny finishing village to a sprawling mass of hotels, piers and towers, it’s changed a lot of the years. On the other hand Blackpool is one of those quintessentially British seaside resorts that never seems to change all that much. It’s become one of Britain’s most famous seaside resorts with its own quirky take on entertainment and culture. It may not be the prettiest of seaside towns but it sure does pack in the entertainment. There’s always lots going on so here’s our guide to the best of Blackpool.
It would be madness not to mention the Blackpool Tower. Without doubt the city’s most famous landmark and easily visible along the coast some 20 miles away. Standing some 158 metres tall, it was opened in 1894 and was clearly inspired by the Eiffel Tower built just a few years earlier in Paris. What many people don’t know is that the tower you see today is not the original. Poor paint work in its early life meant the original tower badly corroded and after 30 years it was decided the tower’s structure would be replaced with new steel. These days the bright red tower is the centrepiece of the sea front attractions.
The tower is unusual in that its base is hidden by a building housing a number of theatres and ballrooms. To the left of the tower is the famous Ballroom (more on that later) and to the right the Blackpool tower circus and theatre. All of these are still open today. Entrance to the tower is on the promenade near the North Pier. You can by a saver ticket that gives you entrance to a number of attractions in Blackpool or just grab a ticket to the “top of the tower” as it used to be known. Now called the “Blackpool Eye”, copying the name of the London Eye. Tickets aren’t cheap but you do get a fun 4D experience before you ascend the tower. At the top you’ll find fantastic views of the surrounding area with information on what you can see. There’s a scary glass floor in one section, not for the faint hearted but don’t worry, you’d have to weigh more than an elephant to break it!
No trip to Blackpool is complete without visiting the tower.
- Opening times: 10am – 9pm in Summer, 3:45pm in winter
- Ticket Price: Online £11.34. £12.60 at the box office
- Website: theblackpooltower.com
Blackpool Tower Ballroom
One of the most opulent and beautifully intense arenas you will ever visit. Access to the ballroom balconies is free and its open every day. Opened a few years after the tower and having changed size a few times over the years. It’s amazing interior is highly photogenic and awe-inspiring. This is also the home to a Wurlitzer Organ which plays every day to anybody wishing to practice their dance routines. It’s a popular place especially with the older folk and you’ll always see people on the dance floor. There’s a cafe opposite the grand stage too so its a great place to stop for lunch and admire the dancers. In some ways this venue is more impressive than the tower itself so definitely another place to tick off the list when visiting Blackpool.
Piers in Blackpool
You can’t miss the piers in Blackpool. Mainly because there’s not one but three of them! The North, Central and South piers, each with their own distinct character and charm. Built between 1863 and 1896, Piers were the ultimate way to enjoy the British seaside and step out into the sea without getting your feet wet. The North Pier is the oldest and longest, mostly for walking on, it has a theatre at the end hosting more up-market concert performances. The Central Pier is probably the busiest of the three. It is filled with fair-ground rides, a ferris wheel and concert theatre too. It plays host to tribute bands and local acts with that distinctly cheesy feel about it. The best place to spend a lot of money and walk away with candy floss. The South Pier used to house a theatre too until 1998 when it was removed and made way for some extreme fairground rides. If vertical bungee jumps and free-falling coasters are your thing then his is the Pier for you.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach
Opened in 1896, the Pleasure Beach in Blackpool is home to an assortment of roller coasters and thrill rides, sure to make you scream and feel a little weak at the knees. This family run business has re-invented itself over the decades and is one of the most popular theme parks in the UK, with an average of 5 million visitors a year. In 1994 the tallest and fastest roller coaster in the world (at the time) was completed, called the Big One. Standing some 71 metres tall, it can be seen for miles around, much like the tower. While the mass of rides in one area can seem overwhelming from the outside, the space inside has been massively rejuvenated in recent years and is a must for any thrill-seeker visiting Blackpool.
- Opening times: 10am – 6pm (some days 8pm) Mid-February to Mid-November
- Ticket Price: Entrance pass only £6. Unlimited ride pass £25 online, £35 at entrance
- Website: blackpoolpleasurebeach.com
Back in 1879 the locals of Blackpool were looking for a way to attract more visitors during the end of the holiday season. The annual Lights festival was started and has been going ever since. Running for over 2 months every year from August to early November, the Blackpool illuminations are now one of the busiest times to visit the sea front. Over 6 miles of flashing lights, animated characters and colourful trams light up the evenings and cause a rush hour of traffic and pedestrians. It’s a great atmosphere and with a million lights twinkling its quite a sight. The best way to see them is by tram which whisks you up and down the promenade. If you’re lucky you tram will be festooned with lights of its own!
- Check out visitblackpool.com/illuminations
Where to stay
One thing Blackpool isn’t lacking is accommodation. Sadly in recent years the quality of the hotels here is dropped. The promenade is back to back hotels, but there’s only a few we would recommend. During our Great British Road Trip we stayed at the Gramsford Lodge which, compared to most along the sea front, was a pleasant and comfortable stay. Blackpool seems to have its own style when it comes to hotels and this one is no exception. Be sure to get a room with a sea-view and avoid room 14 which is tiny.
- Location: 237 Promenade, Blackpool, FY1 6AH
- Website: Book online here