Last month I received a surprise parcel in the post. Surprise parcels are near one of my favourite things in life. I was very intrigued to open it and find it was full of goodies from Blackpool! I was sent the box as part of a marketing campaign between Visit Blackpool and Merlin Entertainments – #BlackpoolsBack. (I’ve since learned that this marketing campaign has won awards and it doesn’t surprise me in the least, this was perfectly executed, bravo). In the box was a draft itinerary inviting me on an all-expenses paid trip to see what Blackpool has to offer.
Now, I am not going to lie, Blackpool has never really been on the top of my “places I must go” list and I’ll admit I probably have negative associations with it in my mind but my last visit there was as a sullen teenager in 1995 when I had a go on The Pepsi Max Big One for the first time at the Blackpool Pleasure Beach. I’m not sure it’s called that anymore so I am definitely highlighting my advancing years. As it had been so long since I had frequented Blackpool I decided there really was nothing to lose and started to plan our trip up North.
My first impression of Blackpool? There’s a LOT of regeneration work going on which is great to see. (Actually, that’s a lie, my first impression of Blackpool was “Crikey, Blackpool is a LOT further away from home than I thought…). It’s always good to see investment into areas that have been in such decline. Of course like anywhere, there’s still masses of room for improvement and I’d say that there is a long road ahead for Blackpool but they are definitely making moves in the right direction.
We were there from Friday to Sunday and I was provided with a full itinerary which I am going to break down for you.
We arrived late Friday evening and received an extremely warm welcome at our hotel, the Hilton Blackpool. Our room was pleasant and had a sea view. We had reservations at Tiger Bills which we knew was next to The Pleasure Beach and had rather amusingly thought we were going to walk 5 minutes and be there. If you’ve never been to Blackpool what you need to know is that it has a 7mile sandy beach. Seven miles. What might be ‘just down the seafront’ could quite easily be over two miles away. Not feeling like we wanted to negotiate the tram system, we hopped in the car and drove down. Tiger Bills was great, the staff were fantastic and the food was delicious. I had steak fajitas and I won’t like, they were probably the best steak fajitas I’ve ever had, not one sign of gristle in there. The kids menu at Tiger Bills is great too, lots of variety away from just the normal chicken/fish and chips. Blackpool did seem eerily quiet but it’s hard to tell if it was the weather, the early season or a combination of both.
After a lovely hot breakfast at the Hilton we were ready to go and get our passes at Madame Tussauds. We also had plans to go up the famous Blackpool Tower but the weather was a bit dodgy and therefore we didn’t see the point…
So. Madame Tussauds. We all know what it is right? Waxwork models of famous people. I wasn’t too excited about this really, I’ve never thought it was my bag (last seen in a Madame Tussauds circa 1987) but oh my gosh, we all loved it, loads of fun for all the family and we spent a lot longer in there than we thought we would. I’ll be doing a full review of this venue shortly so watch this space.
Then followed the Sea Life Centre. My son is a SUCKER for a fish so this was probably the highlight of his trip and he really enjoyed going around collecting his stamps in his dive log book. The shark tunnel was probably his favourite part, though the giant crab was also a firm family favourite.
We had lunch at Captain Jack’s at Coral Island and were met by a Jack Sparrow-a-like on the door who was oodles of fun and gave us chocolate dubloons. Winner. Food was great, I had a lovely burger and the place was really busy. Coral Island itself is an amusement arcade type facility and one of the cleanest and tidiest I have every been in. You might not be a fan of this places or introducing your children but we’re all suckers for a 2p coin dozer and we easily lost an hour (and about a fiver) trying to win little prizes our of the dozer – we came away with quiet a haul. I tell you, those things are hypnotic.
The afternoons excitement was a trip to the Blackpool Tower Circus. I’ve been in the Tower before but never seen the circus and I was really impressed with the room, stunning location. The circus itself? It was awesome. My children have clown issues so were nervous but Mooky and Mr Boo were not in any way frightening – they were amazing. I’ve never seen circus acts before, there were a few times I hid behind my coat, honestly. I couldn’t watch. If you’re in Blackpool and only have time to do one thing – DO THIS. Probably my favourite thing over the entire weekend. (Sadly, they don’t allow photos so I can’t show you much but again I will be doing a full review of this).
Would you believe it was time for more food? We went to Harry Ramsden’s. Not entirely sure what I was expecting but this was a classy joint. I think I was thinking it would all be a fast food style place but the restaurant was lovely, very clean and tidy, beautifully presented and with a lovely view across the seafront. Service was excellent and food was delicious. Though I think the staff were a little perturbed as to why we didn’t want bread and butter with our meal, they asked us three times. Is that a Northern thing?
After that we were bushed and went back to the hotel. We thought we’d rest and go to the bar for a drink but what actually occurred was something I don’t want to dwell on to much. All I’m going to say is this;
8 year old boy
baked beans x 3
carpet and bed
emergency call to housekeeping
You get the picture right?
After a long night with the aforementioned sicknote child, it was time to get on with the next days activities. In our original plan we were meant to go to Blackpool Zoo but as we had a poorly child (who was gutted – a zoo, after the Sea Life Centre is about his favourite thing in life) my husband and daughter decided to exploit the fact that you could actually see the Blackpool Tower again and go up it. I wasn’t there, I can’t tell you how it was but they both thought it was great and my daughter loved the see-through floor. They both said there was a great view and my husband was impressed at how well positioned the Comedy Carpet was.
Incidentally, the Comedy Carpet was one of my favourite things EVER in Blackpool. I absolutely loved this street art installation and this its a fabulous addition to the seafront. So much work has gone into it, it’s incredible. I wasn’t aware of it before but I was really impressed. If you’re in Blackpool, take a look.
We had tickets for the Sandcastle Waterpark in the afternoon which we had all been super excited for but for which now only two of us were going to get to experience. Gutted! It looked amazing, husband and daughter went and tried it out and all reports were overwhelmingly positive. There are 18 rides and slides and definitely something for everyone there, with ample places to get food and drink – you can even just get out of the pool and grab yourself a burger before getting straight back in. Loved it. The staff were all fab, and very sympathetic to my ailing child, and the place was clean and tidy. I was totally impressed with this venue, it definitely felt more like something you’d experience abroad rather than in England and we’d love to go back another time and all get a go this time… By this point my son was starting to pick up a bit but I really couldn’t risk a vomit-in-the-pool situation.
The last thing we were due to do was nip to Notarriani’s for ice-cream but given the fact my son was on hunger strike we decided to call it a day and start the long journey home. I wish we had managed it though because it sounded really lovely. Next time!
We had an amazing time in Blackpool, despite some rotten weather and despite dodgy tummies. Who knew there were so many quality things to do in Blackpool? Would we go back? Yes we probably would, especially as we know there are so many great undercover attractions which means you’re not reliant on the weather. Handy, given our track record of British summertimes. Sure Blackpool is still a bit rough around the edges but they’re working on it and trying hard, what it needs now is more people to go with their families, this will only drive regeneration further. Blackpool has a lot to offer and has a truly beautiful seafront.
We had the Blackpool BIG Ticket which gets you one visit into seven great attractions but there is also the Blackpool Resort Pass which gets you in to a different combination of attractions. Both are excellent value.
Coming soon…full reviews of The Blackpool Tower Circus and Madame Tussauds.