REVIEW: Blackpool has it all - nowhere matches it for sheer fun
For this single mum and teenage daughter, the opportunity to spend some quality time together is few and far between, so when we were offered the chance of a weekend break to Blackpool we jumped at it, and it was non-stop laughter and fun from start to finish.
The west coast seaside resort is best known for its Pleasure Beach - an old-school amusement park with vintage wooden roller coasters alongside state-of-the-art modern stomach churning rides - as well as its landmark tower built in 1894.
We set out to see what else was on offer and to discover just why Blackpool is one of Britain’s most favourite family holiday destinations.
We opted for a bank holiday weekend and, thankfully, the weather was on our side. However, we discovered that there are so many indoor attractions to visit that come rain or shine, Blackpool could not disappoint.
Our three day, two night, break was spent in the Elgin Hotel, a short tram/bus ride from the bustle of the town centre and promenade amusements, pubs, cafes and gift shops.
The family owned 89 en-suite bedroomed hotel is situated opposite the sea on the cliffs at Queen’s Promenade.
Our room had recently been refurbished so was clean, tidy and comfortable, providing mod cons including a DVD player, large flat screen TV, tea and coffee making facilities and stylish bathroom, along with a three quarter and a single bed.
Our stay included breakfast, with a great choice to cater for all palates, with both a continental and English option. The ample portion sizes meant we were both set up for the day.
It was our intention to cram as much in as we could during our visit so we opted to get a Resort Pass.
Offering a massive saving, the pass gave us access to the top attractions including Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Sandcastle Waterpark, Madame Tussaud’s, Sea Life Centre, Blackpool Zoo, Blackpool Tower Eye and 4D Experience, The Blackpool Tower Dungeon and the model village and gardens.
Any family considering a couple of days at the seaside town really should consider this option, it really will save you money, and also invest in an unlimited tram and bus pass to transport you between each attraction - unless you REALLY like walking!
Our first stop was at Madame Tussaud’s and I have to say I was very impressed. We had previously visited the London version but found it far too chaotic to be enjoyable. The Blackpool attraction was a much different experience. Although it was busy we got to see all the waxworks at a leisurely pace with plenty of opportunity for photographs, and the staff were really helpful and very informative.
An added bonus for me was getting to have a drink with Bet Lynch in a realistic version of Coronation Street’s Rovers Return!
Next up was the Sea Life Centre, just seconds from Tussaud’s. There is so much to see in here, we could have spent hours looking round if time allowed. It is extremely educational and there is plenty of interaction so all the family can really enjoy it.
Next up, food!
You simply can’t visit the seaside without sampling fish and chips. And if you’re going to have fish and chips you might as well try the best.
We dined at the new Harry Ramsden’s restaurant, situated at the base of the Tower.
I opted for the cod, chips and mushy peas, and my daughter the scampi. Simply delicious. Portion sizes were more than adequate, we certainly didn’t have room for dessert!
As our dinner digested we took a walk along the Comedy Carpet - a brand new floor covering with a difference. The ‘carpet’ sits in the shadow of the Tower and it’s one of the largest pieces of public art ever commissioned in the UK. It is a bit like a trip to the Hollywood Walk of Fame; but immortalising and celebrating the jokes, songs and comedy catchphrases of Britain’s most well loved comedians and writers. It’s been called the horizontal Angel of the North – a must visit spot.
From here we headed for the Pleasure Beach where we spent a good four hours late night riding on as many of the gravity-defying rides as we could, before watching a breathtaking fireworks display at the end of the night in the shadow of The Big One.
The following day we opted to spend time at the Sandcastle Waterpark, directly opposite the Pleasure Beach. And at 44-years-old, I proved you’re never too old for slides!
Sandcastle Waterpark is the UK’s largest indoor waterpark. It features over 18 attractions including water slides, fun pools, a wave machine, water chutes, burger bars, snack bars, arcades, swim shop and much much more.
It was a very busy day but despite this the queues for the ‘Hyperzone’ slides - which are only available to anyone over eight-years-old - went down fairly quickly. We managed to get round them all in about two hours and thoroughly enjoyed every minute.
The facility caters for all ages and abilities and I would thoroughly recommend it - especially good if the British weather turns typically inclement.
All that activity meant we were soon ravenous so we decided to try the delights of the famous Notarianni Ices. One word. Wow!
Whether an ice cream fan or not you just HAVE TO visit.
I do not have a sweet tooth at all but I was blown away by the tasty treats on offer.
I opted for the Notarianni Sundae - fresh strawberries and kiwi fruit topped with sauce the colours of Italy, my daughter chose the Oreo Sundae - layers of Oreo, ice cream and chocolate sauce.
Both dishes were demolished. You can find Notarianni’s just down from the Pleasure Beach, just off the promenade, behind McDonald’s.
I think the highlight of the weekend for me was the visit to the Tower Eye, 4D Cinema and ballroom with afternoon tea.
The ascent to the Eye at the top of the tower was up there as a highlight of the adrenaline-fuelled few days. Between the metal struts of the Blackpool Tower was what appeared to be a 380ft drop down to the famous beach promenade below.
So my heart was in my mouth when my daughter jumped into the void. Thankfully, a plate of heavily reinforced glass supported her, she didn’t seem in the slightest bit bothered by the dizzying perspective.
I was pretty glad the lift attendant revealed the glass floor is just under two inches thick only when we were safely on the way back down.
Blackpool provides more thrills and spills than a day as James Bond’s stunt double, nothing demonstrates this better than the 4D cinema on the lower level of the tower. As we watched, we felt we were careering off the rails of some of the resort’s legendary roller-coasters during the short film. In Blackpool, it’s sometimes easy to forget it’s not normal to be upside-down.
Far slower-paced was the famous Tower Ballroom below. We spent an hour watching couples glide expertly in the stunningly ornate Victorian setting.
Others were taking tea between dances. It was like going back in time.
Our Sunday evening meal was spent at the popular Nando’s restaurant. It is our family favourite when it comes to dining out so we were not disappointed. The setting was relaxed and the staff were extremely friendly and attentive.
I treated myself to a large glass of wine - it’s hard work all this having fun!
Our final visit of the weekend was to the zoo. Just a ten minute drive from the town centre, it is very easy to find.
Blackpool Zoo covers 32-acres and is owned by Parques Reunidos. It provides a home to over 1,500 animals from all over the world including lions, tigers, lemurs, giraffes, gorillas, elephants and much more.
Afterwards it was with heavy hearts that we headed back to the car ready for the journey back to Yorkshire.
Blackpool cannot claim to be Britain’s most picturesque seaside resort, but there cannot be anywhere that matches it for sheer fun.
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